SPSVB 2014

January 11, 2014

On January 11th, 2014, I presented an overview of SQL Server administration for SharePoint professionals at SharePoint Saturday in Virginia Beach, Va. Attached are the materials for my presentation.



August HRSSUG/HRNUG Combined Meeting

August 14, 2012

Tonight I presented SQL Server 2012: The Grand Tour to a combined meeting of the Hampton Roads SQL Server/SharePoint User Group and the Hampton Roads .NET User Group. It was a packed house and a great time!

The presentation materials can be downloaded from here.

#MADExpo 2012 Slidedeck

June 27, 2012

This morning I was lucky enough to present SQL Server 2012: The Grand Tour at the 2012 Mid Atlantic Developer Expo. Thank you to those that attended my session. In case you missed it today, I will present the same material again tomorrow morning in the second session time slot (11 PM to 12:15 PM).

MADExpo is a great conference with something for everyone, including even a kids track today and tomorrow. If you aren’t here this year, I’d strongly urge you to consider putting it on your agenda next year. Along with the kids track, the inexpensive cost of admission and proximity to Williamsburg and Virginia Beach make it a great candidate for a family get away built around a technical conference.

My presentation materials can be downloaded here. I strongly encourage you to make use of the reference and resource section for further reading on the topics of my talk.

PowerShell: A Tale of Two Checklists (Slidedeck)

October 24, 2011

In the past couple of weeks, I have been fortunate enough to deliver my new presentation, PowerShell: A Tale of Two Checklists, at the Richmond Code Camp and to the Hampton Roads SQL Server and SharePoint User Group. Thank you to all that attended either and especially those that offered me feedback. As promised, there are the slides from the presentation.

As for my demo script, based on some feedback that I received, I have decided to tweak it a bit before posting it. I want to take some of the custom stuff out and make a version that could be universally applicable. I also want to make it driven by a configuration file so that the file itself does not need to change each time you run it. So, stay tuned and thanks to those that offered these suggestions!

If you missed these events, don’t fret! I am slated to deliver this presentation again at the SQLSaturday event in Washington, DC, on November 5th. This event is free and sure to be a blast! Get more information and register here. Hope to see you there!

Presenting at Richmond Code Camp 2011.2

October 4, 2011

I am honored and excited to have been chosen to present at the upcoming Richmond Code Camp on Saturday, October 8, 2011. My presentation is titled “PowerShell: A Tale of Two Checklists” and is scheduled for just after lunch. This will be my first time presenting at a Code Camp and my first time presenting on PowerShell!  The examples in my presentation are geared towards using PowerShell with Server Management Objects (SMO) to automate SQL Server configurations, however many of the concepts and lessons apply to any use of PowerShell for automation. I have included the session abstract below.

PowerShell: A Tale of Two Checklists

It was the worst of times.  It was the age of foolishness.  I had a long-winded, manual, GUI-intensive checklist for configuring new SQL Server installations.  Automating that checklist with PowerShell and SMO ushered in the best of times and an age of wisdom.  In this session, we will walk through my new automated checklist, make the case for using PowerShell for such tasks, and point those still mired in the winter of despair and manual drudgery towards the spring of hope that is scripting and automation.

If you are in the Mid-Atlantic area and are looking for an excellent learning and networking opportunity, you cannot do any better than the Richmond Code Camp. The folks that run this event have been doing it twice a year for a number of years and it is very well run, free of charge, and there are usually quite a few giveaways at the end of the day. Register here and I hope to see you there!

SSIS for the Disinterested at MADExpo

June 30, 2011

Today I am presenting at the inaugural MADExpo Conference in Hampton, VA. My session SSIS for the Disinterested is a 100-Level introduction to SQL Server Integration Services that aims to inspire those who might benefit from its capabilities but need a little understanding of the tool and a bit of encouragement before taking the plunge and beginning their first SSIS project.

Use the link below to access the slide-deck that I will use for the talk. Hope to see you there!

SSIS for the Disinterested

T-SQL Tuesday: My Automation Epiphany

February 8, 2011

This post is part of the monthly SQL Server blogging event known as T-SQL Tuesday.  Each month, a different SQL Server blogger “hosts” the event by suggesting a topic or theme and accepting trackbacks from participating bloggers from their posts on the topic.  Pat Wright (blog | Twitter) is hosting this month and has selected automation as the theme.


In late 2010, Jeremiah Peschka (blog | Twitter) reached out of my monitor and slapped me upside my head when he wrote…

“99% of what you do could be replicated by a fairly stupid shell script.”

– Jeremiah Peschka, T-SQL Tuesday – Why Are DBA Skills Necessary?

