T-SQL Tuesday #54 – Interviewing

T-SQL Tuesday

T-SQL Tuesday

It’s T-SQL Tuesday again and this month our host is Boris Hristov (b/t). He has asked us to discuss Interviewing.

Interviewing is a great topic for me as I’ve just participated in a few, one of which has landed me a new permanent position which I am quite excited about.   While I’m not going to talk about the one that landed me the job, I do want to talk about two topics: the recruiter that got me into my current position and one of the positions that I did not accept.

The Good

Normally I don’t entertain random recruiters who call me out of the blue.  If you can’t pitch me the basic job description, salary range and location over email, I assume your process is likely too complicated to entertain.  This filter has kept me sane over the last few years as I have navigated through the job market.  One bright April morning last year I was in a hotel room in Nashville about to head to a client’s site when I received a call from the consulting company whom currently employs me.   I had a few minutes to kill so why not entertain this recruiter.  Oddly enough, this guy listened more than he talked, and actually listened to my hesitation about the job he was pitching.  My resume indicated I was looking for SQL Development or Dev Management positions, both of which were well within my wheel house.  This guy was pushing a DBA position at a Fortune 1000 finance company, no way am I the right guy.

As he listened to my hesitations in our conversation,  he probed and poked and got a few answers out of me.  He led me down the road, using my description of my experience so that I came to the conclusion that I did have enough experience to take a run at the interview process, and I’m glad I did.  While I did stumble a time or two during the interview, I was ultimately offered a chance to join an amazing team of SQL professionals, some of which I consider friends in my SQL Family.  I put my self out there with the little knowledge I had of the DBA world and I got it.

While most recruiters are new college grads simply using the search function on Dice.com to find a resume that somewhat matches, my recruiter read between the lines of my resume and heard the words from our discussion and got me into a great position.  He saw my potential to do the job, and to land him a big commission, and nudged me towards it.  In this case, not all recruiters are evil, money grubbing parasites.  In this case, mine was simply not evil, all else applies.

The Bad

As my current position is a 1 year contract position, my time here is wrapping up quickly.  With that in mind, I recently started to investigate the current job market by sharing my resume with a few trusted recruiters, as well as placing the resume on Dice.com.  I received an email through Dice from the Director of IT of a small development shop.  He was interested in my diverse background of development and data and thought I could be a fit for their PHP team.  Being that I really like the SQL community, I would prefer to stay with some type of SQL based job, I threw out a large number for salary requirement, he was unphased.  At this point, I am intrigued as this could be interesting.

I was told the interview process would be a simple step 1, 2 and decision, very straight forward.  Step 1, was talking to a Senior Developer on the phone.  We did a screen share where I was to debug some PHP code, and then he sent me home with three small weekend projects to test more advanced concepts.  After a few hours of coding on the weekend, I sent back the projects which were accepted as satisfactory, and thus we moved along to step 2.  Step 2 was talking to their Software Architect, who was an external consultant.  I was asked to talk with him to see if my knowledge and experience was up to par with their expectations. At the end of our conversation I expected us to be done with a follow-up offer or rejection.  I was informed I was expected to do some type of online coding exercise with the Architect Consultant now.   Had I not done this already with the Senior Developer?  Do they not talk internally?  Did he not review the sample projects I spent a few hours completing?

After sitting on the coding interview invite for a few days, the Director of IT reached out via email and finally phoned to inquire why I had not moved forward as of yet as they were very interested in me for the position.  I indicated to him that I had hesitations about the company, as the basic interview process was redundant and beyond the scope of what we had originally agreed upon.   I was told that the Architect Consultant has more sway over the hiring process than he does, even though it is he is the Director of the department.   With reservations, I talked to the architect who administered very basic PHP coding skills test.  This second test was easier than any of the ones I had already done with the first developer.

The Lesson

From this I have learned:

  • Take a chance, you might just be surprised at the outcome.
  • If you have hesitations about a position, validate as much as you can, but ultimately trust your instincts.  With the lack of personality fit and the hard pill of my asking salary, the PHP company decided not to make an offer, which made my decision to accept an offer from my new company that much easier.

