I make Microsoft SQL Server
faster and more reliable,
and share what I’ve learned.
I build tools and communities
that get people talking.
I love building things to make databases easy and fun.
was your age got started with SQL Server, I was so frustrated with the dry, boring training material. Databases are hard enough to learn as it is without struggling to pay attention through droning technical details.
I want to make your job suck less, so I build stuff like:
I’m a consultant with great stories.
I manage Brent Ozar Unlimited, a boutique firm that makes Microsoft SQL Server faster and more reliable. I want to build the kind of company you’d love to work with. I write my technical stuff over there, and I write my small business advice and career stuff over here.
I have lots of real-world experience and out-of-this-world battle scars. Every scar has a fun story, though, so now when you want to do something in SQL Server, I can make you laugh while explaining how to avoid injuries like mine.
I’d worked my way up in the hotel industry to the General Manager position so that I was running my own hotels. However, no matter how high up you go in hospitality, sooner or later, you’re working weekends and holidays.
Tired of emergencies that consisted of changing sheets and making omelettes, I left the hospitality business and became a budget analyst and network administrator for a hotel management company.
I joined a hotel accounting software vendor as a developer, and I started with Topspeed Clarion. I know, you probably don’t recognize that as a programming language, but it was what the company used. In retrospect, it was kinda like an ORM in that it abstracted the database away from the application, and your app could switch back ends relatively easily.*
* – not at all easily.
I was the guy standing closest to the Microsoft SQL Server (7.0), and I loved to learn, so I got tasked with making that work. I got my MCSE certification by passing SQL Server exams, too.
I bought BrentOzar.com and set it up as a personal blog.
Prior to that, my blog lived at WickedLife.com (yep, I’ve been blogging for a long, long time), but in a rare moment of prescience, I realized that if I was going to gradually build up an online reputation, I wanted it to reflect me – not an adjective and noun that might not apply to me in a few years. (And besides, my life was never really wicked to begin with.)
I figured it was time to specialize. I noticed that the SQL language hadn’t really changed in decades, and that databases were centric to a lot of company questions, and that database administrators made a lot of money. I chose to focus on Microsoft SQL Server.
I joined Southern Wine & Spirits, a multi-billion-dollar distribution company based in South Florida, as their first and only full time DBA.
I loved it. No, really, LOVED it, with all capital letters. I had a great team of coworkers, a fantastic manager, and I found the business really interesting. I spent many a weekend night doing server maintenance in the data center, and I didn’t even mind the fact that I was working weekends.
Over the next couple of years, I also took on the VMware administrator and SAN administrator roles as well so that I could be a better DBA.
I could have stayed at Southern Wine forever, but family ties pulled me out of South Florida, and I had to move on to something else.
I knew the marketing team at Quest Software (now Dell Software) from our work together on SQL Server white papers and presenting on webcasts. I mentioned to them that I was looking for a new gig, and I ended up joining them as a SQL Server expert and evangelist.
I traveled the US and Europe training database administrators and developers at the world’s biggest conferences. Just when I thought things couldn’t get better than Southern Wine, they did!
I coauthored the book Professional SQL Server 2008 Internals and Troubleshooting.
And promptly swore I’d never do write a book again.
I likened writing a book to punching yourself in the junk over and over, while your editor stands behind you screaming, “PUNCH HARDER! PUNCH FASTER!” There’s no money in it, either. I’m glad I did it – it was a valuable life lesson, much like licking a 9V battery – but I wouldn’t do it again.
Along with my good friends Jeremiah Peschka, Kendra Little, and Tim Ford, I started Brent Ozar Unlimited, a boutique consulting firm focused on solving the toughest SQL Server pains.
I never wanted the company to have my name on it – I’m not the kind of guy who wants to take credit for stuff – but our branding company recommended it. Like Charles Schwab or Donna Karan or Steve Madden, they suggested we should just roll with what was already bringing the business in. (For the record, I’m a minority partner in the company.)
We bootstrapped the company and worked out of our houses. The first year or two was pretty lean. You can read the story of the company so far.
Brent Ozar Unlimited hired full time employee #1.
This was a huge moment for us – the business went from a lifestyle consulting company to being responsible for someone else’s house payment. We grew up a lot that year.
At one point in my career, many years ago, I worked for a company that skipped a couple of paychecks. At the moment they skipped my second paycheck, I resolved to never run that kind of company. That thought still lives with me every week.
After four years of sprinting to make our consulting startup dreams a reality, Jeremiah, Kendra, and I had a great discussion about what to do next. We’d achieved product/market fit and profitability, and now it was time to scale. We all agreed on the vision, but it was time to take some money off the table and get paid for the years of hard startup work.
The company bought out Jeremiah and Kendra’s shares, and I became the sole owner of Brent Ozar Unlimited.
This really didn’t change anything in terms of how we treated employees and customers – we kept right on executing the same vision that Jeremiah, Kendra, and I started with. (It sounds really cliched, but it’s true.)
But starting here, there was only one guy to blame if things went wrong – me, hahaha.
We grew to seven full time folks, and then ended up shrinking the company back down. I’d tried to grow the consulting business to 10-15 people, but it just didn’t work. The risks were too high along the way, so I pulled back and focused on our community efforts.
We released PasteThePlan.com, a new free way of sharing execution plans so you could get help online easier.
Then, we started GroupBy.org, free training by the community, for the community. Anyone can submit abstracts on any topic, and then the attendees pick which sessions they want for the online conference.
We released SQL ConstantCare®, a new way to get simple advice on what you should do next to make your SQL Servers faster and more reliable. Instead of showing you a bunch of metrics and making you figure it out, we boiled down monitoring systems to a simple set of emails with instructions for you.
We brought out new Mastering training classes: live, hands-on labs in the cloud where you had to tackle tough problems in limited time. Students raved about how real-world the labs felt.
I love teaching database administrators and developers about SQL Server.
I love the incredible rush of seeing someone “get it” – especially when “it” is a really complex concept that they’ve struggled with for years. This drives me to seek out the toughest concepts that stump people in the real world, and come up with new ways of distilling it down to its simplest parts.