Professional Development

Professional Development Plans: Turning Your Job Into a Career, Part 2

Long ago in a galaxy far far away, I blogged about my Professional Development Plan (PDP). That really was a long time ago: May of 2010. Wow. I want to provide an update on my own PDP and reiterate their value. I also have a few tips to share.

Updates From Last Time

1. One of my PDP goals at that time, as I was really starting to delve deeper into Business Intelligence, was to pass the 70-448 Microsoft SQL Server 2008, Business Intelligence Development and Maintenance. I did that. I have since achieved my MCITP in 2008 BI by also passing 70-452 PRO: Designing a Business Intelligence Infrastructure Using Microsoft SQL Server 2008. I work for a consulting firm. Certifications are an important part of Microsoft Partnership criteria for our organization. So, certifications certainly do matter here. They also help me by serving as a measurement of my learning. I know there are people who feel that certifications have no value whatsoever since some people have learned how to game the system and get certified with little to no effort or experience. I think it is short-sighted and unfair to dismiss their value. People have learned how to steal cars relatively easily, but that does not invalidate car ownership. Now, I’m not saying that certs are everything by any means. A cert is no guarantee of aptitude, but neither is it meaningless.

2. I explained my personal goals of establishing myself as an expert and being an active member in the SQL Community. I had also listed the MVP Award as a goal. As I had explained in my previous PDP post, the MVP itself was not truly a goal, but rather would a possible side-effect of achieving my personal goals of community support and expertise. Since the MVP is an award, and not something with a definitive roadmap, having it as a goal is silly. I have removed that. Don’t get me wrong, it would be cool. But MVP is something that happens to you, not something you go get in a definitive fashion.

New Goals

Sextants and Compases1. It was back in May of 2010 that I fully decided to pursue Business Intelligence as a career path. I have learned a lot since then and have been on an engagement dealing directly with SSAS since December. I am loving it and learning more every day. I am also learning about Master Data Services (there will likely be a presentation/blog series on this in the future). I have started learning MDX and even presented on it several times. My goal is to keep forging ahead with the SQL 2012 BI tools including Power View (which is just friggin awesome) and the new SSAS Tabular Model. There’s just so much to learn. Dig it!

2. Blogging. Yeah. I have on my PDP a goal to blog twice per month. Well. Yeah. Not doing so hot on that one. I am doing better than I have in that past, but many of my posts of late have been about upcoming presentations. Those are important to me, but I promise I have some cool content coming. I am planning some blog series and I also have another writing project that I am working on that I am not ready to discuss yet.

3. Presenting. I have had on my PDP for some time that I want to present at least 3 times per year. Well. I have knocked this one out of the park. I have already done more presenting in 2012 than in the previous years of my career combined. And I intend to keep it up. I don’t think I am being overconfident when I say that presenting is something I have a talent for. Absolutely loving it helps a lot, too.

4. PASS Regional Mentor. I spent 3 years on the executive board of the Minnesota chapter of PASS, PASSMN. I have taken a few years off from that and now I am anxious to get back into community involvement. I would like to try something different this time around. My favorite part of community involvement is helping people and evangelizing SQL Server the SQL Community. RM seems a great fit for that. Thus, earlier this week, I let SQLPASS HQ know of my desire to become a PASS Regional Mentor. I am looking forward to hearing back about interviewing for the role. I am really excited about the possibility and feel that I could do a great job.

PDP Tips

Road Signs1. My original PDP post was in May 2010. It is now July of 2012. More than two years. In that time, my maintenance of my PDP has been less than awesome. I have also had periods in there, some long ones, actually, where no PDP progress was made at all. This brings me to my first tip: Cover Your Nut. That is an old Sales adage. It means, above all, do at least enough to pay your bills and maintain the status quo. There were periods where it took everything I had just to do my daily work and extra stuff just didn’t happen. There will be times when going above and beyond is just too far above and beyond what you are able to do. I urge you to be OK with that at the time. Doing more than you can handle is not a sustainable behavior; it will just lead to burnout. That said, get back to your PDP and making steps toward your goals when you can.

2. Find a mentor. Your mentor does not have to be someone older or a wizard or anything. It really can just be someone you discuss your PDP and your goals with. Having someone like that can help you stay on track and even offer advice on steps to take, etc. My own SQL Server consulting career started when Lara Rubbelke (b|t) hired me at Digineer. Lara was a great mentor for me. When she moved on to Microsoft, direct mentorship became a bit more difficult, although it is still great to chat with her about my career every now and then when we can. The person filling the role of my mentor today is Jason Strate (b|t). His knowledge of SQL Server is really impressive and he has a willingness and a knack for helping people out. I get a lot of good advice from him on blogging, presenting, and networking, as well. When it comes to more Business Intelligence focused topics, Dan English (b|t) has helped me out as well. After seeing my MDX Trek: First Contact presentation, he emailed me some valuable feedback that helped me polish it up. All of the people mentioned above have great expertise and are more than willing to share.

3. The best PDP related tip I can give is this: HAVE A PDP. It does not have to be anything especially rigid or come with drill sergeant. But working toward turning your job into a career is a lot easier when you know what you want that career to look like.

I’m going to try to be better about keeping my PDP updated. I will also make sure my next PDP update blog post doesn’t take over two years to happen.

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