Welcome to May’s T-SQL Tuesday! Thanks to Kenneth Fisher (t|b) for hosting! This month, he’d like to hear about our first technical job. As he says: “I know most DBAs don’t start out working with databases so tell us how you did start.”
My first technical job actually came out of my first job out of college. I was an English and History major who wanted nothing to do with math or science. I was always pretty good with computers; I always credited that to having a computer in my room my senior year of high school – not because I was into computers but my dad was and he got tired of me kicking him off his computer to write papers for class. But I never wanted to take a computer science class or learn to program. (Cue laughter!)
I had no clue what I wanted to do when I graduated but I ended up getting a temp-to-perm job as the sales assistant at a diversity recruiting firm. (Essentially, we held college, MBA, law school, and profession career fairs for big name employers for top minority candidates.) They quickly learned that I was pretty good with computers. As part of my sales assistant job, I ended up being the person who worked with our CRM (customer relationship management) software the most on the team. We quickly outgrew the backend database and had to upgrade to a new system. I ended up being the contact person for the sales team although I forget how I got involved – maybe it was because of how I ended up using the software or I was pretty good with the previous application. But I got fairly proficient with the new CRM application and got along great with our consultant.
Fun piece of trivia – that application is how I learned the different JOIN types because you had to specify the join when you created reports. I’m still convinced knowing that is how I got my first DBA job.
The company was a small office of about 30 people and we were actually an subsidiary of a much larger company. But we were fairly self contained. One of the women on a different team had been acting as the part-time network admin. But they wanted to give her a well earned promotion, which wouldn’t leave her time to do anything with the network. So they came to me and said, “if we sent you to training, would you like to be our Network Associate?” It sounded like a good deal to me, so I accepted.
I got sent to A+ Certification class and learned how to put together a computer. I still have the tool kit from that class, come to think of it. I also took a NT 4.0 class. I took the MSCE exam for that and failed; I never got around to retaking it. I was responsible for 4 servers. I learned about backing up our system to tape and how to restore files. Looking back, it was a great lesson about backing up your system and even then, how do you determine which backups stay on-site vs off-site. I was also responsible for things like installing and upgrading software and setting up new hire computers. Towards the end of my time there, I was compiling the list of the software we used to see if we would be affected by the Y2K bug. (Another fun fact – I left just before Y2K. And yes, I’m totally dating myself.)
Our CRM software got upgraded yet again, but this time to the newly released SQL Server 7.0. Around this time, our company was spun off and combined with some other companies that did similar work, i.e. held career fairs or were involved with recruiting even if they weren’t diversity focused. As part of that merger, I got to be involved with the plans for how they were going to combine all of the sales teams onto our system. This project taught me that I have good instincts for thinking about how people use software. I was frustrated that they wanted to set up things in a way that the sales team just wouldn’t use or make it easy for them to use. I still remember talking to the president of my company and having her encourage me to speak up in these situations because I had good instincts and understanding of what we were trying to do.
I finally hit a point where I knew it was time to move on. I realized that I really liked working with the CRM software so maybe that was a direction I should go in – either become a consultant who set it up for people or just learn how that backend SQL Server database thing worked. I bought a “Learn SQL Server 7 in 30 Days” book and I would go to the server room to read the book and poke through Enterprise Manager. I didn’t want to actually run anything and screw it up but I tried to learn the concepts at least.
The rest is history. I found a place to hire me as a junior SQL Server DBA and pretty much had to start from scratch. I was so worried I was going to get fired that first month. I think you can say things worked out in the end.
Hope you enjoyed my story – one company, two jobs to get me on my technical career path. Looking forward to hearing everyone’s journey!