Archive for the ‘Facts about DBABullDog’ Category

A little over 2 1/2 years ago I started a new career at New York Life. I fully expected to spend a lengthy employment and retire from New York Life. Up until 2 weeks ago I was having a successful career in which I was thriving and growing as an individual. I was presented multiple “Thanks To You” awards that recognize employee effort’s and was presented many opportunities to take place in key company initiatives.

During my 2 plus year stint at NYL I was able to help remediate security gaps, assist in virtualizing the DB environment, assist in identifying servers that should remain physical, install/configure/tune vendor installs and take place in many debugging sessions. While taking part in these projects/tasks I was able to make many new colleagues, co-workers and friends. These folks helped me grow technically, professionally and personally. I will miss working with the teams and challenges that were presented to me while at NYL.

So let me rewind the last 17 plus years of my career. During these 17 years I have worked for Nielsen Media Research, Publix Supermarkets and New York Life. All of these major corporations have assisted with my growth. If we look at the common dominator here I have always been comfortable working in stable large-scale environments.  Like a good pair of shoes an old t-shirt or a favorite comfort food, it is hard to step away from this type of stability.

It is 17 years later and I am always amazed at how far I have come. Around May 17th, I received a text asking me if I knew anyone who would be interested in a full- time job at a consulting firm. After many hours of discussion on the topic with Missy and my son Parker, we said let’s hear what they have to say and see if this move is for us. A good portion of this discussion took place at the Epcot Flower Festival which with its good food and beautiful flowers made the discussion less stressful.

At this point you are probably saying enough Dan get to the point. Drum roll please…   As of Wednesday 6/2/2015 I will no longer be working at New York Life. My family and I have decided to step outside of our comfort zone and accept a full-time position at Pragmatic Works. I guess one could say “out of the frying pan into the fire”.  I am excited at the prospects that this new position will provide me. I really enjoy being a DBA, but I have always had a secret love for other facets of the Microsoft Stack. I plan on branching out into Cloud Services, SSRS, SSAS and SharePoint advanced topics/functionality. Yes,  I said SharePoint!  None of this is guaranteed but I am going to build on my current skillset providing value to Pragmatic Works. I am a darn good admin but I am much more than that and need to tap into those skillsets more. At Pragmatic Works I will be challenged to do just that. I am excited to start working for a company that promotes and encourages self-growth and encourages motivated individuals to grow.  So as of 6/3/2015 I will be in Jacksonville walking thru the doors of Pragmatic Works and becoming a member of an already stellar team.

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Back in July of 2007 I embarked on a new Journey at Publix Supermarkets. A major grocery retailer located in the Southeastern United States. A majority of Publix stores are located in Florida which is where the retailer started and was founded by George Jenkins. Upon entering the doors of Publix I was greeted by many smiling DBA faces. Chuck Futch, Greg Mathis, Larry Corwin, Thomas Shubick and James Martin were some of the first to welcome me and make me feel at home. Little was I to know that this would be my home for 5 years.

During the time there I saw many faces come and go, however the core part of the team stayed intact. One of the core members Greg Mathis was a DBA thru-and-thru. He could whip out a .sql script like there was no tomorrow. James Martin another DBA who was always able to make an impact and one of the best data modelers I have run into. Larry Corwin a jack of all trades so much that he was a truck driver stunt double in one phase of his life. Larry knew so many technologies it made my head explode. Some made lasting impressions like Bradley Ball who moved on later to Pragmatic works. Bradley is an excellent DBA and would often push me to look for solutions that I would not have looked for normally. Thomas Shubick was a friend and a co-worker. Tom is a DBA and has many cool hobbies such as singing in the Master Chorale of Tampa Bay. At this point the yelling you hear is Tom. I brought him back to Publix 6 months ago and left him behind. He’ll get over it (just kidding Tom). I could call out all the DBA’s at Publix by name as I believe that they are a solid core of DBA’s covering just about every database platform you can think of.

During my 5 year tenure at Publix I was involved in many key efforts. One effort was upgrading many application databases from SQL Server 2000 to more current versions of SQL Server. I was instrumental in the implementation of the scaled out SSRS environment which allowed Publix to cutover the crystal reports to SSRS. Supporting and installing a time scheduling vendor application which was accessed by over 1000 stores and 50,000+ employees more or less. Implementing, supporting and upgrading many key project databases that drove million dollar business decisions. And I was a proud member of the SWAT team which was involved in determining and resolving bugs and or performance issues. Suffice it to say I was a busy beaver (Bulldog) on a daily basis.

