Interview – John Morehouse

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: John Morehouse (b | t):John Morehouse

Mohammad: Do you think people who dismiss the cloud as a “fad” or just don’t take it serious enough to learn about it (i.e. Azure, AWS, etc), will be in a tough spot to find a job 5 years from now?

John: I don’t believe so, no.  While the cloud is definitely changing the landscape of the traditional database administrator I think that on premises installations of SQL Server will be around for many years to come.  The cloud is slow to being adopted in several sectors, namely financial and health care.  Both of those sectors have strict guidelines around data security (as they should) so I think organizations are weary of it. However, with that said, I do think that individuals will be missing out of future career opportunities by not having some level of understanding of various cloud technologies.  I myself recognized the shift in this landscape and recently took a new job with a new company in part to explicitly gain more exposure to Microsoft Azure.

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

John: If you are active in reading SQL Server related sites, you have probably seen multiple articles around this very topic.  I do not believe that the traditional role of being a database administrator will be replace.  I know that starting with SQL Server 2017 Microsoft introduced an automatic tuning feature that will automatically identify and fix certain performance issues. I personally think this is a great feature to implement as it’ll help organizations resolve issues much quicker.  If issues are resolved quicker, then the customer end user experience is better, they buy more widgets and it rains money.  However, even with features such as automatic tuning, you’ll still need someone at the helm.  Even sophisticated systems (like the Space Shuttle) still has to have individuals at mission control to check up on things, make adjustments and even potentially hit the abort button. I think DBA’s will be around for quite some time regardless of the ongoing speculation on the interwebs.

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

John: Excellent question.  I think I’m most proud of the Omaha SQL Server User group.  Let’s use the TARDIS and travel back to mid-2007.  The local user group had been dead for sometime and I knew that I wanted to reboot it and get Omaha involved in the community.  Myself and a colleague decided to make a run at it and try to get things rolling.  Fast forward 7 years later, I moved to Louisville, Kentucky and turned the reigns over to someone else locally.  At that time, we had a very solid user base with an average meeting attendance between 30-40 people along with a mailing list of 800+ people.  This is an outstanding accomplishment for city like Omaha, Nebraska (yes, we had SQL server in Omaha, Nebraska).  We also hosted two SQL Server events in the last years of my tenure and had great turn out at both events.  I’ve always been very proud that I was a part of that journey and to be able to give back to my local community.  There are some really great #SQLFamily members in Omaha.

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

John: Right now I’m reading a book by Tom Roush called “Stupid Things Papa Did When He Was Younger“.  Tom was a #SQLFamily member who recently passed away and on the day of his passing, his book was published. It was an honor to have known him and his stories are always well worth the read. I am also a fan of self-help type of books.  I’m a firm believer that we can all be better people, so I’m trying to improve myself in this journey we call life. ;-)

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?

John: As someone who is a die hard DBA (IE: I’m not a Business Intelligence guy), my recommendation is to have hybrid approach to this.  I love all things about the internal workings of SQL Server but I can also stand-up and manage the other facets of the stack.  I think as a database administrator, one of our roles that we should fulfill for our employers (or our clients) is to know as much of the landscape as possible to help drive the organization in the right direction.  So I’d recommend people to examine what they are passionate about within the field, obtain specific knowledge about that passion while being aware of the peripheral technologies.  This peripheral knowledge combined with that core expertise can only help the individual.  Once you’ve learned something, nobody can take that away from you and it is yours to wield.

Interview – Kellyn Pot’Vin-Gorman

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: Kellyn Pot’Vin-Gorman (b | t):Kellyn Pot'Vin-Gorman

Mohammad: Do you think people who dismiss the cloud as a “fad” or just don’t take it serious enough to learn about it (i.e. Azure, AWS, etc), will be in a tough spot to find a job 5 years from now?

Kellyn: As I’m very multi-platform, I think the answer depends on the platform, the technology and the business you work for.

Those who work in larger enterprises, for government, finance or security are going to be more hesitant to move to the cloud.  Other reasons that will hold migrations to the cloud back:

  1. The Oracle cloud isn’t as mature as Amazon or Azure and still needs more time to catch up.
  2. I know of Fortran developers that are doing just fine managing what is left still in play.With the amount of Oracle DBAs retiring and those that will remain to work on-premises, the newer ones can manage those going to the cloud.
  3. Applications can transition to the cloud more easily and readily than home-grown or multi-tier systems.

Do I think those DBAs updating their skills will be more in demand and have an increase in salaries vs. those on-premises?  Yes, absolutely.

