IEPTO2: Performance Tuning and Optimization – Part 2 (Competition)

Paul Randal, of SQLSkills, recently announced a chance to win a free seat in their 5-day IEPTO1 or IEPTO2 classes in October (2017). You can sign up for their SQL Insider’s newsletter here.

I was extremely fortunate to attend IEPTO1 back in Spring 2015 and blogged about it here.

This blog post is hopefully to win a free seat in IEPTO2.

Why I want to attend IEPTO2 taught by SQLSkills

After attending IEPTO1, I was confident enough to interview and get a job that treasured employees that seek knowledge in their field. At the recommendation of Tim Radney, of SQLSkills, I created this blog, purchased my very first heavy-duty laptop (Dell M6800, 32GB RAM, 1.5TB SSD, etc) to create a lab environment, and did all the IEPTO1 homework that Kimberly and Paul suggested we do.

I want to attend IEPTO2 because in my current job, I am the SQL Server Engineer solely in charge of deploying a high available solution, using Windows Server Failover Cluster and SQL Server, as part of the Joint Strike Fighter (F35) program. I want to dive deeper into SQL Server!

Why I’ll make the best use of the knowledge I’ll get from being in the class

Since everything is being built from scratch, the knowledge I would get from IEPTO2 would directly relate to my current job. Topics such as Module 2 (IO concepts), Module 3 (Storage) and Module 4 (SQLOS / CPU) would help me tremendously in the production build-out of the SQL Server environment. I could literally put to use what I learned as soon as I got back from attending IEPTO2. What perfect timing for a chance to win!

What my favorite performance tuning challenge is

My favorite performance tuning challenge is index tuning. When it comes to performance tuning indexes, I have to admit that I need more experience/knowledge. It’s still my favorite though because I know how HUGE of a difference having the right indexes make in performance! I remember a story Kimberly told (during IEPTO1) about a client that had the wrong indexes. and were having horrible performance. Once she tuned the indexes, the SQL Server was blazing fast! I love that type of stuff!

[UPDATE: 08/14/2017 – Congratulations to all the winners!]

What Should My Salary Be?

What Should My Salary Be?

There are two questions that you just don’t ask people. It can create animosity and can even cause relationships to break. One of those questions is, “how much do you make?”

(If you’re wondering what the other question is, it’s, “Who are you going to vote for?” Not a great idea to get into politics with people.)

At any rate, the problem with asking someone “how much do you make” is not just because that’s a personal/private question. It can create a judgmental atmosphere. Have you ever worked with someone who was less technical than you but somehow you found out how much they were making? And it happened to be more than you? How did you feel? How did your attitude towards that person change once you found out?

That’s why you stay away from that information. The issue arises when negotiating salary. It’s somewhat important to know what your “worth” is. How much should you ask for. Is what I am asking for possibly going to remove me from consideration?

Recently, Brent Ozar published a blog titled, “Tell Us What You Make: The 2017 Data Professional Salary Survey“. In that blog, there was a link to a quick little survey that collected information like salary, location, years of experience, etc. Of course it was all anonymous.

To my surprise, over 2000 people took the survey. Of course, the more people that take the survey, the better the information. But the flip side to that is people can fool around and enter a bunch of garbage. For example, there are a few people making over MILLION dollars as a SQL Server Analyst and Manager (see below)

What Should My Salary Be

Really? 1.45 million? I highly doubt that.

Aside from the “Who Wants to Marry a SQL Server Millionaire Analyst”, there are a couple pieces of information that we can derive from this survey:

  • Having a 4-year college degree does NOT guarantee a higher salary
  • Any one technology (SQL Server vs Oracle vs Amazon) does NOT mean a higher salary
  • Job title does not guarantee a higher salary over another, i.e. DBA vs Analyst vs Engineer
  • Number of years of experience does NOT guarantee a higher salary
  • Certifications do NOT guarantee higher salary

So you might be thinking, “what the heck does guarantee a higher salary?” Well, it depends. It all comes down to what you feel comfortable with? The trap that we should not fall into is comparing ourselves to others based on salary/income. My view is, follow your passion (whatever that is) and learn it inside out. The money will follow. Don’t get greedy and think you can ask for 200k when you just got out of college with zero years of real-world experience. Everything within reason.

