Whiners and Whingers Get Wedgies
Yes, I deserve a Wedgie
There I was, just a couple weeks back, whining that I wasn't getting
tagged by friends when a new meme comes out. Sure enough, when my
friend, Paul Randal (blog | twitter),
starts a new meme with me as one of the first handful of people tagged,
it's taken me a full ten days to get a response out the door. Yes - I
deserve a wedgie.
In Paul's initial post, I saw that he'd asked for three events that
were pivotal in why I'm where I am today. To be honest, I've been
noodling over my response ever since Paul first tagged me. So, in a
sense, I've been writing this blog post for about twelve days now. Not
that I'm off the hook or anything.
What Didn't Make the List
Still, I have to admit it's taken me some time to get to a point where I could
write about the events that have brought me where I am today. Because,
when I give a truly honest accounting of some of these major life
changing events and pivotal decisions in my life, I'm not always proud
of what I see. Like item #4 on my list of life-changing decisions.
Don't you DARE ask about #4. I mean it. If you do, there will be
blood (see picture below)...
There are also a couple other non-events that also had a huge impact
on my life's direction. By non-event, I mean these things didn't have a
specific date and time. But they were enormously influential about how
I handled opportunities or even helped make opportunities happen.
First, I'd be remiss not to mention the impact that my personal faith has had on my life. Countless
decisions were steered by that faith. Second, my upbringing naturally
had a huge impact on shaping my personality, preferences, fears, and
joys. (My mother is Italian, so I can honestly say that Parmesan cheese
is one of life's greatest joys.) Finally, my immediate family
-marrying very young and having a rather large family- also meant I
made a lot of decisions in certain ways, such as opting not to move for
a better job so that the kids could have greater stability. Things
would be very different if I'd put my own desire and ambitions ahead of
them. With that said, let's hit that top 3 list.
Add 1/5 Beefeater Gin + Article of Lingerie + Collegeboy Prank at a Zoo = Lifetime of Regret, a.k.a #4 on the List
Pivotal, life-changing events shouldn't come knocking on your door
every day. In my case, one of the first and most pivotal events for me
happened about 3/4 of the way through my senior year in high school,
just a few months before graduation. Like my brother from another
mother, Buck Woody (blog | twitter), money was a huge issue in my household. (I'll save you the sob story. But trust me, there were many tears.)
So whatever college and career I chose had to provide the most upward
mobility as quickly as was humanly possible within the boundaries of
the law (that meant no drug dealing). This is where my analytical side
kicked in. Looking over my college scholarships, I examined the
undergraduate catalogs at the various universities in one hand and the
salary survey about their respective careers in the other.
I came up with a two-column list. The first column contained
college majors that I would really enjoy career-wise, though not
necessarily big money careers. Column #1 contained entries like
teaching, writing, farming, and being a stoner. Notice how entries in
column #1 were all among the most noble of professions and yet
virtually guaranteed a life of penury? Yeah, I noticed that too. The
second column contained college majors that I could tolerate, but had
much better money prospects. Column #2 contained entries for
engineering, medicine, law, becoming Hugh Hefner's protege, and ...
I'd lived with computer since before I could read or write. My
father was an analog computer engineer and, I still remember with great
clarity, the desk-sized analog computer we had in our house in the
1970's. It had 4K of memory, used punch cards, created a flurry of
discarded chads when it would write data out to a punch card. My dad
taught me about binary, octal, and hexadecimal, and the joys of vacuum
tube computing. Unfortunately, he did not teach me how to throw or
catch any sort of ball, which had dramatic repercussions throughout my
school year (refer to wedgie picture above) - but I digress. Suffice
it to say that by the time college rolled around, I was already well
versed in 8-bit computing (I used Kaypro's for you Osbourne and Sinclair snobs out there) and could envision that being a good career.
My Initial Career Choice - Stoner
Right about the same time I was choosing a future career, just before I graduated from high school, IBM launched an exciting new business computer called the IBM PC. It was a hugely successful product with the ultimate killer application - a spreadsheet.
(The spreadsheet was an amazing innovation in its day. VisiCalc was
the one I remembered being all the rage at the time.) These personal
computers were also hugely expensive - a nicely loaded IBM PC or XT
could routinely cost $5,000 and that's in 1983 dollars, friends. So
that's when I started a part-time business, which I maintained all
through college and a short while after, building and selling IBM PC
clones. I learned a lot from that experience - how to pay taxes like a
responsible business owner, a lot about salesmanship, quite a bit about
business accounting, business law, and the goodness of being an
entrepreneur. One surprisingly good outcome from all of this was that
I didn't have to sell out my love of writing and teaching. That's
probably 40% of what I do today, just with computers.