Azure is making it easier for DBAs to transition to become adept in cloud database management and they’ve continued to have a focus on DBAs, not just taken the easy route of aiming all enablement towards development.

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

Kellyn: No, the role may change a bit, but it will always be.  As we improve the optimizer performance and database technology, there will always be those environments that require “a human touch” of the expert.  There is a company that I spoke to a couple months ago, that has shifted 30% of their business to auditing cloud deployments.  Of those audits, over 80% of them aren’t viable and must rebuilt from the ground up.  Almost every one is because they didn’t have the database, the security and administration expertise to build the cloud deployment out in the first place.  The project thought they could speed up deployment by bypassing DBAs and others, but instead, discovered catastrophic flaws due to this choice.  There is a reason for the gatekeepers in technology.  DBAs with expertise in optimization, automation and security practices will continue to be in high demand for the long haul..

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

Kellyn: I’ve only become a part of the SQL Server community in the last year, having been a long time contributor for Oracle.  I would have to say, becoming an Idera ACE and becoming president of the Denver SQL Server User Group.  This is a great group of volunteers on the board and I hope that I can serve as president in a way that they can continue to do greater.

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

Kellyn: I’ve had the great pleasure of working and being taught by some of the best in the business, but as SQL Server DBAs, it’s time to learn Linux.

A Practical Guide to Linux by Mark Sobel

Linux, the Complete Reference

Pro SQL Server Internals by Dmitri Korotkevitch

And just because it’s awesome:  Mastering Trace Data by Cary Millsap

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?

Kellyn: I have a very unique view on this topic.  I started out very multi-platform and then worked for two companies, (Oracle one of them) where I went in deep.  I believe in a little of both due to this.  Pick something that inspires you in a primary technology and then widen your knowledge in other areas.  As you learn about different technologies, it can make you better at the one you are passionate about.  My answer is a mile wide and an inch deep except in those that you become passionate about. For those, dive, dive!!

Interview – Rie Irish

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: Rie Irish (b | t):Rie Irish

Mohammad: Do you think people who dismiss the cloud as a “fad” or just don’t take it serious enough to learn about it (i.e. Azure, AWS, etc), will be in a tough spot to find a job 5 years from now?

Rie: I don’t think so. They might not be able to get a flashy job at a fast-moving software company, but there will always be companies or industries that move more slowly than technology. The banking & hospital administration industries are a prime example of those that don’t respond quickly to leaps forward in technology and are far more likely to have reservations on the security of the cloud. My advice here would be to become familiar with the technologies. If you aren’t pursuing a job in that realm or your current job isn’t likely to need it, then a working knowledge is enough to keep you “in touch.” Then, when it becomes necessary, you’ll have a bit of a head start on where you need to be.

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

Rie: If you read too many SQL Family blogs, you’d be convinced all of our jobs are going away tomorrow. They surely believe the sky is falling! I don’t think DBA jobs will ever disappear. If you believe everything you read, then our jobs should have all been eliminated a decade ago or maybe longer. They will always be a need for administration, maintenance & recovery personnel. That isn’t to say the role of the “traditional” DBA won’t change. Of course it will, just as technology changes. That being said, there are some things you don’t want to leave to chance or to someone that’s just a button pusher. And the integrity, security and availability of your systems databases are one of those things.

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

Rie: This answer is a no-brainer. I’m most proud of being a part of the book, Let Her Finish: Voices from the Data Platform. A total of 7 authors, including myself, collaborated on a book dealing with all different aspects of the data platform, from BIML to backups. My chapter was on creating a disaster recovery plan. Each woman that contributed a chapter was an MVP or an MCM. Brilliant women with great experience in the data space agreed to write a book with me. We released the book during PASS Summit in 2017, with proceeds going to a women’s charity. The driver behind the book was supporting women’s voices in tech. We wanted each woman that contributed to the book to tell her story, in her own words. Without interruption or interpretation. It isn’t often that women get that chance. It was a great honor to be a part of the book.

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

Rie: I found a book that is a blend of technical & non-fiction.  A colleague recommended the book Technically Wrong: Sexist Apps, Biased Algorithms, and Other Threats and it changed the way I think about apps & web forms!  Don’t worry, this isn’t some feminist book.  It talks about how biases, averages or the status quo fails us all, but especially anyone that’s a person of color, not straight or otherwise coloring outside the lines.  It’s taught me to expect more; demand more from the technology I use.  Examples are far reaching.  An app for helping a woman track her cycle assumes we’re all trying to get pregnant (newsflash: we’re not!).  Social media apps tell us to wish happy birthday to deceased friends & relatives.  In 2011, if you told Siri you were considering shooting yourself, she gave you directions to a gun store.   It helped me understand how biases & a lack of diversity fail us as we develop technology to solve problems.

