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Paul and the Butterfly Effect


So now that most of you reading this have come back home from either PASS Summit or MVP Summit and are trying to get your heads around being back home and/or in the office again, so grab a cup of coffee and allow me to share a story with you…

(for those of you who have no idea what I’m talking about – imagine a bunch of introverted computer geeks getting together, eating together, drinking various liquids together, learning together, and quite often having an amazingly good time while they’re at it)

This story started out as a response to a note Paul Randal (blog | twitter) wrote just after summit almost a year ago, and for any of you who’ve read my stories, you’ll be familiar with the phrase, “And it got me thinking” – usually about halfway down the story.  But this time it starts at the beginning, see, Paul wrote about this thing called “the butterfly effect” and he was talking about how making one small change in something could make major changes later on…

The links above are Paul’s, the links below will likely reference my own stories, which you’ll understand as you read along.

Paul asked for feedback on what he wrote about the butterflies, and I started writing, and thinking, and thinking, and writing.

And it went something like this:

Gosh, Paul,

It’s hard to figure out where the first butterfly flapped its wings in this story…

And please forgive me – it turned out longer than I expected, but you’ll understand when you get to the end.

I was working at Microsoft (1996-2000), and over time had sent out stories about my then 7 year old son (like this one) – and one day, I got a surprisingly snarky reply-all response back from a fellow I’d considered to be a friend.  We’d worked together (he in England, me in Redmond) – and while I wanted to fire back with all the self-righteousness in the world, how he, a young, single man, didn’t understand the joy that comes from having the privilege of having children, I backed off.

I checked with a trusted friend for advice, and then suggested to him, kindly, that in time, he would indeed understand the joy one can have experiencing a story like the one above, but he was not yet old enough to understand that.  I wished him well, and told him that I hoped that someday he would be able to experience that privilege.  I made sure not to burn any bridges, because his comment was based on youth and inexperience, and I truly valued his friendship.

Fast forward 10 years.

We’d both grown, we’d both lived, but most importantly, we’d stayed friends.

He’d moved to the US, worked for several companies, including the one I work for now, and is now back at Microsoft, based out of Chicago.

Some time back, he heard I was looking for work, and within a day, had written a letter of recommendation based on years of trust, years of both personal and professional friendship, and in part due to that – I had an opportunity to interview and was subsequently hired.

I had/got/made/took opportunities to speak (I did sessions down at SSWUG.org for a few years) and then got involved in the SQL community, starting, as I recall, with Chris Shaw (blog | twitter ).  He was one of the speakers at one of the SSWUG sessions at the time (I didn’t know about PASS then), and I was just being me, flipping him crap, and he flipped it back.  We laughed, then he asked if I wanted to speak.  I couldn’t imagine him asking that, but he did, and the conversation went like this:

“Have you ever done any public speaking?”

“Only Eulogies.”

<crickets>

“No really.  One was for my dad, and one was for a friend in my cancer survivor’s support group.”

I couldn’t imagine anything more stressful than doing a eulogy for your own dad, or for a friend who had died of the same disease you were fighting, too, so I figured I’d give it a shot.  How hard could it be, right?

Little did I know – but I worked hard, made some presentations, and I did it for three years. I met wonderful people there (Chris Shaw & Wendy Pastrick  ( blog | twitter ) were with me in the studio one of those times) and met others through the sessions.

Wendy Pastrick, me, and Chris Shaw

Wendy Pastrick, me, and Chris Shaw

…and Paul, I had a ball doing it.

This year I spoke at the SQLSaturday in Portland just before Summit – on communication, and how important it is, and how hard it is to do well. (I have a Bachelor’s degree in Communication and a Master’s in Visual Communication (photojournalism) and am still learning)

And it got me thinking, as so many stories do…

Had I gotten mad at John (the friend in Chicago) and burned that bridge way back in 1997 when I sent that original emailed story out (I think it says 1998 in the one on the blog) – then I wouldn’t have had him as a resource to get the job I have today.

Had I not gotten that job, I wouldn’t have had the speaking opportunity in Tucson.

…nor would I have gone to Summit.

Or had the opportunities to speak.

Or made the friends I’ve made.

