So, you didn’t get the job; maybe it is YOUR fault.

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A friend once shared with me his personal motto about job security, “I don’t need job security, I have career security.” For 20 years, I adopted that same motto. The confidence this simple sentence instilled was quite powerful. Over those years, the arrogance of “career security” soiled my personal appreciation for enthusiasm, work ethic, and logic. Fortunately, these last four weeks have caused a fundamental shift in my perspective. Finalizing to a phone interview one recent Tuesday afternoon for a senior DBA position, I am now the newest advocate for “Change or Die.”

For the most part, I believed that my experience in enterprise application development, systems management, and database management was enough to leverage, beating out most candidates for a technical position. <sarcasm><rhetorical question> When they advertise for a senior DBA, how am I not the right fit? </rhetorical question></sarcasm> Cue the arrogance, machismo, and stupidity.

Thirty-four minutes later, the call was over and I knew that I didn’t get the senior DBA job. I spent the next 20 minutes recalling the questions, looking up answers, and banging my head on the table. Compared to the answers I gave, I wouldn’t hire me for a junior DBA. It was time to pick apart my “I have career security” mindset.

Participating in a few interviews a year is always good practice. Practice is necessary to understand what is required to be a valid candidate. A benefit of the technology field is a mixed bag of having options, skills, and being able to grade and compare yourself to the rest of the world. Of the many things I didn’t do before my interview, first and foremost obviously, was to prepare. <arrogance> I have done this work for so long, why prepare? </arrogance> DBA positions revolve around how to resolve issues about customer’s data, such as security, recovery, availability, and performance. Being a manager once, I was more impressed by interviewees who had thorough, concise answers (Einstein had it right) and enthusiasm.

When I did my research into who interviewed me, a known author on this site, I both struggled with his past tenure versus mine, and how he became the person interviewing me. A weekend of introspective thought was in my near future. Some simple and powerful answers bubbled to the top of my list:

  1. Be enthusiastic about your career.
  2. Always be prepared.
  3. You do NOT know everything.

Being enthusiastic can actually be hard, especially without constant practice. I gave up playing with new technology for several reasons. Every seven to nine years, I experience burnout. I start hating technology. Wishing for the return of stone tablets and no electricity. Like being stuck in the middle of a lake without a paddle, it takes a while to dig out of the funk. I know, as I am at the end of my second burnout. Enthusiasm for technology continues by always trying new things. Start by going to users’ groups, or create a blog. Maybe tweet something that interests you in your field. Pick a new topic, for example, how much time have you dedicated to NoSQL? It is shocking to see the enthusiastic replies.  Whatever it is, you just have to start.

Be prepared is more than a Boy Scout motto because, in technology, it is synonymous with being educated. Udemy.com, A Cloud Guru – acloud.guru, edx.org, YouTube.combitfountain.io, Ppluralsight.com, and SqlServerCentral.com are but a tip of the education iceberg. There are thousands of websites dedicated to new technology, education, and social groups wanting to help bring people forward in this space. Education is our number one offensive and defensive maneuver.

The first step in any self-improvement plan is admitting one’s faults, so not knowing everything is my admission. In order to be prepared, one must identify their weaknesses. Challenging oneself to speak at a user’s group, write an article, get a certificate, or publish cool and awesome solutions on Github is a great opportunity to get feedback.

I never liked the idea of having to build a brand. My “brand” was being able to do a lot of things well, but having lost that enthusiasm and believing I knew everything, I was a loss leader. Besides technology, my interviewer’s articles refer to these exact points, you need to practice and work at creating, building, and playing. Through his examples of code, he shows how to make work more efficient, challenging, and fun. In the end, I do believe I gained more from the interview than he.

Change or die.

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