Shifting of the Tides and my Career

Watching my career progression over the last year, an outside observer would think that I’m playing career path hop-scotch, or maybe an just being an IT gypsy. Being on the inside of this ride, it certainly feels that way. Let me tell you a story about how I got to be a Production Database Administrator at a Fortune 1000 company.

One Touch Direct LogoStarting back in May 2009, I joined One Touch Direct as a contractor, tasked to help migrate to a new Call Center software. The first few months I was asked to get to intimately know their current platform and assist with the evaluation of potential replacements. Part of this evaluation was to figure out how we could marry the needs of the old processes with the functions of the new software. It was a process, but a decision was reached that Vocalcom’s Hermes.Net product was the right fit for the needs of OTD, and I couldn’t agree more.

We started immediately to build a framework around their product that would enable One Touch to reach the goals of the migration at hand. Rather than just utilize the product out of the box, we were going to build a plug and play framework around that product to enable rapid deployment of new telephony projects to their agents, an effort which I spear-headed. My time at One Touch progressed quickly as did my responsibilities. In August of 2009 I was hired full-time and asked to lead the migration team. Fast forward a year and I took over as Senior Director of the entire development team. Over the next year, my team and I revamped nearly every application in the building, converting some to C# from VB.NET, some from classic ASP and wrote many new ones from scratch. We wrote many SSIS packages, and started using all of the tools that the company already had. We were turning into a well-oiled machine.

All was well, and then we were done. Not so much done, as in no work to do, but from a developers perspective, all of the major engineering and architecting jobs were done. The framework was built and at this point everything was simply plugging into that framework. Plugging things in was a usage issue, not a development one, and that was getting mundane for someone who likes to tackle problems.

The 2012 year was an election year for the country, which in turn means ‘BUSY’ for OTD as they take part in spreading the message of candidates through their advanced telephony facilities. We invested many hours working with different avenues that could help us with these efforts. We developed a lot of processes that could streamline these processes, but I wasn’t really involved with the development as much as I would have liked. Sure I dissected the Vocalcom product and figured out their API calls, architected the database structure and procedures for several of the call templates, but it wasn’t the overwhelming work of development that drives me to dream in code, at which point I knew I was at a point I needed to find a new home.

I left One Touch Direct on the last day of 2012 without any destination set. I had a few conversations and received an offer or two, but it was my third offer that I took. It was an offer of employment for Vocalcom Canada, the vendor with whom I had worked countless hours with on their product. The vendor whom I had done contracting for over the previous years. The learning curve would be relatively low, it kept me in a field where my domain knowledge was very high, I knew the field, I knew the product and I knew the people, this could work out. With the decision made, I joined the Vocalcom team as a Pre-Sales Engineer.

Vocalcom LogoI liked the concept of being a Pre-Sales engineer. Since my initial focus was on the Avaya Integrated version of the product I would get to work with other mid-sized companies like that of One Touch. I would get to help build many frameworks, or integrations or whatever it was they had in mind for their operations. It would be variety, it would be technically challenging every day, a portfolio builder that could help propel me to new opportunities. And then came the travel.

While I knew I was going to be traveling from time to time, those times came closer together than Natalie and I could ever agree upon, and the sales team was just spinning up. What was going to happen once the sales team hit their stride and they needed me in three places at once? We knew early on that the travel aspect of this job unfortunately wasn’t for me. I could have worked out a Custom Development / Implementation Engineer role, but any role not directly affecting sales would not be able to maintain the level of prosperity I would need to keep up with my family’s goals. Natalie and I discussed very early on in our relationship that either one of us has veto power over anything affecting the health of relationship, I pulled my own veto card on this aspect of the job, which meant the whole job was a no go.

Looking at the job landscape for a Senior .NET Developer with Managerial experience there were a few opportunities for me, but I also asked my recruiters to expand their search and try to find something with a SQL focus, as that was the direction I wanted to go. Luckily, there were options there as well. How does one magically get from a .Net development manager to a SQL Developer? That’s easy, during my time at OneTouch, I became an Accidental DBA of sorts. Between DBA’s I became the go to guy for database problems. Tune the queries, figure out the replication, and so forth….and I liked it. I was able to do these duties as well as my Dev Managerial responsibilities which worked out well, and gave me a good bit of experience. Since One Touch has large amount of data, one could infer that I have experience with large databases, which I do. One of the recruiters I worked with suggested that I looked at a job: ‘Production DBA for Raymond James Financial.’ This guy obviously can’t match a resume with a job description, as I didn’t have the enough experience for this job, I was merely a data hobbyist at best, an amateur if you will. Regardless, I thought the interview would be worth it for experience if nothing else, and I was right. I navigated the course of the interview successfully for the most part, until the last half, where I managed to start taking every possible wrong turn, thus ending up with one of the worst interview performances of my entire adult life. I left, while thanking them for their time, with a separate interview in the pipe for early afternoon.

Raymond James Financial LogoAt the end of the day, I came to learn that, while my perception of the lackluster performance I gave in the interview was not as dreadful as I perceived it, their perception was completely different as they wanted to hire me. The interview was designed to make me fail, to test my stress, to see how I deal with the frustrating situations, all in all I managed my failures with style and grace. With a new position locked in, I parted ways with my Canadian friends at Vocalcom and I made my way to a local, non-traveling position that affords me the opportunity to work with very large databases, over 200 production SQL Instances, more than 3000 different databases, as well as exposure to Oracle and HP-NonStop. These are the big problems I like working with. Whether I continue down the DBA path, or I find that this world is not for me, I foresee this adventure being very interesting.

And that, my friends, is how I landed my first Production Database Administrator job at a Fortune 1000 company.

  • Good stuff homie. Glad to see you still tackling the big challenges.