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?

Rie: I think it’s probably best to blend those two paths. If you’re too focused, you’ll find a more limited range of options when you want to transition jobs. At the same time, if your skill-set covers a wide variety of experience but none of it goes very deep, you’ll find the same problem. My advice would be focus on something, but only go a half mile deep instead of a mile. That leaves you some bandwidth to get a working knowledge of several other aspects of the job.

Interview – Amit Banerjee

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: Amit Banerjee (b | t):Amit Banerjee

Mohammad: Do you think people who dismiss the cloud as a “fad” or just don’t take it serious enough to learn about it (i.e. Azure, AWS, etc), will be in a tough spot to find a job 5 years from now?

Amit: The world even today is about hybrid cloud. There are aspects of a public cloud which are very appealing like elastic compute and storage that open up a vast variety of opportunities for businesses around the world. This allows companies to leverage PaaS services built on top of a virtually infinite compute and storage and allows them to monetize their data assets and gather critical insights for their business. This wouldn’t have been possible traditionally without expensive investments in hardware. “Not enough hardware” is not a valid reason for the inability to solve a technology problem anymore. As we know the world today, it is hybrid and the lines between on-premise and public clouds are being blurred day-by-day! They are probably not going to be in a tough spot in about 5 years but will definitely have an advantage if they know about on-premise environments and the cloud. Disclaimer: I work Microsoft who is one of the major public cloud players in the world today.

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

Amit: The SQL Server DBA actually plays a pivotal role in the hybrid cloud world today. A good example of this is that a chatty application over the network was not probably not as big an issue when operating within internal boundaries of a corporate network. But when that application migrates over to the cloud, the fact that it is chatty can lead to latency issues and possibly additional network egress costs which leads to a poor customer experience and an added expenditure. This is hardly the reasons why someone would make the move to cloud. My personal viewpoint is that that DBA now becomes the gatekeeper to decide whether an application is ready to migrate to the cloud, play a critical role in deciding what the most optimum architecture would be and ensure that the business features being added to the database are in alignment with cloud and database best practices.

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

Amit: It is always humbling and gives me a sense of great personal satisfaction when I am able to help a customer of SQL Server learn about a new feature or enhancement which would bring business value to their environment. This happens in the form of blog posts, presentations that I deliver and freeform interaction with the community at conferences like PASS Summit, SQL Saturday.

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

Amit: Start with the Why by Simon Sinek is one of my favorite books. This is a great book for any individual or leader in any organization. It helps you think about the WHY in the business before focusing on the implementation and driving work only from a tactical standpoint.

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?

Amit: I believe in the “T” model. I have had the good fortune of working with some of the brightest minds in the industry and I have noticed that they consciously follow the T-model in the skills that they are building. I would challenge that you would find a deep technical expert who knows everything about the SQL Server product (database engine, SSRS, SSAS, SSIS), Azure and other technologies. What has driven success for the individuals that I respect and admire is the ability to build subject matter expertise in an area and effectively collaborate with other subject matter experts in other areas which they require.

Mohammad: Finally, for anyone who has a deep passion for SQL Server and customer satisfaction, how would they go about applying for the SQL Tiger Team? Would an “outsider” be considered or does the Tiger Team only hire from within Microsoft?

Amit: A tiger team is a group of experts assigned to investigate and/or solve technical or systemic problems. Since SQL Server has evolved over the decades to become a RDBMS leader on Gartner’s Magic Quadrant, the need for having a group of experts to investigate and solve systemic problems in the product no longer exists. Now the “SQL Server Tiger” moniker exists to represent a group who are SQL Server subject matter experts, have a high amount of customer empathy and have extensive experience working with customers using SQL Server in Tier-1 environments. This group is able to solve niche problems with the product that some of your Tier-1 customers report, ship enhancements and features to help increase the ROI for SQL Server based on customer feedback and have fun while doing all of this! J If you feel that you have a penchant for doing any or all of these, then we are always happy to talk to you. If you are interested in becoming a SQL Tiger, be on the lookout for openings on the SQL Server Tiger team on our Careers website in case you are interested in working on the team.

Interview – Andy Yun

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: Andy Yun (b | t): Andy Yun

Mohammad: Do you think people who dismiss the cloud as a “fad” or just don’t take it serious enough to learn about it (i.e. Azure, AWS, etc), will be in a tough spot to find a job 5 years from now?