 

 

Powershell Goodies

If you haven’t seen some of the other blog post, or the Microsoft Powershell Blog, Microsoft recently release Script Browser for Powershell ISE.   This little addin allows you to quickly search and import Powershell scripts directly from TechNet Script Center.    Currently the database section has 577 scripts in the repository, with over 9100 in the total repository.  There’s a pretty good chance that someone has a script for what you want to do.  Alternatively, if you are just getting started with Powershell, this is a great way to review others scripts and learn.

Try this, have you ever wanted to resize your TempDB to recommended number of files and sizes?  Search for ‘TempDB’    You should come up with Resize the TempDB database using PowerShell  from my coworker, Michael Wells (b | t).      Michael presents this as a function that will output the T-SQL to resize your TempDB.  Combine this with the better Invoke-SqlCmd2  from Powershell MVP Chad Miller (b) and you could easily loop and apply this to all your SQL Servers.  (Note: I do not recommend resizing TempDB like this on existing servers, we use this script to setup new servers to a standard base level)

Speaking of new servers, you can combine the vast array of scripts available from the script center, with the power of SPADE for SQL Server, also by Michael Wells, to automate the deployment of your SQL Servers.  With this combination and alittle time for getting things setup properly, you can easily end up fully standardized SQL Servers in a matter of minutes.  Since I work with Michael, I have used SPADE extensively, as well as wrote Powershell scripts for it to run, needless to say, I am a big fan of the project.  Guestimating the number of installs I’ve done with SPADE, I ended up somewhere around 300 installs over the last year.  It is an awesome tool, if you haven’t picked up on that from this paragraph.

If you use Powershell, check out these tools.  If Powershell isn’t currently in your tool belt, I highly recommending getting started.

Come see me present SQL Saturday Atlanta

Have you seen the schedule for SQL Saturday #285 – Atlanta?   Holy cow they have jam packed too many hard decisions into that schedule.    I’ll be presenting Maintenance and Backups: Intro to Ola Hallengren bright and early at 8:15 in the Admin Room, aka Room 3.   Luckily for everyone that plans to attend my talk I have beefed up my session with even more information, so I will have to talk even faster than ever before, so much to share about Backup and Maintenance.      In reality, the more I give this talk, the more I love it.  At this point I believe the talk has been curated into the most informative details with FAQs from past sessions integrated into it for a maximum punch of content.  I’ve been working on my timing so, we should have plenty of time for questions and answers as well as a few short simple demos throughout.

If you don’t know about Ola Hallengren and his awesome Maintenance Solution, I do hope you can join me for my session.  If you haven’t registered, there is till time, click here

For travel, I believe my lovely wife Natalie and I will be dropping the kids off at school early Friday and driving up during the day.  Google tells me I’m looking at about 6.5 hours, which seems about right from the last time I made the drive years ago.  Unfortunately its just an up and back trip for us, no time to visit family in Conyers or take in any of the sights, but there will be time for that another time.

Mr. Carter, Where Did You Go?

It has been nearly a month since your last blog post Mr. Carter, and frankly your last post was nothing more than a list of things you did in Madison.  What gives?  Where are you?  What is so important that you must leave with such reckless abandon as to not even say good-bye?   Honestly there is nothing specific I’ve been doing, but yet I’ve stayed busy with that nothingness to the point that I have not been compelled to write, but I have been reading.

Can I be blunt on this subject? If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that. – Stephen King

I recently won an iPad Mini and have come to enjoy its size and utility. One of the first things I put on this Mini was the free Amazon Kindle app along with a few books I’ve had on my to-do list. I’ve about half-way through my first full book, and have read a couple short PDF type ebooks as well.  I’ve slowed down on my obsessive blog reading (I currently have 136 unread blog notifications in my inbox, ohh the horror) as I was being a little ridiculously focused on ‘keeping up.’  Some of the literature I’ve read has told me to stop cold-turkey,  stop reading the news, Twitter, Facebook, and all media inputs and see how it affects my life.  Amazingly, the world has continued to function without me being slightly more informed to its happenings.  I know there is a happy medium somewhere, and I’ll get there, but for now, I’m slowing down my reactionary and piece-meal consumption to a bare minimum.