Speaking about passion; I love SQL Server and just started playing around with Power BI. I will use the data in this excel document to create some interesting charts/graphs and update this post once I do!

Until then, keep learning!

FREE Microsoft eBooks!

Sometimes the best stuff is FREE!

I recently came across this Microsoft site when I was searching for whitepapers. It’s part of the Microsoft Virtual Academy. They not only have free ebooks, but they also have free virtual courses.

They offer virtual courses and free ebooks on some of the newest technology out there. There are ebooks on SQL Server 2016, Windows Server 2016, and Microsoft Azure.

I highly recommend checking them out at:

How To Study Smarter Not Harder

How To Study Smarter Not Harder

One of my “New Year resolutions” is to increase my knowledge. As an IT professional, it is crucial to stay abreast with the constant changes in technology. The new replaces the old and by the time you get around to learning the new, that becomes old. As someone who works closely with SQL Server, I find it extraordinarily cumbersome to stay abreast of the new trends and technologies. Just SQL Serve 2016 alone has so many cool new features. Imagine the constant updates with Microsoft Azure. All that can be demotivating.

According to a Forbes article, more than 40% of people make a “New Year’s resolution” and only 8% keep them. People fall victim to a lack of motivation, will power, patience, etc. etc.

I came across a video lecture on Youtube that absolutely changed my outlook on studying/learning. What I grew up thinking as “studying” was not even close. Psychology professor Dr. Marty Lobdell’s lecture is called, “Study Less, Study Smart”, and has absolutely opened my eyes to what I’ve been doing wrong my entire academic life. I have summed up his points below, but I highly recommend checking out his entire lecture here (or watch it below).

Facts vs Concepts – Dr Lobdell says that anyone can lookup facts, but concepts last a life time. Understanding concepts is most important because “googling” for facts is easy.

Recognition vs Recollection – According to Dr Lobdell, people tend to confuse “recognition” and “recollection.” Below is the definition of each:

Defintion of Recognition


Definition of Recollection

Note the second bullet for “recognition”, you need a previous encounter or knowledge to recognize something. But for “recollection”, it’s a memory. For example, kids think they are “recalling” something from memory, but in fact they are not. They are recognizing from some mental trigger. Which is why they end up not remembering it during an exam.

Sleep – Everyone needs adequate sleep. It’s only when we reach our REM state  when what we’ve studied starts to get “imprinted” into our long term memory. There has been many studies on this. Sleep is huge!

Note Taking – I used to take copious notes. Some times I would copy the entire lecture slides, but when  I got home and looked back at my notes, I was totally confused. Dr Lobdell says to take notes and then immediately after class go back and “flesh out” the notes. Add more to it since it’s fresh in your memory. If you don’t remember, you can ask a classmate or the teacher. This will help you study better at home.

Teach it / Active Recitation – When you learn something, the best way to test whether you truly understand it is to teach someone else. Find your roommate, sibling, or parent. If you live alone, Dr Lobdell says teach it to an empty chair. Just the act of speaking it out loud will help!

Mnemonics – When you need to memorize facts, use “mnemonics.” The meaning of mnemonics = anything that facilitates learning/recalling. Dr Lobdell mentions three ways: 1. Acronyms (Roy G Bv, colors of the rainbow). 2. Coined Sayings (12 Cranial Nerves). 3. Interacting Images (the weirder the image the higher  chance you will remember the subject)

SQ3R – Stands for Survey, Question, Read, Recite, Review – This is huge. Usually people tend to open the book when they are looking for an answer. Dr Lobdell says when you first get the book, open it and “survey / question” it. Meaning, skim the the pages, ask yourself questions, see the pictures, bold headers/words, get familiar with it. You are training your brain to look for answers. Then you read it. Recite it (try to teach it to someone else). If you do this thoroughly, then by exam time all you have to do is Review and you’re ready to ace it!