Another major turning point in my professional
life occurred in the early 1990's. By that time, I'd held a couple
professional jobs of the programmer/analyst variety working with Unix-based CAD/CAM tools, dBase, Fortran, and very early versions of Oracle.
While my skill in these technologies was growing by leaps and bounds,
this particular event isn't about technology. You see, my first three
professional jobs (outside of my own little business) all held in
common the fact that I worked for terrible bosses. (I wonder
if it's any coincidence that these bosses, all male, were from the John
Wayne school of management?) I then had the opportunity to move from
those smaller businesses to a fairly large company called Nichols
Research Corporation, now a part of Computer Sciences Corporation.
I gleefully clapped my hands because my title was "Research Scientist"
and, get this, I was actually working on NASA and US Army missile
projects. I was literally a rocket scientist! However, the
thing that truly amazed me about this new work environment was that my
bosses were women. Great women. Women (like Liz Kennedy, Pat Burns,
and Bev Meeler) who were collaborative, consensus-driven, and
encouraging. They made me wonder why my male bosses never figured out
that cussing an employee for 15 minutes at a time might not be the best
way to motivate staff. These excellent business leaders taught me my
first real world lessons in the difference between the autocratic style
of management versus the coaching style of management. It was a lesson
that I carried with me the rest of my life and try to instill in others
whenever I get the chance. (Blatant Plug - Attend my top-rated professional development sessions at the next PASS Summit and read my professional development column in the PASS Community Connector e-newsletter!)
She was my sugar-mama, and I was her lovin' cabana boy. She put me through college...
number one event that changed the course of my life came up quite
accidentally. I'd set my sights on earning a Master's degree and, as
the truly lazy know, you can complete a Master's degree two semesters
early by writing a thesis rather than sticking strictly with classes.
Laziness (or perhaps it's creativity?) raised it's head once again with
this thought "Why not write my thesis as a dual-purpose
document? One that will earn the advanced degree and be published as a book
That's when I saw a rather small advertisement in the back of one of my
favorite computer magazines of the day, a now defunct
mainframe-oriented publication called Datamation
calling for authors for a new IT series they were starting. I pitched
my master's thesis and was shocked that I was accepted. I find it
funny that I finished the book, Oracle's Cooperative Development Environment
, but never finished the Master's degree. That book helped me land a new job in Nashville, TN
at a prestigious Big 3 accounting firm, which helped me get another book deal with O'Reilly & Associates
, which earned me a seat as a founding board member of the Professional Association for SQL Server
, which helped me land my current, wonderful job at Quest Software
. And which will eventually earn me a place in history for being the first database expert to dance on the bar at Coyote Ugly
What Others Are Saying
Let me be honest with you. I really enjoyed this meme. And it's
one of the things that I've really enjoyed seeing happen with the SQL
Server community in the last year or so - people opening up and
sharing. This is what community is all about. One hundred years ago,
I would've been thrilled to live in a town with as many supportive and
encouraging friends who were just down the street from me. But thanks
to the technology we work with and the willingness of all of these
people, it's almost like a small, friendly (Southern!) town all over
again. I intend to read more in the meme thread, but here are just a
few others that I've already read and enjoyed:
- Brent Ozar (blog | twitter): I loved BBS'es too, amigo!
- Kim Tripp (blog | twitter): She taught the first SQL Server class I ever attended!
- Jorge Segarra (blog | twitter): He's Mr Popular, being tagged 4 times. But who doesn't love chicken, I ask?
- Scott Gleason (blog | twitter): Does Mr. Gleason watch Glee?
- Donabel Santos (blog | twitter): She's a ninja, but a very nice one who's not likely to cut your arms off.
- Andy Leonard (blog | twitter): We've got to Mrs Leonard and Mrs Segarra to cook a big ol' dinner for us. Then we can all die happy.
- Jeremiah Peschka (blog | twitter): You'd think it was a movie based on real events, with a little extra drama added in, but it was ALL real.
There are so very many other good ones that I could go on for
several more paragraphs. The reason I mention them, though, is that I
somehow feel closer to all of these people. And at the end of the day,
our lives are really and truly about the people we have touched and the friendships we have made. Everything else stands for naught.
So on the off chance that others have not yet been tagged, I'd like to loop in these folks from far-afield: Simon Sabin (UK), Henk Van Der Valk (Netherlands), Edwin Sarmiento (Philippines), and Charlie Hanania (Switzerland).