Why I Do What I Do #tsql2sday

I didn’t originally want to go back into IT after 15 years in the career field. It was 1999 and I had just left active duty with the US Air Force. My designation was a Communications-Computer Systems Officer but I had served as a hybrid IT support/project manager/Airman wrangler throughout my four years. I knew I had a calling to ministry, specifically ministry to children and youth. I was hoping for full time ministry. Therefore, I was looking to leave IT behind. I still loved technology and computers, but I wanted to follow my calling even more.

However, anyone who has gone down this road knows that a lot of churches expect either ordination or a degree from a seminary (or as a minimum, an undergraduate Biblical degree from a Bible college) for a full time position. I had neither. As a result, the options were limited. I could get a part time position with the expectation I would go to seminary in order to be a full time youth pastor. I could switch denominations and serve as a pastor over a church, but not in youth or children’s ministry. Or I could go back into IT. At that time my wife and I had two toddlers. Incurring a load of student loans for three years of full time college didn’t make sense. I wasn’t called to be a senior/lead pastor. I was called to work with students. Therefore, I went back into IT.

Fast forward 20 years. I’m still in IT. However, my perspective has changed. I’ve been able to stay primarily in children’s and youth ministry. I’m a youth director for my church and I love what I do. I have found over the years that most churches can’t afford a full time staff position for a youth minister. The need, therefore, is for someone who is bi-vocational. As a result, someone like me who has everything covered financially by the first job is ideal. By working in IT, I can fulfill my calling.

My perspective with regards to IT has changed as well. At the end of the day, to me IT is about serving others. So while my current position does not work with children or youth except on special occasions, IT still has a deeply fulfilling aspect that I love. I say that because as a twenty-something I was more enamored with new technology. I was one of the ones who also wanted the newest shiny. As I’ve grown older, I’ve seen technology for what it really is: tools to help us. My job is to use technology to help others. My job is to design technical solutions that are of benefit to people.

That’s why I do what I do. First and foremost, IT allows me to fulfill my calling, which is to minister to children and youth. I’ve been asked if I ever wanted to be a pastor of a church some day. I don’t. I can trace back to childhood specific opportunities and training which equipped me for working with students. My job in IT provides the opportunity to serve in this role as well. It’s clear this is where I’m to be. That may change in the future, but it hasn’t in over 20 years. Second, in IT I can serve others, both directly and indirectly. My focus used to about the technology itself. Now it’s about people. There’s nothing wrong with loving to work with new stuff. I do, but it is of secondary importance for my secondary reason. These are the reasons I do what I do.

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Midlands PASS Meeting for April 2019

The Midlands PASS April 2019 meeting will be held on April 2nd and we’ll be welcoming Matt Gordon (twitter | website)!

Meeting Details and RSVP Link: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/democratizing-data-analysis-howwhy-of-social-sentiment-scoring-tickets-56039146596

Here is the talk he’ll be giving:

Democratizing Data Analysis: How/Why of Social Sentiment Scoring

The job of a data professional is evolving rapidly, driving many of us to platforms and technologies that were not on our radar screen a few months ago. I am certainly no exception to that trend. Most of us aren’t just monitoring backups and tuning queries – we are collaborating with teams throughout the company to provide them data and insights that drive decisions. Cloud providers are democratizing technologies and techniques that were complicated and proprietary just a few months ago. This presentation walks you through how a silly idea from a soccer podcast got me thinking about how Azure Logic Apps, the Azure Cognitive Services API, and Azure SQL DB combine to provide potentially powerful insights to any company with a social media and sales presence. Join me as I walk you through building a solution that can impact your company’s bottom line – and potentially yours too!

And a bit more about Matt:

Matt Gordon
Data Platform Solution Architect, DMI

Matt is a Microsoft Data Platform MVP and has worked with SQL Server since 2000. He is the leader of the Lexington, KY PASS local group, a frequent community speaker, and speaker at PASS Summit 2017 and 2018. He’s an IDERA ACE and 2019 Friend of Redgate. His original data professional role was as a database developer, which quickly evolved into query tuning work that further evolved into being a full-fledged DBA in the healthcare realm. He has supported several critical systems utilizing SQL Server and managed dozens of 24/7/365 SQL Server implementations. He currently utilizes that real world experience as a data platform consultant helping clients design solutions that meet their ever-changing business needs.

Midlands PASS Meeting for March 2019

The March meeting for Midlands PASS will be held on March 5, 2019, from 5:30-7:30 PM. Brian Kelley and Paul Shearer, both local to Columbia, will be speaking on SQL Server in the Cloud.

RSVP Link: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/sql-server-in-the-cloud-tickets-55991994563

Description:

More and more organizations are looking to move workloads into the cloud. This includes database platforms like Microsoft SQL Server. In this presentation Paul Shearer and Brian Kelley will cover the options available currently for both AWS (Paul) and Azure (Brian). We’ll talk about hybrid scenarios in addition to “all cloud” solutions. Consider this an open ended discussion type presentation where we talk about pros/cons and the types of rethinking/refactoring you’ll need to do if your organization is going to move data into either AWS or Azure.

Midlands PASS Meeting – February 5, 2019

Midlands PASS (Columbia, SC) will be hosting Shannon Lowder on February 5, 2019, from 5:30-8:00 PM. He will be speaking on his journey as a data scientist. If you are going to be in the area, here is the registration link:

https://www.eventbrite.com/e/becoming-a-data-scientist-tickets-53066926606

What’s the Talk About?

