Do you have any experience with [Insert random technology]? Your heart starts to race and your palms get a little sweaty. You don’t want to say no–we’re tech folks–we know stuff, but there are so many new things to learn! How are you supposed to keep up with it all? In this episode, we chat with Eugene Meidinger about his thoughts on keeping up and his ideas on the most important learning components.
“Keeping up with technology itself, like it’s impossible.”
“One of the important things is having awareness on what the problem is and what the challenges are.”
“One of the things that we’re afraid of is our skills decaying.”
Listen to Learn
01:08 How do you keep up with technology?
01:43 Eugene’s points on keeping up with technology
05:20 People who keep up with technology
06:13 How to stay relevant when it seems impossible to keep up with technology?
07:28 Generalization and specialization
13:03 Developing mastery and expertise
15:40 Steve’s experience in teaching a DBA class at a university
17:04 Generalization examples, job interview process
18:14 Rich mental model
20:25 Analogy of keeping up with technology as radioactive decay
23:00 Three things to have a longer “half life” with IT knowledge
26:30 Big Data or Pokémon site
29:20 Things that last: People Skills
30:31 The idea of having a periodic table of skills
31:30 Understanding theory, fundamentals and internals
35:03 Discussion summary
37:03 SQL Family questions
About Eugene Meidinger
Starting out as an accidental DBA and developer, Eugene Meidinger now focuses primarily on BI consulting. He has been working with SQL Server for 5 years now, and is certified in Querying and Administering SQL Server 2012. He is a Pluralsight author on Power BI and also co-leads the Pittsburgh Power BI user group.
Transcript: Keeping up with Technology
*Untranscribed introductory portion*
Carlos: Eugene, welcome to the program.
Eugene: Thank you! I’m very excited to be here.
Carlos: Yes, it’s good having you. You have been a guest perhaps unofficially before on a couple of our panels when we were up in Pittsburgh and then Baltimore. You contributed to the conversation, we’d met, started talking and we want to get you on the program so thanks for being here.
Eugene: Yeah, definitely.
Steve: I guess we should say, welcome back.
Eugene: Well, I’m happy to be playing a starring role. I’m still mad at myself the first time because you’re supposed to say your name whenever they gave you the mic and I forgot to do that, so I’m just like Guest Speaker 3 or something like that on the first one.
Steve: The unknown voice with no credit.
Carlos: Yes, so we apologize. But thank you for being here and chatting with us today. This is actually an interesting topic and we had this as a SQL Family question and I thought that you had an interesting take on this. So the question that we have is how do you keep up with technology? It’s all over the place and of course we’ve even introduced since then kind of SQL Server in the News segment and it’s just amazing all of the different things that continue to come out of Microsoft. Let alone all the other companies out there. So I’ll ask you the question, let’s get started here. How do you keep up with technology?
Eugene: I think you have to just not sleep ever and then you’ll be fine. But for everyone else, anyone who happens to have a family or a significant other, or kids, hobbies, or just regular human body you’re not going to do a very good job of keeping up with technology. I think in many ways it’s not a very well defined goal. I think it’s more of an emotional fear. I think we’re afraid of two things. I think we’re afraid of losing our job or becoming so irrelevant or obsolete that we can’t easily change jobs anymore, that’s the first thing. I think there is a large number of us who fear becoming that COBOL developer who’s never updated his resume, and maybe has a good job now but there is a recession or they want to work somewhere else and they’re out of luck. I think that’s a fear that’s driving a lot of us but then the other question or the other fear.
Carlos: And I think there’s one, maybe lesser fear but I feel it’s kind of out there is, you know whatever, a social situation, “Hey, what it is that you do?” “I do COBOL.” And tech setting and they know what that is and you’re going to get the, “You’re really old.”
Eugene: I can tell you something. I’m still technically at my 20s and I don’t put VB6 on my resume but I know how to write VB6 for similar reasons.
Steve: So are we putting VB6 then on the same category as COBOL now?
