I started (officially) in IT in ‘95. My 1st job was to run a help desk ($6 / hr) for a start-up ISP, who was offering blazing fast 28k/56k dial up internet access. It was difficult walking people through configuring Windows 95 dial up networking, over the phone, so they could connect to the internet, while they weren’t quite sure what the internet was… So that’s one way to learn how to be patient with users!
At the same time, with some help from my dad and a Marketing teacher from high school who did some mentoring with me, at 20 years old I started an on-site PC sales / install / repair / training company. At that time in the area, the only business that would come to your house at all was CompUSA, at a ridiculous rate of $75 / hr. If I recall correctly, I was charging $18 / hr. Not too bad for a 20 year old. :-)
I ended up working the repair trenches @ CompUSA, where I obtained my 1st industry certification: CompTIA’s A+. I also obtained other hardware servicing certifications at that time, and I picked up my 1st Microsoft certification: Windows 95 (yes, 95). After that, I obtained my MCSE (NT 4), acquired AD certs with the advent of Win2k, and worked for some great companies such as Blue Cross, and Charles Schwab, where I learned a lot.
It was at Blue Cross where I started working with SQL, and then only because I had to. I was responsible for the SMS system, which among other things was able to audit installed software in the enterprise. Where there is data, there will be reports. The very first SQL queries I ever wrote (on request of the division VP) were designed to identify machines that had things such as “elf bowling” installed. He would boil at the idea that people had installed games on their machines, and so this was the first of several Crystal Reports (7.5) that I was tasked to write. I pity the people who were found to have elf bowling on their machines because this VP was on a mission.
At the age of 25, my title at Charles Schwab was Senior Manager IT Services. I had 7 direct reports (one person had the same shop teacher in high school as I did, 15 years prior, and another person ended up becoming my best friend after I left the company). I was personally responsible for some monumental things, such as all the database storage subsystems (EMC, Hitachi) for the Retirement Plan Services division, which at the time held 35 billion in client assets. That sounds impressive for sure, but when you are around those kinds of numbers regularly, it all becomes “just data” at a point. I was also responsible for Business Resumption / Continuity planning and validation, data Capacity Planning, and implemented several “firsts” for the company such as deploying Schwab’s first Brocade fiber SAN, and first Terminal Services implementation. Did I have any business in a role like this at the age of 25 with no degree? Probably not, in hindsight, but my director saw my potential (thank you Diane), gave me the opportunity, and we hit home run after home run for the company. Unfortunately, after managing through the first three rounds of layoffs in the history of the company, it was a very different place to work, and while my position was a hybrid of managing staff (now 3 instead of 7) and performing technical work as well, I decided to refocus fully on building the maximum level of technical expertise going forward. I have not returned to management, and don’t plan to. Technical work is my desire and focus, yet, you can put me in front of clients and not too much tape falls off of my glasses. :-)
Fast forwarding to the here and now, I live in Chandler with my small family. I spent about 4 years in legal, and also worked for a major OLTP shop (credit card processing gateway) where my performance was literally measured to the millisecond, every minute of every day. By the time I moved on from the OLTP credit gateway shop, they went from weekly crashes to 7 minutes of unplanned downtime in 10 months, and I improved transaction processing time > 25%. No special magic is needed. Just following best practices and making sure all the basics were accounted for got it done. Often times that’s all you have to do to turn an environment around.
I’ve obtained the MCITP:DBA certs for SQL 2005 and 2008. I have also obtained the new MCSE, Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert: Data Platform. This covers SQL Server 2012 and SQL 2014. I’m currently working as the Sr. SQL Server DBA for a Fortune 100 company, and have also started on two major side projects, one of them utilizing SQL Azure, the other with a heavy focus on SQL virtualization. Fun! I’ve also got experience with all of the major compliance models (HIPAA, SOX, PCI), with lots of focus on PCI due to working for the credit gateway shop.
To a person new to relational databases, even the basics of joins can be very daunting (it was for me). I like working with SQL for several reasons, but I think the light really went on for me when I realized that it’s just a machine. Like any machine, it either does what you want it to do or it doesn’t, and when it doesn’t, you fix it. That’s it, and that’s my mantra of sorts. One of my career passions is “demystifying SQL”. I truly believe that anyone can do it if they invest the time to learn the machine.
So why am I writing? Well at this point I have been the consumer of so many excellent references and articles, that I feel like I want to give back to the community, and I think I have found a gap that some of my work can fill for “The Working DBA”. I realize that sounds like hippy talk, giving back to the community and all, and perhaps I’m getting a bit nostalgic at this point, but it’s true. I would say my motivation to write consists of: 1 part enjoying writing in general, 3 parts that I love working with SQL, and 1 part guilt for not contributing more throughout my career. Whatever gets me typing I suppose. :-)
You can do it! I wish you the best, and thanks for reading, now get back to that script! :-)