Changing My About-Me Slide

Posted on by Brent Posted in Blog Posts | 7 Comments

From about 2012 to 2014, this was my about-me slide at the start of a presentation:

About Me, circa 2014

About Me, 2014

I’d show that and say, “I’m Brent Ozar, a Microsoft Certified Master and MVP. That just means I’ve made a lot of expensive mistakes, and now I try to help other people avoid those mistakes. I cofounded a consulting company with a couple of my best friends, and it happens to have my name on it.” Then I’d go on to the next slide.

In early 2015, we switched to widescreen presentation templates, and for a quick temporary fix, I switched to six boxes:

About Me circa 2015, with animated reaction gif

About Me early 2015, with animated reaction gif

Yeah, I know it’s ugly – I whipped it together in like half an hour. I was just temporarily putting off a big problem: I needed to find a new way to define myself in a single slide.

Sadly, some of my badges have expired.

Microsoft killed the Certified Master program over a year ago, and it’s clear that a replacement isn’t coming. That’s a shame, but I understand – it was a money-losing program, and like any company, Microsoft’s gotta make money. Microsoft already makes awesomely big community donations in the form of the MVP program.

I’ve got other current Microsoft certifications, but I’m not putting those on the about-me slide. I don’t think people should measure me by those certifications because I’m not wild about what they measure.

I’m taking the book off too. I was proud of my contributions, and I think it’s still a great book to read today, and I’m proud of the book’s reviews, but c’mon. It’s SQL Server 2008, and I can’t coast on that. I definitely won’t be writing another conventionally-published book because the economics blow.

I started by asking, “What am I really proud of?”

I had two quick answers: the huge variety of stuff we’re building at BrentOzar.com, and my work/life balance. Communicating the company is easy, and then I thought, “Why not communicate my personal life with something like my Instagram feed?”

About Me, circa now

About Me, circa now

From left to right, top to bottom:

  • With Jeremiah and Kendra at é by josé andrés
  • With Erika, sailing
  • In Cabo at the company retreat
  • Teaching at SQLSaturday Lisbon
  • With Dad at Tracy Arm Fjord, Alaska
  • With Ben Block, finishing the Disney Half Marathon
  • With Ernie
  • With a fellow Parrothead at a Jimmy Buffett concert
  • With the America’s Cup trophy

They’re not my 9 favorite moments from life or anything, and they’re not my 9 favorite photos, but they do a good job of explaining me.

And if I don’t respond to your comment quickly, it’s because I’m on vacation with Erika this week. Timed that one pretty well.

Five Things I Learned from Five Years of Blitzing

Posted on by Brent Posted in Blog Posts | 3 Comments
Having a champagne moment

Having a champagne moment

Five years ago this week, while presenting a session at the 24 Hours of PASS, I introduced the world to an easier way to check the health of their SQL Servers. I had no idea if anybody else would like it or find it useful.

As I write this, I’m sipping champagne, watching golfers tee off in Scottsdale Arizona. I’m self-employed, part of a boutique consulting firm where I get to work with my best friends.

I still can’t believe this is my life, and I want it to be yours, too, so as usual, I’m sharing what I learned along the way. Here’s what sp_Blitz® was a big part of what got me here. Here’s some of my favorite lessons:

1. Build something to make your own life easier. Don’t design something that you think an imaginary user needs – design something you need, even if it’s a years-prior version of yourself. In my case, I hated taking over SQL Servers that someone else had built. More community examples include Adam Machanic’s sp_WhoIsActive, Ola Hallengren’s maintenance scripts, Richie Rump’s StatisticsParser.com, and Kendal Van Dyke’s SQL Power Doc.

2. Don’t be intimidated: these other authors are just like you. We all have day jobs, we’re all doing this in our spare time, and we’re all ashamed of parts of our code. But like Steve Jobs said, real artists ship. Do a good enough job and get your work out there to see if people respond. Odds are, people are desperate for the end results out of your tool, and they’re not terribly concerned about the quality of your code. (Side note: this is why I get really pissed off at DBAs who demand that their developers write beautiful, fast, best-practices code. Solve real world problems first, and worry about perfection later.)

3. Do things, tell people. Doing it is the easy part – getting the word out is much, much harder. Until you get raving fans, nobody else is going to spread the word. Set monthly calendar reminders to blog/present/webcast about your work.