Eugene: I would say technologies that I want to avoid.
Eugene: No, Ruby is basically a VB6 with some prettier syntax. I mean you could make the argument. Yeah, no, it’s definitely look down upon for being behind so one main thing is you want to keep your job. But then also you want to keep your friends and family, right? Because I joked earlier that, ok well, you could spend all of your waking hours reading books and watching videos and doing all the stuff and you probably do a good job of keeping up with technology but for me personally 9:00-10:00 PM is sacrosanct. We do not mess with that time. That is our date hour. Me and my wife are hanging out no matter what.
Carlos: Very good.
Eugene: Yeah. It’s important and so there’s balance. I think really what people want to know is how do I keep my job? How do I do it in a way that doesn’t cause me all this grief and anxiety and frustration? Keeping up with technology itself, like it’s impossible. I mean, you follow all the different things that are coming out with Azure. They just talked about CosmosDB where they took DocumentDB and then they slapped on four other different no SQL database models, right? And you’ve got SQL Server 2017. I really hope we’re not switching to an annual model. But they put Python in there. They’ve got all these other changes going on. There’s just all these different stuffs and so you’ll look at all of the things and I just don’t
[00:05:00] think, the way people to find it’s possible to keep up. There really is just too much stuff. Maybe 30 years ago you can keep up with SQL but today you can’t and if you count everything, if you count all these different changes.
Carlos: Yeah, this question perplexed me for a while, and I actually asked it when I was on SQL Cruise which is another reason why we’ve been inspired to do the Companero Conference because I was impressed and I felt like there were a couple of people that did a pretty good job of keeping up. But I’m not sure, and not to say that they are not keeping up, but the more that you follow them, the more that you kind of see some niching going on and the more that you see content sharing, right, so they’re kind of sharing what other people are doing. Similar to what we’re doing here. We don’t know all the technologies but we’re bringing people who do and can talk about it. So that’s one interesting facet that I’ve seen there. Sorry Steve, you’re going to say something?
Steve: I was just going to say given all these, I mean, it’s nearly impossible to keep with all technology or even all things in SQL Server. But you need to keep up but you need to keep your job as you said and keep your friends and family. So what do you do? How do you go about staying relevant at that point?
Steve: And to complicate it even more, I mean in some cases it might be do I need to do both – go deeper and wider. And that could be more subjective.
Carlos: When I think about it, I feel like at least going through the U.S. education system, right? The three of us have gone to college and that’s kind of the route that we took. You get some exposure there so that’s kind of the generalization if you will. You start in Information Technology you get your first tech job. From there, I
[00:10:00] think the most important thing is to go deep. Pick a couple of areas and that could be in a couple of different ways so tech stack. But also even just like an application of stack. More and more we hear from the CIOs and some of the things they are looking for in addition to the tech is I want to know the business. So kind of understanding the pain points and how technology solves those things. And I think once you kind of get deep and again like you’ve mentioned, just one area then it will be easier because you understand the full gamut. It will be, “Ok, where do I want to go next?” How can I take what I know and then apply it to the next hurdle or the next specialization area?
Eugene: Yeah, I definitely agree with you there. I mean, I think for a lot of people like if you are out of college your mission is to get past working at helpdesk. Your job is not to be learning Docker right now. Your job is probably not to be learning PowerShell or Hadoop or whatever the cool new next thing is. You’re right, when you’re coming out of college your job is to get enough specialization that people want to pay you money to do something. But part of that going deep too like you said is that. You know, I do martial arts and there is definitely a big difference between no belt, and white belt, and green belt, and all these different things. And I’m a green belt right now so I’m halfway there at the school that I go to. Sometimes you have to learn how to develop mastery in something. If you’ve never become an expert in area, again I’m not talking like elite top 1% expert. To me expertsy starts whenever you first present to your local user group or you write a bunch blog post; anything where the stuff has to go in through your eyes and come back out your mouth that’s starting to develop expertise. It’s on the far end of it.
