Tell us about yourself.
I have twenty plus years’ experience in IT, in the areas of technical support, development, and database administration. Currently, I work for Red Gate Software as a Product Evangelist, where I spend a lot of time speaking, and writing articles for SQLServerCentral.com and Simple-Talk.com. I’m one of the founding officers of the Southern New England SQL Server Users Group and I am its current president. I’ve been involved with the SQL Server community since the 2005 PASS Summit when I saw people having a good time while they were learning. I’ve also been a Microsoft SQL Server MVP since 2009.
What have you had published?
I’ve authored two books of my own: SQL Server Execution Plans and SQL Server 2008 Query Performance Tuning Distilled. I’ve also written chapters for a couple of other books, including Beginning SQL Server 2008 Administration and SQL Server Team-Based Development.
Where do you blog?
I maintain two blogs. The first, at Scary DBA, is a general technical and SQL Community blog. I basically blog about whatever technical issues I’m working on or community comments or links I’m interested in. The second, at Scarlet & Scary, is similar, but I also blog about Red Gate products there.
What advice can you give to DBAs about writing?
First, be sure that you enjoy writing, not just writing about SQL Server. Writing is a process and it’s not always a fun one. You need to have a good time with the process, or writing is just too tough. Second, don’t worry about what everyone else has written. Maybe you want to write about a new way to identify a missing index and you know someone has already written about that…so what? Go for it anyway. You may tell a better story or provide more detail, or reach people that other author couldn’t reach. Don’t hold back.
Tell us a little about your speaking experience?
Prior to officially speaking in public, there were only two things that I had done that might have helped me to prepare for it: teach private classes in a corporate setting and lead a pack of Cub Scouts. Of the two, being the Cubmaster to a bunch of young boys was the better experience for public speaking. You learn very quickly that not everything you say will be heard or is even worth hearing. It’s a good lesson when you start speaking
What advice do you have for DBAs who want to begin making public presentations?
Be passionate about the topic, whatever the topic is. If you’re passionate about what you’re presenting, you communicate that passion to the audience, and it’s much more likely that they’ll take whatever it is you are teaching them and try it out back in their office.
How do you keep up with your SQL Server continuing education?
As new books get published, I pick them up and read them. A book is still one of the most information rich areas to learn from. I also subscribe to Database Weekly. It shows me areas that I might need to spend more time on, and it links to the best blog posts out there. Finally, I try to answer questions on the forums at SQLServerCentral.com and at Ask.SQLServerCentral.com. I find that teaching others forces me to get a better understanding of a topic.
What are your favorite SQL Server events to attend, and why?
That’s tough. I like them all. SQL Server Connections is wonderful because you can cross disciplines so easily, spending time talking to SharePoint guys and developers, as well as database professionals. The PASS Summit has become like a family reunion that also presents great technical information. SQL Saturday events are wonderful because of the intimacy of the networking that you can do there. They’re all pretty good.
What is your favorite SQL Server book?
Without doubt it’s Microsoft SQL Server 2008 Internals by Kalen Delaney. She has had a book on my shelf since, at least, SQL Server 7.0. The latest one is not only a must own, but more than that, it’s a must read, a lot.
Why should DBAs consider taking part in the SQL Server community?
It’s very simple. Do you know everything? If not, you probably should take part in the SQL Server community. You’re going to have a better chance at answering questions if you can hook into the extensive body of knowledge available in the community. Plus, they’re great people, good friends, the kind of people you want to hang around with.
What suggestions do you have for DBAs on how to become a more involved in the SQL Server community?
That’s easy. Don’t lurk. Step up, get involved, volunteer, talk to people. If you hang back, you’re less likely to get involved. If you step up, you will get involved. It’s really that easy.
What are some of the key characteristics that you feel differentiate between “good” and “exceptional” DBAs?
Principally, I think it’s a willingness to stretch a little and try new things. You can be great at tuning script deployments, but if you completely dig in your heels at something like Entity Framework, rather than seeking to understand it and figure out how it can be incorporated successfully into your systems; and, just as importantly, the places where it shouldn’t be used at all; you’re far too likely to be merely good forever. Embrace change, try to get in front of it, and lead it where it needs to go. It’s not always possible, but trying is more likely to move you up to being exceptional than not trying at all.
What are some of the biggest challenges for DBAs in the immediate future?
I think the biggest challenge is figuring out to correctly incorporate the cloud and SQL Azure into their systems. The cloud is not going away, and simply ignoring it, as far too many people are doing now, is likely to make it a worse problem than it should be for those people.
What advice would you give to a person who is considering becoming a DBA?
Plastic…. That’s tough. Personally, I think that it hurts DBAs who don’t have a good understanding of how development works. I’d suggest at least spending time with developers and trying to see the difficulties of building business solutions from their point of view. It’s more likely to make you into a helpful DBA, and not one that just says no to everything proposed to them.
What do you consider one of the most useful, but underrated features of SQL Server?
I don’t think it’s under-rated, but not nearly enough people use it, and it’s Dynamic Management Objects. There is just so much excellent information available at your fingertips if you just reach out and take it.
What feature do you think is missing from SQL Server and you would like to see in a future version?
Some way to really know, forever, and for sure; that an object, such as a table or a stored procedure; has never been accessed over some period of time. It would be so great to be able to clean out the junk from the system sometimes.
What you are not working, what do you do for fun?
I help lead a Troop of Boy Scouts (the Cub Scouts grew) which gets me out doing the things I enjoy, such as hiking, backpacking, kayaking, paddling and just being outside.
If you were not a DBA, and could choose the perfect job, what would it be?
I think I’d like to teach history at the Junior High School level. You can still get kids when they might get excited about history rather than spending too much time looking cool. History is a very important topic that just doesn’t get enough attention these days. It’s this lack of attention to history that is probably why it feels like so many people haven’t learned history’s lessons.
Briefly describe the sessions that you will be presenting at the SQLServerCentral.com track at SQL Server Connections this fall in Las Vegas?
My Performance Checklist session is going to try to give you information you can use immediately to prevent poor performance on your systems. I want you to avoid the easy mistakes that can chew on you over time. My Parameter Sniffing session is going to explain what parameter sniffing is and why it’s an excellent thing…until it isn’t. When it isn’t, I’ll show you seven different ways to fix it.