Year In Review: 2013

Year In Review: 2013

Ok, so it's not quite the end of the year yet. I figured I would get a head start on things. Who says that this type of post has to come on January 1st though? Well here goes. Let's talk a little bit about what has happened in the last year and some of my goals for the next year.

First Quarter

I started the year out right by going skiing in Colorado at Breckenridge. For the last few years a few friends and I have gone up to West Virginia to ski at Snowshoe. This year we wanted to go for something a little bigger so I packed up my car and drove all the way from my house in Jacksonville, FL to the airport on the other side of Jacksonville, FL. From there I flew to Colorado, you didn't really think I was going to drive all the way out there did you? It was an awesome time. I can't describe how much I enjoy skiing even though I only get to go once a year. Other than skiing and a couple of webinars for Pragmatic Works there wasn't a lot going on. Normal client work with a lot of travel.

Second Quarter

There are a couple of things I really like about my job. First, I get to move around to a lot of different projects and therefore see a lot of different situations. I feel like that has given me an opportunity to learn a lot of things that many people won't have the chance to get real hands on experience with. I'm really lucky in that respect. Second, I get to travel a lot of places. Some of them are awesome (like New York City because I will go there any day of the year) and some less than awesome places too (like Billings, MT where I will not go any day of the year). With that my project in Ohio lasted from January through the middle of May. I got to work with a couple of really awesome people and got to know them pretty well. The advantage of traveling for me comes during baseball season. Anyone who knows can vouch for the fact that I love baseball and I really enjoy visiting sporting venues. At one time I wanted to be an architect so buildings interest me a lot. That's part of why I like New York City so much. There is such great history from the old churches up to the new Freedom Tower in downtown Manhattan. Back to baseball... I've been fortunate enough to travel during baseball season to a lot of ball parks. I decided to stay a weekend in Ohio and go visit two stadiums. The Pirates at PNC Park in Pittsburgh and the Indians at Progressive Field in Cleveland. While I was in Pittsburgh I went to the science museum as well which was pretty awesome. Both were good times! A large portion of my free time in the first quarter went into rewriting one of the Pragmatic Works virtual training classes which we brought back in the second quarter: SharePoint for Business Intelligence. We had a good group for the class given it was the first time we had tried to do it in well over a year. The class got really good reviews which made me happy since there was a lot of work that went into making class content more relevant than ever. April always brings a fun time of the year in Jacksonville: SQL Saturday. For the last few years I've been able to help play a small part in organize the event. It's a wonderful time to be able to give back to the SQL Community that has helped so many people, including myself, build a successful career. I can't say enough good things about the team that we have organize our event. Things usually kick off around new years with bi-weekly calls to get things ready and then switch over to weekly the month to month and a half leading up to the event. It's like a well-oiled machine at this point. Everyone has their things to do and the day of the event just seems to flow so well. We never have a shortage of volunteers either, so a big thank you to everyone in Jacksonville and the out of towners that come in and make the event such a big success every year! We all really REALLY appreciate it. June found me up in Jersey City for a week where I got to have dinner with my dad and aunt one evening. It's always nice when work takes me up that direction and I get to see some family. It also took me across the river from New York City which of course is awesome. I also made time to go have dinner with a former co-worker, Troy Gallant, who now lives up in NYC. We went to a Korean place that serves fried chicken. I don't know the name of it, all I can say is that it's AMAZING. As with all the best places to eat in New York, it's down an inconspicuous street and a place you wouldn't think would be a delicious food location. I also finally made a trip up to Yankee Stadium. That place is beautiful. I'm glad I finally got to visit. While I'm definitely NOT a Yankee fan I've always wanted to go to the stadium. June brought another baseball trip that was even more enjoyable: Turner Field to see the Atlanta Braves!! I was fortunate enough to take a little family trip with my sister Erin Knight and my brother-in-law Devin Knight (Blog|Twitter) up to Atlanta for a night while my mom took care of my nephews and niece. Thanks mom! We had a blast! It was the number retirement ceremony for Chipper Jones. The place was packed and full of energy. My sister and I used to watch baseball with my grandmother in the evenings all the time when we were growing up. Ah good memories. It was also awesome to see Martin Prado back for the game even though he was on the visiting team now. Prado was a Braves fan favorite who everyone hated to see get traded away. Chipper gave him a shout out during his speech and the crowd gave him a huge cheer both at that point as well as every time he got up to bat. It's always nice to see the fans support a former member of the team like that. The best part was the Braves win!