Carlos: I guess I’ll throw another option there because I’m a big fan of Lunch and Learns. I think unfortunately managers don’t buy into it. The culture is, “Oh yeah, Lunch and Learn, you go bring your own lunch and make some poor shmuck present on something.” I wish that they would just say, you know what, again it could be like small groups pay the whatever it is, bring in pizza whatever, right, so that you can come and learn this. But that would be another option to say, “Hey, co-workers or group, I’ve learned something.” In fact, Doug Parnell, who is going to be speaking at the Companero Conference. One of the criteria they have for where you can go to conferences or get other training is his ability to able to bring that back and then explain to the group what it is that he learned which is interesting. So that’s not deep specialization. It’s just I’ve listen to it, I have some comprehending, and now I’m going to get at least further enough along that I can now explain it to somebody else.
Eugene: Yeah. Anything that’s going to be testing your mental model or something is going to have you that. And like I’m saying, I think that when you learn how to develop a certain level of mastery that becomes repeatable. Like you said, when you come out of college you need to learn how to go deep and once you’ve done that successfully and you’ve actually gone truly deep somewhere then now when you switch over to Hadoop or something like that you can do that. For me, I get that with speaking where the first couple of presentations that I gave there was a lot of fear and anxiety, and a lot of work. And now I’m at the point where I understand kind of the backbone of a good presentation and so it’s a lot easier for me to say, “Oh, I need to give a presentation on Power Query in two weeks or something like that.” And start putting together that outline, putting together that structure because I know what goes into it. Just the same exact thing with understanding what goes in to actually developing mastery somewhere even if that’s a journey man level so to speak and not a true expert.
Steve: So interesting, with that really the key is on developing that first thing that you’ve mastered. It’s not mastering it. It’s figuring out the process of how to master it so that you can then translate that to the next thing you have to learn.
Eugene: Yeah, absolutely. I think a big part of that like we talked about is understanding the difference between, all these different learning things. Are they giving you exposure or are they giving you mastery? Are they helping you with those unknown unknowns, like “Oh, I didn’t know that Spark was a thing.” Or are they helping you develop more of a mental model of how that stuff works and I think
[00:15:00] the big dividing line for that in a lot of cases is is it active learning? Is it something where you have to write or type or speak or code or something so that you can actually test that model that’s in your head. Because you can read all the books in the world or listen to all the blogs, or listen to all the podcasts but you need to have the rubber hit the road at some point, and that’s truly how you develop a sense of mastery and expertise somewhere. Again why I say that I think mastery starts with that first user group presentation or that first blog post because that’s something that really test your knowledge. Make sure you actually understand it at all.
Steve: Interesting. I can think of an example on that occurred in my experience was about 10 years ago I was asked to help teach a class at a local university, and it was just a DBA class and it was not the 70-461 but it would have been the equivalent of what the 70-461 exam was then. Then like right I was about to start doing it the person who’s going to help out bailed out on it so I was all on my own to go teach this 10-week class at the university. And for me that was an incredible learning experience because it pushed me beyond what I knew at that point and it made me learn at not to the point that I could just talk about those things but to the point that I can actually teach those things. And I think that was one of those things that jumping into it I never expected that to happen but I had to go deep on a whole lot of topics over that 10-week period. By the time I came out of it I was at a whole different level on what I knew about those kinds of things. I think your example of being able to take it as input and then give it as output through a presentation is a great way to learn at least in my experience.
Carlos: Then the next benefit. I have to think again kind of because now that you’ve mastered. You know, you’ve done that specialization as you go into the generalization components if you will so i.e. talking with others at a conference, listening to the podcast, talking to a vendor, talking to a co-worker, a potential employer and things like that. You can then pick up on how their topic whether that’s a technology, an idea, a process, how that overlaps into what you already know or how it doesn’t, and then be able to speak to that to help that conversation continue to flow. I guess I’m thinking more of a job interview process because that’s kind of what we were started with as job security, “I’m afraid, can I get a job?” And I can’t say that I’ve gotten all the jobs that I’ve ever applied for. That’s not true. But I feel that ability to be able to speak to the things that they have brought up has definitely been at least something that they had to consider in looking at different applicants.
