Episode 30: The Best Investment You Can Make

1400Think of one big investment that will be made this year.  How will it affect you?  Perhaps there is a large server migration project or move to Azure on the books this year.  Maybe you have been given the ok to try some new feature or have been promoted and have different responsibilities.  You will make many decisions and purchase different things, but the biggest investment you should be involved in is the investment in yourself.

I am joined by Bruce Van Horn, host of the Life is a marathon podcast and the person that introduced me to the E to E ratio.  The Entertainment to Education ratio is a gauge for how much of your time is spent entertaining yourself versus how much you education yourself.  We discuss how this affects your future opportunities but also how it affects your happiness.

How do you keep yourself educated?  I would love to hear it in the comments below

Transcription: The Best Investment You Can Make

Carlos L. Chacon: This is the “SQL Data Partners” podcast. I am Carlos L. Chacon your host. So, this is episode 30. We are switching gears up just a little bit today.

We’re going to be talking about your E to E ratio and how it affects your opportunities, either in your current position or potentially in getting another position. You’re not sure what your E to E ratio is? Well, stick around and we’ll tell you more about it.

This has been very well received for those I’ve shared it with. However, I can’t take all the credit for it. This concept was actually introduced to me by my friend, Bruce Van Horn, who is our guest on the program today.

Bruce is the host of the podcast “Life is a Marathon,” has written several books and is a frequent speaker on life coaching, self-esteem, personal development and personal branding.

Now, he’s also the first Richmonder I’ve had on the program, so this is a real treat for me. I hail from Richmond, Virginia. I need to share the mic with such a popular fellow from my hometown.

So, Compañeros it’s good to be with you again wherever you might be. I do appreciate you tuning in.

Of course, if you like the program and want others to know about it, I ask that you leave a review of the show or leave a comment on iTunes or Stitcher so others can find out more easily. Of course, you can reach out to me on Twitter at @carloslchacon or by email at [email protected]. I know Bruce has lots of good tidbits for you today, so let’s get to it. Compañeros, welcome to the show.

Bruce Van Horn: Hey, Carlos. Thank you for having me. It’s a lot of fun to do this. Likewise, I don’t get very many Richmonders on my show.

Carlos: Right, yes.

Bruce: It’s just the way it works out.

Carlos: We’re kind of a big, small city, right? [laughs]

Bruce: Exactly. Yep.

Carlos: Great. It’s good to have you on the program.

Bruce: It’s great to be here.

Carlos: I do appreciate you taking some time, as always. E to E ratio. You introduced this at our user group. We had a combined meeting at the .NET Group and the SQL Server User Group here in town. You talked a little bit about the E to E ratio.I’ve been thinking a lot about that ever since, and talking with others about it. I wanted to have you on the show today. Tell us, what is the E to E ratio? Why do we care about it?

Bruce: We care about it because it really does affect our lives and where we go with it, and the choices that we make are important. The E to E ratio — the two Es — are entertainment versus education. Every single human being on the planet has the same 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365…well this year, I guess it’s 366, right? [laughs]

Carlos: There we go [inaudible 2:44] a leap year this year.

Bruce: I think this is a leap year, so we get an extra 24 hours. But everybody has the same amount of time. You have time, I have time, Richard Branson has time. The difference between most people who are successful and most people who are not successful boils down to the choices that we make about how we spend our time.Are we actively pursuing a career, building a business, raising kids? You know a little bit about that. [laughs]

Carlos: That’s right.

Bruce: The choices that we get to make are really between entertainment and education. I obviously did not come up with this. [laughs] I don’t own this. I believe that I was first introduced to this by Brian Tracy. I’ve probably heard Jack Canfield talk about this as well.I’m pretty sure Brian Tracy is really the one who has coined the phrase, the E to E ratio. How do we spend our time? There are some pretty sad statistics about the number of hours the average American adult spends in front of televisions or game systems every single week.

Carlos: I found some numbers from the US Bureau of Labor. These stats are from 2010. I’m not sure if they jibe with what you’ve seen. They’re a bit dated. This sample, for whatever reason, was geared to males who had a six-year-old. I’m not exactly sure how that worked out, but…

Bruce: OK. [laughs]

Carlos: You can gauge that. This is a man who had a six-year-old child. I don’t know if they had more than one child but that was the basis of what they had. They came up with an E to E ratio of 1:42. This goes over lots of different job types and whatnot, so we get a little bit of mix in there. I’ve heard of ratios much higher than that.1:42, that equates to about two and a half hours of entertainment a day to about three minutes of education. [laughs]

Bruce: Exactly. Yeah. Of course, what we’re talking about there is personal education, not the amount of time we’re spending teaching our kids. It’s all about choices. I am going to be very quick to say that there is absolutely nothing wrong with entertainment.

Carlos: We have to have it.

Bruce: Entertainment is awesome. You’ve got to have it, you know? We’ve all watched “The Shining,” right? “All work, no play makes Jack a dull boy.”[laughter]

Bruce: It’s going to be cold and snowy here in Richmond at some point. We need a little entertainment to keep us from getting cabin fever. The problem is that a lot of people use entertainment as a comfort zone. They use it as a medicinal [laughs] substance. We come home. We’re all stressed out about work or about something else, so we plop down in front of the television, or we plop down in front of an Xbox or a PS4, and we just zone out for a while.

Carlos: James Clair talks about systems. You think about the TV room. We even call it the TV room. Everything’s situated around that. The system is built so when we walk in the room, the couch is situated in front of the TV. The remote is there. We just sit down and the system is made so we can be there for a while. Breaking out of that can be hard sometimes.

Bruce: Yeah. It can. When I send out tweets or Facebook posts or whatever, you would be surprised at the amount of pushback I get from that. “I need to watch my TV,” or whatever. You know what? Great. You get to choose how you live your life. I get to choose how I live my life. I honestly cannot tell you the last time I sat down and watched a television program. It’s been years. It has been years.I am a single dad with full custody of two boys about to be 19 and 13. We do not have cable TV in our home.