You’ve all heard about data scientists, and seen job postings for them. But what is the job like, really? Let me share the story of my first official data science project. While sharing the story I’ll stop to point out the skills used that many DBAs, PowerShell junkies, BI developers and architects already have. There may be a few new topics you’ll want to pick up. This is a show and tell session. It’s my hope that you come away with a better understanding of what a data scientist is, and be able to measure how far between where you are and your own first project.

About Shannon:

I am a data guy with a passion for partnering with clients to solve their database and technology issues. Over my career, I’ve played all the roles: database developer, administrator, business intelligence developer, and architect, and now consultant. I’m the guy you call in when you have the impossible problem and everyone tells you it cannot be solved. I automate solutions in order to free your current staff to do the higher value tasks. I bring solutions outside of traditional relational database solutions, in order to find the shortest path between you and your goals.

As an accomplished Microsoft SQL data professional, recognized BimlHero, and practicing Data Scientist, I’m the resource you need to extract the most value from your data.

Data Modeling Webcast Rescheduled

Unfortunately, due to a last minute scheduling conflict on my side, we’ve had to reschedule the data modeling webcast with MSSQLTips. It is now for next Wednesday, January 23rd, at 3 PM Eastern.

Register for webinar (free)

I apologize for the change in schedule. If you’re unable to make the new time, MSSQLTips does put all of the webinars on demand after they are converted.

Developing Presence

At SQL Saturday Nashville, I didn’t do a good job explaining the concept of presence. This is in reference to the Women in Technology presentation at lunch. Part of the discussion was around how height can influence being noticed. I agree that it does play a huge role. At 5’7″, I know that it’s easy to “fly under the radar.” However, I also know that folks are able to overcome that physical trait.

I was trying to explain how my mom, who is 4’8″ on a good day, and her sister (even shorter), have a presence that when they mean business, they command immediate respect. Not only are they very short by our American standards, but they are both very obviously Japanese. And, of course, they are female. So they both fit that 3 strikes against when it comes to being noticed, respected, and listened to. Yet I’ve seen both in the midst of a crowd of complete strangers and immediately command the group. They have presence.

If you think about it, you’ve likely come across folks who seem to be able to command the room, even a room where no one knows them. They come in and it’s as if everyone immediately takes notice. When I was at The Citadel and was part of the training cadre, I had to have that sort of presence from the moment matriculation began for the freshmen. It’s not natural for me but due to lessons I learned from my freshman and sophomore years at The Citadel, I was able to step into that role as a junior.

As a result, I know from experience that people can develop their presence. Some seem to come by presence naturally. For instance, my teen daughter, who is still under 5′, is someone who hasn’t needed much training. She takes after my mom, not me. She DMs Dungeons and Dragons regularly and most of the time there are only adults at her table. There’s no question who has command, like this picture from a convention where she was DMing (the one reaching over the screen).

Her brothers, who are both at or about 6′ and in college, don’t naturally and instinctively command the same presence. They have to think about doing so. My oldest son, who is the tallest and most physically imposing member of our immediate family, is more often than not overlooked or missed if he isn’t thinking about his presence. He has to rely on lessons learned from martial arts, The Citadel, and military training to do so. When he consciously does, he can command a room, as he has had some great, great teachers. However, he has to expend intentional effort to do so. His brother, who has had martial arts training as well, has to do the same thing.

You don’t have to go into the military to learn how to have presence. I’ve cited my sons and lessons learned from the martial arts. Solid martial arts instructors and schools do teach presence. After all, as you progress towards black belt, you will likely be given increased responsibility in teaching less experienced students. Both of my sons have earned black belts and are now expected to be able to teach in their respective schools. That requires presence.

If martial arts aren’t your thing, there are also organizations like Toastmasters who work on the same concept and provide training to help you develop presence and the appearance of comfort in a public setting. I say appearance because if you’re like me, a solid introvert, there’s always discomfort. However, those organizations’ training help you deal with that discomfort, increase your ability to reach others, and be accessible. You may have to consciously focus on doing so, but it’s possible.

Now, will there still be times when you’ll be dismissed or ignored? Absolutely. There’s plenty of folks with strong, illogical bias against you, whether it’s the fact you’re short, you’re female, you’re obviously of foreign descent, or something else. There are also people who can’t see past themselves. And then there are folks who are dealing with life situations that make them less attuned to what’s going on around them. The best parable I have heard is the guy who gets on the subway with his small kids and the young ones begin terrorizing the car but the man doesn’t intervene. Finally, one person intercedes and asks the man if he can do something about his children. Then the punchline hits: he has come from the hospital where his wife has just passed away from cancer and none of them are dealing with it well.

Those specific and unusual cases aside, if we work on developing our presence, for a large number of people, we can overcome factors that would normally exclude us from notice or push us out of the conversation. It’s definitely a soft skill to develop, regardless of your industry or profession.

Donating Hair Again

There are several organizations which take hair donations, but the one I prefer to donate to is Wigs for Kids, whose focus is children who need wigs due to cancer. Steve Jones asked for before and after pictures, so here they are. Total length was about 14 in use. I’m hoping the gray will stay back enough to get at least one more donation to Wigs for Kids. After that, I’ll have to find a ministry or non-profit that collects hair for adults. Pantene is now using synthetic hair and has discontinued its Beautiful Lengths program.

We did this at the church where I’m the youth director to remind the children and youth that anyone can find a way to help others, even by simply growing out some hair. You don’t have to have a lot of money and you don’t have to have a particular skill. If you want to help others, there are plenty of opportunities out there.

Before the haircut - frontBefore the haircut - BackBefore the haircut - in the ponytailCutting the hairThe ponytail!All done!

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