(scottish) sql bob blog

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Some thoughts of your typical data shepard / data groomer / data dance teacher sort of person.


Strengths and weaknesses

Someone was reading one of my previous blog posts and noted a mistake.  I was very thankful that the person had taken time to let me know.  Whilst pondering this it got me thinking about managing my strengths and weaknesses.  There is a saying develop your strengths and manage your weaknesses.  The first step is to identify your strengths and weakness. Let me list a few of them below;


Weakness

Written English - yes, it's ironic that I choose to spend time writing a blog, given that my spelking and grammar is one of my weakness.  Disciplining myself to write a blog forces me to use the tools that I have to help me manage that weakness.  Tools such as a spell checker is a heaven-sent tool.  There is another tool called Grammarly, which is a combination of a spelling and grammar checker.  This tool makes an excellent crutch :-)

Social skills - despite starting and helping to run the Glasgow SQL server user group.  My soft skills are not my strength.  It would be fair to say, social interactions are those which I find the most challenging.  One T-shirt slogan 'I like to party (and by party I mean read books)' I can identify with.  One approach I take to manage this weakness is to read books quite literally, and so I have read quite a few books on soft/social skills.  These have taught me a few strategies and techniques I use in everyday life.


Strengths

Finding solutions - it's what I do, give me a challenge and I will find a solution.  During an interview for a role, and an issue was raised regarding getting reports emailed automatically to managers.  The company had tried various solutions none of which worked, over a period of a couple of years.  The solution took me over 6 months, involved some VBA, a spreadsheet, and an SSIS package.   I was able to deliver a solution which worked.  The solution was not pretty or elegant, that said it met the specification and most important delivered with the constraints that required to work within.  Many months after leaving the company it was a delightful pleasure to hear my solution was still in place being used.


Having taken time to recognize my weaknesses and strengths that was the first step for me to improve.  This blog post will have been read and then re-read.  Passed by someone with better grammar and spelling than myself before publishing.  This is my way of managing that weakness.  On the other hand, my strengths will have been used in other ways.  These strengths and weakness are a part of who I am.  They can help me make a positive and unique contribution.  Learning to work with them is what makes me just that little bit better each day.


What do I plan to learn in 2018

There is saying “if you want to change some things in your life, you have to change somethings in your life”.  So this blog post is part of me changing something in my life.  Whilst I might think its a good idea to publicly commit to something then work towards that goal, this is not something that I have done for before.  So here goes.  Yes this was inspired by the T-SQL Tuesday topic in December 2018, which I mis-read the date for :-) 

What do I plan to learn this year?

Machine learning - this has been on my agenda for quite sometime now.  This is an area where I see opportunities to apply to my current role in BI

R - Jen Stirrup introduced me to this tool many years ago at SQL Bits, the more I have learned the better it gets.  Now that R is supported by SQL server and PowerBI it's time to go a lot deeper.

Python - having been aware of this language for a while now, whilst looking at looking more closely at machine learning, this is one the languages which is mentioned 

Powershell - having attempted to use this before with limited success, I’ve been inspired by the example of my co-organiser Craig Porteous, Rob Sewell and Chrissy LeMarie.  So I’m going so I’m take this to the next level and see what I can achieve.

BIML - this just seems to have so much potential, finding myself writing more and more SSIS packages that have patterns, now's the time to learn more and do more.

How am I going to learn about these topics?

My preferred method is video training.  This means I am in control of the tempo, if I have 5 mins then can watch a video (or part of).  On the other hand if I have not grasped something it is possible to repeat it till I get it.  One course on Microsoft Virtual Academy (https://mva.microsoft.com/) about the use of the APPLY keyword I had watch several before grasping the concept.  At the moment Udemy is working well for me, just make sure you wait till the one of the regular sales.

In person events is something which has been of massive benefit for me.  My first visit to SQL Bits was without doubt a career and life changer.  Having the opportunity to hear from so many fantastic amazing speakers is a wonderful.  Then there is the networking that is another story, even for a confirmed introvert like me!