Andy: Yes and no.  Do I see cloud adoption growing tremendously?  Absolutely.  Do I see it completely replacing on-prem infrastructure?  No.  As such, I don’t think one who chooses to dismiss the cloud will definitely be in a tough spot, but they may be more challenged.

Alternatively, because the role of the database professional is so broad and has numerous specializations, one could instead choose to focus on a different area that is less directly impacted by the cloud.  For example, a T-SQL developer could get away with minimal exposure to the cloud.  Is that ideal?  No.  But they could still get by.

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

Andy: Yes.  But before you get your pitchfork and light your torch, hear me out.

First, what do you define as a “traditional DBA?”  In my mind, that refers to a DBA who is the all encompassing owner of everything related to the database, and master of all.  But as the footprint and capabilities of SQL Server grown and expanded, being master of everything SQL Server has become impossible.

To be effective, I argue that we must all specialize in some way.  Today, it is impossible to maintain a high level of proficiency in the entire SQL Server stack.

When I think of a DBA today, I distinguish between Development DBAs and Operational DBAs, and even those are overly broad, generic titles.  Some who think of the “traditional DBA” would say that it is synonymous with an Operational DBA, and I might agree.  But that sheds light onto the other problem I see – these labels mean different things to different people, even DBAs themselves!

And that is why I believe the “traditional DBA” is dead.

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

Andy: I am most proud of my efforts to grow new community speakers.  I started this effort in late 2016 with a T-SQL Tuesday challenge (https://sqlbek.wordpress.com/2016/10/25/t-sql-tuesday-84-growing-new-speakers/ and https://sqlbek.wordpress.com/2016/11/15/t-sql-tuesday-84-growing-new-speakers-round-up/).  Throughout 2017, I mentored a number of participants, who all gave their first technical presentations.

This year, I am continuing that effort with a new professional development session of my own: Everybody Has a Story to Tell: Developing Your First Presentation.  I debuted this session recently at SQL Saturday Nashville with great success and look forward to presenting it elsewhere throughout 2018.  And I continue to actively mentor prospective speakers.

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

Andy: Truthfully, I rarely read books these days.  I used to be a bookworm growing up and do kind of miss it, but it’s a huge time commitment.  That’s not to say that I do not read at all.  I read a lot.

My reading effort is spent on the internet.  I read blogs, forums, industry news, and other websites.  I consume much of this material using RSS feeds via Feedly (RIP Google Reader).

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?

Andy: Well, I already kind of answered this when asked about a “traditional DBA.” I do not believe that a “jack of all trades” DBA is really possible.  Who can learn (and master) SQL Server’s storage engine, T-SQL, SSIS, SSRS, SSAS, R, Python, Azure, etc.? Even the top names in our industry specialize.  I classify myself as primarily a Development DBA with a focus on T-SQL development, performance tuning, and storage engine internals.

But just because you are specialized already, does not mean you must remain focused in that area of expertise. I didn’t. A few years ago, I felt like I hit a plateau in my database developer roles, so I made a conscious change to take a position as an Operational DBA. I brought a wide variety of skills to the table, but lacked other skills common to an operational role.  For example, I had little hands on with HA/DR technologies.  I’d never worked with FCIs, barely knew what an AG was, much less even understood clustering.  Replication?  Sure, I could click through a wizard?  :-)  But that new role challenged me to learn new skills and help me grow as a data professional.  I look back and wouldn’t change that decision – it’s made me a better data professional as a whole.

Interview – Louis Davidson

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: Louis Davidson (b | t): Louis Davidson

Mohammad: Do you think people who dismiss the cloud as a “fad” or just don’t take it serious enough to learn about it (i.e. Azure, AWS, etc), will be in a tough spot to find a job 5 years from now?

Louis: As someone who has been focused on relational programming, I don’t really care about cloud or on-premises, my hope is that they both work close to the same. What I hope is that in 5 years from now, when I type a query such as the following, or maybe a lot more complex with 100s of joins, aggregations, etc:

SELECT column FROM table WHERE column = literal

That it runs fast, stable, and gives me the right answer no matter how many rows are returned. If we design the structures like relational theory prescribes, using the relational engine, I don’t want to have to do much more than create the tables and define the constraints that match my requirements. Edgar Codd’s vision that he outlined in his rules (written in 1985, no less), was that we separate the physical work of indexing, hardware choice, etc. from the logical work. I want to get to that day where stuff just works, and answers the customer’s questions in an easy fashion.

I think my biggest question is when will technology outpace the consumer’s desire to store more and more data. 20 years ago, we had data needs that would have needed no optimization using today’s hardware. Now we want to store everything about everyone, all the time. Eventually one of them has to reach some limit, right?

