Finding new goals…

The sudden and sad demise of the #sqlmcm program had me thinking on many levels..particularly on future goals and aspirations, and on how to market myself.

To give an introduction of some sort – in my younger years I was not particularly in favor of degrees or certifications. I was strongly of the belief that experience, interest to learn and creativity were the ‘real’ stuff that got you places. I dropped out of a high tech engineering program where I was 1 out of 300 people selected from among nearly 60,000 people who took it, and chose to pursue my life and career based on what I believed I had – interest in technology, creativity and hard work. Needless to say, it was not an easy journey. Particularly in a country like India where degrees and certifications were almost a cultural obsession. After a few years of working poorly paid jobs I went back to school for my masters. My masters degree and the process of doing it taught me many positive things. One, that having a hard goal – such as an exam or someone to rate me gave me better focus than learning on my own. Two, degrees helped you get through visas and other places where you do not have personal interaction with whoever is handling your stuff, and three, it helped you find community among others who had similar degrees. I never went crazy about degrees or certifications, but I did learn their place in the world, the hard way.

In the sql server world, there are many paths to progress. The most common one, by far, is by speaking/blogging/becoming a technical evangelist. There are many without MCM who have gone this way and been remarkably successful. But speaking and blogging unfortunately are not everybody’s goal nor does everyone have the time needed for it. To me – as someone who has a lot of food allergies, travelling intensively is really not a good goal to have. I have tried blogging but my time for it is rather limited and also not had success coming up with something creative to write about, I guess again that needs a lot of experimentation. That is part of the reason I picked the MCM as a possible goal. I was also interested in being differentiated from the average brain dump MCITP down the street by getting to be an MCM – and I did find this a worthy goal. Even saying you are pursuing an MCM at an interview got a lot of appreciative nods and interest. It also got employers to pay for good training programs such as those offered by #sqlskills, which they otherwise would not understand the value of.

Now with that certification gone we are back to the world where there is really not much by way of proof to tell an average employer how different you are from brain dump MCITPs. If you are like me into doing community work such as organizing sql Saturdays or running user groups you may want to use that to some extent but not everyone is highly impressed by community work to hire you, or even give you pointers to jobs (including people in the community itself). And to many of us it is not just about career growth or progress, it is also about acceptance among people you respect and acknowledge.

There is a scene in one of my favorite movies ‘A Beautiful Mind’ – where Professor John Nash – played by Russell Crowe, gets accepted and acknowledged for his intelligence after a nobel nomination. The other professors walk over slowly to him and hand him pens as a token of their respect and his acceptance into their club. I have a pen with the ‘Microsoft certified master’ printed on it – a little gift from the #sqlskills class I attended some years ago. It was my goal and the goal of many others I know to be accepted like John Nash was into the elite #mcm community. It is a sad day to have that taken away from us. It is my sincere hope and wish that all of us will find bigger and better goals to pursue.

SQL Saturday 2013 Louisville – A Recap

This year was SQL Saturday #5 in a row for us at Louisville. It was by far the best event we have had and we greatly enjoyed hosting it. Below are some things that worked and did not work this time:

What worked:

1 The location – ideally situated, no parking hassles, walking distance from the discounted hotel, all rooms on one floor, a very friendly and cooperative staff – in short everything we wanted in a location came through this time with this one. Our sincere thanks to Indiana Wesleyan University for hosting us (in particular to Leigh Ann Black) and our volunteer Dave Mattingly for finding them for us. We hope to have the next event(s) at the same location.

2 An enthusiastic crowd – although our turnout was not as high as usual (190 compared to 220+) we found most of the audience interested, appreciative and many stayed until the very end.

3 Our loyal speakers – over time we have grown a crowd of  speakers who attend our every event unfailingly – these include Kevin Edward Kline, Louis Davidson, Allen White, Tim Chapman, Dave Fackler and Craig Utley. Our thanks are due to these speakers (and  everyone else) whose knowledge and willingness to share it made the event a grand success. It may also be worthy of mention that Kevin unfailingly gets voted as the best speaker, and Tim has been the first guy  who made it upto the MCM from this town.

4 Sponsors – We put the sponsors in a separate room along with snacks and sodas. Almost all of them were very appreciative of the audience they got and promised to return again.  It may also be noteworthy that other than Quest/Dell Software and Confio and our local VSoft Consulting, all the other sponsors were first timers for us. Some like Embarcadero, Imperva  and BI Tracks did their first ever SQL Saturday sponsorship with us and wanted to return again. We consider this a huge victory not just for us but for the bigger SQL Saturday  community as well.

