Public Speaking Isn’t Just for Your Audience

It’s also for you, the speaker. Speaking takes up your time and energy. It teaches you to express concepts, to listen well, and it even teaches you a lot about how you think.

You can think too much about your audience

It’s important to teach people something useful, but you can think too much about the art of teaching. Don’t forget that you need to have joy in what you’re presenting– the material should excite you. There should be something about it that you find interesting and look forward to.

This doesn’t mean you always have to present something that’s rocket science. I truly believe the opposite: most great presentations teach things that are extremely useful and involve common activities, not things that are only needed 1% of the time. Teach subject matter you know well.

But have slides that make you laugh, or which you think convey the material in a beautiful way. Present work that you’re really proud of, that invigorates you.

Don’t forget your audience entirely

When writing a presentation, it’s still critical to ask, “Who is the person that this will help?” Figure out how much experience they have and what problems your talk helps with. This helps you tailor your presentation so that it’s meaningful.

It also helps you write a title and abstract that gets the right people in the room.

Because while a presentation is partly for the speaker, it’s still mostly for your audience. Don’t forget yourself, but know that your mission is to teach others.

Good thing you've got coffee.

Good thing you’ve got coffee.

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Going from Paralells to VMware Fusion Pro

vmWare Fusion

I use a hypervisor all the time. I do all my work on a mac laptop, but I work with Windows and SQL Server all the time– that means running a lot of VMs.

Why did I switch?

I used Parallels happily for a long time to host my VMs, but lately I’ve been having weird issues with projectors and resolutions. Part of the problem may have to do with my macbook’s retina display, and part may have to do with the fact that I was running Windows 2008R2 in the VMs. I knew that I needed to upgrade my version of Parallels and quite possibly install new VMs with a higher version of Windows Server. (I haven’t had the same resolution issues with Windows 8 in a VM, for instance.)

In addition, a bunch of my coworkers at Brent Ozar Unlimited were already using VMware fusion, and the idea of trading VMs back and forth was attractive– and they haven’t had issues with resolution going wonky on projectors.

So since I needed to upgrade things anyway, I decided to switch over.

Why I’m already happy

I’ve installed a bunch of new VMs with Windows Server 2012 R2. It’s been quick and easy– the OS installs really fast and it doesn’t hurt that there’s only four updates out at this point.

One of the nicest things is actually the simplest. VMware Fusion lets me create folders for my VMs, and also display notes about them. So it’s super easy to organie a bunch of VMs and categorize them in different ways.

I’m looking forward to using snapshots and differential disks and all that jazz. But, yeah, it’s the folders that I really couldn’t do without.

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DBCC USEROPTIONS: See Your Session Settings in SQL Server

This is a super old command, but it still comes in handy when working with SQL Server.

Want to know your default isolation level in the current database? Run this. (If optimistic locking is turned on in your current database context, your default will be “read committed snapshot”)

Want to know what your ANSI settings are, or how arithabort is set? (Those settings can impact your query results, and determine whether you can successfully use a filtered index, an indexed computed column, or an indexed view.) DBCC USEROPTIONS helps out!

The biggest limitation: this tells you the settings for your current session– but not for anyone else’s session. That might help you figure out why something is slow in the application and fast in SSMS, but you’ve still got to do some legwork to figure out what the other session’s settings are. (Perhaps by using sys.dm_exec_requests?)


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My Biggest Regret as a Database Administrator

Is one simple, small thing. It’s not spending as much time as I possibly can with other people.

These Are Actual People

A DBA’s Time Is Limited

There’s almost always more things to be done that a DBA has time for. Some people I know are great database administrators because they’re very great parent types– they’re responsible, they’re organized, they like to keep everything in line, and they want to take care of something and raise it up to behave right and do well in the world. They actually¬†care about their databases– I don’t mean this as a metaphor, they actually care about them.

But a database is a hard thing to love. It doesn’t talk, or think. It’s really just a bunch of 1′s and 0′s. It’s not that caring is bad, it’s just that if you care too much about your database then you end up stuck in the details of the thousand and one things that threaten its perfection.

And, Seriously, People Have Issues

This is clearly true in more than one sense.

Yeah, other people have reality TV issues. And they also have data issues. Can you make this query run faster? Oh, and these numbers don’t add up. What was the cause of the outage last week? Have you released this new code yet?

When are you planning to apply the latest patches? What new features are available in the next version? Is this table in replication? If so, what will happen when I remove these three columns? Oh, and by the way, we want to do some key changes on that billion row table.

Have you refreshed the preproduction environment? The dev server won’t start up. Can I have your IM address?

But Still, The People Are What’s Most Important

Really. I mean this.

It’s fairly obvious that I’m a serious geek and a technical person at heart. I have fancy certifications, a giant stack of books, and I know a TON of acronyms: that’s gotta be good enough to show something, right? But still,¬†I’m the one who’s sitting here and saying that other people are what got me where I am today more than anything else. It’s 100% true. As much as I’ve tried to teach myself things from the internet, from classes, and from books, 99% of my knowledge has come from users, sys admins fellow DBAs, and developers in the trenches. Even (GASP), my SAN admins.

These other people who taught me what an index does and how to get that query to use it. They showed me how to tell why things are slow in SQL Server. They taught me how to build out hardware and how to figure out what components go into a SAN. My coworkers taught me how to build software and how to make it better every single day. Sometimes it was their job to teach me, sometimes they were just good people, and sometimes we were just having fun. I tried to give back as much as I could, but looking back it’s hard to express how grateful I am for all of that help along the way.

As a DBA, I’ve always spent a lot of time with people. But my biggest regret is not spending¬†even more time, and not listening even more. Because working with people has always been the very best part of my job. Your coworkers will give you so much, if you just let them.

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