Posted in SQL Server, Speaking

Speaker Idol 2019 – Thank You!

I won Speaker Idol 2019. 

This happened a couple of weeks ago now and somehow that sentence still feels surreal to write. But it happened. It’s on Twitter and everything…

I will definitely have follow up posts about my process putting everything together and advice but I thought I’d keep this one short and readable for now.

So I wanted to start with the Thank Yous, because there are a lot of them.

Someone fixed my ribbon…

Continue reading “Speaker Idol 2019 – Thank You!”

Posted in Speaking, SQL Server

IDERA ACE Class of 2020

If you haven’t heard yet, IDERA has announced the IDERA ACE Class of 2020. I’m honored to say that I’m part of this group!

IDERA's tweet announcement

You can read the official announcement and more about my fellow ACEs here. I’ve met many of them and I’m excited to share this experience with them.

Continue reading “IDERA ACE Class of 2020”

Posted in Speaking, SQL Server

Speaker Idol 2019

I’m really looking forward to PASS Summit this year, for a number of reasons.

The first is that I feel like it’s the summer camp experience that I never had growing up – I get to go hang out with all my #sqlfamily friends across the country and world and geek out over SQL Server, learning from some of the best in the community. I’ve also signed up to be a First Timer Buddy again this year so I’m looking forward to meeting them and showing them around.

The second is that I always come back so energized about what I do. I want to implement and get hands-on experience with all the things and share that with my co-workers who can’t make it.

The third reason is the most exciting one – I will be competing in Speaker Idol this year! When the deadline for submitting sessions for PASS Summit came up in the spring, I wasn’t sure I was ready to have a full session or even knew what I would want to submit. But I decided that if Speaker Idol was coming back, I would throw my name in and see what happens.

Continue reading “Speaker Idol 2019”

Posted in Speaking, SQL Saturday

What’s in your walle… er, speaker bag?

It started out pretty casually. In the speaker room, someone asked if anyone had an adapter because they heard the room they were in didn’t have an HDMI connector but VGA. I said I think I had an adapter so I pulled out my bag and suddenly heard the sounds of impressed speakers. (It may have been laughter but I’m going to go with “impressed speakers”) Which led me to this tweet:


Since I know other speakers have done similar posts, I figured I should share what I have:

The Bag

I found the bag on Amazon: BUBM 9.7” Waterproof Tablet Handbag Travel Gear Electronics Accessories Organizer Bag. I originally had a gallon sized Ziploc bag that I threw cords in but obviously, the quality was lacking. Talking to other speakers and reading other blog posts like this, I realized that I should be prepared because you never know what you’re going to find in the rooms. I also had a bunch of cords for charging various things that seemed useful if I kept around. So in some ways, this is random collection of things that may be useful.

Top Section


annotated top of the bag

A – USB connector with USB-C connector and a Lightning Connector. Got this as swag from a SQL Saturday.

B – Spare single Lightning connector

C – Micro USB connector. Fairly certain it goes for what’s at E.

D – VGA to HDMI adapters

E – Wireless charger. Another sponsor swag pickup…

F – Instructions for my presentation remote.

G – 90 degree HDMI to HDMI adapter

H – 2 USB-C connectors.

I – Logitech Spotlight Presentation Remote (and charging cable)

J – USB-C connector and a Lightning Connector, shorter versions

Bottom Section


annotated bottom of the bag

A – extra pouch with instructions for some electronic

B – laptop battery

C – 1 HDMI cable and 1 VGA cable

D – Spare USB to power socket connectors

E – Travel mouse

F – USB Charger

That’s it!

In some ways, this is a mismatch collection of spare cords I had lying around and adapters that may be useful at some point when traveling or presenting. Even just labeling things for this post makes me want to reorganize things. (Why didn’t I put the same type of cord or different adapters together? Do I really need to keep the mouse in a box?) But as someone who always finds a way to over-pack and can never figure out how to pare things down, I think my “bag ‘o cords” seems to fit me just fine.


Posted in data modeling, SQL Server, The Survey Project

Rethinking & Redirecting

classic blunder memeI feel like I made the classic blunder. Well, one of the classic blunders at least. The good news is that I didn’t get involved in a land war in Asia or go against a Sicilian when death was on the line. But I did fall for one of the even lesser lesser known ones – I didn’t practice what I preach.

If I think about the main theme I’ve been talking about lately, it would be don’t just go through the motions of doing things but really think about why you’re doing what you’re doing. There are so many places where this applies in life and I really do think it’s important.

I feel like I’ve fallen down on that idea when it comes to this blog. Let me try to explain:

When I started, I gave myself a project based on a research paper I did in college. But I haven’t worked on it for a while now. It’s taken me some time but I think I figured out some of the road blocks I’ve been struggling with for a while. And I mean some of the problems that I was facing before I allowed the excuses of “I’ve been busy” or “I’m focusing more on speaking these days” to get in the way.

When I gave myself this project, I thought it would be good practice for building a database because I saw the potential of how it could be use. I wanted to use a database as a way to see the connections between the people who returned the survey: where they were from, what unit they served in, where they fought, who they served with, etc. The way I approached this was by taking each question, breaking it down, then building on what I came up with using the next question.

The biggest problem with this approach was that the questions aren’t written in a way to get standard answers. How do you extract the data for a relational database structure? Non-standard answers make it very hard to interpret the data points.

Another problem with the questions is that they were designed for the data to lean a certain way or left out information that a modern viewpoint needs. Unfortunately, some of that bias – especially in today’s world – makes it even harder. Some of the implications of these questions – even just having this as a subject in some cases – are beyond what I have the means to handle properly and to be honest, I’m still struggling a little about what to do with that.