On to a successful 2017!

Your 5 Favorite Blog Posts of 2016

Here are the top 5 blog posts of 2016:

1. How to Find Last Login Date of a SQL Server Login? – This was by far the most clicked on blog. It looks like a lot of people need to secure their SQL Server environments :)

2. How to Request a DoD Server Certificate – Working in the DC area, I have a lot of experience working with DISA STIGS, securing and hardening SQL Server.

3. Perfmon Create New Data Collector Set Grayed Out (FIX) – Apparently a lot of people have this issue. The good sign is that people are searching on how to FIX it!

4. How to Read SQL Server Error Log Using sp_readerrorlog – A blog on how to read through the SQL Server error log a lot faster and neater.

5. How to Create SSL Certificate for SQL Server – This goes with #2 above. The process of creating an SSL Certificate for SQL Server can be daunting. I have outlined how to do it here.

Please Avoid Get Rich Quick Schemes Like These

I recently came across a tweet by Microsoft MVP Adam Machanic (b | t) that caught my attention (see below):

Avoid Get Rich Quick Schemes

3 hours Eh?

At first glance I thought Adam was serious. Then logic settled in. How can anyone master anything in 3 hours? Absolute nonsense. The best way to judge these courses is contacting the trainers/teachers, before making any purchases, and asking them how long it took THEM to “master” the subject. Then, reach out to professionals already in the field via social media, email, etc and ask them what they think of the course. Always do your research before you shell out your hard-earned cash.

A Question for the Scammers

What if this was your wife, daughter, uncle, or other dear family member that paid over 3000.00 for a course like the one mentioned above.. would you be okay with that?

Pros & Cons of Following MCM & MVPs on Twitter

I follow over 80 people on Twitter. Over 30 of them are MVPs and/or MCMs.

That means when I wake up in the morning and scroll through my Twitter timeline…all I see are tweets to intellectual blog posts, discussions, #sqlhelp replies to tough questions, etc.

This is why following so many MCM and MVPs on Twitter (social media) is like a double-edged sword. Let’s start with the cons:


On one side, I’m constantly reminded of how much I do NOT know. How much I need to learn, etc. It’s very hard to remain satisfied with your own level of absorbing knowledge when you are constantly “bombarded” by MVPs and MCMs.


On the other side, it’s pure motivation for anyone who loves to learn and better themselves. Learning and growing takes time. Be patient and more importantly be humble. Don’t forget that SQL Server experts like Paul Randal and Kimberly Tripp, started out not knowing much about SQL Server (yes I know that’s hard to believe).

Doors Open For Those Who Knock?

Sure. But just because a door opens doesn’t mean it’s wise to walk through it.

For example: Let’s say you are offered a job because you just “knocked on the door” and didn’t actually prepare yourself. You’ll quickly find yourself being put in a very tough spot and eventually laid off.

I have seen people get hired based on lying on their resume and after a few months get laid off because of their performance.

Doors Open For Those Who Are Prepared

Now on the other hand, imagine you took the time to study and prepare yourself. You setup a home lab environment, attended tech conferences, SQL Saturdays, User Group meetings, watched Pluralsight and other training videos, etc. All that will not only help with increasing your knowledge but it will start to open the right door for your professional advancement. You will start to make sense of all those professional MCM / MVP blogs and #sqlhelp answers. That in turn will increase your confidence which will lead to more learning and growing. Hopefully.

My Review of Immersion Event on Performance Tuning and Optimization 1

I was fortunate enough to attend IEPTO1 (Immersion Event on Performance Tuning and Optimization part 1) by Kimberly Tripp (twitter) and Paul Randal (twitter) of SQLSkills this past Spring. It was absolutely amazing! If you are a DBA, developer, or just an IT tech geek who loves to learn then you must attend this event. Find registration information here.

Getting situated…

I flew in on Saturday and stayed with a friend. Some people stayed at the hotel where the event was taking place. I was staying only a couple miles away from the event so it was bad at all.