That’s a Bitter Pill

He was right.  Well, maybe not 99% but I had to be honest with myself and admit that I was doing too much automatable work manually.

It wasn’t that I hadn’t automated anything.  The first thing I had done as a fulltime DBA was automate our morning checklist, displaying the results in a series of SQL Server Reporting Services (SSRS) reports.  Since then, I had automated process after process using technologies such as SQL Server Integration Services (SSIS), C#, SSRS, SQL Server Agent, and even a bit of Windows Shell scripting.  That is pretty much what I do.  But I had failed in two major ways.

I had failed to recognize the opportunities to automate the little things.  The pesky little things that constantly pop up and take up your time.  Little things such as running a query against 60 of the 80 databases on two particular servers and consolidating the results in a single comma-separated value (CSV) file.  Little things such making a sp_configure change on 15 servers to enable the setting to Optimize for Ad-hoc Workloads.  Little things such as configuring a new instance of SQL Server.

I had also failed to equip myself with a best-of-breed scripting language for automation.  I had known for years that Powershell was the future, yet for me it still remained just that.  Why stop what I was doing and learn yet another way to get things done?  I already had T-SQL, C#, SSIS, etc.

I’m Better than That

Well, if a fairly stupid shell script could do 99% of what I do, well that was great news because I didn’t really like much of that 99% anyway.   I would rather learn a new technology or design a new solution to a problem than repeat mindless busy work that could be automated.  The best days for me are when I get lost in something and lookup at the clock and the day has just vanished.  That does not happen while copying query results and pasting them into Excel!

I decided in December 2010 that I owed it to myself to bite the bullet and take this new fangled Powershell thing for a spin.  I decided to do what I always do when I want to learn a new language or technology:  I gave myself a requirement.  I set out to automate our manual checklist for configuring a new instance of SQL Server and (true to Jeremiah’s observation) I was able to automate 99% of it!

By the time I finished with that first project, two things had happened.  I had gotten to know Powershell fairly well and I had fallen in love with it!  Powershell is so full of ah-ha and ooh-yea moments that it is just a joy to work with.  I’ve since continued to seek out that joy by taking an automate-first approach to everything that comes my way now.  If I can automate it, I do automate it.  With each passing week, the percentage of what I do that could be automated is going down while the percentage of what I do that is automated goes up.

I am NOT Speaking at SQLSaturday #61 in DC

November 24, 2010

That’s right!  I am NOT speaking at SQLSaturday #61 in DC on December 4, 2010.  While that is not really news (I have not spoken at any SQLSaturday except for one), it does begin to make my point.  I considered submitting a session but in the end decided that I would instead go as dedicated volunteer.  I will be there, but as a volunteer first and an attendee second.

I am looking forward to being a part of the behind the scenes action.  I hope to gain a better understanding of what it takes to run a SQLSaturday event.  I am learning quite a bit about what it takes to plan one through my involvement with SharePoint Saturday Virginia Beach.  Perhaps one day I will be able to use all of this experience to help bring a SQLSaturday to Virginia Beach.

So, while I may not be speaking, Andy Leonard, Kendra Little, John Sterret, Jeremiah Peschka, Joel Cochran, and many others are.  SQLSaturday #61 in DC is a can’t miss!

PASS Summit 2010 Orientation Committee

November 23, 2010

I recently returned from the 2010 PASS Summit in Seattle, WA.  One of the many things I did while there was volunteer as a returning attendee to meet and greet a group of first time attendees.  The idea was that, by introducing them to each other, they would meet some folks right away and kick-start the networking which is such a huge part of the Summit.  This came to be known as the PASS Orientation Committee, or OC.

Thomas LaRock, who originally came up with the idea for the OC, recently mentioned an interest in feedback from an OC member.  This post will describe my experience, what I thought worked well, and what could be improved.

Why I Did It

When I read Tom’s blog post describing his idea, I immediately thought it was an excellent one.  As anyone who has taken advantage of this aspect of the PASS Summit can attest, networking is what takes the PASS Summit from a good conference to a can’t miss, amazing experience.  In a world of Live Meeting and GoToMyPC, networking is much of what makes the travel and expense of attending a conference in person a worthy investment.  Anything that can be done to facilitate this for first timers is valuable.  I wished something like it had existed when I first attended the PASS Summit in 2006.

When the call for volunteers came out, I did not hesitate to sign up.  I believed in the idea, but also wanted to put myself in a position to meet 8-10 new people on day one.  Despite having attended two previous PASS Summits and knowing some folks, I was determined to leave this Summit knowing more (mission accomplished, by the way).  I also did not have any other volunteer role at the conference but was looking for one.

