Public Speaking – You can do it!

The value of public speaking is tremendous.

If you cringed already, this post may be for you.

I grew up last of three, and was the “Baby”. Others spoke for me, and defended me.

When I got to college, I had one course called “Engineering Modeling and Design”. Besides a technical writeup, we had to present our ideas to business people.  By this time I was less shy, having been away from home, and with new people I met in college.

This forced me to do two major things: Learn how to write well for others, as well as learn how to speak (with feedback given).

My career started as an engineer.  What does an engineer do? Design things? Be immersed in technology?  All true.  One critical piece to success is the ability to present your ideas to someone less technical.  Why? Sometimes, those are the people who understand business, and therefore, can fund your project, to make money for the business.

I moved into Programming. The same ideas applied: without communication, your ideas would be stuck inside your head, and basically, not worth anything.  I also later learned if you advocate your ideas, you are “Selling” them.  Not too scary, especially if you believe in what you are doing!

Finally I moved into a customer-facing role. This helped, with lots of practice, fine-tune my ability to speak at very technical, somewhat technical, and eventually, nontechnical levels.

If you wish to get to this stage more quickly, I advocate you join a public speaking club like Toastmasters, or user groups or meetups.  Present your ideas in a safe zone.  How safe is it? I would say very safe.

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Myself presenting on R on SQL 2016. A topic I barely knew a week earlier!

Take a topic you know a little bit about. Train yourself up on it, and present it as a quick talk at a group!  The general rules are:

  • Tell them what you’re about to tell them
  • Tell them
  • Tell them what you told them

Assuming you have practiced your material, I will divulge some secrets:

  • People in front of you want to hear what you have to say!
  • Most do not know the material even a fraction as well as you do, so you are sharing valuable information.
  • People are generally polite, and forgiving of stumbles.
  • Speak clearly, and take pauses.  Pauses are fine, and let the audience hear and process what you said.
  • Take questions.  If you do not know the answer, tell them “I do not know. Let’s take that offline and I will research further.”
  • Do not let yourself get bogged down with questions. You are speaking, and you are in charge of the movement through your presentation.  Own that!
  • If someone wants to show off their knowledge, thank them for their contribution, and move on.

Finally, more suggestions:

  • Ask for feedback.  What went well, what did not?
  • Remove emotion from all of this.  You are a person, your presentation is something you do, but it is not you.
  • Get a mentor, or many.  Most people with experience love to help.  Just make sure you use the time wisely, ask for specific things, and then act on those that need action!

Life is long, but one common thing about it is communication. Make the most of it, and share yourself through presentations.  People want to hear you!

I regularly speak in front of user groups, SQL Saturdays, and of course, customers.

Come to a SQL Saturday, or join a user group near you.  Nowadays, I’d say Meetup is the way to find them.

Now, do us all a favor: Go and present! We want to hear your ideas!

 

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What big companies use Microsoft SQL Server?

I had a customer ask me “I cannot find customer examples of large companies that use Microsoft SQL Server“.

I of course laughed, as I work in the Enterprise space for the US Northeast district.  I might know some large companies who do.

But who has been willing to go PUBLIC and tell others that this is the case?

And of course, who has SENSITIVE DATA, and who needs HIGH throughput, for massive data sets?

I start with my favorite.  The NASDAQ stock exchange. ONE PETABYTE on SQL 2014, for data warehousing:

NASDAQ OMX Case Study

I curated a few videos and links.  Feel free to forward around to brag.

Here is where to search:

Customer Case Studies

Here is the rest of the list that consists of great customer examples:

  • Edgenet – “Edgenet Gain Real-Time Access to Retail Product Data with In-Memory Technology”
  • Georgia Pacific
  • OpenText
  • Dell – “Dell wanted to boost its website performance so that each day, its 10,000 concurrent shoppers enjoyed faster response times. The company also needed to increase its ability to support up to 1 million concurrent shoppers during the holidays. To achieve these goals, Dell is migrating mission-critical databases to Microsoft SQL Server 2014 and taking advantage of In-Memory OLTP to store some tables in-memory. By doing so, Dell has sped the performance of databases by up to nine times.”
  • Yahoo
    • “Yahoo! implemented a solution that takes data from its vast data stores within the Apache Hadoop open-source framework and ultimately moves it to Microsoft SQL Server 2008 R2.” – old school!
  • Microsoft (We run SAP for the entire company on SQL Server)
  • Cerner (Lync, which uses SQL Server as a back end)
  • RHI – “RHI, a global supplier of refractory products, wanted better BI tools. To improve query performance and reporting capabilities, the company implemented a tabular data model based on Microsoft SQL Server 2012 Analysis Services and the new xVelocity memory-optimized columnstore index. Queries that once took more than a minute to run now finish in less than 2 seconds, and the company has a simpler data model that it can use with multiple BI tools. The company can now make better data-driven decisions while cutting costs.”
  • Docusign  — digital signatures.

I hope this helps you with your own discussions around SQL Server being “Enterprise-Ready”.  Microsoft SQL Server should be considered a Tier 1 Database platform!

Please reach out to me with any comments or questions.

 

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Going the distance

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Fisherman in Seattle

How far will you go?

Are you willing to change your boundaries to make a difference?

I am talking about physical distance, and how being accommodating to it can improve your career.

When I was young, the 8 miles to the “City” of Middletown, NY to go grocery shopping seemed “Far”.  I went to college 2 hours from home, and I got used to the occasional 2 hour drive to home.

Later, while commuting in New Jersey, a rather unpleasant driving experience, I realized it didn’t matter how I felt.  I needed to get places, and it would be difficult!

As such, I accepted the things I could not change.  Things like: Traffic jams, long commute times, and so forth.

