Interview – Kendra Little

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: Kendra Little (b | t):

Kendra Little
Kendra Little

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

Kendra: Over five years time, I think we will see a “normalizing” of many of the more recent advancements we’ve had in the technology. So yes, I think there will be more people using the cloud as those features continue to mature.

But I also think we will have more people using columnstore indexes, and in-memory technologies, which Microsoft has shown they are continuing to invest in. We’ll have more established patterns about where these features are particularly strong, and also more opportunities to be creative with them.

And of course we’ll have more opportunities to make mistakes with them and fix them, too!

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

Kendra: I did a recent “Dear SQL DBA” podcast episode where I talked about this very issue. So you know I think this is a good question! :)

The only role I see being potentially eliminated within 10 years is the “traditional” DBA who only takes care of backups, maintenance jobs, and user access. That isn’t new: over the last 10 years, it’s been increasingly required that the DBA be a problem solver who communicates well, learns the needs of their customers, and participates in creating solutions. Sometimes those solutions are more infrastructure based, sometimes they are more software based. IT workers in general are increasingly required to learn new technologies and adapt them to solve their customers’ problems, and this requires lots of communication and flexibility.

Your question does say “ever”, though. In the modern world, it is conceivable that someday robots will take over *all* our jobs. If that does happen in our lifetimes, I think database-related jobs will be among the last to go. We do live in interesting times.

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

Kendra: There’s a couple of different ways one can answer this type of question.

There’s the marketing/resume style answer: I am very proud to have launched a new training site,, where I am giving away my initial courses to the community for free. I love that giving away courses is good for my business, to try to make the site become known, and also good for the community, because people can take free courses.

There’s also the personal answer: What do I really *feel* proud of having done for the community? This gets into what has been the most difficult thing for me to overcome.

I am most proud of myself for continuously overcoming the voices in my head that say, “You aren’t attractive enough to make videos” or “Your content isn’t as interesting as ______’s content” or “That isn’t good enough” or “You should be embarrassed by _____” or “You can’t do this on your own.” Almost every time I write a blog post, make a YouTube video, or speak at a free SQLSaturday event, I have to confront and overcome these doubts.

It is true that the more you do something, the easier it gets. But for some of us, we always have to promote positive voices in our head to shout over the negative voices. I haven’t always succeeded at this, but I am most proud of all the times that I have succeeded.

And this is the thing that I would like your readers to know: if you have those worries yourself, you are not alone. And you can help yourself get past them, and YOU can write a blog to help others. Or make YouTube videos. Or speak at your user group or conferences. Or draw pictures, or write songs, or whatever it is you want to do to contribute. And you can really enjoy doing those things.

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

Kendra: I love to read, but I mostly read mysteries and fiction. I hate most self-help and business books, they just don’t resonate with me.

But recently I love listening to non-fiction podcasts, so I’m going to broaden your question to that. They have more of a narrative than books, and the episode based format works very well for listening while taking a walk.

As a woman running a business by herself, I found great inspiration from the podcast, “Making Oprah” from NPR. It’s the story of how Oprah Winfrey started as a broadcaster and grew her show into a business empire, in a weird and difficult market. The phrase “Stay in your own lane,” which she popularized, is one that helps me channel my creativity and free myself from distractions and doubts. (It’s funny, I was never into her show when it was on television, but this podcast really stuck with me.)

I also recommend the podcast “Reply All” from Gimlet Media. It’s a podcast about technology, and I am always thrilled to see a new episode go live. It teaches me a lot about storytelling, as well as everything from issues in digital rights management to privacy to internet memes.

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?

Kendra: This reminds me of the controversial question, “Should you do what you love? Or should you pick a job to make money?”

In other words, I think there is a secret aspect to your question: “What would be the motivation for making such a change? Are you bored? Are you more interested in those other things?”

You may have a hard time making a living from doing what you love, if what you love is singing in the shower. But if what you’re interested in is a viable aspect of database technology, and you feel rewarded from doing it: do what gives you a feeling of reward.

If you can find *anything* where you can make a good-enough living, and it keeps your mind engaged in a happy way, and you feel particularly satisfied from that work, do THAT! You have won the lottery in life! Don’t stop and wonder, “Would __some person__ do this?” Seize the opportunity that interests *you*.

As far as I can tell, we get only one life. We each find different things satisfying, so grab the chance that helps you enjoy all those hours that you spend working. Change your course in life when you feel the need. You can re-adjust again, it is *your* life and your story.

And don’t forget to stop working and enjoy your family and the world outside, too! It will make you a better thinker, I promise.

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