Carlos: Wow.

Bruce: We haven’t for many years. We have the Internet. They’ve got their PS4 and their Xbox. They’ve got the Netflix. They’re teenagers, so their entertainment ratio is going to be a little higher. For me, I made very conscious decisions. It actually started with me cutting out just watching the news.I used to be one of these guys who, if I was home — which was almost all the time, because I work at home — the TV would be on, and it would have been on one of the news channels. That was the first thing to go. We kept television but I at least stopped watching the news. My wife and kids would watch TV but I would choose to be doing something else in a different room.

There was a little pushback with that, you know, “Why don’t you come and spend time?” And I would do that, but I made choices to feed my brain. I started devouring self-help books like Brian Tracy, in which I encountered the E to E ratio. I listen to a lot of audiobooks, because I have a lot of free time where my brain isn’t doing much, but my hands are busy, like driving, or like running.

I like music, but I very often find myself listening to podcasts or listening to audiobooks versus running. It’s really just about the choices. What are the things that are going to be important to me? I don’t want to look back on my life and say, “I could have started that business,” or “I could have written this other book if I only had more time.”

Carlos: Sure. That’s right. Taking advantage of the open times that we have — and I don’t think either one of us are necessarily saying that you need to go back to school or spend a lot of time with a textbook — that’s not necessarily the type of education that we’re referring to. It’s just opening your world a little bit, right? We’re technology people.Most of the folks that listen to this podcast are technology people. I specialize in the SQL Server space. If you’re not willing to invest a little bit of education into yourself, then you probably should find another line of work. It’s just not going to happen for you.

Bruce: Or at least just be prepared to stay where you are, and not experience growth.

Carlos: There you go. We talked a little about missing some of those opportunities…

Bruce: I often as a life coach do a fair amount of career coaching. People will say, “I just feel stuck.” I’m stuck in my job, I’m stuck in my marriage, I’m stuck in whatever. Well, what are you doing to get unstuck? [laughs] The bottom line is not much. We’re just hoping that something else happens, but you’ve got to be proactive about it. You’ve got to do something.Even if it’s reading…for me, I would even say reading novels. I would stick that more in the education, as long as they’re not really raunchy, smutty novels.

Carlos: [laughs]

Bruce: But for me, I love the novels of Paulo Coelho.

Carlos: Sure. “The Alchemist?”

Bruce: Yeah, exactly. The Alchemist. That’s one of my favorite books. His other books, like “The Pilgrimage” or even “The Devil and Miss Prym.” They’re just great books that also tell life stories about personal development. I love all kinds of literature.

Carlos: There you go. That was probably a little more liberal than I was willing to give, although you make some good points there about other opportunities. While it is a fictional story, lots of good things that we could still put in practice by reading some of those things.

Bruce: Yeah. Reading a book, or at least listening to an audiobook versus watching the movie is so much more stimulating for your brain. I read with my son when he was going through the “Harry Potter” stage. I read all of the Harry Potter novels. I didn’t read them to him, but as he was reading them, I was reading them.We would have dialogues and then come time for the movies to come out, I was so disappointed in the movies because what I imagined in my head was so much more vivid.

Carlos: Interesting.

Bruce: Hollywood can’t actually produce a movie…

Carlos: The way your mind can.

Bruce: …that is anywhere comparable to what the human brain conceive. We come up with accents. We figure out what the characters would look like.It really does stimulate your brain in ways that can prevent brain degeneration diseases such as Alzheimer’s and things like this. It improves your memory. That’s why I’m going to say even reading books, if they’re fiction books, can be really, really healthy for you to do.

Carlos: Speaking of Harry Potter, I have to tell a quick story. I was at a conference. One of the speakers — she’s fairly well-known in our community — she was there with her kids. Her daughter was maybe 11. The speaker, for whatever reason, it was a technical topic, but he started talking about Quidditch.[laughter]

Carlos: He asked, “Does anybody not know what Quidditch is?” She raised her hand. I happened to be behind them. Her daughter looked at her, dropped her jaw, and said, “Mom!” [laughs] “You’re embarrassing me!”

Bruce: “How could you?” [laughs]

Carlos: That was kind of funny, but ultimately the idea is that you might be able to bring up a conversation with someone who has that shared connection. That’s probably the lowest denominator of additional opportunities that could come your way, is by getting to know other people.

Bruce: Create a conversation. That’s one of the reasons I don’t much care for pulp, popular fiction, but I do try to read most of the books that are on the “New York Times” best seller list in fiction, for that specific reason.I may be sitting in an airport. I may be sitting in a doctor’s office, and somebody might have that book, and I can strike a conversation with them about it. It’s just a great way to expand your mind. Expanding your mind is how you expand your horizons.

Carlos: Who knows where those things will take them? Another story I’m thinking about is, Kevin Kline is another well-known speaker/author in our space. I happened to be visiting with him.He was giving all this training. I stopped and I said, “Kevin, how in the world did you become so knowledgeable about all of this? It boggles my mind. I never think I’ll get there.”

He did talk about sacrificing some of his entertainment options in lieu of education. As we mentioned, one of the things that came out of that…we’re not saying you have to study all the time. Kevin, who now works for SQL Century, had a very popular one on Twitter this last summer.

It was called SQL Vacation. He actually took his family, they hit a couple of cities and he would give speeches or demonstrations of technical topics along the way. He was able to make a combination of vacation and work all together. They made t-shirts up. It was kind of fun.

Bruce: I haven’t made t-shirts, but I often take my boys with me while I’m out speaking. I went to the Caribbean. I was the life coaching guest speaker for a seven-day Caribbean cruise back in February of ’15. I’m going to do it this coming February again. Took my boys with me. It was just fun.