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

Louis: It already has been, somewhat.

Realistically, I don’t see the DBA vanishing as a role, just changing more and more. The original role of DBA is long gone. And I think it kind of changes every year or so. The technology is getting more and more complex, doing more and more every release of SQL Server. All of these new technologies they keep adding (R, Python, and Graph, most recently) need someone to support them.

Back in the day, a DBA could just hide out in the office, and make sure that data was backed up and restorable and things were great. SQL Server used to just be a simple relational engine, and now it takes as long to decide what parts of the product to install as it does to install it. Security was much different also. A great percentage of companies were not really hackable because data was not connected to the Internet, and often we were generally too paranoid to store personal information in the first place. Now I know that my personal information is stored and accessible on the same network where you can watch unlimited cat videos.

Cloud/hybrid solutions are making things easier for the DBA, in that you can offload some of the daily maintenance, someone needs to be able to configures the systems? And when they fail, who fixes them?

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

Louis: Tough question, because I never really think too much about successes or accomplishments. I have always just enjoyed what I do for a living, and doing it as a hobby has been great.

Probably the thing that gives me the most pride is when someone comes up to me at a conference and tells me that I taught them something that stuck with them, or inspired them to get involved. Admittedly, receiving the MVP Award is my greatest honor, but it was never my primary goal, and while it can be a motivator, it certainly isn’t why I keep writing and speaking.

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

Louis: Reading. I once joked that I had written more books in a year than I had read. This is still generally the case. The last book I read (ok, listened to someone else read to me) was the book “Tarkin”, which was a great Star Wars book that chronicled Governor Tarkin’s rise to power before meeting his demise on Death Star 1.0. That and a New Dawn: Star Wars, which was an origin story for some of the characters from the Rebels TV series. (Yes, I am a bit of a Star Wars fan.)

When I read a technical book, it is often as a technical editor, mostly because there is only so much time in the day. I have been slowly reading Expert SQL Server In-Memory OLTP by Dmitri Korotkevitch, which is excellent, and a topic I am very interested in (full disclosure I was given the book by our shared editor, but I only say nice things if I really mean it.).

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?

Louis: I suggest that anyone who is just getting started should try everything they can. My first job was a LAN administrator (Novell!), and I tried procedural programming in college and did a little of it professionally. I didn’t love either (and have only basic skills configuring my home network these days.)  I happened into being a SQL programmer when a coworker quit and we needed lots of stored procedures and triggers written. I loved it and didn’t look back.

So best case for your career: figure out what sticks, and more importantly, what it is you love to do. And if you don’t love anything technical, don’t do it even if you are good at it.

As you mention, I personally went the specialist route. I have had the same job (database programmer/architect) for 15 contiguous years, and I don’t regret one moment. I spend most of my time on SQL Server’s relational engine, designing databases and coding in T-SQL; both in my day job, and here at my desk most nights. The deep knowledge I have cultivated is useful to solve the more complex problems that come up, and knowing the most about something makes you valuable to an organization.

Being 100% specialist can be career limiting also. I am a member of a small team, so I could never just design databases all day. Or just write T-SQL. In order to fit in on a modern team, you may need to have skills in other areas. Amongst the other stuff I do, I build a lot of SSIS packages and am staring to work with PowerShell some.

I think the most important thing is that every technologist should strived to be at least adequate in the things that they do. Not everyone will write books, or even blogs (heck, some people will have non-technical stuff they work on). But if you sell your services to a company, you should be giving them at least what you are advertising you can provide.

Interview – Bob Pusateri

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: Bob Pusateri (b | t): Bob Pusateri

Mohammad: Do you think people who dismiss the cloud as a “fad” or just don’t take it serious enough to learn about it (i.e. Azure, AWS, etc), will be in a tough spot to find a job 5 years from now?

Bob: I definitely see SQL Server becoming more cloud and/or service-focused with time. I think we’re seeing that already with now-yearly releases for on-premises. I think in the next five years we’ll continue to see new development in many cases be cloud-focused from the beginning. There will always be organizations and use cases where the cloud just doesn’t make sense or isn’t an option though. These are things like old code that just won’t play nice, or databases with massive levels of size or activity where cloud pricing just isn’t economical.

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

Bob: I don’t think the traditional DBA role will ever be replaced or eliminated, but it will continue to evolve. I think a lot of parts of the job that involve maintaining the data and its storage will start to become more scarce, as things move to the cloud, while architectural and tuning tasks will become more important. When every query costs money, organizations are going to start to care about optimizing their code more!