Books are still a part of my learning.  Recently I have found myself reading more using electronic books.  There is difference between a physical book and an electronic book.  The later is easier for to take my library with me.  So it doesn't matter if the book is at home or work. 

What I am going to aim to do in 2018 (gulp!!)

Teach - the go to person regarding SQL server in my company is me.  At the moment I am writing some lessons to teach what I know about SQL Server and related skills.  This encourages me to make sure that anything I am teaching that I have a through understanding of the topic.

Blog - writing posts has been patchy, so this is my commitment to write at least one blog post per month.  This year I refuse to allow impostor syndrome to put me off (no excuses).

Submit sessions - on this subject, time to take my own advice / encouragement to speak about what I know,  My success is built on those who have taken the time to speak and teach, and I want to give back.

Stack-overflow - having attempted to answer some questions previously with varying degrees of success.   Rather than waiting, now the strategy is chasing down questions that I can answer / contribute  Who knows chances are that it is myself who will learn more than anyone else :-)

Attend another conference - SQL Bits has been and will be the highlight of my technical year (SQL Geek Christmas / New Year).  In 2018 my minimum  commitment is to attend at least one other event.  If possible as a speaker, volunteer, or at least as an attendee.

There are some other goals I have set myself, they are more personal development that technical development.

Soft skills - ask my partner she will tell you these could do with some work.  As a self concession introvert, its not easy to work with people.  Recently small achievements mean that it inspires me to learn and work harder.

#SQLGLA 2018 - the Glasgow SQL server user group ran, their first event (2107).  This was an amazing learning adventure, so we are getting bigger, watch out Glasgow.

Now that I have committed these goals time to go and start making them happen.  Expect a summary in, December 2018.


We all make mistakes
It happens to us all.  Speaking personally, I do not want to admit to them, or in some cases, I keep making the same ones.  Yes, we all make mistakes its part of life.  In my experience, these can become war stories.  When you talk about the time you <insert horror story here>.  Yes, and I am putting up my hand to say that like anyone else I have made mistakes, some days it feels like that I have made more mistakes than done things right!

What's so hard about making mistakes for me?  The embarrassment of it, maybe I did not know something, or yes that thing that I did well, yes, I did know better.  It's not easy for me to admit mistakes.  Just ask my long-suffering partner (thank goodness, she does not read my blog!).  Yes, I do like to be right and do it the right way.  Admitting that I was wrong, or did something stupid, takes it out of me, it's not easy. 

Hopefully, in my professional life, I am a little better at dealing with my mistakes.  A few years ago, one of my jobs was with a large consultancy company.  I was the person responsible for producing reports for the service desk.  From time to time there were errors with the reports that I was responsible for producing.  During that time, I developed a strategy which I still use to deal with mistakes. 

1) Take responsibility 
It's not easy to put your hand to say you have made a mistake.  On the other hand, how to do you learn from mistakes?  For me, part of growing is learning to take the bad with the good.  Also personally speaking I have more respect for someone who has what it takes to say when they have made a mistake.  Even if you have not made the mistake you find, then take make it your responsibility to fix that mistake.   If I do this then my primary focus is to get the issue resolved and move on.  Finger pointing or the blaming someone is not part of this.
 
2) Find the challenge  
What when wrong?  How did it happen?  Be able to explain what happened, in simple non-technical language that anyone can understand.   Also be confident that you can explain in technical terms to your peers.

3) Fix it 
Get your hands dirty, get involved in fixing the issue.   Help find a solution to rectify the challenge or work with the people fixing the challenge if you can.  For me, I have and do still learn so much just from fixing mistakes. 

4) Prevent it! 
Better to have a fence at the cliff edge than a hospital at the bottom.  What will stop it happening the mistake happening again?  An extra check of something, a checklist of things to do in the same situation. 

Is there something I missed, do you have a different strategy.  Maybe you disagree? Let me know, every day is school day for me :-)