Category Archives: People and Opinions

Editorials and rants, advice, interviews, letters, community and more.

That thing you want to do? Do the thing.

I had a great time today talking to a guy at SQL Saturday Baton Rouge (great event, by the way)! He said, more or less:

I’m thinking about the next step in my career. I want to do more – maybe a blog, newsletter, videos, something. But I’m worried about…

And he mentioned several things keeping him from starting. Would it pay off? Will it be worth it? Could he keep up with it? Would he end up embarrassing himself?

Is it worth it? Will it pay off?

Is it worth putting in the time to build a brand, or create content? Is it worth it to spend all that time?

Well here’s the thing: you might have a specific end game, like brand building to get into consulting. Or you might just have a general idea, like “advancing your career”. Think about what doing the thing will get you:

  • Creating content, like recorded sessions or blogs, will teach you a ton about what you do and don’t know.  You don’t know a topic until you teach it.
  • It will also give you a reference. I go back and read my own blogs on a regular basis, to relearn something I’ve forgotten.
  • It will get you some recognition and familiarity in the technology sphere, which can lead to all kinds of inspiration and opportunity. After five years of being the MidnightDBAs, Sean and I occasionally walked into interviews and had to answer zero questions.

Are you going to make a full career off a blog? No, you won’t. But there are other advantages.

Can I keep up with it?

Committing to a blog, or public speaking, or whatever is indeed a commitment. But you can adjust that however you like. Some examples:

I have a blog, and I’ve read that you should really post once a week to build a following. This is probably good advice, but I won’t keep up with it. I post whenever I feel like it, and after (something like) 10 years of blogging, my following is just fine.

Sean and I have done a weekly webshow for eight years. EIGHT YEARS. That’s longer than I’ve done almost anything else in life. How have we done it? Very low standards, seriously. We pick topics we like to talk about, we keep it in a format we like, and we post when we feel like.  Could we get more of an audience if we had high production values and writers? Sure. Do I care? Not really. (And by the way, we’re starting to put all of the recorded episodes on our YouTube channel. Podcasting it was too much of a pain.)

What about getting embarrassed?

Okay, so the whole idea of brand building is to get a lot of people to know who you are. And that does happen – we’ve had some great things come out of people knowing who the MidnightDBAs are.

And, I’ve struggled with the embarrassment thing. What if I post something stupid? What if I get called out?  Well, I have, and I have. You live. People forget it way sooner than you do.

And! Even if you’re well branded, well known, and screw up? Fully 3/4 of the people you ever meet will have heard of you*. That’s right! Super successful, famous SQL people aren’t known by the majority of the people at a conference. There’s a certain amount of comfort in anonymity, and you’ll still have it.

Of course, be sure to post corrections when you do screw up, but don’t worry about it too terribly much (so long as it’s a “once in a while thing”).

In any case, that thing you want to do? You should probably go do the thing. And tell me about it, because I’d like to take a look.

Happy days,
Jen

 

*I seriously cannot believe how few people know who some of the smartest and most famous people in the industry are, e.g. Kalen Delaney, Adam Machanic.

There’s no substitute for mentoring

There’s no substitute for mentoring.

We’ve heard it before, and in various ways, but I think we tend to largely ignore it. Americans, at least, aren’t used to a mentor system, and we’re not in the habit of asking for mentors.

But mentors can be great. You can stop them mid-sentence and say, “wait, I don’t know that term at all”. You can ask them to explain the same concept a different way. They can spot where you’re going off the rails, and correct you. I’m a big fan of video tutorials and written materials, but again: there’s no substitute for mentoring.

So, a few quick notes:

  • Having trouble learning a thing? Ask someone in your office, or on Twitter, or at a SQL Saturday, to spend some time explaining it to you. Ask for resources.
  • Want to get started with a new subject? Ask your company to pay for a few hours of an industry expert’s time. Start with a Microsoft Certified Master (MCM), or get a recommendation from your local user group.
  • You won’t always hear “yes”. Some people don’t have the time, some aren’t comfortable teaching, and so on. It’s okay. Get a few “no” responses, and always remember to ask, “Who might be a good resource, then?”
  • A mentor can be long term, sure. But a mentor can just be someone you learn a subject from, for a short time, or even a single setting!

Go and get yourself a mentor!

Employees, encourage work from home

The discussion around the last article I wrote on work from home (WFH) has been wonderful, but there is one aspect that drives me nutty-freaking bonkers:

But, I don’t want to work from home!

