Setting the Stage
I started my career as a desktop technician working for a small personal PC repair shop in high school. The company started picking up contracts to do PC installs for WorldCom. I began taking on all those contracts and the manager of their IT department was so impressed he offered me a job. As many people know, WorldCom went bankrupt and was bought by MCI. During that transition I was moved from the WorldCom sites I was supporting to an MCI site. Altogether I contracted for WorldCom/MCI for 2.5 years, at which point MCI converted me to an employee. At this point doing desktop work was no longer challenging and I moved into a server administration role. I did server administration for several years supporting everything on the NT server platform including domain administration. This too became no longer challenging, but right at that time Microsoft released Windows 2000 and Active Directory. This was also the time that large companies started transitioning from the old geographic IT business support model to a role based business support model to better match the evolving technology landscape. MCI was no exception and a virtual team made of the best domain people from all over the company was put together. The charter was to create a new Active Directory domain that would support the entire company. I needed a new challenge and was very happy to be chosen for this new team.
The Lights Comes On
I supported Active Directory for many years during which I became a bit of an AD expert. Our team architected and supported the entire AD forest both nationally and internationally for over a quarter million employees! One weekend we had a Microsoft patching fire drill and there were some SQL 2000 servers on our list. After installing the patch, we had to verify the version and someone on the team showed me the query and how to execute it. This intrigued me to find out more about this product whose version could not be derived from a Help-About menu. I started learning SQL 2000, was hooked, and got my MCDBA.
It didn’t take long to see the writing on the wall from Microsoft that many of their products had SQL on the backend like SharePoint and MOM/SCOM (I’m a MOM fan as well), and that was the route everything was going. At the time, they even rumored moving AD to SQL from the Jet Engine. For me it was a case of being proactive and “see a need, fill a need”. I knew we would end up needing a DBA and I wanted to fill that spot.
I continued my primary role in AD for many years and simultaneously began supporting everything SQL related that came our way. I knew this dual role would serve me well in the long run, and I continued to shove my head in every SQL book I could get my hands on. I also earned my MCTS and MCITP. Part of my AD support role was also supporting Microsoft Identity Integration Server (MIIS/ILM/FIM). The company decided to make organizational changes by creating a new group that would support just MIIS and an in-house application. I was put on this team because of my DBA and scripting skills, and my primary function finally became DBA.
Since then I have discovered the SQL Community which took my new passion and breathed a whole other life into it. A lot has happened since I joined the community and this post has been a long time coming, so here is a list of how I became involved in chronological order. My path was a natural progression so I hope it can serve as a guideline to those just starting to get involved.
I became an active member of my local user group the North Texas SQL Server User Group
Twitter – At the time Peter DeBetta (Blog|Twitter) was our user group President and encouraged everyone to check it out and see what the online SQL community was all about. I admit that I was skeptical and really did not have the time, but I checked it out anyway. The help you can get and the minds you have access to sold me instantly and I’ve never looked back.
Blogging – Once you join the SQL community on Twitter the next thing you see are people tweeting about their newest blog posts. The information you can glean from blog posts is limitless. I knew my time was finite, but I wanted to give back to the community all the information they have given me. It was ultimately Brent Ozar (Blog|Twitter) with his post on “How to Start a Blog” that had me sold. I also suggest using Google Reader to subscribe to your favorite bloggers and keep track of their latest work.
SQLSAT #35 – The NTSSUG began talking about holding its first SQLSaturday and I am so excited about SQL technology and the SQL community that I jumped right in, feet first. I took care of organizing all of the volunteers as well as coordinating everything with our sponsors and their benefits for sponsoring the event. You can read more about my involvement in this event HERE…HERE…and HERE
Board of Directors – At this point I’ve been riding on the SQLSaturday high (what other kind is there?) for months and I wanted more. The NTSSUG group had a position open for election on their board of directors, so I went for it and won the election! I absolutely love serving on the BoD. There is nothing more rewarding than serving the SQL community and serving your local user group is a great way to do it.
Speaking – Twitter and blogging are great ways to share your knowledge and help others, but speaking is a whole other avenue of interaction. My first time to speak was at our local user group and on sqllunch.com. I’ve spoken before and taught a few classes, but it was always internally to the company. You can find the materials here for my “Mirroring: The Bear Necessities” presentation and you can view the recorded webcast on sqllunch.com HERE.
SQLSat #56 - The NTSSUG decided to have a second SQLSaturday focused on Business Intelligence a mere 5 months after the previous SQLSaturday. Again I was a core organizer and we had a great event. You can read my re-cap HERE.
SQLSat #57 – The Houston Texas user group is hosting a SQLSaturday in January 2011. Several of these folks attended the SQLSaturday in Dallas and I was very fortunate to meet this great group of folks. This is their first SQLSaturday so I volunteered to help them out where I could. I plan to be at this event early to help where I can, but so far I have been helping them with their sponsorship process. In addition, I have also submitted to speak at this event and my fingers are still crossed.
SQLSat #63 – The NTSSUG has already set the date for our next SQLSaturday and it will be our third in less than a year! I am a core organizer and plan to again handle the sponsor side of things. It was a bit much for me to take on the sponsors and volunteers last year because those responsibilities overlap in the morning, so I more than likely will not handle the volunteer side of things this time around. Again I have also submitted to speak at this event as well.
The Curtain Call
Well there is no curtain call for this play, because it will continue on as I learn, hone my skills, and increase my involvement in the SQL community beyond what I have already done. This blog will continue to serve as my documenter of this journey. It’s been a long road starting from the bottom, working my way up to a senior guy at a fortune 100 company, and transitioning my career to become a DBA. Although this road has been full of layoffs, outsourcing, and stagnant pay I’m proud of what I have accomplished and where I am. I’m an over-achiever by nature so my sights are already set on the goals to come.