On the very first day, before class started, Kimberly reassured us that we will not go hungry. There was so much food! Breakfast and lunch was served every day. Snacks, soda, coffee/tea, water were all available throughout the day. The last thing anyone worried about was an empty stomach.

The conference room was a bit chilly but I got used to it. If you easily get cold then I advise wearing a fleece or light sweater.


The agenda is no joke. Before I even thought about signing up for this event, I watched SQLSkills MCM videos at least 2-3 times each and still was in for a surprise.

The IEPTO1 event is broken into 11 modules spread over 5 days:

Module 1: Database Structures
Module 2: Data Files
Module 3: Locking & Blocking
Module 4: Versioning
Module 5: Logging & Recovery
Module 6: Index Internals
Module 7: Index Fragmentation
Module 8: Internals & Data Access
Module 9: Statistics
Module 10: Cardinality
Module 11: Indexing Strategies

It was an immense amount of information. I definitely plan on attending IEPTO2.

Kim and Paul encouraged everyone to go back home and practice, practice, practice! They sent us back with demo scripts, notes, homework, printouts, and a few goodies. (see pic below)

SQLSkills Event

On the last day we all got a certificate of completion (see below) and posed for a group picture! Paul asked us to “act silly”…and yes, that is Paul in the back doing what seems like choking (or trying to kiss) Tim Radney. :)


Immersion Event Performance Tuning and Optimization

With All Due Respect…

Recently at work, I came back from lunch to my coworkers yelling,

We’ve been looking for you! You need to restore the database!

I was extremely surprised and caught off-guard by the verbal attack. I tried my best to keep my cool, even though my heart was racing fast, and asked for further explanation as to why I should “restore the database?”

They replied, “We can’t connect to our application!

After some reflection I came up with two issues I had with what happened that day:

1. The fact that this application was an internal reporting software application with NO outside client connections. Despite this, they threw professionalism and common respect out the window by ganging up on me. Now, don’t get me wrong. I do understand their frustration…but still people should have basic common respect in how they speak to other people.

2. By yelling, “restore the database!” they belittled my intelligence as a SQL DBA. Telling me what the problem is can be a little insulting. It’s like me going to a doctor and tell him what my problem is.

After further troubleshooting, I figured out the reason why their application was not connecting to SQL Server was due to an expired SQL Account password. I reset the password and the application came online. No “restore the database” needed.

The “takeaway” of this blog post is be comfortable in your duties in whatever you do. Be confident. Be proud. Be humble. Always seek to increase your understanding and knowledge in whatever area you work in. Don’t worry when people (who don’t do what you do) yell at you and tell you how to do your job.

Keep your calm.

People You Meet Along The Way

There are always people you come across in life that stand out from others. They are the ones that end up becoming life long friends.

In terms of my professional career, there are two people that I credit for being a DBA and starting this blog.

One of them is an ex-coworker of mine I met in 2012. I remember meeting him for the first time. He was the Senior DBA and extremely helpful. One day he asked where I see my career going in five years and I told him I’d like to get into “programming.” He advised that I try out database administration. I ended up working with him for the next 2-3 years and I thank him to this day for suggesting that I pursue the path of a SQL Server DBA. I can’t express how content I am to have taken his advice.

The other person that played an important role in the direction my career is going is Tim Radney. Tim is a Principal Consultant with SQLSkills and was at the IEPTO1: Immersion Event on Performance Tuning and Optimization Training I took earlier this year (read the review here). Even though he wasn’t training the course, he took the time in between breaks and lunch to answer my random SQL questions. He advised I start a blog and work on making a name for myself. I took his advice to heart and this blog is a testament to that. If it wasn’t for his suggestion to start this blog, I probably wouldn’t have done it.

My tip to any upcoming professional is that positive change cannot take place unless it’s rooted in humility. It is extremely easy to think that you know everything and you don’t need anyone’s help. That mentality is probably one of the biggest roadblocks to growing as an individual both in your personal and professional life. Be humble. Be open.