Eugene: Talking about that job interview, even just talking with people, I think that by having a rich mental model, a rich understanding of something it gives you the capacity for analogy, even if it’s an awkward analogy or strained analogy, at least gives you that option. A good example is all this big data stuff. At some point I want to start learning about Hadoop, and Spark, and all these other technologies, and right now I’m still at that exposure phase. I don’t know pretty much anything but when I start looking into them. You know, I was joking with Kevin Feasel, one of your big podcasts cameos that wait a minute, Scala is just like Haskell but different, or F# but different. Or that Spark is basically a service bus but different, or Hadoop is kind of like whatever the SQL data warehouse project is, that appliance kind of thing that they sell. I forgot the exact name. It’s like Parallel Data Warehouse or that sort of thing. So whenever you have some area that you gone that richness with when someone talks about something in a completely different area you at least have the option to go, “Well, I don’t know anything about that but from what you’ve said it sounds a lot like X.” Or even something simple. When you understand how a transaction log works with SQL Server you’re going to be able to make some really good guesses about how it
[00:20:00] probably works with MySQL, or PostGres, or Oracle, or something like that. There is a lot of those things that will translate. And even if it’s not a one-to-one translation at least now you have a jumping board whereas if you are a jack of all trades you don’t really have a good way to tell if that comparison, that analogy feels right or not.
Carlos: Yeah, interesting. Now, to jump back in here you kind of have an interesting analogy with keeping up with technology. You model it after radioactive decay.
Eugene: I do. Well, I think it’s a good way to think about it because again if we talk about the beginning and how keeping up with technology is this nebulous anxious sort of thing. It makes me think a lot about when we talk about the cloud. Which originally was just some guy going, “Oh, this internet thing is undefined I’m just going to draw a cloud.” And we decided that’s our branding, right? That’s our marketing plan. Keeping up with technology is whatever it makes me not feel so nervous at night when I go to bed that I’m going to lose my job. That is keeping up with technology. I wanted some mathematical way because I’m a giant nerd of thinking about this, of actually working through this. And to me radioactive decay makes a lot of sense because when you’re dealing with, let’s say you have a pound of Uranium. I’m no physicist but I learn some basics in school. You’ve got a pound of Uranium. That Uranium is going to have something called a half life which simply put is just how long to have half of it. You could apply that to bunch of things but radioactive materials are pretty consistent and that half life is stable. And so I think that IT knowledge also has a half life. Now, what you say it is can vary. Now, Allen White, he says that every 5 years you have to retool yourself. I remember one the first time I was on this podcast he said that and I said, “Well, I’ve been doing this for five years does that mean I have to start over?” But in college I would joke about the same thing. I’d say, “Half of what you know is useless in five years.” And that’s how it really feels. And maybe it’s 10 years or 20 but the idea remains, but let’s say it is five. Well, you can mathematically model that, right? You can say, “Ok, what percentage would I retain each year so that in five years I’ve only have half of that knowledge.” And it turns out that percentage is 87%. That means that if you know 100 things that are not COBOL. You know, 100 things that are still relevant today then if your half life, your IT half life is five years, that means that 13 of them either fell out of your head or no longer applicable, right? 13 of them are either VB6 or something you haven’t done so long you forget how to do words, or DTS or whatever.
Carlos: You kind of know it but you wouldn’t want to be asked to do it again.
Eugene: Right, and so that kind of gives you a way forward because if you think of it that way then we’ve got three knobs that we can twist to try and improve how much stuff we know so that we’ve got a longer half life ourselves, a longer shelf life, whatever you want to think of it as. The first option is that you just learn more stuff. You just shove as much stuff in as you can.
Carlos: So instead of 100, it’s 150.