By just using the questions alone dictate the database design allowed me to lose sight of what I was hoping to gain by doing this. I stopped focusing on why I was creating the database and I lost the direction I wanted to go with the project.

If I were to start over, I think I would take a different approach. Some ideas on how I might do this are:

  • I would clearly define the goals of the database:
    • As a historian, I want to see the statistics:
      • how many from the same regiment
      • how many from the same town
      • where did people enlist
    • As a genealogist, I want to be able to research family members –
      • find a particular person and find parent and grandparent information
      • find related members
      • be able to add known associations from outside sources or link these records to those 3rd party sources
  • I would divide the questions in a way to see which ones answer or partially fit into each of the goals listed above.
  • I would allow myself to modify questions in such a way that I could standardize the answers. Obviously, I can’t standardize the answers I have. But let’s face it – I’m taking something that was never designed for something like a standardized data model and forcing it into that. I have to make allowances. I’m not populating the data but creating logical models. If I had more time and more incentives, this may even be a case where using something like NoSQL databases could help create the standardization I don’t have. Plus AI may have option for interpreting the written responses and help interpret that and create data that would give us data for subjects such as literacy rates. But that’s much farther down the road than where I am; I’m just setting up the basic structure.
  • I would research other data sources where similar things have already been done to see if I can understand how those models have been set up. After one of my sessions where I mentioned this project, one of the attendees sent me a link to a similar project. Reading through that may give me some of the additional knowledge that I don’t have that can help me with this.

One of the reasons I started this project was so I could get better at database design. While I’m not working on this project directly, I have been doing sessions on database design, using first lines of a books or baseball as my examples. And I’ve enjoyed working on those.

However, I have a history of starting projects and not following through sometimes.(Would you like to see my “collection of craft supplies” or my poor neglected mandolin?) I’m not ready for this project to fall in that category. Even if I’m not working on it regularly, it is in the back of my mind and I am reminding myself to think about how I can make it better. It’s inspired me to do some of the sessions I’ve given. Maybe this just falls under one of those “Things don’t always go the way you expect them to.” But I’m not quite ready to give up but I’m not quite ready to start from scratch. It may take me a while, but I want to spend more time to figure it out what I want to do and where to take this. It’s hard work to do by yourself. Luckily, this project was for when I couldn’t find other projects to do or blog about and I definitely have found a lot of those.

So stay tuned… I’m using y’all to keep me accountable.

Posted in SQL Server, T-SQL Tuesday

Dear 20-Year-Old Me (T-SQL Tuesday #115)

Dear 20-Year-Old Deborah,

Hi there! Yep, you’re doing that thing – you’re writing that letter to your 20-year-old self. But you’re doing it as part of a good cause. There’s this thing called T-SQL Tuesday, which is a monthly blog party in the SQL Server community where someone brings up a topic and everyone blogs about it. This letter is in response to Mohammad Darab (b|t), who is hosting this month. (Thanks for hosting, Mohammad!) He’s the one who had the topic of writing your 20-year old self. You can read all about it on his blog if you want to know more.

So this means a couple of things. First, you have a blog! You don’t write posts as often as you want. But think about it – with your love of books and wanting to know more about editing and publishing, it’s kind of up your alley.

The second part is that you’ve taken an unexpected turn careerwise. You know how you want nothing to do with math and science right now? Surprise! You’re a techie working with databases – Microsoft SQL Server to be specific. You work with computers. Go math & science! The funnier thing is summer temp job you had last year pulling data into ACT! in order to create mail marketing campaigns actually was the start of what your career turns out to be. Who knew?

Before you panic that you are wasting your time studying English and History and try to remember where the COSI department is, just stop. What you love about bringing those two subjects together is the same thing that you love about working with databases and working with the programmers on their applications. You love understanding and seeing the history and how it affects the literature and your understanding of it. With databases, it’s understanding the context of data in the larger picture of what’s going on around it. And you still manage to find ways to bring your love of English and history into what you’re doing – from the idea of a project for your blog to how you pull together your presentations.

Mohammad asked that we give some advice or words of encouragement. So here’s what I have for you – not just in your career but in everything you decide to pursue:

  • First, trust yourself. You have really good instincts so listen to them.
  • Second, it’s OK to have ambitions. You’re very aware of wanting to give everyone a fair shake, which is a good thing. You will also invest yourself in the projects that you work on and take ownership and pride in your work. But you have things you want to do as well. Remember not to let being fair to everyone or your commitment to a project or two mean that you put yourself on hold or lock yourself in a position where you can’t move forward.
  • Third, you have permission to act on your instincts and ambitions. There are all sorts of articles that talk about how women wait for permission to move ahead or take risks or ask for projects, etc. So we end up holding ourselves back because someone else will come along and take them without asking or waiting. Looking back, I know that you will do this along the way in your life. So I want to give you permission not only to be trust your instincts and have ambition, but to use them and move yourself forward. Find your opportunities or make them yourself. Most importantly, don’t be scared to go after what you want.

Even as I give this advice, I can’t tell you that it’s still easier said than done. It’s still something I’m trying to do, which is why I think it’s worthwhile and why I want to pass it on.

At 20 years old, I don’t know if we ever really have an idea of how life will go or even where we want it to go. Some people knew they wanted to go to law school or med school or graduate school but that was never you. And that’s OK. This career as a database profession just finds you and it really suits you.

I don’t want to tell you too much of what’s happens between now and then. (You saw Back to the Future, you know what happens.) But you don’t have to worry because things fall into place. Enjoy the journey you’re on.

Love, Not 20-Year-Old Deborah