Carlos: There you go. We’ve talked a little bit about time. We mentioned podcasts. Obviously, we’re both hosts of podcasts. When you’re in your car in your commute, I think is probably the first place that you could identify where you might change some behavior there if you’re just listening to the radio all the time.

Bruce: Absolutely. Yes. When I’m driving, if I’m taking the boys to or from, I often don’t listen to audiobooks or things like that when I’m in the car with my boys. It’s usually after I’ve dropped them off and I’m on my way back home.[laughter]

Bruce: I get a little bit more windshield time than a lot of dads do, because my 19-year-old actually has a girlfriend who lives in Blacksburg.

Carlos: Oh, wow.

Bruce: We meet halfway in Lexington. We do that, not every once a month, but maybe once a month and a half. There’s plenty of other times. I get out and I exercise. I walk. I run.If I’m alone in the kitchen cooking or doing the dishes, cleaning up, I’ve usually got my ear buds in, and I’m not listening to music. I’m either listening to an audiobook or a podcast. There’s lots of time that you could do this.

Carlos: Let’s talk a little bit about some of those opportunities that then become available once you start to take advantage of some of these things. We talked a little bit about networking and getting to know people. You mentioned the doctor’s office. How did you make the transition into speaking, and having people want to come and listen to you?

Bruce: For me, it came to me rather than I came to it. I do have a fairly extensive public speaking background. I do sling a little teeny tiny bit of code right now.

Carlos: [laughs]

Bruce: I was on the ground floor of the dot-com boom in the late ’90s. I actually was a beta tester for the ColdFusion Web application development language. I knew the Allaire brothers really, really well. As their business grew — long before ASP was available, long before there was anything like PHP — ColdFusion was it, for a long time. A lot of the big companies wanted to adopt ColdFusion as their platform for middleware to talk to SQL Server Oracle databases.While I had a vast amount of experience with that, I’m also an English/Creative Writing major and did a lot of public speaking, so my communication skills are really good. I wound up going to work for Allaire in their training department.

In the early days, there were only five of us who were Allaire ColdFusion certified trainers. When there’s only five of you, you’re in pretty high demand. I’ve traveled all over the world teaching ColdFusion. Public speaking has always come very easily to me. I was also a musician for a very, very long time.

Being in front of people, I’m not shy. Basically as I started to make the transition out of software development into life coaching, public speaking, a lot of it had to do with some of the difficult situations I’ve been through in my life. I’ve experienced the death of a daughter. I’m a survivor of stage-four cancer.

As people have seen how I’ve responded to these types of situations, I’ve been invited to come and talk about them. It really has just sort of been a grass-root’s effort. I didn’t at any point wake up one morning and say, “You know what? I’m going to be a public speaker.”

Carlos: [laughter]

Bruce: It just sort of happened. I accepted invitations, and it grew from there. Now it is what I do.

Carlos Chacon: Sure. I think that’s a great point in the sense of we want to educate ourselves we become more familiar with a variety of different things and then as opportunities come our way we may not be as comfortable with them but if we’re willing to kind of raise our hand and say, “Sure I’ll give that a shot.” You never know what will happen.

Bruce: Exactly. You’ve got to just be willing to try it. I’ve not been afraid to make mistakes. It’s really what I think it comes down to. At least to step out of my comfort zone, because nothing good happens in your comfort zone. [laughs]

Carlos: It’s more the same, right?

Bruce: Exactly. Everything that you want in life is outside of your comfort zone. You’ve got to go get it. You are married at some point you had to step out of your comfort zone and ask her out on a date, right?[laughter]

Carlos: There you go.

Bruce: I am divorced. At some point I had to step out of my comfort and make that decision. Likewise, life changes happen as we are willing to look for opportunities and really just sense whether or not that would be something that would just be fun.For me, public speaking is just fun. There are probably some things that may come my way and I would say, “No. I don’t think I’d enjoy that.”


Bruce: The answer is just going to be “no” there.

Carlos: Very good. Compañeros, we are still early in the year, the new year of 2016. If you haven’t made that decision to try to educate yourself more this year, I hope that you’ll do that. Of course you are on the right track if you’re listening to this podcast.I’m sure you’re listening to others as well. Lots of other opportunities will come your way and hopefully we might see each other on the SQL trail. I would like to switch the gears just for a moment. We’ve come to the portion of the program I like to call the “SQL Family” portion.

We want to talk to you Bruce a little bit more, get to know you better about how you work and some of the things that you do. One of the things that we would like to talk about is tools.

I know we’re going to be talking about SQL tools for coding. In your profession as a pod-caster, as a speaker, as a professional coach. What are some of the tools that you like, how do you use it and why do you like it?

Bruce: For me, I would probably have to say the tool that I use the most is Evernote, simply because I’m an idea guy. I will literally wake up in the middle of the night having dreamed about something that I think to myself, “Oh, that’d be a great podcast topic,” but I know myself.I will have completely forgotten it in the morning. I will roll over. My iPhone is my alarm clock, so it is next to my bed. I’ll fire up Evernote blurry-eyed because I’m not going to put my glasses on, which I need. But I will type something to jog my memory.

If I’m out driving I will fire up Evernote and make notes. I use my iPhone a lot and I love the dictation feature in the keypads. You just tap the mic and then speak to it rather than trying to type while I’m driving. I make a lot of notes.

The reason that I like Evernote is that it syncs across all of the platforms. I have an iPad, I have a laptop or my desktop, so it doesn’t really matter to me where I’m working.

Carlos: There you go. As someone who has drank the Microsoft Kool-Aid. [chuckles]

Carlos: I’ve used the OneNote a little more often. [laughs]

Bruce: Yeah. It’s the same idea. It’s the same idea, just being able to sync across platforms. For me, I’m still the Microsoft Kool-Aid guy when it comes to the computers but for phones I’m Apple all the way.I’ve got the iPhone. I’ve got the iPad, but I’m running a Dell, a Dell laptop. I haven’t switched over to the Mac.

