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I Need Some Mid-Level Career Advice Expand / Collapse
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Posted Wednesday, August 21, 2013 2:55 PM
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Oh man, I need some advice. Hang on, this is going to be somewhat long. Just to give you the long story here -

I crossed over into BI/reporting work from a non-technical field about five or six years ago. I have a college degree but I studied communication. I decided to cross over into BI and database work after I saw the huge demand for it and also because I find programming in general to be interesting. I started by reading books, then enrolled in classes at my local community college to begin work on a technical certificate. I meandered from the certificate to take classes in object-oriented programming and some web development because I found it interesting. Because of this, I still haven't finished yet.

At the same time, I started doing contract work using SSRS and SQL Server, first as a systems data analyst in which I would troubleshoot a reported issue to decide if it was application or database-related, then doing queries and analysis to find the cause of the problem. I enjoyed this role. From there, I went into reporting work in which I was building datasets in stored procedures and designing reports. I was a full-time employ at two major companies for about three and half years, then ended up back in contract and most recently consulting work.

The problem i'm having is that in the past year I am starting to have issues with doing the work and having anxiety. I was part of a team which was cut last fall from a major company because we were no longer needed, but then my next couple of contract roles didn't seem to go that well over the past winter and spring. I did very well in past years, but lately I seem easily confused and unsure of my abilities. I'm nervous in front of clients and unsure of myself, my most recent employer noted this in the exit interview after they decided that I was not a good fit for their practice. I had good reviews previously and was able to get things done. However, whenever I work alongside more senior developers it always seems as if i'm missing something from my personal toolkit. I don't know if this is because I don't have a technical degree or what the deal is. I can do pieces of many different things and have had good exposure to a variety of roles such as ETL, analysis and reporting, however I feel as if this is very piecemeal and somewhat disparate. Previously I worked mainly alone on projects, I was the PM, the business analyst and the developer. I just feel as if something is off and I easily get in over my head on projects these last few months. Feeling like i'm not hitting home runs in the past year is really starting to affect my confidence for this kind of work. I'm now wondering if i'm in the right field for my aptitude and abilities. I'm now to the point where i'm almost terrified every time I start a new project or job which makes people lose confidence in me. I'm also questioning my intelligence as I am going home at the end of the day feeling as if i'm stupid and not able to grasp what's going on.

So, in short, I don't know what to do. I'm just wondering if anyone else here has experienced the same issues and what you did to overcome it.
Post #1486956
Posted Wednesday, August 21, 2013 3:19 PM


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Some level of anxiety is normal when you take on new projects.
I have the same feeling every time. "What if they ask me do things thing I can't?" "What if the subject matter is too complex?" "What if I don't know the tools enough?"
I know it can be frustrating if other - more senior - people seems to know more. But hey, everybody has a learning curve. People don't become senior in a day.

The degree should only play a minor role. I learned about 99% of writing SQL and all my BI capabilities on the job.
Maybe you need to focus on a particular domain of BI (ETL, report development, ...) and become more proficient in it. Choose an area of expertise.
Delve into it: read blogs/articles/books, do some tutorials/exercises, try to answer questions on forums.

This is how I started: I started working with SSIS, liked it and started answering questions on this forum. It's ok if you don't know everything. Just Google it

Maybe you can go to a local SQL user group if that's possible and reach out to other people. Find a mentor (maybe in your current company). A mentor can play a crucial role in your career path.




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Post #1486972
Posted Thursday, August 22, 2013 7:45 AM


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Koen has provided some very solid advice (as usual).

I have a degree in Physical Education and have never taken a computer science class, although I have done some of the MS specific training. I got into IT because a friend of mine hired me as a programmer and he and the other programmer on staff mentored me in SQL, .NET, OOP, etc... It turned out I had an aptitude for SQL and I've stuck with it for about 14 years now. During that time I've often felt less qualified than people I've worked with, but, as you have mentioned, I always got god reviews and have gotten the job done. That's what I rely on now, even though I often feel inadequate, I get the job done, and I think sometimes that nervous or anxious feeling has helped me because it drives me to learn more. If you can find a mentor that would be a great thing, I've had the person who hired me, and then people like Andy Warren (one of the founders of this site), Steve Jones, and Andy Leonard, and others, that I've met in the SQL community that have helped me along the way. You really should plug into a SQL User group, if there is one near you, because the active people in that group will be willing to mentor you, and in many cases will re-assure you that you are more capable than you seem to think. That's how I get through the tough times.




Jack Corbett

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Post #1487260
Posted Thursday, August 22, 2013 12:28 PM
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One of the things I've learned is that the feeling that we're totally unqaulified for our positions and the people around us are bound to discover this and throw us out is one experienced by many people. The fact that you've come as far as you have without an IT degree proves you have an aptitude for what you do, perhaps more so that some people WITH IT degrees.

I've also noticed a certain amount of bravado among many people in IT where they like to drop acronyms and other cues to make people believe they're more knowlegable than they actually are. So some of the people you've worked with may not be as smart as they've led you to believe.

Also consider that the projects that are the most fun are ones where we come in with only 85-90 percent of the required knowlege. The fun is in figuring out/learning the other 10-15 percent. When we have 100 percent of the knowlege, the work becomes boring. So you don't have to know everything, you just need to be able to quickly locate and put into use any knowlege you didn't already have.

So obvously you're not going to sign up for projects in areas you know nothing about, but if you have at least 85 percent of it and can realisticaly know you can learn the rest on the job, be confident of that fact, project that confidence and have fun with it.
Post #1487446
Posted Thursday, August 22, 2013 1:11 PM


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Jack Corbett (8/22/2013)
Koen has provided some very solid advice (as usual).


Aw shoo, you make me blush




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Post #1487471
Posted Thursday, August 22, 2013 9:40 PM
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Thanks for the replies, everyone, much appreciated.

Looks like i'll need to start hanging around SQL user groups, i'm sure there's one near me where I live. I'll also start answering some questions in forums.
Post #1487627
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