What Worked

Based on what I heard from fellow OC members, my response rate from my first timers was average to above average.  Two of my first timers were there on Monday morning.  We were able to have breakfast together and I introduced them to some folks I ran into in the dining area.  One had some confusion over his registration (the dates on his registration had led him to believe that Monday was the first day of the conference and he was not registered for a pre-con).  I was able to help him out a bit as he got settled.

Monday evening was the pre-welcome conference for first timers.  I invited my group to meet me at the fountain on the first floor of the convention center.  I had about four or five show up.  At that time, I saw Grant Fritchey walking around looking for his group.  We decided to merge our groups and proceeded to have a nice meeting there on the first floor.  Everyone was introduced to each other and as speakers, BoD members, and other recognizable names and faces passed by in the hallway, Grant and I would grab them and introduce them to the group.  That was cool.

Then we made our way upstairs to the pre-welcome and welcome receptions.  We stuck as a group for awhile, but eventually broke up into a number of subgroups.  Mission accomplished!  The goal was not to make everyone best friends, but just to introduce them to some folks and hope they latched on to some semblance of a group somehow.  Nobody eats alone (as LaRock put it).  There were a number of folks that I met downstairs that night that I hung out with all week and will continue to correspond with.  Then there were other groups that formed at that same time and place and went off in their own direction.  Beautiful!

What Could Have Been Better

While I had a decent response rate from my first timers, I certainly had bandwidth to accommodate a full roster and ended up with less than half.  This has been said by others, but I agree that an opt-in system would help increase response rates.  Improved participation would, by definition, improve the experience for the first timers by increasing the number of initial contacts they make.

In my opinion, the pre-welcome reception was not necessary.  For my group, all it did was kill the momentum that we had on the first floor.  I understand that there were not enough OC volunteers for every new attendee.  I understand that the reception provided something that all first timers could attend.  From where I stood, however, it just did not work.  Frankly, it was boring.  I think a brief shout-out to the first timers during the actual welcome reception would have been a better use of everyone’s time.

I heard others suggest that a geography-based OC group would be more effective.  I have mixed feelings on that.  Meeting people from your own region is nice in terms of who you might see at an upcoming SQLSaturday event or your local user group.  However, I do not find myself seeking out local contacts in particular as I wander around the Summit and related social activities.  I look for people who are enthusiastic about what we do, enjoy learning, and have a similar outside interest or two (read:  enjoy a nice IPA).

Finally, finding convenient time slots for new ideas at the PASS Summit is not easy (hence BoD Q&A Sessions after the last session on the last day).  Just prior to the welcome reception is certainly the best time for OC groups to gather.  I do think that communicating to those participating when these activities are occurring at the time that they opt-in would help them plan their travel accordingly.  I had a couple folks who could not participate because they had not arrived in Seattle in time.


It may take a couple of tries to get the Orientation Committee concept completely right, but it is already a win and the extra effort will only make it more so.  The PASS Summit vibe is unlike many technical conferences and that is directly attributable to the social, supportive, and enthusiastic qualities of the SQL Server Community.  Anything that can be done to introduce first timers to this sooner rather than later will only serve to help them enjoy the conference more and look at future conferences as opportunities not to be missed.  It is impossible to “geek-out” while you are eating alone.

The Kinetic Serendipity of the Written Word

November 14, 2010

The 2010 PASS North American Summit in Seattle, WA, just recently wrapped up.  In a week filled with a solid stream of top notch technical content and über-networking, the surprise hit that I did not see coming was the 8th Annual Women in Technology (WIT) Luncheon and it gave me an idea.

Why Have a Women in Technology Luncheon?

Time for a bit of a confession.  This was my third time attending the PASS Summit.  There was a WIT Luncheon each of my previous trips but I had yet to attend one.  Frankly, I was a bit skeptical.

I had not planned to attend this year either.  However, as I left my session that morning, I was reminded of the lunch and had a premonition.  I had used the phrase “This is my third PASS Summit” maybe a hundred times in the previous two days.  It was only a matter of time until someone followed with “Cool… so have you ever been to the WIT luncheon?”  I realized that I would hate to have to answer negatively and try to explain why I had not attended.

I also thought of the fact that I had recently implemented an index maintenance script on all of my servers that was written by one of the panelists.  She was kind enough to make that script freely available to the community.  Did I not owe it to her to hear what she had to say?

Finally, I thought, hadn’t I read somewhere that the food at the WIT luncheon was better than what they served to the general conference?  Admittedly, that last one may have been what broke the camel’s back. I decided to give it a go.

Oh, That’s Why!