Carlos: There you go.

Bruce: Who knows? I would say that Evernote is probably my biggest productivity tool because it allows me…I’m constantly taking notes. Very often in my life coaching business I’ll keep notes about the life coaching sessions within Evernote. That way, if I’m out somewhere driving and one of clients calls me, then I have access to my notes wherever I am. I just like the full sync of availability of it.

Carlos: Very good. You’ve had a fairly wide variety of experiences, right? You became an English major, had some experience in writing, testing software, slinging code, now you’re a life coach.You read lots of books. Through all of that, trying to bullet that down to just one piece of advice. What’s some of the best career advice that you received and it’s helped you along the way?

Bruce: I would say the best advice that I can possibly give you is something that I had to do for myself. It’s really personal advice that flows over into every area of your life. I spent the majority of my life placing my identity as a human being into the roles that I played as a human being.I was a dad, I was a husband, I was an employee, I was an employer. I was all of these things. I was constantly striving to be the best. To be the best employee, or programmer, or boss, or the best husband, the best dad, or whatever. If there were problems in those areas, I had identity crisis.

At some point the perfect storm hits and nothing seems to be working out in any of those areas. That’s where people have a real identity crisis. That’s why a lot of people take their own lives, because they have no idea who they are.

What I had to figure out how to do was figure out how to be the best Bruce I can possibly be and everybody else benefits from that. I am a better dad than I have ever been in my life. I’m a better business owner than I’ve ever been in my life. I am not trying to be, I’m just trying to be the best Bruce that I can be.

The way I do that is by investing in myself, taking care of myself. First of all learning how to say “no” to things that completely drain me. As a dad, there are times where the kids are heaving and throwing up. You got to take care of the kids. When there’s a crisis at work…yeah, I can put in the 80 hours and get through that thing.

When that becomes the norm and it completely drains you and drains you and drains you, at some point you are over-drawn in your bank accounts. You’ve got to start doing things that make you go hard to be alive. For me it was running and it was reading books that I enjoy reading.

It was saying “yes” to the things that fill my tank, because it’s only out of a full emotional tank that you can serve other people for any sustainable period of time before you run into problems. That would be my best advice, is feed you.

Feed your brain, look for opportunities everywhere but always be growing personally. Always be doing something in the form of personal development to make you better. Whatever that is, to connect with your health, to connect with your spiritual life.

In whatever way that is, to connect with whatever it is that is the source of who and what you are. As you feed that part of you, everybody else will benefit.

Carlos: Everybody else wins.

Bruce: Everyone wins.

Carlos: Very good. Our last question Bruce. If you could have one superhero power, what would it be and why would you want it?

Bruce: I forget exactly what his real power was but I’ve been thinking about this. I’m going to have to go with the dad on The Incredibles.

Carlos: [laughs]

Carlos: OK. I was like super strength. I’d like to hear what…

Bruce: Yeah. He was super strength. He was super-fast too, not like his son was, or was it the daughter? He wasn’t stretchy woman like his wife, but I really enjoyed The Incredibles movie.That or…no, I think I’m just going to stick with that. The dad on the Incredibles.

Carlos: There you go. Being a super dad! [laughs]

Bruce: Yeah. Super dad.

Carlos: Very nice.

Bruce: While saving the world at the same time.

Carlos: [laughs]

Carlos: All in a day’s work.

Bruce: All in a day’s work. Right.

Carlos: Bruce Van Horn, thanks so much for being on the program.

Bruce: My pleasure Carlos.

Carlos: Compañeros, for more information about Bruce and we’ll have some short notes from today’s episode at sqldatapartners.com/podcast. You can go there. We’ll have information about how you can connect with Bruce, his podcast, and he even has a cruise coming up.If you’d like to have some additional life advice from him, life coaching, that will be available for you. As always, thanks for tuning in, we do appreciate it. We hope that you’ll have a great year and we’ll see you on the SQL trail.

Episode 06 Build Your Personal Brand

1400Steve Jones, the editor from SQL Server central and I talk about the need to build your own brand and we share a few ideas on how to do that.  We talk about Steve’s brand and how he built that over time and some options available to allow you the most opportunities possible.  The New York Times said in 2007 Nike spent 678 Million Dollars on advertising–A company almost everyone already knows.  What are going to do help establish your brand?  This episode is a must have for those looking to kick it up a notch on the opportunity meter.

Show Notes

Steve on Twitter
Red Gate SQL Prompt
The Modern Resume
SQL Server Central

Transcription: Build Your Personal Brand

Carlos Chacon: Welcome to the SQL Data Partners podcast. My name is Carlos L. Chacon, your host. This is episode six.

Today, I’m super excited to have someone on the show that you probably already know. Steve Jones from SQLServerCentral.com is with us today. Steve is the Editor-in-Chief of SQLServerCentral.com. He started working with SQL Server in 1991, which I’m pretty sure wasn’t called SQL Server at that time.

Today, we’re going to be talking about branding. Steve had a great brand, and I’m super excited that he’s been willing to share a little bit of his time, and thoughts about building a brand. Ultimately, the goal here, or the idea is that you can take some of these branding ideas, put them to use in your own environment, and hopefully, additional opportunities will come your way.

If you like today’s episode, we invite you to give us a rating on iTunes. Give us some of that feedback, and let us know what we’re doing. If there’s something you’d like to hear, you can hit me up at [email protected] or of course I’m on Twitter @Carloslchacon.

If you like these episodes, we invite you to subscribe to our iTunes podcast. We are also now on Stitcher, we’re excited about that and as always, welcome to the show.