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

Bob: Without a doubt, the thing I am most proud of doing within the community is helping new members get started. Making sure they have a great experience and make a new contact at their first SQL Saturday, chapter meeting, or other event. It may not sound like much, but first impressions really do matter. From there, the best feeling in the world is when they enjoy it enough to come back to the next chapter meeting, or go to another SQL Saturday, and maybe get involved in volunteering themselves.

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

Bob: Every once in a while I get an opportunity to read a non-technical book. One of the ones I most recently enjoyed was “How the States Got Their Shapes” by Mark Stein. This book covers the borders of every US state and how they came to be what they are today. Incredibly interesting.

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?

Bob: I think specializing will always have more value than being a generalist. I don’t advocate for being a “jack of all trades” but what I will say is that you can’t be a specialist in a hole either. Keep up with new developments and other technologies enough to understand what they are, what issues they address and their strengths/weaknesses. Nobody can ever be a master of everything; but I’d rather be really good at one thing than just so-so at many things.

Interview – David Klee

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: David Klee (b | t): David Klee

Mohammad: Do you think people who dismiss the cloud as a “fad” or just don’t take it serious enough to learn about it (i.e. Azure, AWS, etc), will be in a tough spot to find a job 5 years from now?

David: I see SQL Server technologies evolving in numerous directions, but the overarching theme will be cloud. Just look at the current release cycles for on-prem SQL Server. It’s a compiled and boxed version of the SQL Server features that are already released in Azure SQL Database in the previous months. Even the Linux release is (IMHO) partly because cloud-based SQL Server platforms are looking for a smaller footprint operating system. The bigger question for me is – are your applications ready for the shift? Most business-critical app vendors that I see are not yet even supporting SQL Server 2016, let alone newer versions. The limitations of DBaaS also are too much for many of these applications. But… they’ll get there, and you must be ready.

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

David: Never. I don’t see it being replaced or eliminated as long as the DBA themselves are able to keep up with change. I see the role evolving, and quickly, however. The role is evolving. Just like with cloud technologies, other features and tasks are changing. DR in the cloud is becoming just a few clicks. Backups and restores are much simpler to set up and manage. Availability is easier with Availability Groups. Many of the routine day-to-day operational tasks that DBAs have been tasked with for years are being automated. However, the role is drastically changing. While these tasks are being made simpler or are being automated, the role of the DBA is changing to be a bit more proactive. The DBA should start to emphasize tasks such as performance tuning, query optimization, and database design improvements, all of which can help to boost the performance of the applications. The other challenge is keeping on top o the all of the new enhancements that the DBA is able to leverage to make their lives easier, streamline operations, and improve business continuity. It’s a never-ending cycle of learning, one that I personally thrive on (I get bored easily!).

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

David: I’m probably the most humble guy in the room and I don’t much like talking about myself. But, I’m thrilled to have been able to help DBAs in the SQL Server community learn more about the infrastructure that their databases are powered by over the years. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed training thousands of professionals at events all over the world on the art of how virtualization, CPU and memory architecture, networking, storage, and the operating system all relate to databases. Most recently, we’re adding cloud into the picture too.

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

David: I’ve got a pretty eclectic list of books that I’ve been reading lately. The books that are non-technical but directly applicable to the job are all about the psychology behind presenting, probability and statistics, entrepreneurship, and negotiation. I haven’t had too much time lately for recreational reading outside of more technical subjects I’m afraid. If you want to read two of the best technical books that I’ve ever read, read ‘The Mythical Man Month’ by Frederick Brooks, and ‘SQL Server 2005 Practical Troubleshooting’ by Ken Henderson.

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?

David: I prefer both! Now remember we’re consultants, and we’re asked to do a lot of things around the SQL Server platform, so my view might be a bit skewed at this point. I personally want to see folks that are skilled in many facets of a product like SQL Server and how it relates and applies to the business. It’s more of the mile wide approach from how it relates to the business and how the different features relate to each other. However, for the core features that directly relate to the needs of the client/project, I want the person to know certain critical areas extremely well. It’s a good mix of mile-wide and mile-deep in the areas that matter for their interests and job role. For example, our focus is on how the SQL Server engine interacts with the platform underneath it. I specialize in SQL Server internals, HA/DR, performance tuning, and all of those items for the platform below it. However, at this point in my career, I know how to *spell* SSAS and that’s about it. I can virtualize and tune the infrastructure around your warehouse, but I’ll refer any requests for us working on a warehouse to other folks we know that can do it a lot better than us.