Each member of the stellar panel brought terrific energy and insight to the discussion.  Denise McInerney, Staff Database Administrator at Intuit, in particular, answered the question “Why have a WIT luncheon?”.  She put it in terms that really hit home with me and did it in a way that shot goose bumps through the audience.

Three of Denise’s points left a significant impression on me.

1.  Financial Independence

A lesson my mother taught me early on in life was that it is important that women have the opportunity to become financially independent.  She taught me that financially independent women are less vulnerable to husbands that mistreat or walk-out on them, become incapacitated, or die prematurely.  My mother is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) with a Master’s Degree.  Denise made the point that technology can be a very lucrative field for women and thus enable their financial independence.

2. Self-confidence

Take a step back and analyze US popular culture through the eyes of a pre-teen girl.  Sex and beauty sell and the implied message is often that they are all that matter.  Technology, as Denise pointed out, is a field that values women (and men) for something more:  a desire to learn, a capacity to accomplish, and (aghast) a personality!  Having often lamented the fact that our culture fails to encourage young women and believing that this contributes to many of our problems (e.g., eating disorders, teen pregnancy, depression), I immediately recognized the importance of exposing young women to our industry.

3. Maximizing Available Resources

Any self-respecting capitalist can surely agree to one economic mantra:  our world is made better by making efficient use of our available resources (note: I know it’s not as simple as that, but you get my point).  Denise shared statistics that pointed to disparities that still exist in technical fields and higher education.  If men and women are essentially created equal in their capacity to participate in and/or lead the technical revolution that is driving much of our economy today, it is immediately apparent that much of our resource of potential technical talent and innovation is currently underutilized.

As previously mentioned, Denise made all of these points with a passion and conviction that was absolutely contagious.  The same was true for the entire panel.  The spirit throughout the room was reminiscent of a spiritual revival.  Heads were nodding, hands were clapping, tears were welling, bumps were goosing, and there surely were a number of quiet shouts of “Amen!”.

An Idea

An idea popped into my head while I was there.  What if you could capture the vibe, message, and momentum of this group in the form of a book?  I imagined a collaborative effort somewhat in the model of the wildly successful MVP Deep Dives book.


Imagine a collection of profiles, anecdotes, advice, and stories targeted to school aged girls who are or might one day become interested in technology.  These girls might not have any visible female technical role models in their life.  Possibly they lack someone in their lives to encourage them to pursue their technical inclinations.  They may be missing a road map that shows them how to get to where they want be from where they are now and therefore may feel their dreams are unrealistic.  Perhaps they have yet to discover technology as a possible career field but are captured by its possibilities, challenges, and potential rewards once they do.

Such a book could potentially solve all of those problems.

Imagine the aunt who works in Silicon Valley sending it to her niece in rural North Carolina as a birthday present.  Or the school teacher who sees a student struggling with her confidence as she embraces a culture that values knowledge and an ability to learn at an age where many still put higher value on brand names and popular music.  Imagine the student in a developing economy who has never even known a woman who has worked outside of the home, yet is studying English or (preferably) has a copy of this book in her native language and through it she is exposed to an entire new world of possibilities.

Armed with this book, a girl would see proof that a world exists that values her passions.  She would see evidence that this field can be quite lucrative. She would see real world examples of real women having real success and be assured that this world is accessible to her regardless of her background.  She would have a of roadmap to get there from where she is now and heroes to inspire her along the way!  Where does she end up going? What does she accomplish in her career that changes the world?  Imagine that on a global scale!

A Community Project

I believe the collaborative model is perfect for this book. Having varied stories and perspectives from a wide variety of authors and backgrounds increases the odds that the reader finds one or more with which they connect.  Each character in this book becomes a potential hero to encourage the reader along her own journey.

Examples of content I could see in this book include a historical portrait of Ada Lovelace penned by the skillful Phil Factor.  Someone like Kalen Delaney might contribute anecdotes of run ins with some of the founders of database technology as we know itKimberly Tripp might add glamorous (or not-so-glamorous) tales of jet setting around the world solving database problems and making the world a safer place for transaction log files with her über-geek husband.

However, not every hero is someone you saw coming.  This book might also include a story from a dad you never heard of and how a shared passion for “geeking out” brought him and his daughter closer than any sport could have.  A poem written by an unknown .NET developer thanking her parents for supporting her technical interests as a child should fit right in.

I know this book would be successful. Why?  For the following three reasons.

  1. The content exists in the form of incredible, inspiring stories lurking within everyone.
  2. The momentum in the SQL Sever Community is palpable.
  3. There are a million ways that a million different girls might come across this book and find inspiration to do something great – kinetic serendipity!

What do you think? Is the SQL Community ready to change the world through a book?  Or am I just jet lagged?