Children: SQL Data Partners.[music]

Steve Jones: Thank you, thank you, I’m glad to be here. I still run SQL Server Central. That’s my primary day job. That’s a lot of what I do on a day-to-day basis. I’m always writing and producing the content there. You’ll certainly see me there.I work for Red Gate software as well. They employ me to run SQL Server Central as well as to be an evangelist, which means that they send me around to a variety of events, starting to be all around the world.

It’s mostly in the US but I’m doing more in Europe. I’m at a number of conferences every year and a bunch of SQL Saturdays. As many as I can fit in with busy family life and all the other responsibilities I have at work.

Carlos: Sure, there’s no question that you keep a full schedule there. One of the things we wanted to talk about today was, standing out from the pack, right. Building your own brand.We aren’t necessarily going to talk about getting famous but we do want to talk about some ways that data professionals can present themselves in a little better light with the hope of having some more opportunities come their way.

The reason I wanted to have you on the show, Steve, is because of your own individual brand. You’ve got a great brand and if folks are just starting out and haven’t met you, they’d probably be surprised when they first meet you that one, you’ll be in a Hawaiian shirt and two is that you’ll walk up to them, you’ll extend your hand, and ask them a few questions.

Steve Jones: Yeah, exactly.

Carlos: I think that’s a great brand and I think you might have some ideas for our listeners that they can try to apply to their own brand.

Steve: Absolutely. What you just said here, just introducing yourself, that’s networking. That’s a great way to just meet somebody else and get to know another person in the community. Start to build a little bit of a bond. Maybe make a friend. Maybe make a contact of some sort. That’s one of the things that has helped me over the years.As a young man in high school and college, I was really shy, didn’t know a lot of people. There’s been plenty of times I’ve gone to events for schools, or yearly in my career where I didn’t introduce myself, I kind of just sat in the back, and found that I wasn’t really growing my career as much. There’s always so much you can do, in terms of being just a very smart young man or young woman today.

It’s great to be good at your job, to have a lot of technical skills, but really a lot of hiring, a lot of decisions for promotions, reviews, for bonuses. All these things, they come down to personal context and people liking you.

Just being friendly is a great way to kind of grow your brand a little bit and meet other people. Just walk up to somebody, “How you doing? My name is Steve. What do you do here? Why are you here today? What’s your job? What are you interested in?” Just a couple questions, just like you might if you’re in a party or something else, some other event there. That’s probably the best thing I think you could do for your career these days.

Carlos: I think one of the big misconceptions about networking — particularly maybe five, seven years ago — was that you wanted to do that to advance your own purposes. As you just mentioned, ultimately, it is about extending your network, and you need to find out about what other people are doing. Asking those questions from people just to get a feel. Start that conversation going, and then, potentially down the road, something may happen that may be of your benefit, but it doesn’t necessarily need to be the goal.

Steve: Right. Certainly, you might help somebody else. We have a lot of people in the soup community that are very open, friendly, and willing to help others. Maybe you’ll meet somebody you can help. Or maybe you’ll meet somebody who just can bounce an idea off later. Ask you questions of.I meet people all the time that are good at SSIS, reporting services or DAX, or things that I’m not very good at. When I have questions, there is somebody I can just call on — that I’ve had a conversation with — and say, “Hey, can I ask you a question?”

Carlos: When we talked a little bit about events and we talked about getting to know people. Another thing that I’d like to encourage people to do is to get to know the vendors a little bit more. This is kind of with the eye towards adding that into your network, particularly the product folks, “Hey, what is it that you do and what problems are you trying to solve?”It may be, for example, a Dex vendor. I don’t know if there’s one out there like that. You may have nothing to do, that’s not even on your radar, but the next person that you talk to might have something. To be able to say, “Hey, you know what? I just talked to so and so at this vendor, they might be able to help.”

You’ve provided value to that person and the likelihood of them remembering who you are skyrockets.

Steve: Exactly. Somebody at work might ask you, “Hey, we need to do this thing with Dex. Do you know anything about it?” You go, “You know, I met somebody a few months ago. I’ll ask them. I’ll call them back.” Certainly, getting to know vendors is a good idea because some of us go to work for vendors. Some of us leave vendors and go somewhere else.There might be an opportunity for you to go to work there. Like you said, just answer a question for somebody else or at least have an idea of what could work.

Carlos: Right. I think the idea there tied in with the brand is that you’re creating a brand of being able to provide value, of being knowledgeable about different things. Having that network that people can at least run ideas by you and that they’ll know, “We’re kind of stumped with something. Let’s go ask Steve, see what he thinks.” Right?

Steve: Exactly.

Carlos: As we go and we do this, we’re networking. Individual events sometimes is difficult to get to, can be cost prohibitive. Are there other ways to grow that network? Social media, obviously, is one that has exploded here lately and allows us to scale our networking opportunities.

Steve: Absolutely. Yeah, social media’s a great way. There may be groups in your local area. I mean, there’s obviously pass groups, SQL Server user groups in your area, but there are often industry groups as well. For example, in Denver when I first moved here, we had a group called First Tuesday. It was basically a happy hour, restaurant or bar, on the first Tuesday of the month where IT professionals would get together.Everybody from CTO’s to DBA’s and Sys admins would have the chance to have a drink, just meet other people and talk. Certainly there’s those opportunities as well as more formal events that are industry specific. Social networking is a great way, it works the same as an in person event. I know it seems silly and seems like we’re not interacting with people when we’re not doing it face to face, but you could build some great relationships across distance by using Twitter, Facebook, Instant Messaging, even forum places like SQL Service Central or MSDN, the place where people ask questions and answer questions.

You can really build these strong bonds in the same way that we did it 100 years ago, by having pen pals, by writing letters back and forth. Except today we can do it in real time or near real time.