I wouldn’t have realized there were other people just as lonely as I was out there who worked in their own little cubicle, being one of very few people in their companies doing what they do.

I wouldn’t have learned about #sqlhelp, and #sqlfamily, and summer camp for geeks (Summit)

I wouldn’t have learned that just by tweeting something with DBCC in it, in short order you could get an answer from the guy who wrote it.

As a result, my mind has been in a state of continuous bogglement (if that’s a word) for the last 7 years.

(you realize this list could go on for a good long while.)

But I did learn – and I know a little about these things now.

I know there are folks out there who will help, who will encourage, and who will cheer me on should I need it.

Just today, I found myself on the cheering/encouraging end of that equation (one member of the SQL community came home from Summit to one less family member in the house)

I don’t know if in doing that, I was a butterfly helping someone in their own life journey. I don’t know..

And I don’t think any of those things (that family member excluded) would have happened had I gotten mad at John those many years ago.

Yes, I do think about that.

Oh, speaking of John… He and his wife now have two boys – and he understands.

Take care Paul – thanks for making me think – that was fun.

Tom

PS: not to overload you, but to take the butterfly back even further – almost 100 years ago, there was this little piece of Russian Shrapnel

if it hadn’t hit where it did, you wouldn’t be reading any of this.

And I sent it…

And just now – it got me thinking some more…

Some of the butterflies in life are good ones.  Some are bad ones.

All of them got you to where you are today.

So I’ll end this one, uncharacteristically, with a question:  As you think back, What are your butterflies? What got you to where you are today?

Take care out there, folks,

Tom

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Posted by on November 6, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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Life Lessons from SQLSaturdayABQ – Including one from Bugs Bunny


SQLSaturdayABQ

So it’s been a couple of weeks – but SQL Saturday ABQ has finally simmered long enough for me to write about it. I learned so much about so many things down there, and am tremendously grateful for the opportunity to share not only a meal and some learning with professional colleagues, but also reconnect with old friends and make new ones.

The trip down was great – I found out that putting my phone into Airplane Mode seemed to put some pretty cool Airplanes into pictures of an already gorgeous landscape.

I learned the Albuquerque is at 5,000 feet, and for someone used to living at sea level, I learned to appreciate the simple things in life, like, say, air.

(On our second day there the wonderful friend we were staying with took us up to the Sandia Peak Tramway. She and my wife enjoyed the gift shop at the lower elevations while I, still getting used to the 5,000 foot elevation,  went up another 5000 feet on the tram.

No, no oxygen masks fell out of the sky, but I could definitely feel all 10,378 feet of altitude there.

After I got back down, we explored some more, stopped at some lower elevations, and got a little perspective on the mountains for a little further north,

We stopped in a little town called Bernalillo and saw the Coronado Historic Site (above), and could hear the Rio Grande River gurgling down below. It was so different from what we have here in Washington – one could easily say it’s ugly and brown, but that would be missing the point – it’s got a beauty all its own, and needs to be looked at with different eyes.

As for the sessions with SQL Saturday itself…

I learned things about PowerShell in the session from Mike Fal ( b | t ) that made me want to get my hands dirty and try to find problems we’re struggling with in our environments that could be solved with a little PowerShell, and he proved that yes, you can indeed type in a demo, and then promptly demo’d why not to do it. J I loved the examples he gave, and the fact that he stuck with “learn the concepts, don’t freak about the code” – in large part because, just like in Field of Dreams (if you build it, they will come), with PowerShell, if you learn the concepts, the code will follow. You just have to understand what you want to do first – and that happens with the concepts. I’ve learned that if you give someone a problem first, and then give them a pile of tools, they’ll figure stuff out, and you’ll see creative juices flowing as they start thinking about new ways to solve old problems. It’s kind of fun to watch, and more fun to be part of.

I didn’t take any pictures of Jason Horner’s (b|t) session, but I enjoyed his presentation very much, which was full of demos and examples of databases much bigger than the ones I handle. As I recall, there were 4 (FOUR) MCM’s in the room… We were walking on hallowed ground there – and just that level of conversation, questions, and knowledge was fun to be around. I look forward to seeing more of his presentations, and applying what I learned there.