5 Post Event party – We did not have  post event parties at older events. The main reason for this is because we are a small volunteer crowd and all of us were very tired at the end of the day. Coordinating  another party was too much of an effort to pull off. This time VSoft Consulting stepped in as sponsors and coordinators, and we were able to host the first ever post event party. While it was not hugely attended, it was a good start and we will surely consider doing this again.

What did not work:

1 Pre Cons – We started with announcing 4 pre cons and ended up cancelling all of them. Three pre cons were cancelled at the behest of the speakers, who  were busy  with other work and did not find attendance big enough to book their time in advance. The last one had to be cancelled because the count of students was too small  for us to coordinate it. This made a few attendees unhappy and we were sorry that we had to do that. But some self examination helped us understand that pre cons were too much effort in addition to the sql Saturday – we are probably not going to have them again.

2 Speaker Shirts – We ended up with some shirts that were not of desired quality. The main reason  was that our order was placed in the last minute with a vendor who did a mix and match of suppliers. Our decision was to go with the Florida based SQL Saturday supplier that was used by many events , from next time.

3 Speaker Room – We had insufficient tables and chairs in the room that resulted in many speakers relocating to the lunch/registration room for chats and discussions . More attention to be paid to this later.

4 Speed Pass – We had a printer with us  for those attendees who did not show up with their speed pass printouts. Surprisingly this time it was quite a large crowd (roughly around 30-40 %). That resulted in the printer chugging along as fast as it could and two volunteers working the registration table non stop from morning until the last attendee strolled in after lunch. We also learnt by show of hands during the raffle that most attendees were first timers. This might be one of the reasons. From the next time we plan to work around this by having something different – like perhaps a $1 fee for those who forget their printouts.

5 Lower attendance than normal – We had about 20% less people than usual. We attributed the main reason for this to be our choice of date for the event – one week away from July 4th and a time when most people take time off for summer vacations. We will work better at finding a better date.

SQL Saturdays are team organized events, they are not one person effort no matter how motivated the organizer is. The success of this event is due to the hard work of our volunteers – Brian Carter, Dave Ingram, Dave Mattingly, Karen Schuler, Deana Ritter, Kenney Snell and newbies Scott Drake and James King. We hope to remain a team going forward and bring more events to the community. Our thanks again to speakers ,sponsors,volunteers and attendees who made it a grand success.

SQL Saturday Richmond – 2013

My friend Karen and me decided to drive out to Richmond and attend their SQL Saturday this past week. We have had several people from Richmond and the Washington DC area attend our events – we wanted to go there too. The other reasons were that the speaker line up was very attractive and there were several friends I had known via SQLCruise and PASS Community in general who were going to be attending. We left Louisville the morning of Friday the 8th and reached Richmond by around 6 pm in the evening. It was a pleasant, scenic drive through the mountains and weather was cooperative to the extent it could be for winter.

After a good night’s rest and dinner we arrived at the event location by 8.00 am the next day. There were several signs posted that made it very easy to locate the building in the campus of University of Richmond. Check in was very quick and easy with speed pass printouts – we were handed our swag bags with event schedule. There was coffee and bagels available for a breakfast.

My first class of the day was ‘Building a virtual lab’ by Matt Velic. I have been struggling with labs for many days and I found the session useful – although Matt had lots of material to cover and time did not seem to suffice. I was encouraged to know that he had made a book out of the process – it is on my list of things to download and work further with.

The next two classes I attended were ‘Windowing Functions in 2012′ by Kevin Boles and ‘Branding yourself for a dream job’ by Steve Jones. I have been wanting to attend Steve’s session for a very long time and go to do it finally. He gave some great tips on prudent use of social media and its importance in networking – also on using networking to find the next job. I greatly enjoyed it.

Lunch included many selections including two for vegetarians – and came as a neatly wrapped box of pasta salad, sandwich,fruit salad and cookies. For $5 it is about the best bargain I have seen so far and was very tastefully done. I ate lunch at the Women in Technology session on ‘Breaking the glass ceiling’ – moderated by Kevin Kline. The panel included Karen Lopez, Melissa Coates and Stacia Misner. I have attended many WIT sessions before but this one was definitely memorable and greatly useful for the many insights provided by the panelists – particularly Karen Lopez, on salary negotiation and behavior models of women in the male dominated techie world. Kevin also raised the question of numbers of women in technology across the world – and it was one I could provide some insight on.

