Planning instead of running into brick walls

Yeah, I’m not good at it.  Maybe that’s why I’m a manager…:)

I go through these periods of schpilkas (Ants in the pants), where I have to do something new.  My wife is convinced that it happens in May of every other year, so this is my 3rd episode of minor midlife crisis, boredom, whatever you want to call it.  I get antsy, I try out some stuff, play with other things, and eventually wind down by Aug/Sep to a general sense of defeat followed by several months of hard core Warcraft  until ski season starts and I’m distracted by that.  (anyone live near Mont Tremblant btw?)

So, armed with some self knowledge of past disappointments, and lots of energy, I started trying to progress again.  I dusted off my twitter account, took an old server and upgraded it with tools and memory, and started running a million miles an hour in as many directions expecting someone to just pay me a million dollars for being such a great person.

Took stock after a week, and started setting goals.  Create a blog, get an idea for a small project to work on to get back into SSIS, start reading and blogging again, even if it was just to write.  In the span of a week, I’ve been interacting more on Twitter, given advice by some really smart people, and have a better feeling of how to get ‘there’ wherever there is.

First break through was a concept I found on SQL Hammer‘s site about an Epic Life Quest he had seen on the site of Brent Ozar who had gotten it from Nerd Fitness.  Seems like a really cool place to start, and has the added benefit of tracking cool stuff and big milestones and allows me to see some progress.

The next big pivot was conversing back and forth with Brent Ozar, a guy I am more in awe of with each post I read.  He recommended a post he put together as a starting point for me.  I’m a mid 40s manager with a wife two kids (one starting college next week) and a mortgage, so my free time is limited, I was stuck trying to figure out what to look at first or what to dive into tech wise.  I had mentioned my pie in the sky ultimate job would be to speak and teach, we boiled it down to a simple question: since I want to eventually speak at conferences and seminars, what would I say to get people into the room and interested in my session?

I took some time and eliminated things I know I wouldn’t be interested in – hardware, networking, backups, etc, and focused on the stuff I enjoyed when I was doing BI dev fulltime – the display part of BI – working with Dundas and PerfPoint Dashboards, and getting the things ready for that part.

So I have a focus for my blog, and it looks like the beginning of a path, and the notes to begin my seminar.  We’ll see how it goes.

Getting started – Step 1

Here’s my take on getting started in the SQL community.  Start posting, start tweeting, start reading…. JUST START DOING SOMETHING.

I looked back at the  history on my twitter feed, and my wife is right.  Sometime around May of the last 3-4 years since I’ve moved into management, I get an itch to do dev.  It’s my midlife crisis back again – I’m not feeling creative, I’m not doing what I love doing.  Problem is, i’ve really got no idea what I love to do, except I do know I love helping people.  I start doing some reading, kicked open an old CPU I had at home, threw in some memory and got it moving with SQL and Visual Studio.

I just came across a process at work that can easily and more cleanly be done using SSIS – found my first project.  I think the difference this time is I have a bit more of a plan.  I found, thanks to SQLHammer, that planning my master plan can be like a game – see my Epic Plan link, but it really made me realize that past failures were really mostly due to poor planning, not enough work and a bit too little patience.

I’ve also come to realize, and yes I know it’s early yet, that I really love writing and interacting with people.  There are some really funny people in the SQL community, and hopefully I am not coming off too much as the new kid trying to shoulder his way into the cool crowd 🙂

So if you’re reading this, and you’ve been thinking about making a change, nothing is stopping you but you.  There are free or trial versions of just about everything.  Hopefully sometime soon, I will be able to be blogging about all of this from some conference that paid for me to fly in and speak.  And if that just happens to be in Hawaii, I can scratch two things off my list.

To certify, or not to certify, that is my question

Welcome to the beginning of my journey.  I’m going to be blogging about how a manager can successfully get back into development without selling his house and doing consulting on a street corner 🙂

To that end, I’m working on my Epic Plan for Success, which has many parts.  The SQL part is what i’m focusing on right now, and I’m trying to figure out where to start.  I’ve been right here many times in the past, and am coming to realize that I always try to run before I know which way I should be going to help me get to my goal.

Goal – to be a SQL architect, travelling around speaking at seminars and helping people to make their systems not only run faster, but smarter.

I have a long road to get there, but I want to start simple.  I have a small SSIS project I’m working on to scrape off the dust in my brain on stuff I have done in the past, but I was thinking that going the certification route would be good – well rounded, regimented, and marketable.

I have done SSIS and SSRS for about 5-10 years, not much in the last 2 since I was promoted to manager.  I scratched the surface of SSAS and really enjoyed working with cubes and Dundas dashboards, but I think that’s too much of a leap.  I’m pretty good about RTM and Googling things myself, but I’m looking for some advice on direction for the certification part, if that’s even a good idea.

Should I start with a general MTA certification or just right to the MCSE for SQL 2012 instead?  i’m thinking the latter, but I honestly don’t know.

Any advice would be appreciated.

Epic Life Quest

I’m really bad at keeping track of things I have to get done.  In my quest to do what makes me happy, I started branching back into SQL dev and came across the site of the SQL Hammer.  (I know, sounds menacing!)  He had something on his site that really intrigued me (Epic Life Quest), so after digging through and seeing it linked to a few sites I already followed, I have decided to create my own.  It’s a bucket list with a D&D twist to it.  Each quest item completed is 20% progress on a level, so here’s my list.  I’ll update it as I finish things.  I’m going to put some simple things and some bigguns on there to make me reach for it.

*edit* published as a post instead of a page.  Head to the Epic Life Quest page to see how I’m doing.

Keep it moving

Ever watch the movie Up?  Yeah, I’m the dog – *SQUIRREL*!!  Every year or so, I get an itch to get back into development and  spend huge amounts of time and effort getting everything set up to do it, and then I just play world of warcraft for weeks on end and it fizzles and dies.

BUT NOT THIS TIME!!!!  Well, I’m gonna take it day by day.  What am I doing?  I’m trying to make SQL development and business intelligence the focus of my free time (without annoying my wife TOO much).  I didn’t realize how much I needed a creative outlet, nor did I realize that I have ADD 🙂  Oh yeah, I’ll be working with a therapist on that one so I’ll make sure I share all of those realizations.

This blog is for me, and it reflects my opinions and hopefully will have some good stuff for people who might be in the same boat as me – in a job that doesn’t speak to their passion, but pays the bills and is a decent place to work.  What I’m hoping in this journey, is to be able to apply a lot of the things I’m learning to the everyday operations of my company, and maybe at some point, start doing more of the stuff I want to do.

so I have a few small projects i’m cobbling together to practice on, and I’m going MS Virtual Academy, so hopefully I’ll make progress.  If you have an essential thing that really helped jumpstart your journey or just a good resource, put it in the comments, I’d love to hear and see what inspired you all!

Lets get started

So, how does a 40 something father of 2, with one starting college transition to a development position without giving up salary, job, future?  I honestly don’t know, but I’m going to find out.  I’m keeping my identity under wraps for now because I don’t want to jeopardize my position as it is.

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy my job.  The company and the people I work for are wonderful, but there’s something missing, and it’s development.  I don’t want to put anything in danger by doing my off-time work, but I don’t want it linked to me, at least not yet.

So this blog will be my chronicle.  The ups and downs, the things that worked and didn’t, and hopefully a list of sites, things to remember, and maybe a funny thing or two to break up the tedium.