This T-SQL Tuesday is about a person that helped you understand SQL Server.
It's not a stretch to say that it's people that help you get to where you are in life, and Rob Volk (@sql_r) is sponsoring this month's T-SQL Tuesday asking who is that person that helped you get there.
Over the years, there've been a number of people who've helped me, but one person stands out above the rest, who was patient, kind and always explained the details in a way that just made sense.
I first met Don Vilen at Tech Ed 2006 in Boston. I'd seen him present at the PASS Summit a couple of times, but at that Tech Ed I'd started to get to know people and felt comfortable just hanging out in the SQL Server area, and we started talking. He was easy going, and in talking about issues at work he explained how things worked in a way that no one else had (at least to me). As a side note, it was at that event that he introduced two of his friends to each other: Kimberly Tripp and Paul Randal.
At subsequent conferences I made a point to see his presentations, no matter the subject. His explanation of how database snapshots work was the clearest I've ever seen, and used in many classes I taught since. I always enjoyed his company and conversation with him was lively and entertaining, regardless of the subject. I was sad to find out shortly after I received my first MVP Award in July 2007 that he was leaving Microsoft. He joined Scalability Experts as a Principal Architect that fall.
In July 2008, through a strange set of circumstances, I joined Scalability Experts myself, as a trainer. Since there were more consulting engagements than training assignments at first, I was assigned to a project, and the architect assigned to the project was none other than Don. He mapped out what we had to do and explained some aspects of SQL Trace I'd never used, and I was able to create a significant load test out of a relatively small trace file with his help.
The following spring another assignment put me together with Don evaluating different server hardware using the same workload, and with Don's help I was able to get a much better understanding of baselines and performance metrics, and I still use that knowledge in client engagements and in my presentations today.
The last time we worked together was for a major financial services company in New York City, and Don led a team of us to put together a Center of Excellence plan for the company, to help their staff become the best in the business with respect to their use of SQL Server. My focus was on the Database Developers, and with Don's help I built presentations and documentation on all aspects of developing fast and efficient queries and processes to run against SQL Server. The environment was both high profile and highly stressful, and Don always kept his cool and was always helpful.
After I left Scalability, my daughter and son-in-law were flying back to the US from Germany, where my son-in-law was stationed in the Army, when a blizzard hit the east coast and they shut down the airports after their plane landed at JFK. Because of the conditions there were no hotels, and the next flight the kids could get out wasn't until four days later. I called Don, who had an apartment not far from Central Park, and he was kind enough to put the kids up for the night. I drove to New York and picked them up there and brought them home the next day.
There've been great people who've helped me before and since, but no one stands out like Don. Thank you, Don, for everything.