I spent an extra hour on networking in the afternoon – something I have felt very necessary to do, especially at an event where I knew so many people. It was a valuable experience and made me understand the need to rethink the habitual pattern of running from class to class. I attended two sessions – one by Michael Corey of Ntirety on Virtualizing SQL Server, and the other by John Welch on Big Data. Both were packed with information and made for worthy use of my time.

The day ended with raffles and closing remarks. A mini slide show highlighted the volunteers and sponsors. Many prizes were raffled off including one for those who provided event feedback. We said goodbye to many friends including organizers,speakers and attendees and left for home, greatly satisfied.

As an organizer of many sql saturdays – am well aware of and always appreciative of the efforts that go into  making an event successful. I wish to communicate my hearty congratulations to the Richmond team for providing a memorable event for 2013 – hope you get some much needed rest until another event comes along!

Finding users who are Sysadmins

We had a requirement on a server supporting a vendor application to monitor users who are given sysadmin rights. This was because vendor personnel would need these privileges every now and then – and it was our job to monitor when they are active and see that they are disabled on time. To achieve this objective I was asked to write a stored procedure based job that would get a list of people who were SA’s and send an email to the DBA team manager with the list. Below is the procedure I wrote to achieve this objective.

/*********************************************************************************************
Authored by: Malathi Mahadevan 2/27/2013

Tested on : SQL Server 2005 and 2008 only

Version 1.00
**********************************************************************************************/

CREATE PROCEDURE usp_getsanames
AS
DECLARE @tableHTML  NVARCHAR(MAX)
Declare @T table(saname varchar(100),sarole varchar(500),saenabled smallint)
BEGIN
 — SET NOCOUNT ON added to prevent extra result sets from
 — interfering with SELECT statements.
 SET NOCOUNT ON;

INSERT INTO @T(saname,sarole,saenabled)
    — Insert statements for procedure here
SELECT  mem.name,mem.type_desc,mem.is_disabled
FROM sys.server_role_members AS srm
INNER JOIN sys.server_principals AS rol ON rol.principal_id = srm.role_principal_id
INNER JOIN sys.server_principals AS mem ON mem.principal_id = srm.member_principal_id
WHERE rol.name = ‘sysadmin’
and mem.type_desc <> ‘SQL_LOGIN’

SET @tableHTML =    N'<H1>SYSADMIN ROLE REPORT</H1>’ +   
N'<table border=”1″>’ +   
N'<tr><th>Name</th><th>Role</th><th>Status</th>’
+   
CAST ((
SELECT  td = CAST(([saname]) AS nvarchar(100)),”,
td = CAST((sarole) as nvarchar(15)),”,
td = CAST((CASE  [saenabled]
            WHEN 0 THEN ‘ENABLED’
            WHEN 1 THEN ‘Disabled’
            END) AS NVARCHAR(50))
FROM @T
–ORDER BY [name]   
FOR XML PATH(‘tr’), TYPE) AS NVARCHAR(MAX) ) +    N'</table>’  
      

IF @@ROWCOUNT > 0
BEGIN

 EXEC msdb.dbo.sp_send_dbmail    
@recipients =
‘dbamanager@mycompany.com’,
@subject =
‘SYSADMIN ROLE MEMBERS -VENDOR’,    @importance = ‘High’,    @body =   @tableHTML,    @body_format = ‘HTML’
 end
ELSE
BEGIN
SELECT @TABLEHTML =  N'<H1>SYSADMIN ROLE REPORT</H1>’ +   
N'<table border=”1″>’ +   
N'<tr><th>No records found</th>’
END

END

Tail of the log has not been backed up

This is the second post in my attempt to blog one little thing every day. Today I ran into this message when trying to restore a database over an existing database. I forgot to check the box that says ‘overwrite existing database’ and got this rather informative error. I love this error message since it tells exactly what the user should do

‘The tail of the log of the database <mydatabase< has not been backed up – Meaning there are transactions in the log that need to be backed up.

‘USE BACKUPLOG WITH NORECOVERY’ if you want to backup the log and it contains work you don’t want to lose. ‘- It tells exactly what should user do in case he needs the older copy.

‘USE WITH REPLACE OR WITH STOPAT CLAUSE OF THE RESTORE STATEMENT TO JUST OVERWRITE THE CONTENTS OF THE LOG’ – in other words if am using the GUI I better check the box to tell sQL Server to overwrite the existing database, if that is what I intend to do.

