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.
I’m sure that you weren’t attempting to solicit gratitude Brent – but thanks so much for sp_Blitz.
I still can’t believe that something so great is free! An outstanding contribution to the community.
Awww, thanks sir!
I use some of your tools on a weekly basis…and have used them as ideas for others. Appreciate your work for the community!
I’ve watched your webinars for years now, enjoying seeing you start out and eventually get hired by bigger firms and then starting your own firms. I hope to grow my career in a similar way. I really enjoy your webinars because you know a lot but are very humble and also funny! Adding humor to a presentation makes it so much better. Anyway, thanks for your work in the SQL Server community!
Elizabeth – awww, thanks!
I think the humble thing is really important. I was so excited when I got to the MCM testing in Redmond and one of the first things out of Paul Randal’s mouth was, “A big part of being an MCM is being unafraid to say ‘I don’t know.'” You have to know where your limits are, and you can’t be cocky and pretend you know everything. I was so excited because I felt like I’d found my place – people who knew what they knew, and knew what they didn’t know, and weren’t afraid to draw a big bright line separating the two.
For me, it’s easy to stay humble because there’s so many things I don’t know, and I can’t know if I want to be good at the parts that I DO know, hahaha.