Category: Community

Anyone Can SQL

I love the SQL Community. Plain and simple. I will extend that to the overall Microsoft Data community as well. We are a hugely supportive bunch. That fact that many of us refer to it as #SQLFamily is not an accident. There are so many ways to reach out for and provide help. A huge number of folks in this community blog and present and offer help on Twitter, StackOverflow, MSDN, etc. It is truly astounding to me the depth of help you can get from this community.

I get a lot of joy out of seeing people welcomed into the SQL Community. You want to learn SQL? Come join us. We’ll help. I love encouraging people to get involved. I often tell folks just starting out about how welcoming and supportive this community is. Sometimes they get involved and encourage others to do the same. Typically, it works out wonderfully for everyone.

Courtesy of ktylerconk on FlickrHowever, recently, I was told of a pretty terrible experience that happened at a SQL-related event. People with certain backgrounds were treated with derision and scorn. They were laughed at. They were told they would not be taken seriously in this community because of their extensive experience with database technologies other than SQL Server. This is the exact opposite of what this community stands for.

In Pixar’s Ratatouille, August Gusteau is a famous chef. He writes books, does interviews, etc. One thing he is famous for is his closely held belief that “Anyone can cook.” A key antagonist, and infamous food critic, Anton Ego, doesn’t agree with Gusteau.

Note: There will be some spoilers for the movie coming shortly. If you haven’t seen it, fix it. It is another fine example of Pixar’s spectacular ability to craft stories and characters that resonate. It’s charming.

Anton Ego prides himself on his ability to eviscerate chefs and restaurants with his scathing reviews. He raises himself up by tearing others down. In this sense, the name of the character is spot on.

It isn’t until near the end of the film, when he enjoys an amazing meal that takes him back to his childhood, a dish prepared by a chef who is a rat, that he comes to understand what Gusteau was talking about.

In his review, Ego writes, “The world is often unkind to new talent, new creations. The new needs friends. Last night, I experienced something new, an extra-ordinary meal from a singularly unexpected source. To say that both the meal and its maker have challenged my preconceptions about fine cooking is a gross understatement. They have rocked me to my core. In the past, I have made no secret of my disdain for Chef Gusteau’s famous motto: ‘Anyone can cook.’ But I realize, only now do I truly understand what he meant. Not everyone can become a great artist, but a great artist can come from anywhere. It is difficult to imagine more humble origins than those of the genius now cooking at Gusteau’s, who is, in this critic’s opinion, nothing less than the finest chef in France.”

My goal with this post is not to rant or to point fingers or to vent my or anyone else’s anger or disappointment over this situation. Rather, it is to remind all of us that EVERYONE is born knowing NOTHING about databases in general and SQL Server in particular. We all come from somewhere. I started with Access. I know many people who did. Some people started with FoxPro. Others with Sybase. Others with DB2, or Oracle, or FileMaker. The list goes on and on. The fact that we have such varying experiences helps to make the community rich and varied. Like Ego came to learn, we will not raise ourselves up by tearing others down.

The onus is upon us, in my opinion, to ensure that we can live up to the promise of this outstanding community and treat people who want to learn with respect and encouragement. The onus is upon us to apply Gusteau’s most cherished belief to our community as well: Anyone can SQL.

Brian Piccolo, Thanks, and the Number Five

6144002147_a5f02feee3_bThere have been a few times in the past few days that I was really reminded about the power of gratitude. The first came when I brought my third grader’s lunch to school for her after she forgot it at home. As I was leaving, she said, in the cutest little voice and full of joy, “Thank you, Dad!” It was one of those heart melting moments. In that moment, the words “thank you” translated as “I love you with the white-hot intensity of a thousand Suns.” Powerful stuff, that. I walked out of that school with a spectacular smile on my face.

The other came in the form of an email from a member of our fine SQL community. I’ll get to that in a moment. First, I want do some of my own thanking.

I have been pretty active in the SQL community over the years, mostly centered around PASS events and user groups. I have presented a lots of SQL Saturdays, the last three PASS Summits, several user groups both in person and remotely. And I have met a lot of people at various stages in their careers. I love that aspect of the community we call #SQLFamily. There were people early in my career that had a huge impact in pushing me into this community. Given that gratitude is a major theme of this post, I want to take a moment to call out two people who had a huge impact on me and my career. Lara Rubbelke (Blog|Twitter) and Jason Strate (Blog|Twitter) both encouraged me to jump into the community when I first started out as a consultant. They not only pushed me in a positive way, but they showed me how as well. They led by example. I will always be grateful for their influence.

1132534644_e8e3f986fa_oNow, onto that email mentioned above. I am going to keep the sender of the email confidential. However, I did get permission to use a few quotes from it for the purpose of this post. I hereby say, “Thank you” to that person. Hehe.

The email discussed how this person has done a lot in the past year to help out their local user groups and started doing presentations as well. They had felt the urge to stop and thank me for a conversation we had about a year ago. “This random bit of email comes to you as I sit here late at night putting the final touches on another presentation to be given. And I just felt the need to take a break and say thanks.” I have to say that is pretty cool. Taking the time to thank people for the help they provide others is something I believe in very strongly. To me, even simple things are well worth a Thank You when they provide value, no matter how small.

My advice to people in any community is to make sure to thank the people that help you. Whether they answer a question for you that helps you solve a problem or just quietly inform you of that piece of lettuce stuck to your teeth, they are making an effort to provide value. Thanking them helps reinforce their decision to help others. It helps move everyone forward.

“Thank you for taking a few moments out of your day last summer to encourage and motivate a random stranger…” The email continues. “To me, it is irrelevant if you recall the 5 minute walk to the parking garage after the event. What is relevant, is that you took that time to listen and encourage a wise cracking … guy to pursue his dreams. That chance encounter was a huge motivator for me to want to become more involved.”

Enter the number five. Here is someone thanking me for a casual conversation that lasted about five minutes and happened a year ago. Five minutes. By the way, I do remember the conversation. I had no idea, at the time, the impact those few minutes would have. It felt totally awesome to learn about this.

Brian Piccolo was a running back for the Chicago Bears in the late 1960s. My English teacher introduce me to Brian in eighth grade via the movie Brian’s Song. Gale Sayers was another running back for the Bears at the time and known for long runs. There is a quote from Piccolo that I always liked: “I won’t get you 60 yards in one crack like Sayers, but I’ll get you six yards ten times in a row.” My teacher had paraphrased it for us while we discussed the film: “I won’t get you 60 yards, but I’ll get you ten sixes.” That has always stuck with me.

So, what does this have to do with this post? To me, that line is a reminder that you don’t have to do huge flashy things to make a difference. You don’t have to move mountains to be of value. Sometimes, making a huge difference can be as simple as a five-minute conversation. I have friends that write books and teach classes and travel the world as super experts. These people provide a ton of value to the community. Just don’t think you have to do just as much as they do in order to matter. Start small, but start. Do something for someone, even if it’s something you think is tiny and may not matter. Do it anyway. It could matter a lot to the person you help.