Over the course of my career, I’ve had the opportunity to participate in many interviews, on both sides of the table. And regardless of where I’ve sat, I’ve found that my interviews have evolved to focus around one general theme:
I’ll be honest – pure technical interviews annoy the hell out of me. Anyone can memorize a book. I’ve encountered numerous candidates who have committed a slew of SQL Server trivia to memory, but do not know how to put that knowledge into action. And a purely technical interview does nothing to prove whether a data professional can succeed in a real business environment, where book answers are simply not enough to accomplish the task at hand.
The real business world demands that a successful candidate other skills outside of technical knowledge. Strong written and verbal communication skills is an example of one. And for me, resourcefulness is king.
What is resourcefulness?
For the sake of this dialogue, I define resourcefulness as those who may not have an answer to a challenge they are facing, but know what options are open and available to them to find that answer. Not only should they know their options, they should know when to use which options, and when to escalate properly and effectively.
H.R. Giger, the brilliant mind behind the “Alien” creature from one of my favorite film franchises, passed away earlier today. As a result, my favorite film of the series, Aliens, is on my mind and I find myself drawing some amusing parallels. Hope you’ve seen Aliens… and if you haven’t, please go watch it… I’ll wait.
Here’s one of my favorite exchanges between some Colonial Maries, as they are transported to their destination:
Ripley: How many drops is this for you, Lieutenant?
Gorman: Thirty eight… simulated.
Vasquez: How many COMBAT drops?
Gorman: Uh, two. Including this one.
Hudson: Oh, man…
Lieutenant Gorman had a good amount of training & book knowledge. But his lack of experience fails him. And instead of exhibiting resourcefulness, he locks up, which results in his team getting decimated. He did not exercise any of the options that were available to him, to properly react to the alien threat.
As data professionals, we too must prepare for events like disaster recovery scenarios. And when disaster strikes, disasters rarely go “by the book.” We get forced to think on the fly, make use of our wits, and call upon the help of our colleagues. To me, that is being resourceful.
So how does Resourcefulness manifest itself during an interview?
As an interviewer, I carefully choose questions that force a candidate to demonstrate resourcefulness. Some are anecdotal, such as asking about past challenging experiences. Others are hypothetical, such as presenting them with a scenario and walking through it together. I carefully analyze not only what they answer, but how they answer.
- Did they ask questions of other SQL Server colleagues?
- Did they researching known SQL Server blogs?
- Did they mention using #SQLHelp on Twitter?
All of these example options, are options that are available to all of us.
But Andy, not everyone knows about the wealth of resources that are freely available! That’s absolutely correct! There was a time when I was ignorant of the awesome SQL Server community & failed to make use of it. So then that begs the question, how do you react when you do learn of it?
I’ve come across candidates who were in the same boat, and no, I did not judge them for negatively for their ignorance. What I did do is take the opportunity to talk about the SQL Server community and how valuable of a resource it is. And I absolutely did judge candidates on their reactions. Were they excited? Did they ask to find out more? Or were they dismissive? Did they not care?
Resourcefulness isn’t only about knowing what options you have available, but about embracing new options when they become available to you!
So ask yourself, do you think you’re a resourceful individual? The next time you find yourself as an interviewee, think about how you can display your resourcefulness. Or if you find yourself as an interviewer, consider how assessing a candidate’s resourcefulness will help you make a better hiring decision.
I don’t think I’ll ever forget, walking out of the Speaker room, rounding the corner, and seeing the hallway JAMMED with people. I thought to myself, why are all of these people out here?!? The rest of the classrooms are down the hall. Wait… these people are lined up to see ME?!?! WHOA!!!
Let’s flash forward a few more minutes. It’s was 3:50PM. I was exhausted, a bit nervous, but ready to rock & roll with my 2nd presentation ever. I look out at my classroom, and while it’s small, it’s PACKED! Then it hits me like a brick wall – the room is SILENT! There was no idle chatter – everyone was just sitting there staring at me. And that sure didn’t help my nerves!
I opted to throw caution to the wind and test my ability to engage in idle chatter with a room full of strangers. I asked the audience how they’ve been enjoying SQL Saturday. That nearly fell flat, but my friend & room monitor Gina Meronek helped save me & keep the chatter going. I eventually started sharing about community & SQL Family. I talked about how strong the community is, and how I value resourcefulness far above raw technical knowledge. By participating and involving yourself in this community, you gain an unbelievable resource to aid you in your career.
And to me, that’s what SQL Saturday is all about – community & SQL Family.
But back to my session. I’m pleased to say that it went really well. I made one key change from my first version I ran in Madison, adding in an audience interactive section, which went really well. I managed to successfully bait my audience into making one particular data type decision, then launched a curve ball at them. It was simple, but illustrated the need to really think about your data when choosing appropriate types.
I was also honored to have Grant Fritchey attend my session. His feedback was gold to me and I’m grateful for it. And as many of you know, he subsequently honored me. I still don’t have words to describe how I felt about that!
I’m really excited to continue to tweak and grow this presentation, and to give it again at future events!
Am I giving it again? Where you ask?
Hope to see you somewhere soon!
A year ago at SQL Saturday Chicago 2013, I had shown up to be a volunteer and stuff bags. Through some odd events, I wound up being in charge of all room monitors. After being drafted as a pseudo-staff member, I knew that I had to formally join the Wendy’s band of misfits to plan SQL Saturday Chicago 2014.
