The #SQLNewBlogger Challenge from Ed Leighton-Dick

Posted on by Brent Posted in Blog Posts | 13 Comments

Today is the day you stop being afraid.


SQLbits Speaker and Topic Board

For a long time, you’ve been telling yourself, “Yeah, I should probably start blogging one of these days,” but you’re afraid. Afraid someone else has already written about a topic. Afraid that your writing isn’t impressive enough. Afraid nobody will leave a comment.

Well, Ed Leighton-Dick is calling your bluff. His #SQLNewBlogger Challenge is a dare to publish one new post per week, every Tuesday in April.

If you’re a new blogger, here’s how I’d do it:

  1. Sign up for a blog at WordPress. Use your name as the site name, and during the signup process, they’ll ask if you want to use a custom domain name. You do, because is a better long term bet than It will cost you $99/year, plus the cost of the domain name registration. Do it.
  2. Ignore the look/feel/theme. Stick with the defaults this month – focus on the content.
  3. Pick 1 topic you’re going to write about. Pick a topic you already know well, something that you believe is completely boring to you, something you think everybody already knows. You’re wrong.
  4. Write down 4 facts about that topic. Jot down 4 simple sentences with a fact. These are going to become your blog post titles.
  5. Write one blog post per fact. Start by looking at ProBlogger’s 52 Types of Blog Posts for inspiration. If one of those styles calls to you, use it for all 4 – but I’d recommend trying 4 different voices, 4 different styles of posts for your 4 facts. Write them all in advance, and schedule them for publication on each Tuesday.

As each one goes live, if you want feedback, email me at and give me the URL. I’ll give short, honest feedback about what I thought, and I’ll help publicize your work.

Go do it right now. Seriously, you have nothing better to do. You’re reading my blog, for crying out loud.

How Do You Measure Your Career?

Posted on by Brent Posted in Blog Posts | 25 Comments

Us admins are really good at measuring systems. (Well, we’re probably not, but we tell ourselves that we are.) We have all these pretty dashboards and counters to tell us exactly what’s going on with a system at any moment in time.

But we usually measure our career with our salary.

Jeremiah uses "MPH Achieved in Valley of Fire State Park"

Jeremiah uses “MPH Achieved in Nevada” and his career is currently ahead of mine

That’s putting the cart before the horse because salary only changes after the fact – after we’ve done amazing things, told management, and convinced them we’re worth more money. But what metric do we use to convince ’em?

Uptime doesn’t work because so many factors are outside of our control, like the company’s willingness to buy quality gear or warranties. Lines of code or features shipped might work for developers, but they don’t work for admins.

So what are we supposed to use?


No, the DBA role still isn’t going away.

Posted on by Brent Posted in Blog Posts | 20 Comments
Paging all dinosaurs to the retraining camp

Paging all dinosaurs to the retraining camp

Last week at SQLRally, I heard yet another session with the line, “DBAs are dinosaurs.”

And: “DBAs must learn the analytics and cloud right now.”

This is a total load of crap.

1. Most companies aren’t moving to the cloud or succeeding at analytics yet. Sure, they’re putting SOME stuff in the cloud, but not most, let alone all. They still need your help with their on-premise mess.

2. Analytics and cloud tools change dramatically every year. If you learned a lot about the cloud a year ago, you would have decided that SQL Azure was garbage, Azure VM throughput was a joke, and Amazon was the only game in town. Today, the game is completely different – Microsoft has caught up, Azure SQL Database has new capabilities and new ways of sharding data, and Azure VMs are a real possibility. In another twelve months, there’s going to be another new set of decisions and best practices, and probably new leading products to boot. If you don’t need cloud services today, you’re wasting your time learning it, because what you learn will be outdated in months.

3. On-premise techniques are still relevant in the cloud and with analytics. If you learn query performance tuning, for example, your skills pay off not just on your bare metal servers, but also your virtual machines and your cloud servers. Tried and true skills like that are useful at more companies, meaning they’re a safer bet if you need skills that will get you paid.

4. You don’t have unlimited learning time. You only have so many hours per week to learn things, and you should learn things you love with the best chance of paying your bills. If your company is moving to the cloud, great – learn it. If not, learning the cloud isn’t going to get you paid. If you want a different job, talk to your local recruiters and ask them how many people are looking for help with the skills you already have – versus help with the cloud.

When you need to pick your training plan, go to your manager and ask them, “What’s the biggest problem you’re facing right now, the problem that you’d give me a raise if I could solve?”

Learn to fix that problem – ideally, using skills you can build upon.

I’m not saying analytics or cloud are bad – they’re awesome. But if you don’t love something, don’t learn it – learn what you love. Without cloud knowledge, you’ll still be just fine next year, and the year after that.

Anybody who tells you otherwise is either a salesperson, a “thought leader/analyst”, an idiot, or all of the above.

Being The Stig at SQLBits

Posted on by Brent Posted in Blog Posts | 5 Comments

For this year’s SQLBits costume party, I went as The Stig – Top Gear’s anonymous superhero race car driver:

I only told a few people ahead of time, and I kept the helmet on for quite a while. I walked around slowly, mimicking The Stig’s poses and movements. I had a ridiculously good time, and I kept laughing while people kept walking up to me and taking pictures. Thankfully you can’t see how hard I’m smiling or laughing:

I loved seeing the look of joy on Rob and Oliver’s faces, and they had no idea it was me. That’s just awesome. I loved being anonymous, and being somebody else, and still bringing joy to the party.

There were two Batmobiles at the party, and a Batman to guard ’em. Batman had a great sense of humor, and we played off each other for a few fun impromptu photo opportunities.

Eventually, after something like an hour and a half, I finally popped up the mask and revealed my real identity:

That was totally addictive. I can see why people become actors or comedians.

Now hopefully I’ll figure out a way to be anonymous (and fun) next year too. For now, back to the States.