4. Don’t lose heart: most users are silent. I know people use my work because tens of thousands of people per month download these scripts, and when I present, the overwhelming majority of arms go up when I ask who’s used them. Still, though, I don’t get a lot of emails back each month. It’s incredibly cool when, for example, a student in our classes last month stood up and said, “I’d like to take a moment to thank you guys for giving so many cool tools away to the public for free.” Those moments are gold – but they sure as hell don’t happen as often as you’d think. (That’s why I told you to go thank Adam Machanic.)

5. There has never been a better time to bet on yourself. The database market is on fire. If you’re in data, you should be making great money, doing what you love, and you should have time after hours and weekends to build things you care about. The time to start investing in your future is now – so that down the road, when times get a little leaner, you’ll have a brand name and a reputation that brings work to your door.

Start a blog.

Write a presentation.

Build a tool.

Share what you’re passionate about.

 

I wish I’d have written scripts ten years ago instead of five. I wish I’d have started a blog twenty years ago instead of fifteen. The perfect time to start all of this stuff is five years ago, but you don’t have that luxury – get your ass moving right now and get started.

The #MSIgnite 2015 Speaking Experience

Posted on by Brent Posted in Blog Posts | 2 Comments

Last week, I spoke at Microsoft Ignite in Chicago:

Where's Waldo?

Where’s Waldo? (click for full size)

I had an awesome time, and evidently the attendees did too – as I write this, I’m in the top 10 of 1000+ sessions overall.

Microsoft does a couple of things different than other conferences I’ve attended, and if you go in knowing these, you can build a better session.

Ignite session registration numbers are available in real time.

Both my registration numbers and my room capacity were in the speaker portal leading up to the event. Room size influences my session delivery, so knowing that I had >500 registrants and a 250-person room, I took a couple of steps to prepare.

First, I knew I probably wasn’t going to get attendees to ask their questions out loud. (Big rooms are intimidating for attendees who speak quietly.) Therefore, I checked with the schedule to see if there was another session immediately after mine in the same room. There wasn’t, so before the session started, I took a few moments to explain that I’d be available for unlimited Q&A after the session finished. (Had there been a session, I would have taken unlimited Q&A out in the hall.)

Microsoft was gently pushing Yammer as a second screen option – attendees could follow along with the presentation in real time on their laptop, plus they could ask questions online. The demo videos weren’t good, though, and attendees didn’t seem to be buying into it – I didn’t see any sessions where attendees actually asked questions online.

I thought it might be an issue of awareness, so about before my session started, I showed a slide explaining how attendees could access the Yammer second screen option. As it turned out, they still didn’t use it. The room was completely packed, and it’s not fun to use a laptop when you’re elbow-to-elbow with other attendees.

All surveys for all sessions are visible to all presenters, in real time.

Sounds kind of creepy to look at other presenters’ feedback, but it actually helps me take the pulse of the attendees before they get into my session. I can look at what they’re happy with in other sessions, what they didn’t like, and then adjust my delivery to match the crowd. (And of course, I was kinda lucky that my session wasn’t up first!)

Based on what attendees said about other sessions, I made a few tweaks:

Some attendees were frustrated that they weren’t getting enough real-world actionable information about their 2012 and 2014 servers. I decided to spend more time on 2012/2014, but to still give them the necessary info on SQL 2016, I gave them a take-home slide deck with a recap of the new SQL Server 2016 information.

Attendees didn’t seem happy with scripted attempts at humor. It’s really hard to be funny, but when you rehearse something a couple of times, it can get even worse. I’d scripted a few jokes at various points of my session, but I decided to scrap them all and just wing it. (That comes with its own risks, especially at a vendor conference, and I’ve made that mistake before.)

And as crazy as it sounds, I even read the venue feedback. Attendees were wildly unhappy with food quality, and I read a lot of Yammer threads about folks making plans to go elsewhere for lunch. To top it off, the morning of my session, the venue ran out of breakfast food. (sigh) I figured I’d better cut a demo from my session in order to finish early – that way my attendees could be first in the lengthy food lines, or get enough time to grab better food.

Data builds a better product. Duh.

Result: great feedback and comments.

“His humor and love for his job make him a very useful speaker. I got the sense that most of the Microsoft presenters were tasked to speak but Brent wanted to be here.”

“based on this and the first session I went to on monday. I would suggest that MS invite more of these dynamic 3rd party speakers to future events. it’s great to talk / listen to the people who worked on the product, but I would have likes more sessions like this”

Well, that’s true. It’s the pros-and-cons of a vendor-run conference. You want to hear from the developers who build the products you use, but they’re not necessarily passionate about public speaking. When I’m listening to a Microsoft developer or architect speak, I don’t rate them on delivery – only on content. (It even gets a little tricky with content because they’re dealing with marketing people who decide what’s allowed to be said at the conference.)

