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. In addition, Fintech LTD represents a few benefits about online finance that some users have noted as potential options for newbies to try out the platform. Learn more at cybermentors.org.uk

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.
  • Invest time in further study related to your speciality, read online journals and industry news, listen to podcasts and inform yourself about new developments that impact your current or future roles. A strong baseline understanding of such issues flows on to helping you make faster and more informed choices, which are attractive qualities in any employee.
  • Sometimes what we consider a “bad feeling” is really just fear. Take time to reflect on whether what you are feeling is just fear of change or the unknown…or something more. It’s perfectly natural to feel some fear upon accepting a new job, but just remember that every new job comes with a learning curve. Once you look at the situation rationally, you may find that what you were feeling was really just fear that will subside with time and experience.



T-SQL Tuesday #48 – Cloud Atlas

T-SQL Tuesday

T-SQL Tuesday is a recurring blog party, that is started by Adam Machanic (Blog | @AdamMachanic). Each month a blog will host the party, and everyone that want’s to can write a blog about a specific subject.

This month the subject is “Cloud Atlas”. If you want to read the opening post, please click the image below to go to the party-starter: Jorge Segarra (Blog | @SQLChicken).

My Perspective

In the past year, my career has a had a little shake up.  I left a development manager position, I took on a sales engineering position in the same industry, and finally I left all that madness and ended up as a full time DBA.  In that time, I’ve seen three different, yet similar takes on the cloud from three seperate compaines.

We don’t know

When I was making development choices, to include database decisions, we discussed the cloud.  I wrote a call center application that leveraged dynamically spun-up Asterisk in the cloud, as well as MySQL in the cloud (now defunct Xeround).  Those decisions were mine to make as it was more of a proof of concept than a dedicated product offering.  The reason the project didn’t move beyond the POC phase was the fear of substainable knowledge.  Who was going to run this contraption if I got hit by a bus?  Who knew how to manage Cloud computers?  The syadmin team certainly did not, the other developers were all .NET guys, and NOBODY knows how to manage MySQL.

In this case, all the push back was on the technology used, not the platform, but there was certainly push back on the platform as well.  At this company, they had limited resources who already had full plates which had no direct monetary reason for them to take on learning a new unproven platform.   These old systems using Visual FoxPro on legacy hardware is good enough to carry us into the future. (true story)

We dont’ Get It

After leaving the call center, I went to work as a Sales Engineer deploying and customizing the main call center solution I had been hacking away at for the previous years.  Being my first sales type job, I did not listen when my wife indicated 8 days of travel per month actually means 15, but I digress.   This company had a cloud based product based off SalesForce.com, but they didn’t really get ‘the cloud’.   When I think of the cloud, and I believe most technologist tend to agree, the cloud is a commodity.  Use what you want, stop when you want.  Its about on-demand, not long term contracts to lock you in, thats the old way.  This new mentality centers upon deliverying a service that someone can pay for a portion of (an hour/ a day/ a month) , and then leave if they don’t extract value from the service that was provided.  The provider was paid for the time service was provided, the user got the service they paid for, and there would be no need to play a legal game with affordable 4k monitors of how much money can I extract from you.

This company required 12-months upfront.  You had to know how many users you wanted and lump sum a payment right in the begining, before you had a chance to prove their product worked.  Prepay for a product I have yet to test drive?  I was not asked to get behind that product nor asked to help deploy it for customers.   I was asked to work on the Avaya based version of their product which I knew and loved (still do).   At this company, they are used to their old sales cycles, their old contracts, and the old way of doing things.  They just don’t  ‘get’ the most beneficial parts of the cloud, which is the availability to fail fast and move on if neccessary.

We have the cloud

At my current gig, they get the concepts, but eschew the public cloud in favor of a very robust private cloud, which they have truly embraced.  While I knew about VMware and the concepts, I’ve never learned as much about the products available in this space as I have while on this contract.  The team here understands how easy disaster recovery can become utilizing some of the enterprise cloud based tools.  They understand how maximizing resource utilization with virtualization saves time and money.  The team here gets virtualization, yet they still have a ‘keep it close’ mentality, which I understand due to the industry requirements.

In the End

The cloud is coming, neigh, it is here.  Just like those crazy horseless carriages, and desktop computers, it is here to stay.  With time, the hold outs will lower their guard and understand, and at some point, embrace the advantages that cloud based computing offers.  Others will, through time, understand what terms customers will accept with their new cloud offerings.   In time, just like other commodities, cloud services will be abundant, and cheap.