Things You Know Now

Today Kevin Kline, Quest's #1 SQL guru, tagged me, challenging me to offer bits of wisdom to SQL n00bs—which I mean in a good way considering this describes me not all that many years ago.  As I divine the lineage of the "Things You Know Now" thread, Mike Walsh got things rolling, preeminent she-geek Michelle Ufford (alter ego: SQLFool post: Things You Know Now) picked up the ball & it was caught by Chris Shaw who lateralled to Kevin.  Kevin has thrown a "Hail, Mary" to Joe Webb, Rambling DBA Jonathan Kehayias, & yours truly.

I was also tagged by my good friend, the inimitable John "El Magnifico" Magnabosco.  Tim Mitchell had tagged John, who in turn tagged  Brad McGehee, Arie Jones, & me.

The question:  "It doesn't have to be DBA skills, but what do you wish you knew when you were starting?"

My response includes the following (including non-DBA skills at the top of the list):

  • Live Life, Live Intentionally

  • Be Effective

  • Pick a Specialty

  • Find a Mentor, Be a Mentor

  • Practice Best Practices

  • Write Fast Code

  • Write Robust Code

  • Training & Certification: Embrace the Knowledge Base


Live Life, Live Intentionally
Life is short.  Enjoy it.  Really.  Learn to tango.  Live Intentionally. Craft a Vision Statement.  Read it daily.  Review & revise it frequently.  Learn more here.

Be Effective
Learn to be effective, especially in your communication.  Take the Dale Carnegie Course in Human Relations.  Study the work of JD Meier—both on MSDN &, & consultant extraordinaire Alik Levin's

Pick a Specialty
Find a niche.  Be its master (or mistress).

Find a Mentor, Be a Mentor.
Find a mentor—formal or informal.  Be a stealth mentee if necessary.  Absorb what you can.  Pass it on.

Practice Best Practices
"Best practices" are called that for a reason.  Exceptions should be rare & thoughtful.  Here's a great head start for you SQL types.

Write Fast Code
Incremental improvements matter.  A lot.  As Computer science professor, billionaire, & entrepreneur David Cheriton said, "If it is fast and ugly, they will use it and curse you; if it is slow, they will not use it."

Write Robust Code
Kevin echoed a sentiment I've heard before, "the perfect is the enemy of the good".  Yet the homily "measure twice, saw once" is also relevant.  Your work doesn't have to be perfect, yet when you're thinking "good enough" think in terms of many times the nominal lifetime of the project.  Be accountable—put your name on your work.  (See below.)

Training & Certification: Embrace the Knowledge Base
I know now that the content of white papers are far more important than I imagined.  Subscribe to, read, & study the blogs of industry leaders as well as up-&-coming experts.  Dittos for their books & courses.  Certification has been an indispensable ingredient to my success.  Your mileage may vary, but for me there's no room here for debate on this topic.  As Zig Ziglar said, "There is only one thing worse than training employees and losing them, and thats not training them and keeping them."  Attend the PASS Community Summit as often as possible.  (Hint:  Make it part of your annual compensation package.)  Study.  Do.

You're It!
Thanks for the opportunity, John & Kevin, and by extension, Chris, Michelle, & Mike, Joe, & Jonathon.  Next up:


Senior Performance Consultant: SQL Server
A.C.E.: Assessment, Consulting, & Engineering Services
Performance is paramount: Asking users to wait is like asking them to leave.

This post was written with the plugin for Windows Live Writer

Comments (3)

  1. JD Meier says:

    Perfect Dilbert and great set of lessons learned.

    I like the way you worded things and I think you shared a lot of value in a precise way.

  2. Alik Levin says:

    "Find a mentor, be a mentor" is my favorite by far.

    I’d made a million less mistakes if i’d had a good mentor in first pace – I have mentors now.

    The other one i liked is "write robust code" – check out on this one, you must like it:

    PS. thanks for the plug 😉

  3. Jimmy May says:

    @ JD: Coming from you, I especially appreciate the kind words.  Precision is an important component of effective communication.

    @ Alikl: Thank you.  The petition you cited resonates so much with me that I signed it.  Thanks for bringing it to my attention.  I look forward to reading your advice to n00bs.

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