Carlos: One of the things we want to, I guess at least encourage folks, from my standpoint is that you can use social media for many things but we want to convey a professional air, if you will, when we’re trying to build our brand from a data professional perspective, right? I think there are certain social medias like Facebook, for example, I know a couple of people out there that are like, “If you’re going to invite me to your wedding or you think I might invite you to my wedding, then we can connect of Facebook.”Otherwise, we need to go to other mediums to interact in that professional way. Separating the lines, in a sense with, here’s my brand, here’s who I am in social media from a data professional perspective versus here’s my kids and my grandma at the family reunion.

Steve: Exactly. You certainly need to draw some separations. Denny Cherry is a friend of mine. He’s a well known consultant in the US who does a lot of SQL Server work. He is across all social media areas where he posts. Recently, he actually made that separation, where he set up a professional Facebook side for his business and for his career. Then he broke that with his personal Facebook group because he posts his opinions and different ideas on Facebook that aren’t work related.Certainly, you can cross the line, just like at work, when you’re actually in an office, there are some topics religion, politics, things that you don’t necessarily want to get too involved in at work because it’s not necessarily appropriate. You may offend somebody or you may get yourself too worked up and get upset. [laughs] You may say something inappropriate. I always encourage people to think about separating those things out.

For example, my Facebook is completely set to private for only my friends. I don’t share anything out there professionally. I typically don’t connect with professionals on Facebook. It’s typically for family and friends. There is Twitter, and my blog, and Linked In and other places where I do connect with other professionals.

I’m aware of what I post there really reflects on me as a DBA and a SQL Server professional. I don’t necessarily want to post things there or advocate for things that aren’t appropriate for my career.

Carlos: Sure, and ultimately again, we’re talking about that brand, and so you can be a political moderator if that’s what you want to do, but do that in that space.

Steve: Absolutely.

Carlos: If you’re going to create the social media space to build your brand as a data professional, then the topics and the related information needs to somewhat align with that. Now sure, you go to an event and you post pictures and stuff, that’s all, again, involved with that brand.

Steve: Exactly, we’re all conservative, or liberal, or independent, or something. We all know that but, when I’m trying to decide if you’re the person I call for an interview, or you’re the person I want to hire, I don’t really want to see that because it’s serves no real purpose. It’s as likely to offend me, or upset me, as it is to attract me to you.We want to present a positive, very professional image to potential employers. Recruiters, employers, HR people, hiring managers, somebody that’s going to look at our profile on social media we want them to see somebody that they want to hire, that’s going to fit in that position well.

If you want to be a political commentator, or you have a band, you’re a musician, or something, have a separate Twitter account, a separate Facebook. Just have a different place where you put that stuff.

Carlos: It can be overwhelming, particularly to see some of the other folks in the community who appear to be on social media 24/7…[laughter]

Steve: Yes indeed.

Carlos: They’re posting a lot of stuff out there. I know, I look at it, I’m like, “Wow.” Do we need to be on there all the time? What’s the balance? I’ve been meaning to ask some of these folks that host a lot, how they do that.

Steve: It’s certainly is, it’s amazing sometimes how many tweets, or Facebook posts I see from some people, it’s incredible. Certainly there are some tools that help you post in multiple places, or automate things that can maybe make it look like you’re more active than you are. Really, I look at social media just like I look at other social situations.At the office I may get up and go get a cup of coffee and I have the chance to chat with somebody in the hallway, or in the kitchen, and along the way, or I may catch somebody going in or out of a building and spend a couple of minutes there. That’s really how I treat social media, I try not to be too bogged down in it.

Part of my job as an evangelist is to keep track of it so I certainly do…we have some professional accounts for SQL server central and at Redgate, that are on social media. We monitor those a little more heavily.

For my account I may pop it up and look at it, and I just go on about my day for a while and maybe I take a couple minutes just to see something later, go on about my day. If I’m at an event, or if something is caught my eye that I’m reading, I may post that over there, as well. I try not to…the purpose isn’t to be on social media, the purpose is to be on the actives with other people socially, at your schedule, at your pace, whatever works for you.

I don’t set goals, and in fact I make it a point to turn things off, like I don’t have Twitter up today, it’s just off because I’ve got other things I need to accomplish today. [laughs] and I don’t need a distraction. Just like at work, I might put on headphones and just sit at my desk for a while because I need to actually get something done.

Carlos: Twitter can definitely be a big distraction.

Steve: It can.

Carlos: I also think, just like with the community, we shouldn’t necessarily be reserved in trying to share some other things. If we start building our brand, and start trying to help others, some of that…well, so most of us, particularly myself, there’s nothing that I’m going to share that a lot of other people don’t already know.But there may be other folks in my network that aren’t as familiar with it. Let’s take an example, like high availability. I maybe come up with something about high availability, always on. There’s books on it, there’s people, MVPs that are in that space. However, my network may still benefit from some of those things, so I don’t think we should be nervous, or feel like the content that we’re trying to provide is less valuable. Because again, that building our brand of folks who are willing to share that information, it will be helpful to someone.

Steve: Absolutely, I think one of the things that we don’t realize sometimes is how absolutely huge the world is. It is stunningly large and even something that’s incredibly popular on Twitter, really only makes it to a small fraction of the people that are out there. Because they’re not available at that time, they’re busy looking at something else, they just skip by it because there’s a whole list of other posted things that are there.I completely agree you shouldn’t get too bogged down in the idea that everybody else has seen what you’ve seen. The way that we personalize things these days, the way the software allows us to customize the views means that it’s entirely possible a lot of the people that you know haven’t seen something. Or they may not have seen the exact thing that popped up three seconds ago, but if you post it, it’ll appear there, or if you blog about it, it’s there.

To me, I always recommend people think about, what does this look like when somebody’s looking at me, not just what the world sees. Because potentially, an employer that look at my blog, or looks at my social media timeline, is looking for me to find out information about me. So it’s important that they see something about how I interact with the world, how I think, what my knowledge is. Rather than in the context of what everybody else has done.