Eugene: Right, exactly. If you need to learn 13 things a year just to tread water then if you can learn 20 or 40 or 50 or whatever then the total amount of relevant knowledge you have is going to increase. Do you want to go deeper into that right now or do you want to go through all of the three.
Carlos: Let’s go to the other three things. I think that would be good.
Eugene: Ok. The second knob that you have is you can learn more of the right things so that’s about having a better focus. That’s about having a plan. That’s about improving the signal to noise ratio because you can spend 160 hours in your entire week reading Twitter and Hacker News but you’re going to learn about local elections or Go Lang or Rust or some local startup or what Zuckerberg is up to this week. Even the technology things may not be relevant to where you want to go or what fits your knowledge or just there’s a lot of junk out there. There is a lot of low quality materials so if the first thing is learn more things. The second thing is to learn more of the right things. Learn more of the things that fit what you want.
Carlos: So staying away from bleeding edge stuff and away until you start to see some more adoption. Maybe early adopter is the phase. You’re like, “Ok, that’s what I
[00:25:00] will jump on to because I’m seeing it more widely used.”
Eugene: Yeah, I think one of the strategies with dealing with the bleeding edge stuff is make a low investment with that. So that’s why stuff like this podcast is so great because you can spend an hour while you’re doing something else and get enough to be conversational at bleeding edge technology and then later on you can figure out, “Ok, this fit with my career. Now, I want to go deep.” So that’s the second thing is just learn the right things. The third know that we have is that radioactive decay, that how quickly does my knowledge become obsolete and that relates to what you just said as well is learn things that last. Learn things that last longer. So things that don’t last are stuff tied to a specific version. So the exact feature set that happens to be in SQL 2005 is perhaps not too useful to you. But understanding how to use some of those features that came in there or understanding some of those advance window functions that came with 2012. That is going to last longer. Certain types of technologies are just immature. Again, I joke about stuff like Angular where they’ve been breaking releases every 6 months but you have that big data space. It’s the hot new thing but I’ll tell you what there is a great site called like Big Data or Pokémon and it will give you a big… It’s true!
Carlos: Nah, I have to look it up.
Eugene: Go and look it up. So it will give you a name like Empowla, or Horsea. I forget some of the other ones. And they’ll say, “Is this a big data program or is this a Pokémon?” And then you’ll click on a button and it will tell you if you’re right or wrong. And you’re going to be wrong a lot of the time. It’s true. It’s great. It’s the best site ever.
Carlos: Ok, here we go. So I’m here, https://pixelastic.github.io/pokemonorbigdata/. We’ll put it up in the show notes. So the first name is Horsea. I happen to be a Pokémon player for the kids, for my children. I have 5 kids.
Eugene: Sure. Yeah, family bonding. I get it.
Carlos: That’s right. So Horsea, big data or Pokémon?
Eugene: Are you asking me?
Carlos: Yeah. I’m asking to the group.
Eugene: I’m pretty sure that one is a Pokémon.
Carlos: Yeah, I’m going Pokémon too. Steve?
Steve: Yeah, I’ll with the group on that one. I’ve never heard of that big data.
Carlos: Yeah, here we go. It is a Pokémon. Ok here we go, Vulpix.
Eugene: Ok, that’s definitely a Pokémon.
Carlos: Definitely a Pokémon.
Eugene: I had a try with it. I promise you.
Carlos: Here is a softball one, Hadoop.
Eugene: That is a big data.
Carlos: That’s definitely a big data. Here we go, it’s a native one that I’m not sure of anyway, Spoink.
Steve: I’m going to guess it’s a big data.
Eugene: Yeah, that’s sounds like something is going to make it for a big data company.
Steve: Sounds like a tech thing.
Carlos: Oh, it is a Pokémon. Look at that. Ok, that is funny. So I don’t know if I should thank you or send you a nasty email now that you’ve introduce me to the site because I’m going to have to go through and.
Eugene: It depends on how much time you waste.
