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Something I learned while unemployed

By Rod Falanga,

At the end of June 2014, I was one of those laid off due to budgetary cuts. I’d survived similar layoffs from previous years, but this time the cuts finally caught up with me. It took me almost nine months to find another job. Immediately after accepting the offer for the new job, I spent the weekend before starting my new job writing down the things that I learned from being unemployed. Unemployment is a difficult time in anyone’s life, and I’ll not make light of it. We don’t all go through the spin cycle of unemployment in the same way. Nevertheless, I hope that you can at least glean some help should you find yourself in such a situation, either now or in the future. Here are a few things that I learned from that experience.

The first thing I learned, and the bitterest pill I had to shallow, was that I had not really kept up with the changes in technology and techniques. I thought that I had, because I’d read articles in technical journals, read some blog posts, watch technical video podcasts, and listened to technical audio podcasts. It was all just knowledge “by reputation”, so to speak. I was aware of things, but didn’t really know them. For example, as a developer, one concept I was familiar theoretically with was unit testing. However, at my old job we never unit tested anything, so I lacked what is now a vital skill.

At the beginning of my unemployment, as I looked over job postings unit testing was almost always mentioned. Like a rude awakening I suddenly realized that knowing how to do unit testing in my code development wasn’t optional, it is now essential. Even if you don’t work as a “tester”, you need to know how to unit test you own code.

After some months went by, I tried to learn how to do unit testing. I found a unit testing training video by Robert Green on Microsoft’s Channel 9, and I watched it many times. Then I started writing some simple code and unit tested that. I practiced and practiced and practiced. I can honestly say that having put in the hours of practice to learn unit testing literally got me the job I’m in now.

Things like unit testing are just the fundamentals of your trade. In SQL, it’s the same thing. What are new fundamentals in SQL Server development and administration? It’s all fine and good to know what ACID means, how to design databases, tables, views, stored procedures and triggers, but as the technology moves on learn the newer things.

At this point in time it seems to me that learning how to at least stand up a database in some vendor’s cloud infrastructure is essential to know. If you’re employed, then spend a little time putting a database into Microsoft’s Azure of Amazon’s AWS. If you’re unemployed, I’ll grant you it will be harder. I had to find a free video series on Channel 9 to view and learn the basics of unit testing, but at least I could watch it, learn how to do unit testing, at least using MS Test, and practice. I’ve just spent a little time looking to see what offerings Microsoft’s Virtual Academy has for SQL Server and the cloud. I found a course there titled “Virtualizing & Managing SQL Server Microsoft Cloud Platform”. It's short and a year old at this point, but it's free and hey, if you’re unemployed, free is the name of the game. I’m sure there are similar offerings for Amazon’s AWS platform and SQL Server. And just to be transparent, I don’t work for either Microsoft nor Amazon. I don’t get anything for mentioning either of them nor recommending them. I’m just trying to be helpful for anyone who may now be unemployed or soon unemployed.

Please let me know what you think by responding to this editorial. Thank you.

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