Carlos: That’s a great point and again, building that brand. They’ll look at your book of work they can see it in totality. Let’s talk a little about your brand, and actually, as I get into it, it’s quite diverse. We talked about the editor at SQL server central. You’ve got “Database Weekly,” you’re with Redgate Software, you also host another site for “ModernResume.com.”

Steve: Yes.

Carlos: You blog at “Voice of the DBA.” You actually put out some podcasts under that same name, as well.

Steve: Yes.

Carlos: So, @way0utwest, your handle for Twitter perspective, and then your Hawaiian shirts.

Steve: Yes, exactly.[laughter]

Carlos: I went through it and I thought, “Holy cow.” That’s a lot of stuff, sounds like a lot of work. How do you keep that up?

Steve: How do I do that? Sometimes I look at my life and the amount of chaos that’s involved is stunning to me at times. I think I’m really just getting through the week, some weeks.[laughter]

Steve: The Hawaiian shirts are easy. I buy two or three a year, so that builds up over time and then it’s just a question of grabbing a clean one that’s ironed and I put it in the suitcase…[laughter]

Steve: That one’s easy. Some of what I do in that variety is because it’s a little bit of experimentation, it’s a little bit of trying to understand what works and doesn’t work, and it’s a little bit of trying to see how different parts, different areas there may reach different people. So I may get responses, or comments in different places on similar things I’ve posted. Some of it is a little bit of experimentation for me.For somebody that’s building their brand, for the most part it’s just about them. They’re not trying to advocate for anything other than their own career. Whereas, I worked for companies so I’m obviously advocating for them a little bit with the podcasts, and the events, and some of the other things I do.

The reason I have the Voice of the DBA as a blog, as opposed to just having SQL Server Central is I recognize I may not maintain this job forever, or I may want to go to work elsewhere so I want my own brand, my own place where I can have copies of all my work there. Really, I maintain that blog there specifically to build my career, if I actually have to go look for a job at some point that’s the place where I would try to send everybody. My professional career is, kind of, the SQL Server Central stuff and that’s what I do.

Database Weekly was a spin off from there as a way to kind of diversify our business. Fortunately, I don’t have to do that every week. We do about every third or fourth one depending, throughout the year, because that’s Red Gate Project SQL Server central and Database Weekly. I have a staff of people at Red Gate that help me do different pieces, and they do some of that.

The modern resume is a little bit of my volunteering effort. It’s a little bit of trying to give back to people to help them improve their careers. Certainly, I go to some of the SQL Saturdays to advocate for Red Gate, but a half of my go to-ers is really just volunteer effort. For me, taking time out of my life help improve my career because I can talk about different things. For me, it’s a volunteer effort. Try to teach people something, try to go and speak and help somebody else if you get better at SQL Server or their career, or something else.

I tend to do a lot. I’ve been successful. I’ve got a little bit lucky in my career. What I try to get people to do is think about pacing. Certainly there are times of the year where I don’t travel, my family comes first, other things with my kids come first. I have to put work and other things on a little bit of a pause there. Or I have to shift work around to make time for them.

That’s why I encourage everybody else. You’ve got to build your career and it is important, but its got to fit around the rest of your life. You’ve got to remember you have hobbies, you have a family, you have parents or kids or something else. I try to keep in some kind of balance there.

Carlos: You bring up an interesting point there with the volunteering and you mentioned that you do quite a bit of that. How do you think volunteering helps a person build their brand?

Steve: There is a number of things there. But one thing I come back to from a career perspective is that I’ve managed lots of people, in big groups, small groups in different areas of my career. I never want to micromanage somebody. I never want to have them be told to do every little thing. If I ask them to set up a server, I don’t expect to ask them to also set up backups and set up maintenance plans and go ask somebody what security they need, and those other things.I kind of expect them to do a little bit more than I ask them to do. Volunteering is a great way to show that you’re willing to do more than you are asked to do, especially if you volunteer at work. If you volunteer to teach somebody something or to build a utility or do something that helps another group. It’s a great way to A) make your job easier or make somebody else’s job easier, but it shows that you’re willing to do a little bit extra at work.

That’s a valuable skill because so many people are happy to just go do the bare minimum at work. If that’s what you want to do or maybe that’s the place you are in your life, that’s fine. Certainly people get married and divorced, somebody is sick, they have times in their life where they need to just do the bare minimum. If you do that for your entire career, if you do that for decades, you’re just an average person and you’re not necessarily a great employee for me as a manager.

Volunteering is one of those ways to show that you do more. The other thing is volunteering outside of work on top of helping your mental health, because I think that it’s important to give back and help society someway at some point in your life, you also build these skills in terms of just getting things done when you often don’t have good supervision to get requirements or good direction in a volunteer effort.

A lot of times volunteers just say, “I need some stuff done, would you please do it,” and you have to figure it out. Those are great skills and stories that aren’t really appropriate to talk about most of the time, but in terms of your career, those are good places to talk about, “Hey, I am learning these skills or I have done this thing elsewhere.”

Carlos: I think from the volunteering perspective, another benefit is the ability to be around other like-minded people. People who are working towards that goal. They’re trying to break away from the pack, if you will. By doing that, rubbing shoulders with them, getting engaged in the activities that they like, you’ll be able to build your network outside of the domain, outside of your work environment and you never know what kind of…again networking opportunities might arise from that.

Steve: Exactly. There’s a lot of technical opportunities to volunteer, there’s gift camps around the U.S. where you code for charities, you can spend a day or two doing that. Lots of organizations, from churches to non-profits and charities, they need technical help a lot of times and they can’t really pay for it very much. If you’re willing to volunteer an hour a week, two hours a month or something like that can be a great help them and also build some skills for you.