Oh, my stars and grasslands. Techies: I don’t want to force work from home.  I’m not trying to make you. I’m not telling employers to make you WFH. Shoot, I’m not even saying “let everyone WFH full time!” Part time would be awesome.

via GIPHY

 

“I don’t want to work from home!”

Then, don’t!!

I think you should be able to WFH. If you want to. Part time, or full time, or on an as needed basis.

Let’s change the scenario, and see how silly this is:

  • Employers, provide tea for your employees. “But I don’t want to drink tea!” Then, don’t drink tea.
  • Employers, provide yoga classes for your employees. Encourage it. “But I hate yoga! In fact I have a condition that means I actually can’t do yoga!” Then, don’t do yoga.
  • Employers, provide a bonus structure for your employees. “But I hate money! I’ve taken a vow of poverty!” Then refuse the bonus. it’s pretty easy, actually.

Don’t want to force work from home? Then don’t work from home! Work in the office! I myself love going to an office on occasion!

But those who do want to work from home should have that option.

“…except for [situation x].”

“I don’t want to work from home…”

“…except for bad weather days.”

“…except for when the kids are sick.”

“…except for when workers come to the house.”

“…except for…”

Well. Wouldn’t all of those things, and more, be easier if your employer offered and encouraged work from home?? 

“But I need face time with my teammates!”

Are you seriously telling me you can’t figure out a way to have face time if a company allows WFH? Let’s try out a few options, though there are many more:

  • Adjust your routine so you need less face time. Rely on email more.
  • Use Skype chat and call for face time.
  • Set up regular online meetings.
  • Oh, I dunno, set up one or two in-office work days per week.

Just spitballing, here.

But seriously, kids. Work from home doesn’t necessarily mean full-time work from home. I see nothing wrong with a shop that promotes a culture of “everyone can work from home or in office as they like, but try to be in the office for Synergy Tuesdays!”

“But then I never stop working!”

Well, then work from the office. Or take the steps to develop limits for yourself. I don’t care…whatever works for you.

Me? I work 8 or 9am to 6pm, which is a hard stop time. I have breaks for lunch and to get the kids. It took a while to figure out that this is what works best for me. But you can figure out what works best for you…you don’t have to work from home ALL THE TIME, in order to WFH.

And again…you’re welcome to skip it and work in the office, knowing full well (and with a smile on your face) that the WFH option is open to you, should you want it.

Maybe you’ve got it good already?

Maybe the problem I’m running into is that your workplace already offers what I’ll call “urgent WFH”, or “exception WFH”. You know, for bad weather and workers and sick kids and “I was up all night with the deployment”.

That’s nice. But as we saw in the last article, most shops don’t offer urgent WFH, or frown on it deeply. “Oh man, little Timmy’s sick again but if I take ONE MORE work from home day, Lumberg’s gonna kill me!”

I want that feeling gone. I want it understood that you can WFH if little Timmy has to go to the vet, or if you just can’t face traffic, or even if you’re more productive at home.

Just because you don’t want WFH – or you’ve already got  a version of it – doesn’t mean companies should ban or limit it.

Get on the bandwagon

So yes. You don’t have to work from home, you should have the option, and you can make it work.

There are tons of discussions to be had about what’s best for you, what you can do to maximize your output at home OR in the office…none of that changes the fact that companies should offer and encourage work from home.


 

Bonus talk: My company

So, I’m CEO of a software startup. We intend to grow, and when we do – by definition – we’ll have more employees. Right now what we envision is a fully dispersed shop…everyone working remotely, with regular meetings online and maybe an annual face to face.

It’s possible we’ll get there and change our mind…maybe have some small office space rented for when folks come to town, or something. But even saying that, I think…”but we’ll cut ourselves out of some of the best talent in the world if we’re restricted to local people!”

Anyway. The point is, if our vision comes true, then it won’t be that difficult. We’ll be up front about what the job is like, so people who can’t stand WFH will be able to just walk away before committing. We’ll judge employees on performance, not asses-in-seats hours. And if someone isn’t performing well, we’ll be able to – get this – help them improve, or discipline, or let them go. You know, like managers are supposed to do.

So added benefits of this model:

  • A person’s earning potential isn’t determined by geography
  • Similarly, nobody has to move for an awesome job.
  • For the company, we save asstons* of money on offices and equipment.
  • I expect folks will be happier because we’re treating them like they’re adults, instead of acting like junior high hall monitors.

-J

*Industry term.