Ignite had a mix of Microsoft staff and indies like me, plus vendor sessions too, which brings me to:

“By far the best presentation yet at Ignite. All tech, no sales. Loved it.”

I sat through a couple of sessions that had vendor co-presenters, and the sales pitches were of varying quality. I understand why attendees would get frustrated with those. I do use our free scripts as part of our session, but I also make it clear that they’re not the only tool you can use, and I also pitch other free tools like Adam Machanic’s excellent sp_WhoIsActive.

“Please offer one more session”

I would love to do multiple sessions – hell, I’d present every day if I could – but I’m honored to even get one slot at a conference like Ignite. I bet if Microsoft gave me multiple slots, other presenters would complain that they didn’t get one, wah wah waaaah.

“Best session of the conference. Can’t believe the room size.”

“Brent was amazing as usual. Best session at ignite. Thanks Microsoft for cramming everyone into a room that was way to small!”

“Brent’s presentation was excellent and extremely helpful. he was really approachable and was great with questions after the session. Next time get him a bigger room!”

As I guessed would happen based on the registrations, the room filled up about 20 minutes before the start time, and from what I heard, the overflow room nearly filled up too. The work in prepping for questions paid off.

“Great speaker! We where having fun and learning at the same time.”

“Best session yet! Perfect combination of information and humor.”

“as always Brent does an awesome presentation. gets people to laugh and enjoy the topic at hand”

Throwing away the scripted jokes and winging it worked out. I prepped by having four espressos the morning of the session, so by the time the lights were up, my mind was going a million miles an hour and it was easy to riff. I can hear the nerves going for the first couple of minutes of the recording, and not all of the jokes worked, but the ones that worked, worked really well. I’m pretty proud of the end result, and hopefully all this work gets me back in again next year.

Dear Women in Technology, Here’s How to Be Inspired

Posted on by Brent Posted in Blog Posts | 16 Comments

Disclaimer: I’m a guy. Set that aside for a minute.

Step 1: Decide to be mentally close to inspiring people.

The people physically close to you aren’t necessarily your best inspiration, and you can’t always control them. Often, they’re asshats.

The people mentally close to you, however, are totally up to you.

Make the decision to build an awesome list of inspiring people doing amazing things. These people, whether they know you today or not, are going to be your mental neighbors.

Step 2: Sign up for Twitter and install a Twitter client.

I’m not saying you have to post anything, mind you – Twitter is full of narcissists sharing pictures of breakfast, and who wants to contribute to that?

No, you’re just going to sign up, install a client:

Step 3: Set up a column for some of Snipe’s lists.

Safe for work, for values of work

Safe for work,
for values of work

Alison Gianotto is @Snipeyhead, and the best way I can describe her is with her Twitter bio:

“Hacker, co-founder/CTO @MassMosaic, open sorcerer, author, speaker, devops, infosec, autodidact, gamer, atheist, chaotic neutral, ENTP, NSFW.”

The second best way I can describe her is the term “bad ass.” Go to her Twitter lists page, and click on one of the lists that matches your interests, such as:

On the top left of the list’s page, there’s a Subscribe button. This prints the tweets and sends them to your door each morning. Wait, no, I’m being told this just adds them to your subscribed lists in your Twitter client.

Configure a column in your Twitter client for each of your subscribed lists.

Step 4: First thing every morning, glance at Twitter.

Start your day by looking for inspiration. A lot of this stuff is going to be noise, but some of it is going to be awesome signal that inspires you. These people are out kicking ass and taking names, and seeing them do their thing will empower you to do your thing.

Over the next week or two, you’ll start to recognize the names of people whose tweets interest you, people who share your interests.

These are your mental neighbors – follow them. Rather than just following them in the list, follow their accounts directly. This way, within the first month, you’ll start transitioning to just reading your Twitter feed rather than Snipe’s list (which, like any list, is gonna have a lot of people you’re not interested in), and your own Twitter feed will be concentrated, personalized, inspiring goodness.

Sure, someday you’ll start interacting with these people, replying to them, and building an online family. That’s intimidating to think about at first – especially as bad-ass/famous/inspiring as these women are – but it’ll happen over time. Worry about that later.

How do I know it’ll work?

Because it’s how I start my day too.

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