John Morehouse’s ( b | t ) session on social media had an interesting cross section of people in it – some quite experienced who are used to it, but always looking for new things to learn, and some who were absolutely new to the game and had never, ever used it.

John talked about how it can benefit you professionally, how easy it is to blur the lines between personal and professional, and how to do your best to keep them separate if needed. He made a very valid point that no matter where you are, you’re an ambassador for your company – so “think first, then post” along with the idea that once you hit send, it’s out there. Know your company’s policies on social media. That’s a huge thing. Even if you think it’s a private message, the wrong screenshots in the wrong places can be embarrassing for a long time. We also had a live demo of twitter, and how to do everything from getting a question answered with #sqlhelp, to getting a job via social media.

And I learned a lot – I got better doing my presentation on “Life Lessons in Communication” for the second time – and finally getting the butterflies in my stomach to at least fly in formation. I learned a lot from my audience, and had something totally off script pop into my head during the presentation – with the simple sentence of, “Are you solving the problem? Or managing it?” I realized I learned as much from my own presentation and audience as they did from me. Oh – and lessons are everywhere. You don’t even have to look hard. You just have to pay attention.

It was a lot of fun.

Many, many thanks to Meredith ( b | t ) and crew for getting everything together, and for the absolutely wonderful speaker’s dinner the night before. (what was that smokey salsa-y stuff on the chips? that was amazing!)

What came next was a time that can only be described as a slice of heaven.

Any of you in the IT industry know that the whole work/life balance thing is something that has to be managed very, very deliberately.  The cost of not managing it can be ridiculously high.

And so, for the next few days, I was able to spend that precious thing called time chatting with my wife and our friend, getting incredible amounts of fuzz therapy from two wonderful dogs, and just spending time away from the computer.  I allowed myself the time to absorb some of the lessons I’d learned at SQLSaturdayABQ, and then, as I watched some of the hot air balloons drift by, I realized that not all of the lessons I learned there had to do with SQL… a lot simply had to do with life. Some of them are still simmering, but all of them will end up in a story sooner or later.

Again – thanks to…

…all who attended the presentation (Jason had said I couldn’t start until he was there – I had the pre-presentation butterflies and was quietly hoping for him to be late – but he was there in the front row when I got there – so there was no backing out at all :-) –

…to Avanade for giving me the time off to go do this, and

…to our wonderful friend for sharing her lovely home and hospitality with us, and last but most certainly not least

…to my family for their patience and faith in me as I worked through it.

There are many more lessons out there to be learned, and as I find them, I’ll do my best to share them.

Oh, here’s just one:

You know how Bugs Bunny always says, “I knew I should have taken a left turn at Albuquerque!“?

I now know why he couldn’t do that.  🙂

Take care out there, folks…

Tom

 
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Posted by on March 2, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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GEEQL Speaks! :-)


SQLSaturdayPortland

Hey all,

I’m honored, thrilled, and just a wee bit terrified to have been chosen to speak at the Portland SQL Saturday, November 1st.

(and I blame Julie (B | T) for this) 😉

Many of you have read the stories I’ve written here about SQL or the stories about life on my other blog.  Well, here’s your chance to actually hear some of them with the tidbits of knowledge I’ve picked up along the way and how it all applies to life at work..

I’ve learned much over the years and it seems like it’s time to start giving back. My presentation will be about communication – and a few of the ways I’ve learned about how to do it better.

On the Agenda (barring any last minute changes) will be lessons as you see below using stories, illustrations, and examples you might not expect, but do indeed get the point across, and tell a story.

So, if you’re curious – here’s the outline I’ll be working from:

Communicating: The Various Directions

  • Across to peers/other departments
  • Up to management/leadership
  • Down to Support your directs
  • Getting the right numbers to the right people
  • Using numbers effectively (Presentations)
  • Understanding your audience
  • Using those numbers to
    • Help state your case
    • Help get what you want
    • Polish your resume
  • Communicating “Oops”
  • Sometimes, Things go wrong
  • Communication during Emergencies

And last but not least – why it’s all important.

I look forward to seeing, learning, and laughing with you there.

Tom

 

 

 
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Posted by on October 28, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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