Eugene: So the point that I was making with that is that when you have so many of these big data technologies, even within Hadoop you’ve got all these goofy names. You got Pig, and Sqoop, and Flume, and Hive and HTFS and all that stuff. Because it’s immature you don’t want to make a huge time investment. These are things that are going to decay quickly because it’s going to be like some sort of ultimate battle and by the end of it one is going to standing with the crown. And you don’t know which one it is right now.
Carlos: Now, there’s a lot more players in it but it almost reminds me of, what was it? Blu-ray? And what was that technology?
Eugene: It was something like DVD, HD DVD or something.
Carlos: Yeah, DVD or something.
Eugene: Yeah, exactly or even going back VHS and betamax and all that kind of stuff. And so bleeding edge technologies are something that don’t last. But let’s talk about what things do last and we had to some of these things. But things you’re going to learn that last. One of the biggest one is people skills. People do not change or if they do it’s much much slower in terms of centuries than it is the years with technology.
Carlos: So decades, generation.
Eugene: Grammar doesn’t change that quickly. I can promise you. So if you’re going to learn how to write a good email or I have a blog post about how to write a good abstract, you know, that’s going to last the test of time along at the same time,
[00:30:00] speaking – public speaking skills. You guys do consulting and I’ve learned myself that if you can stand up in front of 50 people and pretend like you know what you’re talking about you can do it too. Learning the trick of, “Well, I don’t know but I think it will work this way I’ll get back to you. I’ll give you an answer.” Those kind of soft skills are timeless, truthfully.
Carlos: The thing you’re intuiting there is we’re just making the stuff up, aren’t you?
Eugene: No. I think I implied it. I don’t know if I intuited but the distinction is lost on me.
Steve: So it would really be really interesting as we go through these different items if there was like a periodic table of skills that you could look and say, “Well, the half life on public speaking is 200 years. But the half life on big data is 9 months.” And try and do a comparison that way to figure out, “Ok, if you need to increase your skills overall.” What are the ones that you can either increase or going to last for a long time versus what can you learn quickly that might be a risk but it may pay off in the short term but you know what it’s going to be different 5 years from now.
Eugene: Yeah. I would say the people skills are definitely the noble gases of the skill world because they are not reactive. They last forever. But another thing that last long is I think, you know we talk about it going deep, understanding theory, fundamentals and internals. Going that one layer below and understanding how something actually works because it’s so much easier to tranche for that. But it also lets you make certain guesses and inferences. I’ll give you a perfect example. I have literally thanked Paul Randall twice for his transaction log course because it saved me so much for understanding that like for example dealing with availability groups. If you don’t know how the transaction log works on an internal level, availability groups are such a huge pain because you’re like, “Why I can’t sync this?” Or you say, “Do I have to take backups on both sides?” But if you understand how it actually works then you can intuit a lot of things. You can intuit, “Ok, if I’m taking a backup right now is the transaction log going to keep growing while I’m still doing the backup or will it stop?” That kind of stuff. So we talked about three different things: learn more things, learn the right things and then learn things that last. Things that last is going to come down to the deep stuff fundamentals, internals, some of the hands off stuff. And then it’s going to be those people skills. It’s how to write, how to read, it’s how to communicate, it’s how to learn in general, that kind of stuff. So those are I think the three different approaches you can take because the first two increase just your inputs, and then the last one decreases that radioactive decay. So if you know 100 things, if your half life, if you can shift that from 5 years to 6 years. If you can make that tiny little shift then still learning just 13 things a year, you’re going to end up knowing a 120 instead of 100. So slowing that decay you’re going to know more relevant stuff as a result over time.
Eugene: 6 months.
Steve: If even that maybe.
Eugene: Like I said, I know that Angular is coming out with like build number changes like full number changes. I think the plan is supposed to be every 6 months or something like that. And I’m still mad about SQL is coming out every 2 years so I don’t know how I will deal with that.
Carlos: Yeah, that’s right. Different worlds, right? You know the dev ops level on that side.
Eugene: It’s sneaking over the SQL world for sure all the dev ops.
