SQLRally and beyond

I am almost ashamed to say that I have let over a month pass since my last post and truth be told I have come close a few times without never actually pressing that submit button.

I shan’t bore you with my excuses or reasons for my inactivity but what matters is I’m back!

I’ve been seeing an increasing amount of noise about SQLRally Dallas and I felt that I wanted to share my own personal experience with you about this rather unique event (in Orlando) -for it quite literary changed my life.

Six years or so ago I joined a company with big hopes and promises and after starting a small family (and growing it further after joining) I was looking for a period of stability and a platform to learn, improve and share my skills. In short I knew that come what may, as good or bad as things might get, I was there for the long haul.

Not long after joining, my skills and talent for other technologies were recognised and when the need for a specialized “crack” team supporting a critical troublesome in-house application, I was identified as their man. This position (I was told) would be permanent and was absolutely vital to the running of the company operation. There was one small problem -I didn’t want it and regretfully declined. My reasons were many but I had joined the company as a SQL Server SME and saw the very broad set of skills required to support one single application platform as a regression in my ever growing expertise in SQL Server (and increasing knowledge in Oracle) and did my best to explain this.

Unfortunately for me, the Technical Director at the time (let’s give him a fictitious name of Dennis) told me in no uncertain terms that this would be the last time I ever refused him. Three months into my new job, everything had turned sour overnight simply due to me being good at what I do.

Years would pass and with each new year would bring a new job offer somewhere else for an ever increasing Salary, but I would always find an excuse not to take it -probably the thought of working for someone else again and repeating the same mistake was always the biggest reason to avoid saying yes.

Then something happened.

Although I have been helping in forums and the like on and off for a long period of time which you can read a little more about in this post (Standing upon the shoulders of Giants) I always felt that I had more to give, more to share, more to say and more to learn. I decided to submit my first ever public presentation to SQLBits 7 and surprisingly managed to secure a speaking slot! As daunting as the whole thing was, I think I managed to pull it off -and if nothing else I know that I learnt LOADS during my weeks and weeks of hard graft of preparation putting it all together.

About a month or so later I took a week off work and self financed a trip to the SQLPASS 2010 Summit (my very first time) and met some absolutely amazingly talented people which is probably another story for another time.

Whilst in Seattle I decided that should the opportunity arise, I wanted to attempt a presentation in America and would submit and hope for the best. SQLRally Orlando was announced and my submissions went in. Although I didn’t make the first cut, my submission received the joint highest votes for the runners up and quite incredibly I was eventually selected as a wildcard! Totally brilliant and I was thrilled!

This time (unlike Seattle) I thought I would approach Dennis and see if my company would like to contribute in any way, since there would be obvious technical benefits to the organization. The response did not surprise me. He said that my speaking and attending sessions at SQLRally (or anywhere else) had absolutely no benefit to the company at all. I have never forgotten the impact that sentence made upon me. The situation was made even more ironic when a few days later I was assigned to an important scalability project (for someone had personally requested that I should be the resource).

…… The title of my presentation : “Orders of magnitude-Scaling your SQL Server Data“.

Like the SQLPASS Summit, I fully financed my trip to SQLRally and used a week of my holiday entitlement and came to a decision. I realised that however much I tried to improve myself socially and technically (and help others), Dennis would never support my efforts in any way. A few days later I received a permanent job offer from another firm offering a substantial salary increase (almost double) and I ……….turned it down!

SQLRally helped me realize that the only person holding me back was myself and It was time for me make the jump. I quit and left for Orlando to give my presentation. On my return I secured work and now when I need to finance any speaking or training events, the only person I need to convince is myself.

But what of SQLRally? I loved giving my presentation, it was very hard work preparing for it but I learnt more than I can put into words at hopefully managed to communicate some of that knowledge across. From a non speaking perspective, if you have never been to a SQL Server event and can get to Dallas then you are going to LOVE it. SQLRally is smaller than the Summit and full of lots of first timers and many regulars who will embrace you and make you feel completely at home.

Attending SQLRally could be your first steps towards something amazing. I hope you take them, and if you do, I look forward to meeting you someday soon and hopefully share a nice cold beer.


You can read more about my exploits at SQLRally here and here.

What has happened to me since my return?

Going forward I am currently :-

Dennis, I think you made a mistake with me but I know you would never be able to admit it. I sincerely thank you for every single day I spent praying for deliverance. You made me realize that if I wanted something strongly enough I could go out there and get it. Through your neglect you encouraged me to meet people LIKE me. You have given me hope and for that I will never forget you.

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4 Responses to SQLRally and beyond

  1. Tim Mitchell says:

    Great post, thanks for sharing. Glad to hear that you’ve liberated yourself!

  2. thomasrushton says:

    Congratulations on your escape. Glad to hear things are working out for you, and I look forward to seeing you again at Bits!

  3. Dennis, a great example of how not to lead. Aye, Dennis might have made you hungry, but you did the work and took the risk to try something new. Congrats on making the change and taking the time to remind others that it is doable.

  4. SQLSoldier says:

    Great post. There will always be Dennis’s out there as long as people are willing to keep working with them.

    I been working at a company for about 5 years when the board got rid of the General Manager running it and replaced him with a “Dennis”. One of the things he did was to prohibit working from home when we sick. He said that if we’re too sick to come to work, we’re too sick to work.

    A few months later, we were under a big deadline to get a project done, and I got very sick. I was out sick for about 3 weeks. Our CTO (a really good manager) was forced to ask me if I would be willing to work on it from home. I told him, “No, I’m too sick to go to work; therefore, I’m too sick to work.” This particular time, I actually was too sick to work. That was about the time that the max exodus from the company started.

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