Being a mile wide and a mile deep in certain areas makes you more adaptable as the world changes, and you can transfer the deep knowledge to a new ‘thing’ quicker. If you’re a technologist solely focused on a certain feature of a certain product, what happens if that feature is deprecated? Or a better feature comes out? I had a friend in college who was one of the most amazing Adobe Flash developers that I’ve ever seen. Now look at the state of that technology. It’s virtually dead, so if he had not recognized this and transferred the energy to learning a new product/platform/feature, he’d be out of work at this point.

The same goes for our virtualization knowledge. ‘Cloud’ is shaking up the world. All cloud means is that it’s someone else’s datacenter and they put some serious automation and abstraction around the various components. Our shift to the cloud was arguably quicker than DBAs who had never been involved with the infrastructure and virtualization in their datacenters. Today DBAs need to know about things like IOPs, network firewall rules and routing, and server sizing in ways that some environments insulated them from in the past.

I’ll stop my ramble there 😊 To shorten the response, you should be both. Specialize but have a keen awareness of the things around it, because as the world changes, so should you!

Interview – Joe Sack

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: Joe Sack (li | t): Joe Sack

Mohammad: Do you think people who dismiss the cloud as a “fad” or just don’t take it serious enough to learn about it (i.e. Azure, AWS, etc), will be in a tough spot to find a job 5 years from now?

Joe: Well, first I should mention I work for a company that sells Cloud services (I work on the Azure SQL Database team, QP focus), so I’m not an unbiased source. Disclosures aside, I have been working with SQL Server since 1997 and I definitely see the shift happening with customers – particularly for hybrid scenarios, with a mix of on-prem, IaaS, and PaaS. As for readiness – a few years ago if there was a Cloud session at a conference, it risked being very lightly attended. Today, these sessions are much more popular. Given the trends we’re seeing, I think SQL Server professionals have a 5 year window to be comfortable helping in both worlds. In general I’m not worried about SQL Server professionals who are resistant to this shift. The market will speak for itself, and DBAs and Developers will then move with the market. Another major factor is the push for skills in data science and artificial intelligence. This too will influence what it means to be a SQL Server professional over the next few years.

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

Joe: I think the top 25% DBAs can hold on to their traditional role for many years to come. I do see the “average” DBA role as we know it looking very different in a few years – and there will be a tipping point where it will take more energy to find purely traditional DBA work versus learning how to also provide value in a hybrid world. There are so many interesting avenues to explore, so I think if you’re curious and like to learn new things you’ll be fine and you’ll have work to do for many years to come. When you’re not sure which path to pursue, I recommend you pay attention to business and developer pain points. If you make life easier for others and help them achieve their goals, you’ll have a seat at the table.

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

Joe: I’d say it would be from 2009 to 2011 when I was the acting Program Manager for the SQL Microsoft Certified Master program. It was “acting PM” because my formal role was as a full time SQL Premier Field Engineer during that time with a customer workload – but on the side I managed the certification program and then would take a few weeks on the campus for the management of the event and exams. The MCM community – which to me includes the aspiring candidates, certified folks and instructors, were (and are) incredible and it was such a unique life experience. While I’m proud of my part in the broader MCM story, I also am sad about it. The program was very expensive and I was warned in no uncertain terms it would be shut down unless we made some big changes. In reaction to this, we took steps to scale the program and reduce candidate costs, but I think it was too late. I was grateful that we received a wave of very worthy new MCMs before the program was shut down.

People like challenges and something tough to aspire to. I acknowledge that “cloud speed” may make such a program difficult to sustain from a business perspective. I don’t work in the certification space anymore, but I still keep an eye on it as I think it has its place as a forcing function for learning beyond what your current position may demand. The Microsoft Professional Program, while very different in format and scope from MCM, seems to be getting a positive reception. I hope that program continues to evolve and expand.

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

Joe: Of all the non-technical books – my favorite by far is “I, Claudius From the Autobiography of Tiberius Claudius Born 10 B.C. Murdered and Deified A.D. 54” by Robert Graves, as well as the follow-up, “Claudius the God: And His Wife Messalina.” It is the best historical fiction I’ve ever read and an effective study on the perils of corrupt, cruel and insane leaders.

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?

Joe: My philosophy is as follows… Look at where your interests and motivations are and where they intersect with market demand. That intersection is where you should unapologetically cultivate your skills. Yes, this means filtering out several subjects. And yes, it means you won’t know everything beyond that scope – but being the full breadth-and-depth expert for all things SQL Server ended years ago.

Also, remember there will also always be people who know more than you. That should keep us all humble – and gives you permission to keep asking questions and learning new things.