Quarter Three

July brought a new project centered on a technology I really enjoy working with: Parallel Data Warehouse (PDW). I took a trip up to Minneapolis and got to work with a really interesting project. We were moving a series of data marts from a Teradata system over to Microsoft's PDW platform. For those unfamiliar with PDW it is a massively parallel processing (MPP) system that just knocks the socks off any SMP SQL Server. Yet another thing I've been very fortunate to get my hands on. There aren't a lot of people in the US not less the world that have gotten to work with a PDW. I spent the better part of July and August on that project. I got to see the Mall of America for the first time too. I've flown through Minneapolis before, but never got out of the airport. The mall is about what I expected it to be: a giant mall. It was neat to see the mini amusement park inside but other than that it wasn't much of anything. Plus, living in Florida about 2.5 hours from Orlando I get to see big theme parks all the time. September took me to Philadelphia for a week of SSIS training. I was able to head over and do some private training for a team at The Hartford who were getting up to speed on the Microsoft BI stack. A short trip, just a week, and unfortunately I didn't get to do anything cool while I was there. The end of September brought me back to Minneapolis for another PDW project for a different client on the opposite side of town. This time it was a ground up development process. That project is actually still on going and I sit here in my hotel room typing this blog post up while in Minneapolis for said project. This has been a really interesting project all around with the data set.

Quarter Four

Ah the fourth quarter. Finally the year is wrapping up. It's been crazy busy from start to finish. October kicked off with a week of PDW training in Jacksonville, Florida at the Pragmatic Works office. We flew in a bunch of our consultants and had a great week getting some of our senior staff up to speed on this exciting technology. During the week a few of our consultants who have a lot of experience on the platform were lucky enough to get certified as PDW trainers. It's not often I get to work with the rest of our consulting staff as most of my projects tend to be solo, so it was awesome to get to have so many of us all in one place. The very next week was PASS Summit in Charlotte, NC. Sunday afternoon Devin Knight, Gareth Swanepoel and myself drove up together. We dropped Gareth off at his hotel where him and Steve Wake (another PW consultant) were staying then headed over to the Hyatt House. It was off to registration. If you have never been to Summit I would really encourage you to try and make it next year. It's a lot of money but very much worth the experience. I decided I was going to make more of an effort this year to meet new people and wander away from the PW crew a little. When I'm up presenting I'm fine, but outside that I'm really a pretty quiet and reserved person so meeting new people isn't exactly my strong suit. Luckily Summit is one of those events that you meet people just by talking to one person. Start a conversation and someone they know will eventually join in too. That just keeps happening and you meet all kinds of awesome people. It was also nice to see some people I've met in the past but don't get to see outside of conferences and SQL Saturdays. Pragmatic Works sponsored karaoke like we did last year and again it was a big hit! We also did a book signing at our booth one night which was a lot of fun. I presented on Friday right after lunch and talked about new features of SharePoint 2013 and SQL Server 2012. I had a really good turnout, so thanks to everyone that stopped by. I stuck around and talked with some people who had some follow up questions after then headed over to the hotel to get prepared for my session at SQL Saturday the following day. More on that in a moment. Friday night was the speaker dinner for SQL Saturday Charlotte. I can't say enough good things about all the folks involved in organizing that event. They all came down and supported us at SQL Saturday Jacksonville so it was the least we could do to stay an extra day and return the favor. They were nice enough to do the speaker dinner in downtown Charlotte since many of the speakers were in town for Summit and already staying downtown. I sat with James Serra (Blog|Twitter) at dinner and had a really good time. The next day was the SQL Saturday event. When I arrived and walked into the speaker room to make sure my demos were working and chatted with a few of the others who were doing the same. I have to say, they had a great lineup of speakers who were sticking around after Summit to speak. I was able to meet a few new people too, but way too many to mention between Summit and SQL Saturday. After the event Devin and I drove back to Jacksonville and finally got home around midnight (if I recall correctly) after literally not moving an inch on the interstate for about an hour. It must have been a really bad accident because for a while there was no traffic going in the opposite direction either. We got home nevertheless. Since then it's just been some more travel for my client back and forth to Minneapolis. To wrap up the year I'm doing one more SharePoint BI class in about 2 weeks then taking vacation until New Years. The most exciting part of my December will certainly be a trip next week to Geneva, Switzerland. My client has an office over there and asked me to take a trip over for the week. How could I say no to that?!??! I'm going a day early and staying a day late so I can do some tourist stuff. Most of the time will be spent working, but I'm still beyond ecstatic to get to go!! Only a couple more days and I'll be there. I can't wait!!!! I'll post a follow up on that trip when I get back. Almost done with the fourth quarter. Boy was this a busy one. I decided to volunteer for the BA Conference this year. I've enjoyed helping out with SQL Saturday so I figured the next logical step was volunteering to help with a conference. So I've been helping out with doing session selection for BA Conference 2014. I didn't submit for the conference, but wanted to get involved anyway. It was a lot of fun and I just finished up with my portion this past week. I'm also working on another book. This will be the third one I've contributed to and the fourth I've worked on overall since I was tech editor once. I'll talk more about it when we finish up, but be on the lookout for the SQL Server 2014 Pro Admin book next year. Finally, my oldest nephew, Collin, played soccer for the first time this year. I had a lot of fun going out and watching him play some of his games. The kid's got some mad skillz (yep, with a z) yo. Devin has done a great job coaching him up. It will be fun to watch him get even better over the coming year. I was watching the little ones during the last game and this is how Justin decided to do the game. I guess he wasn't interested.