As well as putting eyes on paper to increase the level of comprehensive consumption, I’ve recently discovered audio-books.   I’ve tried audio books in the past, but in my first attempt, the speaker had a ridiculous accent that I could not bear to hear for any length of time, thus souring my first audio book experience.  On this go around, I’ve learned that the speaker makes all the difference in audio books.  Since my truck has a USB input, which can read MP3s as an audio source, I’ve simply plugged in an MP3 audiobook, and it just plays the book beautifully.  It has no trouble detecting the proper order of the chapters, and it picks up where it left off when I exit the truck, or change the station.   Natalie listens with me when we are in the truck, and we’ve had some great conversations about the book we’re currently listening too, so it is a double-bonus.

While I am on a media diet, there are a couple of blogs that trickle to the top of my must-read list, and it was one of those post that I felt was speaking directly to me.  You can find it here, give it a read and let me know in the comments if feels directed towards gypsy bloggers like myself.

I’ll try to get back to you on a more regular basis my dear readers, I will try.

SQL Saturday Madison – Recap

A few notes from our trip to Madison for SQL Saturday.  We arrived two days early and acted like tourist for the first two days, here are few notes:
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Food

  • Monty’s Blue Plate Cafe – Small place, yet excellent meals, large portions worth the wait.
  • Great Dane – great atmosphere, neither of us enjoyed the food.
  • The Old Fashioned – brunch stops PROMPTLY at 10:59, 11am need not apply.
  • The Old Fashioned – lunch is amazing. counter service only, best cheese curds we’ve ever had.
  • Tipsy Cow – will live up to its name, you have been warned.
  • Benvenuto Italian Grill – super large portions, best part was talking to the other speakers.  Although I ended up sitting next to, and talking to my Confio friends for most of the dinner, it was still a good time.
  • Ale Asylum – Stopped in for a quick drink with a couple of speakers, nice little Brewery
  • Cracker Barrel – Its Cracker Barrel, but the company was top notch, thanks Brent.
  • Brass Ring – the after party, lots of Badgers fans, service was ok, dinner was good, the company was the best.

The Event

  • Venue:  American Family Insurance training center was very nice, large rooms, nice facilities.  Did get warm in the rooms throughout the day.
  • Keynote – I really liked how the first session was a walk through the day’s events, other events tend to hand info bags and assume everyone knows what to do, this set a good tone.
  • Rooms – each room had a volunteer room monitor or two, who would pass out and collect speaker evaluations, which as a fairly new speaker, was awesome.  Mine was the best, click here to show appreciation:  @DBAGooner for President #sqlSatMadison
  • Sponsors – There were several vendors I’ve seen and met before, Confio, PASS, and a few other local sponsors, but there was one segment who I thought was very much missing, recruiters.  There were literally NO recruiter as sponsors, which was ok, but a different make-up than I’m used to.
  • Speakers Room – was great, always had a few folks in there prepping for their sessions, reviewing each others slides, and generally poking fun as you would expect from members of the #sqlFamily
  •  Schedule – I didn’t review the speaker emails well enough and was caught off by the 75 minute sessions, but I ended up liking the longer sessions as I was able to get more into the underlying functions and theory rather than just the tools.
  • Lunch – was build your own taco, which was ok
  • Raffle – End of day raffle was great with lots of nice items going out, several folk were on a streak taking home two or three things

Other

  • Weather – Wisconsin is cold in March, bring a jacket, or buy a new one as my wife did
  • Airport – is quaint and easy to navigate, TSA is a little more stringent at these smaller ones
  • Hotel – had a kid convention or something that required a bunch of 10-13 year olds to be roaming in packs, but they did let us check in early so we could take a nap.

Over all we had a nice little mini-vacation where the wife and I could spend sometime together and  I could practice my craft and learn more all at the same time.  Nat and I invited everyone we met down to Florida to show them how to enjoy winter in shorts rather than multiple levels of clothes.  Depending on our schedule, we will definitely try to make to back to Madison next year.