February 2, 2010

#3things, those three things that brought me here

Posted in Learning, SQL Server at 10:00 am by David Taylor

I’ve had a torch passed to me, I’ve been tagged, and I’m part of a meme! Dude! I’m part of a meme! Cool!

OK, all gushing aside, Paul Randall (@paulrandall on Twitter) started this whole thing way back in January, 2010 in his blog post What three events brought you here?, and he invited some other people to answer the question he had spoken to, “What three events brought you here?” In the ensuing weeks, it’s been entertaining and enlightening, sometimes even heart-wrenching, to read people’s stories of how they got to where they are today, vis-à-vis their SQL Server career.

If you follow me, or read this blog, which, if you’re reading this, I assume you do one or the other, maybe even both 🙂 you know I am a relatively new kid on the SQL block. That being said, I am also 46 years old, and have been on a wild and wacky journey to find myself in a position to be tagged in a SQL Server “How did I get here?” meme, and I thank Josef Richburg (@sqlrunner on Twitter | Blogs here) for tagging me, giving me the opportunity to tell my story, and to really feel a part of this wonderful community of “SQL Tweeps”

So, The Beginning, or, Thing Number One

As this is a computer related story, not a personal one, this theme then narrows things down considerably. In telling of how one got to somewhere in life, there are many, many things that might be included, but this theme will start with my Apple ][c, all of 128K RAM, 1MHz 6502 processor, over $1000 at the time, and probably the most fun toy I have ever owned! To be directly honest, my *very* first computer was a Commodore Vic 20, 5K RAM and a cassette tape storage drive, but that didn’t really count as I didn’t do much with it. That ][c, though, I gobbled that up!

Within a year of owning it, I was online (at 2400 baud, back when America Online was text!) and writing programs for it in machine language. I was in my early 20’s, the springtime of my life, the world at my feet! I upgraded that machine eventually to an Apple ][GS, 16 bit 65816 processor, 4 massive Megs of RAM, 256 Glorious colors (16 at a time 🙂 I actually wrote a shareware Space Invaders on that guy that sold several copies at $5 apiece!

At this point in my life, I got married, had a daughter, and worked with my father in the wastewater treatment business, a business I would eventually come to own. The computer was more of a hobby, something to play games on, write stuff with, and play around on. A friend of mine and I started a PBEM (Play by E-Mail) Dungeons and Dragons game, that actually is still going on, though in slightly different form, now called Talimorne and being DM’ed by a good man in California. Things remained as such for a dozen years or so, until… The Life Explosion.

Now, The Middle, aka Thing Number Two

As I said, this is a computer related, not personal, so I will just touch on the event and relate more to where it brought me, OK? The event itself, upon which I will not dwell, was a nasty divorce that spanned 2000-2002. That shook things from the norm tree for sure. I suddenly lived alone, lost my (then upgraded to a) Power Mac 6100, and had to buy a cheap computer, so I got a Windows box. Nondescript, general Dell kind of thing, which got upgraded several times in that time frame until I had something that was current at the time. I also had to lose the business I had gotten from my father back in ’94, because, while it did pay the bills, one of the things the state required was that I provide medical insurance for the (now) two kids, so I had to get a real job with benefits.

I started out at a place in Boston that was still sort of in the same field, down in the sewers, but we had an office, and it had but one computer. Me being the resident geek, within a few months we had several computers, a high speed internet connection, and a network, all made to happen by me. We also had a piece of maintenance software called MP2, and now we finally get into databases (of a sort) as that was built on top of Microsoft Access. Me being the “program on the metal” sort of guy that I am, I took that thing apart from the inside out, and tried to figure out how the database part of it worked. Fascinating stuff.

Later on, in the summer of ’02, I got my son back from the fight, and moved to Alabama, where I have family that helped me with him. I got a job with an aircraft engine manufacturer, and they were in the process of upgrading their work order system. They worked in FoxPro, which I was never authorized to touch (I was in Quality, not IT) but I saw some needs, and built some new Access databases to fill the needs for our Quality department. The IT department saw what my co-worker and I were doing, and actually implemented some of our ideas – in FoxPro, taking us out of the loop. That plant then closed after I had been there for about three years, and before it did, while the signs were looming, I got out, and got to my current job, and…

The End, The Current, The Third Thing

I am still in Quality, now with a Marine Electronics manufacturer. At this new place, I started right in with the Access Databases again, this time taking pass-fail data from the floor and building reports with charts, etc. to show yields and other fascinating things to my boss. This was a revelation to management here, who had never seen the like, and, I found out soon, had never heard of a Dashboard to show multiple charts, reports, spark lines and such. In short, to them I was, and am, a wonder 🙂 (Shhh, don’t tell them this stuff is normal in a business, they might not like me as much!)

After a while, about three years ago, they got the bright idea to laser-engrave barcodes on printed circuit boards for traceability, and the equipment to do that came with SQL Server (you knew I’d eventually get here, right?) I asked for, and received access to this new, much bigger and much more powerful toy, and proceeded to learn a new dialect of SQL to transliterate my Access stuff to T-SQL. Now, we have live, real-time charts shown on projectors on the production floor with yields and other issues shown, there are meetings in which my reports are brought up on screen for managers and supervisors to go over, and in the past two years our First Pass Yield has gone from somewhere in the 60’s percentages up to in the upper 90’s, just by making the nnumbers visible to management, and them fixing the problems that made the numbers low to begin with.

I’ve spent the past three years studying every book I could afford, trying to learn this thing that is SQL Server. I’ve convinced management to upgrade from 2005 Workgroup Edition to 2008 Standard, so that, once I learn how, all of my yield stuff and reports can be done in SSAS and SSIS, and I am (just today in fact) scheduled to take my MCTS (70-432) cert exam in three weeks. In just the past year, I found the SQL Community that led to me starting to blog, and ultimately led to my being tagged for this meme. I have also become a member of PASS, and have volunteered to be one of the co-leaders for PASS’ Application Development Virtual Chapter! A whirlwind of SQL activity!

As an aside, I am looking to get out of Quality, and into doing SQL Server full time, and, while I don’t feel qualified to take on anything like a Senior DBA position, being a junior SQL Developer or DBA as a part of a team would be really nice right now. I’d love to spread these SQL wings and fly!

Once again, I would really like to thank Josef for tagging me, and, to keep this going, now I shall specifically tag one of my fellow SQL Tweeps, @WesbrownSQL, and, because I don’t know too many of you, and am not sure who else has been tagged, I will simply invite any others that want to write their stories to chime in. Don’t forget if you do to leave a comment at Paul Randall’s original post, so they can all be found. I know I have read some that are not posted there, so if you want to be sure to be included in the original meme, be sure to leave a comment there.

Thanks all, for reading, and for being out there. I’ve never felt so much a part of something as I do a part of the online SQL Community, and its #sqlpassawesomeness!

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