Wrap Up

Whew! That was a lot. It's been a great year. So the wrap up will be short. Umm.... Things happened. That's all. Moving on....

A Little Side Note and Just a Couple Things I'm Thankful For

The holidays are upon us and Thanksgiving has just passed. I hope everyone out there was able to be with their family and have a good time. I'm fortunate enough to live close to my mom, sister/brother-in-law/their amazing 3 children and a few other close family members. Every year for as long as I can remember we have gotten all the local family together, aunts/uncles/cousins/grandparents/etc. for Thanksgiving and Christmas. As much as I complain about our family gatherings at times (I mean come on, who doesn't wish their uncles would spend a little less time arguing with each other over everything, it happens, that's what brothers do I guess) I'm glad we are able to get everyone together. Family is very important. I love getting seeing my niece and nephews and have them close by. My family as a whole has always been unbelievably supportive of everything I've been involved in as far back as I can remember, like my grandmother taking the time to bring me to baseball practice when my mom was working or going to school there's always been great support. Or my grandfather teaching me how to fix stuff around the house. My professional career has been no different. Any time I've needed any help at the house while traveling or had an accomplishment to celebrate they are always there. So thank you to my family and friends for always being there. One of the great things I get to do is give back to the SQL community by doing free training sessions for Pragmatic Works or go speak at free events like SQL Saturdays. There are a lot of great people in the community who are just as passionate about helping others advance their careers. When I meet people naturally we often talk about our careers. I'll be the first to say that I've been extremely blessed in that area my whole life. I've been fortunate enough to have family, especially my mom who is a programmer herself, and friends who have been a big help in getting me started in the industry. I've been given a lot of opportunities that many people probably won't have. Not just doing consulting and getting to always work with the newest technologies but also for people like Brian Knight who gave me a shot in the industry when I had no experience and Devin Knight who helped get me going on SQL Server one night while I was still working retail. The long and the short of this is that I'm unbelievably thankful and fortunate for all the opportunities and support I have received and continue to have in my life. It's important never to take them for granted and to stay humble at the same time. It's easy to forget if it weren't for the person who took a chance on you, or the one who pushed you to get outside your box and do something you never would have otherwise done that things could be wildly different. Never under estimate the power of just going to talk to the person who's sitting alone at the next event you are attending. You never know, they may change your life in some small way or better yet you may change theirs. In the society that is all about "what others can do for me" it's good to sometimes take a step back and do something for others.

The Upcoming Year

Ok, so what's next? What is going to happen in 2014? Obviously I can't answer that, but I can mention a few goals I have. Some of them I will accomplish and I'm sure others won't be accomplished. All I can do is try and see where things end up. Here's my run down in no particular order.