I adjusted my attitude to be positive about what I could adjust.  I could get up earlier, beat the traffic, and have time to relax before work!  I could listen to books on tape, or a radio station, to kill the time going home.

I took a job in NYC and commuted an hour plus each way by New Jersey Transit commuter rail, to avoid having to drive!  I sat down on the train, and arrived.  Way less stressful!

This approach can give benefits at work.  My first job I was asked if I would fly to Alabama to support data collection on a gas turbine.  Sure! Why not! I learned a lot about the great people in a very different place. I also got to experience business travel.

When I joined Microsoft in 2006, I took a travel job. Premier Field Engineer is a role to support enterprise customers for both break-fix onsite support, as well as proactive training, and dedicated remote support.

The travel was good! How else could I ever experience the Chain of Rocks bridge near St. Louis, Missouri for example! How would someone self-select Bartlesville, Oklahoma?

The work I did and distance I traveled rounded me out as a person.  From my job history, I have authority in my current role about different industries, geographies, and approaches to solving problems.

I have the benefits as well, of working with great customers that have locations around the world.  The travel and people I met have helped me be very productive with people and cultures around the world.

As always, family should come first, and have those discussions as needed.

So the next time you’re asked if you would like to travel for your company, or in a new job, DO IT! You may learn something great about another place, and learn something about yourself.

 

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Why go to a (technical) conference?

Conferences cost a lot of money.

Many are in the USD 2000-4000 range!  How can anyone afford that! No Budget! Boss doesn’t want me to take a week off!

Let’s turn that thinking around.

Is there something you saved for, worked hard for, and then bought? And that thing helped your life immensely?

In my life, it was a car. I lived out in the woods, away from employment and opportunity.  To get TO the opportunity, I had to get a car.  Having a car meant getting a chance at freedom and opportunity.

Once I had the car, I then could get to a job, where I could learn more and be trained. That earned more money, I then went to school, spent a LOT of money there, got trained, and got a better job! Rinse and repeat!

Rare today do we find ourselves in a job which allows us to grow with no training. Face it, many companies are short on training budgets, and they tend to want you to spend nothing.

In the free to minimal cost, I do have recommendations, such as Microsoft Virtual Academy and Pluralsight that have training.

One deficit with those options is interaction with peers, and the ability to get questions straight from the source.  That is where a conference can help.

I spent a full week in Seattle recently at an internal conference.

Many of the same actors at this conference present the top tracks at Microsoft public conferences such as Ignite or Build!

My SQL and Data Platform people will of course tout, rightly so, PASS Summit, put on by the Professional Association for SQL Server.

I know of friends who also put on the IT/Dev Connections conference, and there are smaller ones as well.  I mention this one, because I attended IT connections in 2005, met the great Kimberly Tripp, and it inspired me that SQL Server could be FUN and I could do a lot with it.

A few years after attending that conference, with some experience mixed in, I am a technical seller at Microsoft! I also speak at smaller venues, and had the privilege of speaking at our internal technical conference last year!

Why go to a conference?

You will learn a lot, you will meet the experts, and you can take that knowledge and networking with others to help you move forward and up in your career.

It helped me. It can help you. And later on, you can then help others.  That is the best reward.

Thank you!

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Oh No! I need to learn Azure!

Some of you out there are either too busy to ramp up, or too fearful of prodding your company’s IT department with a cloud strategy.  Maybe you recently got offered a job at Microsoft!  Note: We’re hiring!

As part of Microsoft’s technical sales force, we were advised to ramp up on Azure, and to get certified.  This is not news: In 2007, Microsoft required technical sales people to get certified.

To ramp up quickly on Azure, I took the road of self-study.  Microsoft virtual academy has wonderful video courses, with quizzes, to help teach you.

I also worked through a few virtual online labs, to gain some hands-on experience.

At the end of that, I took the 70-534 Azure architecture exam and passed!

More courses are coming out as the cloud and our on-premises products keep evolving.

Take this moment to act, and take some small amount of time each day to nibble through this training.  You will be better prepared when the time comes to know it.

Once you do the above training, get a trial of Azure to play hands-on!

As always, feel free to reach out to me on twitter!

 

 

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The time has come, SQL 2005

It’s time we sat down and had a chat, people.

SQL Server 2005.  You run it? Your company runs it?  It’s over 10 years old.  If this is on top of Windows 2003, that is already out of date.

Microsoft has published its timelines for software support lifecycles here.  SQL 2005’s end of life is April 12, 2016.

One of the important things as an IT professional, is to reduce risk in your environment.  Running 10 plus year old software should, in this day and age, be considered a risk.

Modern hardware, and modern applications do demand more from our software.  Also, the security vectors that hackers exploit have changed a lot over time.

Microsoft’s SQL Server team published a good blog with reasons for migration, and with links to various tools that can help you.

To help you get started around SQL 2005, Microsoft has published a few videos, specific to SQL 2005 and express, around how to upgrade.

To get educated around what SQL 2014 offers, follow this playlist.

Maybe you need a one page list of what has changed? This is a list of changes from 2012 to 2014, 2008r2 to 2014, 2008 to 2014, and 2005 to 2014.

Suffice it to say, there has been a lot of improvements.  Spin up some test machines, and run through upgrades before it is time to cut over.

Feel free to reach out to me on LinkedIn or Twitter to discuss this further!

 

 

 

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Minecraft on Azure!

Who needs a minecraft server? You do! On Azure!

Yes, we had our own minecraft server in-house a couple years ago. My wife and I enjoyed playing minecraft with our son and his friends on it!
When that PC died, minecraft was neglected.  I decided we should do something different than a pc box burning electricity in our house.
Many gallery images of virtual machines are in Azure, ready for fast deployment.

Continue reading

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