Interview – Chrissy LeMaire

I decided to start a series of blogs where I interview key people in the SQL Server community. Instead of me asking technical questions, I plan on asking about their outlook on the future, books they read (non-fiction and/or technical),  and their overall thoughts on where technology (mainly SQL Server) is headed. You can find more interviews here.

Next up: Chrissy LeMaire (b | t):

Chrissy LeMaire
Chrissy LeMaire

Mohammad: Where do you see SQL Server technology evolving to 5 years from now? More cloud focused?

Chrissy: I’m the opposite of a visionary and really have no idea. That being said, five years doesn’t seem very long; I think it’ll take closer to 10 years for to fully realize the cloud thing. Microsoft may be cloud-focused, but the industries I work in are still very on-premises when it comes to Microsoft software.

Mohammad: Do you ever see the traditional SQL Server DBA role being replaced/eliminated?

Chrissy: I have seen a downturn in pure DBA job postings over the past decade, but ultimately, I see the position evolving but not being eliminated. The same question is often posed to SharePoint administrators and I just don’t see them going away either.

Either way, I’ve always considered development as an important part of database administration. Initally, with T-SQL and VBScript and now with T-SQL and PowerShell. I think it’s more important now than ever to ensure that SQL Server database administrators know the dev side, considering the trend towards DevOps.

Mohammad: What are you most proud of doing/accomplishing for the SQL Server community so far in your career?

Chrissy: I’m really proud of how effective my PowerShell advocacy has been.
Last year, just prior to the release of SQL Server 2016, I wrote a blog post titled “Can we get these three SQLPS issues fixed before SQL Server 2016 RTMs?” – and it got a lot of attention from the SQL Server community and Microsoft. Ultimately, with the help of the community and key figures at Microsoft, we did get those three issues resolved for SQL Server 2016’s RTM debut AND we also picked up a dedicated PowerShell engineer for the SQL Server team in the process!

I was just so floored when I was told that the engineer brought on to resolve those three issues ultimately stayed on permanently to work on the SQL Server PowerShell module. Since then, the module has become more stable and many new commands have been added.

In addition, Aaron Nelson and I created a couple Trello boards (PowerShellSSMS) that help Microsoft triage requests for SQL PowerShell and SQL Server Management Studio. It was nothing short of magic to see the Trello board mentioned in Release Notes. Many of the highest voted commands from the community made their way right into the module and that’s such a huge win for everyone.

On a personal front, I’m crazy proud of the PowerShell project I created, dbatools. In the past year, we’ve had nearly 50 contributors to our GitHub repo, which was ultimately moved from my personal GitHub account to an organizational account that now hosts other community projects as well.

For a long time, the SQL community was told that PowerShell was really powerful and that they needed to learn it, but until dbatools, I don’t think there was a project that solidified PowerShell’s potential for us.

I always knew that PowerShell was mind-blowing and wanted to create a project that got people to say either “OH! WOW! Okay! Now I’m going to learn PowerShell not because I have to, but because I want to!” or “Okay, now I see that I can accomplish a lot without even knowing how to program PowerShell. Let’s do this!” dbatools has done both.

Actually, many of my favorite commands in the toolset are often the ones inspired by community blog posts – like Test-DbaVirtualLogFileTest-DbaMaxMemoryExport-DbaExecutionPlan and Get-DbaBackupHistory.

I also love the commands that turn tedious, multi-step processes into single commands like Start-SqlMigrationNew-DbaDatabaseSnapshot or Test-DbaLastBackup. All of these commands make SQL Server administration more accessible and even more fun.

Mohammad: What non-technical/non-fiction book/s would you recommend? If you only read technical books…what do you recommend?

Chrissy: I really enjoy management and negotiation books even though I’ve never wanted to be a manager. Some of the better ones have had really positive impacts on my outlook in life and my faith in people. Here are three that come to mind.
First, Break All the Rules: What the World’s Greatest Managers Do Differently

The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership

Secrets of Power Negotiating

I also think there are some technical books worth mentioning. Neuro Web Design is an older book, but it’s still very interesting, fun and easy to read. It’s kind of a mix of psychology and tech.

Neuro Web Design: What Makes Them Click? 

Also, PowerShell in Action by Bruce Payette is an all-time favorite. It’s very well-written and tells an interesting story. It’s the kind of book I enjoy reading on a Sunday with some coffee and sunshine.

PowerShell in Action

Mohammad: For someone who’s career focus has been on one aspect of SQL Server (i.e. Database Engine), do you think it would be wise for them to become a “jack of all trades” by starting to learn, SSRS/IS/Azure, etc. or remain focused on their area of expertise? In another words, which would you say is more valuable? mile wide / inch deep or inch wide / mile deep?

Chrissy: I think that expertise requires an all-encompassing understanding of technology. So even though I’ve been an OLTP DBA most of my career, I’ve also been a web developer, DNS admin, Linux admin, Active Directory admin, SharePoint admin, VMware admin and so on. Each of those things help me better understand the whole stack and ultimately make me a better DBA.

All-in-all, I think it’s best to be a generalist with a specialty. So I’ll often take a month or three and give myself a project to understand something like SSRS or SSIS. I’m not trying to become an expert, but it’s good to be able to do what I support.

The downside to this is that there will be times that I suck at something I am expected to know and was once really good at. Take database design and T-SQL development, for example. I used to do it all the time, but it’s been awhile and without a refresher, I wouldn’t be as good as I once was. I think that’s natural, however, and I’m happy with what’s currently occupying my brain (PowerShell, PowerShell, PowerShell ;)

7 Replies to “Interview – Chrissy LeMaire”

  1. Great interview! I started learning Powershell as soon as I became a SQL Server DBA. After packaging over 20 functions into a ‘SQLTOOLS’ module, I’m still learning new and cool stuff within the language. I’m glad to hear that MS has designated a full time PS engineer to the SQL Server DBMS.
    I also liked her recommendation of Powershell in Action by Bruce Payette, one of the best on the topic in my opinion.

    1. Thank you Ted! I’m fairly new to PS. I tend to get intimidated by the amount of learning I need to do. After interviewing Chrissy, I feel like I can do it!! She’s genuinely an asset to the community! I might end up buying that book, but the 3rd Edition is coming out soon. I think I should wait until it’s out!

      1. Another very good book is by Donabel
        Santos – SQL Server 2012 with Powershell V3 Cookbook. Gives some
        Great examples to get you started.
        I’ll be looking for Bruce’s third edition!
        Let me know if you would like me to
        share some of my PS code as examples.

        1. Agreed, about Donabel Santos’s book — it’s one of my go to references and I should have included it!

          But I do recommend the updated version, SQL Server 2014 with PowerShell V5 Cookbook. The book’s coding style is one of the most important updates. I’m also the tech editor for that edition ;)

          1. Thanks for the suggestion Chrissy!

            So for a SQL Server DBA, would you suggest the “SQL Server 2014 with PowerShell v5 Cookbook” instead of “Windows PowerShell in Action” since it focuses more on PS + SQL, rather than learning PS as a whole?

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