Carlos: Sure. Now, you don’t want to be pessimistic. But I think you feel like you should put a word of warning. Because occasionally, particularly volunteering at work is probably a good example. Every once in a while, the flaming bag of poo is going to come your way and here you’ve just raised your hands. “I’ll take it!” And yes, that will happen, you’ll have to work through that. Every assignment that you take won’t be the CEO…chatting with the CEO or even taking him out to lunch, that kind of thing.

Steve: Right.

Carlos: But again working through that, showing that you are willing to put in that dedication, that hours. When things then do become important, your manager has something that’s critical to their path, they’re more likely to pick you for the team because they know that you’re willing to put in the effort. If that is successful, the rewards are… big upside.

Steve: It could be a big upside, absolutely. It could be a downside too, the other thing is if you volunteer to do something at work and you’re doing this and all of a sudden it becomes more important, you may get stuck with two jobs.[laughter]

Carlos: Sure.

Steve: Yeah, I always say that whenever you’re going to volunteer like that, especially if you’re doing something at work, make sure your manager or somebody knows about it. That they’ve kind of given it a blessing and an approval, even if its tacit. At least they have agreed that you’re going to do something else and they understand where your time is going and what you’re doing.

Carlos: So then that feedback then becomes important. To let them know, “Hey, this task that I’ve been assigned or I’ve volunteered to take, whatever. This is the status, this is where I am at, I may need some help or whatever.”

Steve: Exactly. And then always make sure you kind of document, keep track of this stuff. Like I said, a lot of your volunteer efforts aren’t necessarily going to be appropriate for you to, you know, talk about or blog about something. But there are things you want to keep track of for you or for the next interview that you have. They are good stories and they’re appropriate in those places to talk about that.

Carlos: Sure, exactly. But I think overall consistency then is the key. To consistently kind of be out there, making yourself available. Again, doesn’t have to be 24/7 but doing something on a regular basis.I think about like the MacDonald’s, that’s a big brand. But you’re going to walk into a MacDonald’s in Kansas, in California, or in the Congo. You’re going to know the layout and you’re going to know you’re going to get a big Mac and it’s going to be pretty much the same. I think that’s what folks are looking for from a brand. It’s some consistency and if you’re willing to put in that effort, then you can built that brand. Again, hopefully the opportunities will come your way.

Steve: Right. It’s like I said, it doesn’t have to be a ton of time, maybe you go on Twitter once a week or LinkedIn once a week and you post something or you respond to something. You provide that consistency that Carlos is talking about, just on a regular basis.Again, ultimately at times stop and look at you profile, then pull up your particular profile. Like I go to Twitter and look at Way Out West, I just see kind of what I posted there and how that looks. Or I go to LinkedIn and just kind of look at my status activity because when somebody goes to look at my career, that’s what they look at. Not all the stuff that I’ve done a few minutes here and there. They kind of see it as one group, so I want to show that.

Carlos: Well, thanks Steve. I do appreciate the conversation. I think there has been some valuable information shared.

Steve: My pleasure.

Carlos: Before we let you go, just a couple of standard questions that add a little bit of value to those listeners. One of the things I would like you to talk about is some of the favorite SQL tools. This can be a paid tool or a free tool, whatever. What’s your favorite tool and why do you use it?

Steve: What’s my favorite tool? Right now, in terms of what I do which is a lot of kind of ad hoc just variety of touching things SQL Server, has to be SQL prompt. I worked for Red Gate software, and they make SQL prompt. But it’s one of those tools that’s absolutely incredible for me. Because a lot of times when I’m trying to find out what a parameter is or I’m not sure what the next way to write code is, that comes up very often, pops it up and it’s really handy.I’ve been using this since before Red Gate actually purchased the tool and so it’s amazing to me. It’s quite noticeable when I’m on an instance that doesn’t have prompt installed in magic studio. I don’t love the Microsoft Intellisense. I haven’t tried in 2016, but certainly in previous versions, it was less helpful. No Intellisence is difficult for me at times because I’m expecting things to be here. That’s a tool I use a lot.

Carlos: So we’ve been talking a little bit about branding and I guess I’m wondering if there is a favorite story or experience that you’ve had around branding or the data field that has helped you or can capture why it is that you enjoy what you do.

Steve: Why do I enjoy branding? There are several stories. I certainly have no shortage of stories where somebody has gotten a job through their brand on social media or somewhere else. But one of the things that really helped me early on in my career figure out where the branding matters is my wife. She spent 20 years in high technology, I think she worked for six or seven companies and eight or nice different jobs in those times.But in all that time, she really only had to send out groups of resumes once. She got one job. She is very personable, she’s been good technically at her job. But the efforts that she’s made to always get to know other people, network well, talk about her experiences with the managers, has paid off. In all that time in her career in the 20 years, she was constantly being called by people to say, “Hey. I have a job for you or send me your resume because I have a position that I would like to get you hired for.”

And that worked out great for her and even although she left technology four years ago and started her own business, self-employed, she’s been called every year by people that know her that say, “Hey, would you like to come work for us again?” To me, that’s an example of an amazing brand, maybe an extreme example. But it worked out really well for her and I’ve seen plenty of other people have small levels of success just with some networking and a little bit of social media and then blogging or being good at their job.

Carlos: OK, we have one more question. But before we do that, Steve, we would like to take a second for our listeners to hear about another way they can learn about SQL Server.[commercial break]

Carlos: OK, Steve. For our last question, if you could have one super hero power, what would it be and why would you want it?[laughter]

Steve: One super hero power, I think…I don’t know. I need something to heal my knees and joints right now because I’m getting older.[laughter]

Steve: I’m almost 50 and I’m struggling. So maybe healing, maybe healing is my power right now as I’m almost 50. Actually, I pulled a hamstring yesterday playing baseball, so I’m limping around today. Healing, if I could be a super healer, I think that would be what I want.

Carlos: Well, very good. Thanks again for being on the show, Steve. We do appreciate it. As always compañeros, we’ll see you on SQL trail.