Carlos: It’s well on its way. Well Eugene, great information and I guess we should note that if people wanted to extend the conversation a little bit or actually here you present this, your presentation at the GroupBy Conference would be available
[00:35:00] and I’m sure it will be posted by the time this goes out actually.
Eugene: Yeah, we expect so.
Carlos: We’ll make sure that’s included in our show notes as well.
Steve: So I guess then just to kind of wrap it up at this point.
Steve: Well, before going to SQL Family, just summarize a little bit of where we’re at.
Eugene: Oh sure. Yeah, ok, I can do that. Just to summarize everything you have to figure out, “Ok, what it is my real problem?” Is it that I need to go deeper with things or do I need to be learning more things? And then if I’m going deeper I need more focus. I need a plan. I need scheduled time because doing active learning is hard. It requires focus. That’s the fuel for deep learning. The fuel for generalization and broad learning is time. But you can listen to podcast while you’re exercising or doing the dishes or commuting. You can learn some of these things without giving it your full attention. And you don’t often want to give it your full attention because it’s so volatile. But really a lot of it comes down to three big things. If it’s like this radioactive decay where our knowledge is continually fading in relevancy, you can either learn more things which means putting in more time, more energy, or more money in some sort of way. You can learn the right things by say leaning on curation making sure you’re dealing stuff that’s good quality or having a plan and making sure that stuff fits in within your plan. Or you can learn things that are going to last longer; that are going to last more than five years and not become irrelevant, that aren’t just a hot new thing. Generally, that comes down to going truly deep and learning internals or fundamentals or theory. Or means learning people skills or business skills, things that haven’t changed nearly so rapidly over the past 10, 20, 30 years, things that sometimes don’t change for generations. So that would be my general advice with trying to keep up with technology. You may not be able to truly keep up with technology but you can find a way to keep your job and keep your friends without so much angst and so much anxiety.
Steve: Alright, very cool.
Carlos: Good stuff.
Carlos: Shall we go ahead and do SQL Family?
Eugene: Sounds good to me.
Steve: Let’s do it. So how did you first get started with SQL Server.
Eugene: So it was largely by accident if I’m being honest. I took a database course in college and that was using MySQL as backend. I was a TA for that class later and so the different professor was using Access. And then later I did a non-credit intern project and did all the development work and that was using MySQL. Up until my first long term job, my current job, no experience with SQL, didn’t know it was a thing. And then I’m looking for a job after my first one and the job says .NET/SQL developer. And I’m like great, I always want to do software engineering, do a lot of programming, this would be perfect. Well, I thought it’s going to be 80% .NET and 20% SQL and it was flipped. Half of that was DBA stuff and I remember my first month looking, googling up the differences between a view, a stored procedure, and a function because I didn’t know any of that at the time. I could do my SELECT *, I could do my WHERE and that was about it. But I just learn on the job and I got involved and then I find out that, “Oh, user groups are a thing.” And I start going to local SQL user group in Pittsburgh and then I found out SQL Saturdays are a thing. I’ll tell everyone here. Don’t go to the after party because you’ll end up as a speaker. I got cornered by Gina Walters who was running the group and Rick Heiges who was a former PASS board member, and they’re like, “You should present.” And I said, “I’m not qualified.” And they said, “You should present anyway.” And so I gave my first presentation on execution plans. I was terrified but I loved it and I just kept going from there.
Steve: Alright, good stuff.
Carlos: Now, in all that time working with SQL Server, if there is one thing you could change about it what would it be?
Eugene: I know this had been said before but licensing. I would change licensing. If there was just one simple guy like I get, ok we got like Free, Express and we’ve got Standard, and Enterprise. Microsoft wants their money they see Oracle doing their thing I get it. But then you’re throwing stuff like, ok if you have a cold standby, that one is free. Well, in 2014 we change that now you have to have software assurance for it to be free but the moment you start taking backups, you’re doing production works so doesn’t count anymore and all these little nuisances are just really overwhelming. So licensing by far I would change.