  1. Something was missing from this blog. My church. I've been kinda a slacker this last year and made a lot of excuses why I couldn't do this or had no time to do that with my church. Next year I want to get more involved. I would love to get on with the team that does sound and video again but traveling may not permit that as they practice during the week. If nothing else I can volunteer to stand at the door and greet people or help clean up after the service.
  2. Read the Bible all the way through. I stayed on track with this goal through about the first half of the year then fell off. That's farther than I've gotten in the past. If I don't make it all the way through, I want to get farther than I did this year.
  3. Speaking. I've made a commitment to do one webinar for the Pragmatic Works Free Training on The T's each month next year. The first will be on January 28th when I will talk about Change Data Capture and SSIS. That should be on the schedule officially tomorrow and I'll post a link to it when I get it. In addition to that I would like to hit all the SQL Saturday's in Florida again. I had to back out of a few this year because of date conflicts but want to get back to them next year. I'd also like to do another out of state SQL Saturday and a couple of user groups. Either way my goal is 12 webinars, 4 Florida SQL Saturdays, maybe do the PASS BI Virtual Chapter and 2-3 user groups. If I do that it will be a total of about 17 speaking engagements plus whatever training classes I am doing for Pragmatic Works.
  4. Blogging: more of it. This is another area I've been hot and cold on. I'll be good for a couple months then fall off for a couple months. I'd like to average about 1.5 blogs per week or 78 for the year. That will likely be a mix of professional development, random news items and my usual technical blog topics. I really want to expand my blogging and get more consistent. I think mixing in a few not so step by step technical blogs will help get me more consistent.
  5. Exercise more and drop a couple pounds. I know this is the stereotypical resolution that everyone puts on their list. Well, as with blogging I've gone through periods of being really good about exercising and then periods where I don't do it at all. If I can become more consistent at exercising then the dropping a couple pounds will come on its own I hope. I just want to slim down a little bit, maybe lose 10 pounds. I want to get into better shape for the next two items.
  6. Get my scuba on! I've been talking about starting to scuba diving for a little over a year and a half since a friend purchased a group on for certification. We actually made an appointment to do the classes and all but had to cancel due to some last minute travel that came up. So next year I want to make it happen then go someplace like the Florida Keys to get some experience. Eventually I'd like to go to another country and dive.
  7. Hiking in the mountains. A few friends and I talked about doing this but again some travel came up for 3 of us (all of whom had work travel come up) and we pushed the trip back from the spring to the fall. Well the fall trip there is really no excuse, we just never planned it and didn't go. I want to do it next year and so do the others.
  8. Skydiving again! I really enjoyed skydiving when I went last time. I want to go again. I've said this before, but anyone who asks "why would you want to jump out of a perfectly good airplane" has probably never been skydiving. I think it's safer to jump out than it is to ride that plane down.
  9. Watch less TV. I'm not a big reader. I'll read news and technology stuff all day long, but I can't seem to get into novels. That being said I'm ok with listening to novels. So I think my plan here is to get an audible subscription and listen to one book per month or maybe more. In the past I listened to the Steve Jobs biography while jogging and that worked out pretty well. It's like killing two birds with one audio book.
  10. Professional Development: If you stop learning to advance your career it will eventually catch up with you in our industry. SQL Server changes so much you constantly have to be learning. My next learning goal is big data. I'm not just saying this because "big data" is the current buzz word in the industry. I've been doing a lot of PDW over the last year and a half and with the changes in version 2 of the product big data is a no brainer. Polybase with PDW has pretty much made this decision for me and I'm ok with it. It's new to me and all looks really interesting.
  11. Vacation more. Working too much will burn you out. I've been bad about taking vacation. I usually go a week in February then don't take anything else until the last couple weeks of the year when all my vacation time has to be used or I will lose it. I'm going to try and spread it around a little more and give myself a few breaks throughout the year.
  12. Procrastinate less. People who know me really well know that this is going to be a stretch goal for me. I tend to wait until the last minute on a lot of things. I want to get better.
  13. Home improvements. There are a couple projects around the house I want to get done. I've been saving money, so hopefully I will be able to get them done this year.
  14. Devin Knight and I have been talking for a long time about a little side project and I'd like to see that actually get off the ground this year. We are just going to have to sit down and get it started on evening.
  15. I'm sure there will be other things but those are the highlights that I can think of right now.

There you have it. In a nutshell that was my year. Of course there were things left out but that's all the time or thought I had. Thanks for sticking through and reading along. Head over and check out the page that lists all my upcoming speaking events, come on out and say hello! How was your year? Anything awesome happen? What are your goals for next year? Feel free to post a link in the comments to a review of your year as well. Thanks again for visiting my blog.