This message tells me what is wrong and also evaluates the two possibilities – I want to keep or discard the old copy of the database, and tells me what to do in both situations. It is an excellent example of user friendly error messages.

blogpost

 

 

Re attaching logins…script

I am posting this as first in the series I plan to do on my favorite scripts. This is also an attempt to get into blogging seriously – an idea suggested by Tim Ford – to blog atleast one thing learnt per day(#learn365). Am starting with very mundane/basic things as there are many of them.

As a DBA I often have a need to do activities across user databases on a server. One of them is to re attach all SQL Server Logins when a Development or QA environment is restored. There are many ways of doing this…and many scripts available online. Below is the script I authored and use. I also use the same framework to perform any activity across user databases. It works on SQL Server 2005, 2008 and 2008 R2. I have not tested it on SQL Server 2012.

The script checks if login exists on the database so that it does not have to run on databases that do not have the login and produce an error.  It looks really simple but when I looked for a script I could not find one that met my needs and therefore wrote my own.

/*********************************************************************************************
Authored by: Malathi Mahadevan 2/15/2013
**********************************************************************************************/
— Define variables needed
DECLARE @DataBase NVARCHAR(128)
DECLARE @Command NVARCHAR(500)
DECLARE @loginname VARCHAR(20)

–Provide login to be reattached
SELECT @loginname = ‘mylogin’

DECLARE UserDatabases CURSOR FOR

SELECT name FROM master..sysdatabases
where name not in (‘master’,’tempdb’, ‘model’, ‘msdb’, ‘distribution’)

– Open Cursor
OPEN UserDatabases
— Get First database
FETCH NEXT FROM USerDatabases INTO @DataBase

– Process until no more databases
WHILE (@@FETCH_STATUS = 0)
BEGIN
SET @command = ‘USE [' + @database + '];IF EXISTS(SELECT 1
FROM sys.database_principals princ
LEFT JOIN sys.database_permissions perm
ON perm.grantee_principal_id = princ.principal_id
where name = ”’ + @LOGINNAME + ”’and type_desc = ”SQL_USER”) ‘
+ ‘EXEC sp_change_users_login ”update_one”,’ + ”” + @LOGINNAME + ”’,’ + ”” + @LOGINNAME + ”';’
EXEC (@command)
— Print command to be processed
PRINT @command
— Get next database
FETCH NEXT FROM UserDatabases INTO @DataBase

END

– Close and Deallocate Cursor
CLOSE UserDatabases
DEALLOCATE UserDatabases

SQL Cruise 2013

I had the opportunity to go on yet another SQL Cruise in 2013. This time our trip was to the Carribean Isles – St Maarten, US Virgin Islands and the Bahamas. In addition to some great opportunities for training and networking the cruise was a relaxing and enriching experience with great food and great opportunities for sightseeing in new land(s). Below is my summary of the experience – if you want to skip my rambling notes and get to what I got out of it please scroll at the way down to the last paragraph :)

Day 0- 25th January 2012: I landed at Miami late Friday evening. The cruise crowd met up with local sql server user group members and had a small get together by the pool at the hotel where we stayed.We were also given our sql cruise swag (big bag of goodies from various sponsors).It was a good opportunity to warm up to the cruise and get to know fellow cruisers.

Day 1 – The first day was marked by a breakfast get-together at the hotel we stayed in. It was a good meal and an opportunity to get to know new cruiser Mickey Stuewe and also catch up with Kevin Kline, Bruce Sacrisante and several others. Kevin was also kind to sponsor our ride to the dock in a taxi. The check in was crowded and the ship was much larger than the one I had been in Alaska. We were finally in by noon and met up again for lunch. That was followed by room check in. I took the evening off to nap and settle in – and missed the ‘search the ship’ contest which is a lot of fun. But I simply could not find energy to do it after a long day.

Day 2 – The first day at sea was marked by breakfast followed by Kevin Kline’s class on communication ‘Influence vs Authority’.  Kevin has always been one of my favorite teachers in the community particularly in areas of professional growth and this class was no exception. I learnt a lot about using different styles of communication with different people (so different from the default same cut for all that most techies are used to).I was also impressed by Kevin’s suggestion to keep a printout of various styles so that one may refer to them constantly and make it a habit. That is something I have adopted and has helped in atleast two situations so far.After a great lunch the afternoon session was Allen White’s ‘Powershell 101′. I have attended this session a couple of times before but always find it uniformly interesting and inspiring to get to learn Powershell. This session was followed by  ‘How to be an Enterprise DBA – Part I’ by Sean Mccown. Sean discussed automation strategies, communication strategies and various situations faced by DBAs who handle several servers in large shops. I found it very interesting and useful. The evening was marked by networking hour on the deck followed by formal dinner. The dinner discussion at the table I was centered around mid life challenges with finding jobs, and being a generalist versus a specialist. It provided many insights.

