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SQL Quiz Part 2 - Career Challenges

Another diabolical idea of Chris Shaw. I'm actually late to the game because I got tagged a week ago by Jason Massie.

The Questions for this quiz…  What are the largest challenges that you have faced in your career and how did you overcome those?

Challenge #1: Taking Care of My Troops

I was a first lieutenant in the USAF. Had been in about 3 years. My dad is a retired Marine GySgt. My uncle is a retired Marine MSgt. As a kid I grew up around Marine enlisted personnel. And one of the things I learned is you take care of your troops. Yes, the mission is always #1. But your troops had better be a close #2. One of my airmen had recently welcomed home a new baby. But his wife was in a lot of pain and they suspected she had gotten an infection after giving birth. The problem was he had to go through the military health care system. And they were blowing him off because he was a junior enlisted guy. I listened to him for the better part of a day and a half to get seen. He had been to ambulatory care and they wouldn't see his wife. Back and forth passing the buck between the military and the civilian doctors meant this airman's wife was getting no treatment. Finally I had enough.

The military hospital was on the other side of town because we were a split base. I told my airman to get his wife and I'd meet him at the hospital. It was late in the afternoon, most doctors came in as captains, so I really didn't know what I'd do, but based on what I had been taught by my family and by The Citadel, I had a responsibility to this man and his family. I figured I would get over there, see what was going on, then call a major I knew from my Bible study group as to what to do next. Not much of a plan, I admit.

We met up at the hospital and we walked around to ambulatory care. And we happened to chance upon a card game being played by the orderlies, the same orderlies who had refused to see him before. Oops. That was my in. Given they were enlisted and I was an officer, I immediately pulled rank. Something to the effect of, "Since you guys have enough to play cards, you've got enough time to take care of my airman's wife. Right?" as I looked right at the cards. He and his wife were taken back immediately. And as it turned out, the military referred it out immediately because it was an infection that was far worse than it should have been.

Challenge #2: Lost Tickets

Shortly after I got out of the USAF, I went to work with BellSouth Advertising and Publishing Company (the phonebook portion of the org) as a contract system administrator. We had this helpdesk ticket system that left a lot to be desired. The GUI interface we had allowed us to see the tickets that were currently in our queue at Columbia. But trying to find tickets that had originated out of Columbia but were assigned to another group was a real problem. The search functionality left a lot to be desired. What would happen is one of the employees would call a problem in to the help desk and it would soon get assigned to one of the groups in Atlanta. In some case we never even saw the ticket. And about two weeks later we'd have a user calling us asking what the status was. We were not pleased.

So I spent time figuring out how the help desk software worked. I reasoned it was serviced by a database back-end... but which one and what was the login? The laptop I was issued had been drop-shipped to me with an image already on it. Help desk software was pre-configured before I ever got it. But I spent some time poking around the config and figured out it was connecting to a SQL Server back-end. Now, to log in to the help desk software, I had to type a username and password combo that was different from my Windows one. This smacked of a SQL Server login. Sure enough, that was the case. It happened to be a SQL Server 6.5 box and I had a legitimate login to connect. About half a day poking through the schema and I had figured out how the ticketing system worked. The information to track tickets originating from Columbia was there. Two days later we had an ASP-based web site that allowed us to find every ticket. We found tickets going back two years and started sending emails to the appropriate groups asking what the status was and why they weren't closed. Amazingly enough, we got a lot of surprised responses and suddenly groups were working on our tickets.


K. Brian Kelley - Databases, Infrastructure, and Security

IT Security, MySQL, Perl, SQL Server, and Windows technologies.


Posted by Steve Jones on 16 December 2008

The sign of a leader and great responses. Congrats on your actions and initiative.

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