Carlos: And then if you have that license you could take it to the cloud, but then you
[00:40:00] have to
Eugene: Yeah, now you got hybrid.
Carlos: Failing over, and if you’re in the cloud for too long and that’s different licensing.
Steve: Yeah. That’s definitely one that would be worth straining out a little bit. So what’s the best piece of career advice that you have ever received?
Eugene: I’ll give you two because the best piece of career advice I know of I got out of a book so I don’t know if I’d count that receiving it but there’s really great book that I was given by a friend in my first job, and it’s How to Have Confidence and Power in Dealing with People which sounds really fancy but it’s a lot of common sense stuff of just how to work with people and talk with people and that kind of stuff. For someone who is this introverted nerd who didn’t know how to work with other people it was big. And the biggest thing out of that book, the best career advice that I’ve ever found in my career is “paraphrase what people say”. Repeat it back to them to make sure you’re on the same page. Just ask, “Hey, do you mind if I paraphrase that to make sure we’re on the same page.” And then just repeat back what you heard because there are so many times that you heard something different than they said and even of you got it right it lets them know, “Ok, he understood”, and they can relax a little bit so that’s been huge for me. As for received, probably definitely something that’s recent and sticks in my mind is from Erin Stellato where I talked to her about, “Hey, I want to get a job and big data or data analytics or something like that.” And she said, “Make the job that you want to have.” In the sense that instead of thinking, oh I’m going to have to find some other job. Well, I can look for opportunities to say, “Hey boss, I did a little bit of R with some of our internal metrics and here is what I’m able to find.” Or just something that shape the job that I’m already in to something more of what I wanted to be three years from now or something like that. That’s something huge.
Steve: Ok, great.
Carlos: And not to bang this drum companeros here, forgive me. But I think that idea is if you can tie the technology to a business scenario I would be willing to wage your 99% of the time you’re going to get to do that project. You know, assuming budgets and all of that stuff are all in order. But if you can prove value to the business by it, much easier scenario, much easier conversation than, “Hey, I want to do big data.” I have this problem I think I can solve it. Now having said all that our last question for you today, Eugene, if you could have one superhero power what would it be and why you want it?
Eugene: Yeah, I’m tear with this question because I’d want to be able to learn mildly useful things really quickly. Because I feel like most superpowers would be just way too obvious, way too intrusive like, Carlos, if you’re flying around the work or whatever people are going to notice and then you’ve got paparazzi and all this kind of stuff, right?
Carlos: Got you. There you go.
Eugene: Or if you’re some super genius that you can just touch a computer and tell what’s wrong then people are going, the FBI is just going to kidnap you and dissect you and figure out what’s going on. But there are all these minor little skills that I mentioned and that are useful but no one would go, “Hmm, I wonder what happened to him?” Like I want to learn lip reading someday or lock picking or something that my wife and I are learning right now is sign language. Like she is fully capable hearing, no problems there at all. Well, ok maybe sometimes she can’t hear me as well. But we’re learning sign language because one it’s just this cool thing. But two it legitimately is something useful in these occasional situations. So if you are in a loud concert or you’re 30 feet away from each other you can still communicate. And right now our repertoire is pretty limited. We mostly can say, “Hey, I’m going to the rest room.” “Oh, look at that cute child.” But we still get some value out of it right now. So my superpower would be learning all these like mildly useful little skills really easily but nothing that would attract notice by any authorities or other people.
Carlos: Lots of attention.
Eugene: Yeah, right.
Carlos: So I’ll second you there on the sign language. My wife and I took a class while we were in college together. It hasn’t been super useful outside of teaching our kids when they were growing up some sign language like terrible tooth time they can’t quite talk. They want to communicate that’s been the best thing there for it but yeah, super cool. Eugene, thank you so much for being on the program today.
Eugene: You’re very welcome. It was a pleasure.
Steve: Thanks, Eugene, really enjoyed it.