Day 3 – This day was again at sea and marked by a continuation of Sean Mccown’s session on being an Enterprise DBA. It was accompanied by an invigorating discussion on many challenges faced in handling DBA work in enterprise shops. After lunch the class continued with Ryan Adams teaching Active Directory terminologies and usage as applicable to SQL Server. I learnt more on many terms that I did not know in great detail about. The evening was again marked by networking – also called ‘Office Hour’. I was impressed and happy with the fact that cruisers had some time to themselves in the evening to network on their own or explore the huge ship at leisure.

 Day 4 – We docked at St Maarten today. I took a guided tour to a Butterfly Farm followed by a short exploration of the beach and some shopping. The Butterfly farm was the backyard of a canadian scientist – a sunny garden full of flowers, with only a thin mosquito net for protection and hundreds of butterflies gracing the space. It was a truly spectacular and interesting visit. The multi cultural nature of the tiny island (partly owned by the French and partly by the Dutch), and the lifestyle of the local people (very little fresh water or agriculture, tourism main industry) was interesting to observe. After a long day we met up for networking again and then retired early.

Day 5: We docked at St John’s, an island part of the US Virgin Islands today. It was a gorgeously beautiful summer day. I was torn between joining the group on their trip to a private beach or going on the tour I planned — the eco hike of the island, and finally ended up doing the latter. The hike was a short 3 mile walk through the rocky island landscape, with many gorgeous views of the beaches. We also spent two hours at Honeymoon beach, a small beach with smooth white sand and the bluest beautiful waters ever. I regretfully made my way back to the boat around 2 pm. St John’s is definitely among the most beautiful scenic places I have seen in my lifetime. We met up again for networking and dinner in the evening, most conversation centered around our sightseeing experiences that day.

Day 6: This was a day at sea. Our class started with Neil Hambly teaching Memory Management. I liked Neil’s style of teaching and learnt many tips from the presentation. It was followed by Kevin Kline’s session on SQL Server Internals. Although I have attended the session before it was a great refresher on things one needs to know. This was followed by Ryan Adams teaching Policy Based Management. In the evening we met up for a semi formal dinner at the same restaurant. My memories of the dinner center around the gluten free, sugar free peach cobbler ordered by Mickey Stuewe and shared by some of us. It was truly a memorable guilt free dessert experience :)

Day 7: Our last day of the cruise began with Allen White teaching ‘Powershell for Performance’. I was very impressed by scripts he used to do performance monitoring and display graphs as reports. The ship docked at the Bahamas for the afternoon. I spent the afternoon on a swimming experience with dolphins at the resort we were close to. It was truly unforgettable but left little time for anything else. The weather at the Bahamas was also chilly due to a storm front coming in. Our last evening was marked by a great get together after dinner with plenty of jokes and good humor. I took leave of the party with many warm feelings, friendships made and gratitude for a great week of learning and networking.

There are a few things I learnt from the cruise. First of them perhaps is that it has given me an opportunity to make friends easily – I am one of those people who is often perceived as a strong introvert, although am really not that much of a shy or reserved person. My personality type is more of an ‘ambivert’ or ‘centrovert’ as they call it – I take time to warm up to people though and am not an ‘instant mixer’. To add to that is all the complexities of having spent half a lifetime in another culture and the strong stereotype around asian women. I would probably not have much to contribute in a conversation that centers strongly around american food, or alcohol or music but I do like jokes of any kind and enjoy conversations where people give room for differences and have time to listen. SQL Cruise allows for that, and has helped me make many good friends among the people I have cruised with so far. I have been enriched by their stories and their experiences and hopefully they learnt some from mine too. I am also always someone up for checking out new lands and exploring new places – it is just the trip for someone interested in all that .I was able to add 3 new places to my list and that makes me greatly thrilled. Lastly is the invaluable experience of technical learning and being around people who have been successful and good at what they do, for extended periods of time. There are many conferences/sql saturdays and various events but none that give you the opportunity to do all of this in one week. 

I would highly encourage any person interested in growing their career in SQL Server to try SQL Cruise. You will want to come back for more, I promise. I want to thank the sponsors – SQL Sentry, Idera, Red Gate and Confio for making this possible for the SQL Community – in addition to Tim and Amy Ford, for their great organizing skills and also for the fun and enriching company of their entire family.

Previous Older Entries

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.