And boy howdy, we busted our tails getting everything together. The last few months have really been a whirlwind for me personally, as I combined SQL Saturday Chicago planning with assembling my first SQL Server presentation. But as a team, we worked really well together, and pulled off a fantastic event. I believe we clocked in with an estimated final headcount of 470 attendees! I heard lots of positive feedback all around. And as exhausted as I was at the end of the day, I’d do it all over again in a heartbeat!
Random Highlights & Memories for me:
* Scrambling on Friday, to pick up swag mugs from a freight warehouse 45 minutes south of DeVry
* Speaker Dinner at Schitzel Platz – OMG German Food!
* Tim Ford in a “large box”
* Poncho Man
* Hope Foley’s Geekiest Query Ever
* After-Party sliders catered by The Slide Ride
We’re already scheming for 2015! But until then, there’s many more SQL Saturday’s to attend! Hope to see you at one!
Been working on my post SQL Saturday Chicago & 2nd Every Byte Counts presentation entries over this past week, but had to post a quick entry now.
I was shocked this morning when I opened TweetDeck, to find this:
That was maybe 20 minutes ago, I’d be lying if I didn’t say that I’m still on Cloud 9.
It was more than enough, just to have Grant agree to attend my session, and to receive his feedback afterwards. But this… wow…
So thank you Grant, and thank you to everyone who attended my sessions in Madison and Chicago!
Where is he speaking next? I don’t know.
Over the course of this week, I was also honored to be invited to present at MADPASS. I should be there in August. I’ll most likely also be submitting and crossing my fingers for SQL Saturday Indianapolis & Minneapolis.
It’s Thursday morning, and I’m still riding the wave after a fantastic SQL Saturday in Madison, WI. Of course, it was my very first time presenting a session, which made it all the more memorable.
We were in a new facility this year – American Family Insurance has a training facility as part of their larger campus, and it did not disappoint. The facility was beautiful! Loved the classrooms and the on-site equipment was nice and reliable.
For my own presentation, I wasn’t terribly many people, since I was up against Brent Ozar. Truth be told, I was perfectly okay with this. But I was pleasantly surprised and pleased that as fellow Speakers learned that it was my first time speaking, they committed to attending. In some regards, their presence and subsequent feedback was more valuable to me as a first-timer. On the other hand, maybe 10 or so people did come out to see me – yes, see ME! What a funny feeling that is!
I’m happy to say that my presentation went very well. I did my best to watch my pacing and not speak too fast as I am sometimes apt to do.
I did have one minor demo goof-up, when querying a DMV and getting 4 records back unexpectedly instead of one. I rolled with it and 30 seconds later realized my mistake – I was still in the Master DB! Oops! Some of the other more seasoned speakers commended me on handling that like a pro.
One other funny anecdote, was when Jim Drame asked if I was going to bring up Page Splitting after my Data Page segement. Why yes Jim, in fact it’s coming up in another two modules! Score! :-)
In the end, I got some fantastic feedback. What made me feel really good though, were feedback sheets from normal participants who said they’d be taking some of my tips & tricks back with them to work. I’m actually excited to tweak the presentation and give it again – that’s how much fun I had!
So yeah, I’m addicted. :-)
Gushing aside, I cannot thank the organizers of SQL Saturday Madison enough, for giving me this opportunity to try my hand at speaking. They put together a fantastic event and I look forward to attending more in years to come!
Thank you to those who attended my VERY FIRST session yesterday: Every Byte Counts! I am grateful for the opportunity to speak, and for the awesome feedback I received from all attendees.
I have just finished posting my slidedeck and a 2012 backup of my demo database. You may get them here:
I’ll have more post-event thoughts later I’m sure.
Thanks to everyone, who made yesterday a fantastic day!
I’ve never put much stock in setting long-term goals for myself. I’m not a New Year’s Resolution kind of guy. But a couple of years ago, I did set a loose goal of becoming more involved in the SQL Server community.
I figured at first, I would just network with as many people I could. Then last year, I started to volunteer at SQL Saturdays & travelled out of state to attend SQL Saturdays. Finally, I made it a personal and professional goal to finally attend the PASS Summit.
I achieved all of those goals!
Through those accomplishments, I set a few new goals. For one, I started this blog. But the bigger, more intimidating goal was to finally start speaking. I had an opportunity to get my feet wet, late last year, by giving a Lightning Talk at Chicago’s SQL Server User Group. This gave me a solid foundation upon which to build a full blown session.
I set my sights on two early 2014 SQL Saturdays in my region – Madison & Chicago. And I am honored and humbled to say that I was accepted to speak at both!
If you come out to one of these SQL Saturdays, you can see me present Every Byte Counts: Why Your Datatype Choices Matter!
I want to give a special thanks to Jes Borland, Eddie Wuerch, and Mark Vaillancourt. When I first started this endeavor, Jes shared some fantastic advice with me on how to structure and put a session together. Later, I attended a SQL Saturday session by Eddie, on speaking and presenting, which also influenced me greatly. He incorporated a dialogue exercise with his audience, so I volunteered my topic idea to work through. Finally, I attended another SQL Saturday session by Mark, also on speaking and presenting. Mark gave me some other fantastic insights and ideas.
So thank you everyone! Here goes nothing!