I was notified of a database geek meme going around by some of the well-known SQL gurus (Paul Randal, Tom LaRock, Grant Fritchey, Tim Mitchell, and others) and since I was invited I thought that I would go ahead and participate as well. This one asks “What three things or events brought you here?”, so here’s my entry.
Microsoft Visual Basic 4.0 training
I was actually a finance guy in another life after doing some other odds-and-ends after college, nothing to write home about. (Or even acknowledge, really). I studied computers and got a degree in information systems, but chose for whatever reason not to go that route. COBOL, SAS, and JCL were the tools, and the IBM 360 IBM 3081 were the playgrounds. I wasn’t a great programmer or anything; all of the best ones were coming out of the computer science department, and not from the school of business. I was decent though, but remember fighting the computer into the late hours of the night, doing assignments and trying to get programs to run. Little did I know that I’d someday end up right back in the field.
While working for this finance company, I took notice of a guy by the name of Kevin Hill, you might have heard of the fellow, who was a colleague of mine, a really sharp computer guy, and a good friend. Kevin is a DBA at Terremark, formerly DataReturn, and works for super-MVP Jason Massie. Wow, hard to believe that Kevin and I have been friends for almost 20 years. He used to do some really neat database stuff as far back as 1995, while I was into office automation-type programming. We used these tools to get our jobs done efficiently and had a lot of fun back then. I happened to almost transfer to another state to work for their home office and take a true IT job, but turned down the offer. It’s difficult for us Native Texans to leave our home state, isn’t it?
The next best thing that awaited me was doing more of what I did in Dallas, and in order to do it even better I asked the branch manager if I could go to VB 4.0 training to learn more about programming Visual Basic. He had seen (and liked) some of the stuff that I did - tweaking of finance models, reporting, various tools - so agreed, wrote the check for 2 g’s, off I was and running. Geeking with Microsoft Access and Excel, I never thought that doing Visual Basic 4.0 and VBA would lead me to the world of relational databases, and watching Kevin do some really great stuff, I was drawn more to rows and columns more than the procedural world. I had even built a web site and made web pages back in 1997, but for some reason HTML didn’t feel right.
Don Bishop and Match.com
I left a really good job, took a pay cut, and got a chance to go full-time in IT. A little-known company by the name of the www.oneandonlynetwork.com owned www.oneandonly.com, was a thriving match and dating site based in Dallas back in the mid-90’s that no one really knew about, yet was booming in the early days of the internet. Run by a super sharp group, Will, Eva, and Nelson Bunker, and others, they hired me and eventually gave me the opportunity to be a DBA; had they not seen any potential, I would probably be some business analyst somewhere hating my job.
Later while there, a gentleman by the name of Don Bishop, who I refer to as my mentor, was hired on to take over the responsibilities of the database team. Don had been in computers almost fifty years, had owned his own business, was very IT savvy, and programmed and built systems for years. Under his close direction and training, I gained an incredible amount of knowledge within a very short period of time both in SQL Server development and administration. (Too bad a lot of the DBA candidates that I interview today didn’t have a ‘mentor’. They lack the skills and intangibles that take years to obtain because they don’t have someone to learn from).
One and Only Network sold the dating site to CitySearch.com, a USA Networks company, and merged it with Match.com. Today, Match thrives and is still the leading web site for finding that someone special. Don, in his 70’s, is retired now for the most part, although he worked up to last year and tells me that he would consider a contract position if it were close to his home. A brilliant IT and database technician, Don could to this day run circles around half of the DBAs in Dallas, and working with him was an inspiration and challenged me to greater heights. I went on to take c and c++ courses at the community college level, and eventually obtained an advanced degree in the field.
Moving to Software Architects – SARK – a consulting company that did custom application development was a major step in my career. Too bad the company was sold by another firm, because the place was really special. The thing that the move did for my career was increase greatly my ability to deliver, exposed me to some great developers and programmers, and taught me how to work on a team to deliver much within tight deadlines. SARK wasn’t a “body shop”, but rather a consulting firm staffed with top-notch individuals that delivered custom applications. Getting to work with these folks in a number of settings brought my skill-set to an even greater level, and for this I am thankful.