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Pragmatic Transition: Lighthouses and Shipwrecks

Sometimes your mistakes are the greatest lessons...

This is the next post in my series about transitioning from a DBA to a BI consultant for Pragmatic Works. This post is a particularly sensitive one as it pertains to a lesson I had to learn the hard way. My hopes are that by writing and publishing this maybe you can spare yourself or someone else from making the same mistakes. This post is basically to teach one thing: Sometimes you’re a lighthouse, shining your light and showing people the way to safety. The lighthouse is steady and helps others through with a clear message and action. The other half is the shipwreck. Sometimes seeing the wrecks on the rocks gives others a warning about what NOT to do in a given situation. Throughout your life you will probably play both roles many times. For me, in this particular situation, I’m playing the role of shipwreck.

Before I begin let me quickly set the stage for my current position in life. For the last few years I’ve been a SQL Server DBA in shops where I was pretty much the only one. Due to this, along with very lenient bosses, I was allowed to leverage social networking on a daily basis. If you follow me on Twitter then you know I tend to tweet more than any human being should a lot. I’ve come to think of the network of fellow SQL professionals on Twitter as my extended DBA team. I would consume tons of knowledge via conversations, monitoring (and participating) in the #sqlhelp channel, reading blog posts and checking out all the various webcasts and events. This was before taking on the role of a consultant.

As a consultant you have to remember one thing: you’re no longer on YOUR time, you’re on your CLIENT’S time. When someone hires you the expectation is that you’re there to do a job and focus on that job. When you deviate from that, especially on a public platform like social networking sites, the perception is that you’re using up their time. And by using up their time, I mean wasting it. While I may be working hard on whatever client work I’m doing, yet tweeting throughout the day, the perception is that I’m not really working and my focus isn’t where it should be. Even if I scheduled every single tweet throughout the day the perception is still the same, and this is the key: perception is reality. That being the case, the “reality” I was broadcasting by tweeting all the time (as a consultant) is that I was not busy, not focused and to some extent not caring about my client. While none of these are true the fact is I should’ve been more cognizant of the perception I put out to the public, and for that I apologize to the community as a whole.

So now what do we do? Well, we move forward and learn! I now understand a little better what’s expected of me in my new role. The beauty of mistakes is it gives us a chance to learn from them. The important part of mistakes is that you DO learn from them and most importantly: MOVE ON! Mistakes happen. Not only do they happen, they happen to everyone. What matters is how you deal with it and move forward. A really great example of a shipwreck-turned-lighthouse would be a recent situation with Brent Ozar (Blog | Twitter) and his business partnership at SQLSkills. You can read the saga here, here and here. Brent’s public dealing with his situation also helped inspire this post. He took what could have percieved as a terrible situation and turned around and made it a fantastic learning opportunity for anyone looking to pursue a similar partnership in the future. He turned a shipwreck into a lighthouse!

Just remember if you make a mistake that it’s okay. Stuff happens. It’s how we deal with those mistakes that matters in the end. How about you? Have you had a shipwreck/lighthouse moment? Share your stories in the comments!


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Posted by Anonymous on 21 February 2011

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