One last point on this subject; with SQL Server and Azure SQL Database, be prepared to “re-learn” over time. There is so much content that it doesn’t hurt to revisit old topics that you think you may already understand deeply. We can forget “first principles” or may have misunderstood aspects of a concept the first time around. Revisit the fundamentals periodically.

Mohammad: If there was only one feature you can name in SQL Server 2016-2017 that you absolutely love what would it be? (You can name a couple if you have to :)

Joe: Adaptive Query Processing of course! I’m a PM on the Query Processing team – so I couldn’t be more biased. The QP team is just getting started though, so stay tuned.

Mohammad: What SQL Server feature would you say people are “scared” to implement but would greatly benefit from if they took the time to learn/implement it?

Joe: Based on recent discussions at the SQL Clinic at PASS Summit this year, I’d say Query Store. Some are worried about the overhead – but I think for most, this fear is unfounded. We haven’t posted specific overhead numbers on this, but you can measure this in your own prod-like environment if you have a representative workload to replay. Query Store is beneficial in so many ways. Query Store would have saved me hundreds of hours of troubleshooting time over the early years of my career had this feature been released earlier. If you have it enabled and actively collecting telemetry, don’t forget to use it.

Interview – Tim Ford

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: Tim Ford (b | t): Tim Ford

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

Tim: My bet is definitely on the Cloud. The Cloud-First methodology has been in place for a couple of cycles of releases for Microsoft SQL Server now and I don’t see that changing. It’s been beneficial to both Microsoft in terms of revenue and leadership in the Cloud and it’s boded well for SQL Server Professionals because we’re seeing more stable releases of the “box product” because of the vetting in Azure before releasing to non-cloud production. That means it’s ultimately benefiting anyone who works secondarily with SQL Server and anyone using the product.

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

Tim: There will always be a place for “traditional” SQL Server DBAs but don’t be surprised if some day down the road their role is similar to those COBOL developers that are still out there. Any IT role is in a constant state of flux. Look back at what a “traditional” DBA was doing 5 or 10 years ago compared to now and it’s changed but slowly. Expect that continued rate of change. Those interested in jumping into newer alternatives have nothing but opportunities in front of them. They just need to be proactive with learning those skills and getting their name out there.

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

Tim: That is a difficult question since I jumped right into volunteerism at my first PASS Summit back in 2002. Having had roles in developing the PASS Virtual Groups, SQLSaturday, and outreach to the Developer audience. I’m really looking forward to the contributions I’ve yet to make to the SQL Community – specifically the PASS association members – in my new role as Executive Vice President of Marketing that I step into on January 1. Likewise the writing I’ve done for various websites aimed at the novice DBA has been challenging but extremely rewarding. Ultimately, I think I’m most proud of what I’ve done with building SQL Cruise – now known as Tech Outbound. It’s been a way for me to provide a training/conference model that has not been offered before and is still unique to the Microsoft Data Platform audience. We Data Professionals have a stressful work structure and are constant learners. SQL Cruise/Tech Outbound allows for that training with Thought Leaders in the areas of performance tuning, configuration, BI, Data Science, Power BI, and now developer topics such as .Net, C#, R, and Python while also enjoying down time in exotic locations and networking with peers; all while bringing your family along to join you when not in class. The success stories of former “cruisers” I’ve witnessed has shown that I’ve made a positive difference in the careers and lives of others and that is an amazing feeling!

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

Tim: It’s funny. I used to read all the time. Then I wrote a technical book (Performance Tuning with Dynamic Management Objects with Louis Davidson) and I soured on reading. It takes a lot for me to get into a book anymore but when I do I tend to get swept up in suspense novels and in the case of Jim Butcher’s Dresen Files, urban sci-fi. So that series is highly recommended as well as anything by John Rollins in his Sigma Force series are what tends to capture and hold my attention. Right now I’m in the process of wrapping up my 200 hour certification as a Certified Yoga Trainer so most reading right now is all about anatomy, meditation, and Ayurveda. As a Data Pro I definitely find meditation and mindfulness a tool I use to keep myself calm in high-pressure situations in the office (and as a parent!)

Mohammad: For someone who’s career focus has been on one aspect of SQL Server (i.e. high availability), 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?

Tim: Do I think it’s wise? I think that any time you can expand your knowledge base into other areas will always make you more valuable. If you can find areas to scale to that are of interest to you then all the better. The more interested you are in a topic the better you’ll be at it because it will hold your attention and pull you in to learn deeper about it. You can have 20 years of experience in a discipline but if you’ve only worked with a narrow focus of topics in that area then you’re not going to be as attractive to new opportunities than someone who has worked across a broad range of areas in your profession over only 5 years. I definitely recommend growing one’s knowledge base.