Over the last year or so I felt like something was missing. I could not put my finger on it and it was bugging me. When out in Seattle I had a moment of clarity. Thru the help of others and a mentoring program which will be mentioned in another blog post. Quick thanks to my friend, confidant and mentor Joseph Sack @josephsack from @sqlskills. I began to gain faith once again that I was a good DBA with a skill set that could take me anywhere. The question was did I want to stay at Publix or move forward with other DBA opportunities. The changing moment was when I received a call from Jason a friend and a recruiter in the industry. To be honest I was dodging his call in the beginning since I did not want to turn him down for another DBA post. He had contacted me in the past and I had said no and I did not want to burn any bridges with him. After another call from Jason I decided it would be best to do the dirty and tell him no. Boy was I a fool for not reaching out to Jason earlier; he had an excellent post which was right up my alley. After a couple of solid interviews I was made an offer by New York Life/AARP.

What pushed me to the point of leaving a stable job at Publix? I can say that it was not an easy decision to leave Publix, but when all the cards were placed on the table it appeared that the best option was to move forward. I can say with confidence that I did not leave Publix for money it was more for personal reasons. Late last year and early this year I was actively speaking at SQL Saturdays and began speaking at user groups. I must give props at this time to Magic Pass out of Orlando. Due to my rigorous schedule at Publix I fell off the speaking circuit and was not able to give back to the SQL Server community as much as I would like to. I was also pulled away from blogging. I had just started blogging and was getting my groove and that groove was interrupted. And finally I felt like I was missing time with my wife Missy and son Parker. Upon speaking with my new employer I felt like I was going to have the ability to gain back these things that in my opinion I had lost. Just the fact that I was able to put out this blog is evidence that change is good.

Today was my first day at the new job. I have to say I was very impressed with the organization. HR was helpful from day 1. Heck New York Life (NYL) has been there for me during the entire hiring process. I was met by Rachelle and Kevin of HR with a firm handshake and a friendly welcome. A couple of other new hires and I were taken down to security for our mug shots and new I.D.’s. I was then brought up to my new team and hiring manager. I was walked around the floor and introduced to many different individuals and teams of which I will most likely insult someone later in the week since I am horrible with names. I am working on this I promise. I also found everything very efficient. All my hardware and access was ready for me by 11am. The longer the day progressed the more confident I became with my decision to leave one power house (Publix) and head to another (NYL) for new opportunities.

I will close on this. Change is good.

When asked to describe myself, one of the first adjectives I use is “tenacious.” Typically this is not one of those words you choose to describe yourself in a meeting or an interview. I find it works for me. This tenacity has been a huge force behind my success in the I.T. world. It has also proved to be a challenge within my 17 year I.T. career.

It all started back in the day when I was offered a job post completing a PL-I boot camp. Yes, that is correct, I started on the mainframe. My first official job was providing QA for GTE for billing and CICS screens. I continued my QA career accepting a job at Nielsen Media Research.

Nielsen Media Research provided me many opportunities. The first was providing QA for the PL-I systems being  upgraded for this Y2K thing. Apparently we all survived since I am writing this post and you are reading it. After multiple years of QA, I was promoted to a PL-I programming position. This position did not last for long as I was recruited back into QA. The ultimate prize for QAing the M-204/PL-I to Sybase IQ conversion was a Jr. DBA position. After 2 years on the project we were near completion and the Jr. Posting I was hoping to receive was no more. So I waited patiently taking any Sybase ASE grunt work my DBA buddies would throw my way. Then one day it happened…  The post became available, I interviewed and the posting was mine. I was a Sybase ASE DBA!!! Drinks all around!  For approximately 5 years I was solely dedicated to Sybase ASE. Then late in the 5th year I moved to a Sub group within Nielsen where I was responsible for Sybase ASE, Sybase IQ and what would soon become the love of my life Microsoft SQL Server. Little did I know how much this move would change my life. After 10 Years of seeing mergers, take-overs and buyouts of the Nielsen Company, I began to feel like my place was no longer at Nielsen but elsewhere in the I.T. community.

Leaving Nielsen was the second most challenging transition in my life. The first was the birth of my son. The decision to interview at other companies involved many cell phone and home conversations with my wife of 11 years. After taking under consideration:  an infant son, my wife no longer working for the local school system and losing the benefits (great insurance, 4 weeks vacation, and life-long friends)at the company I had hoped to make a career, the decision to leave was finally made.

The interview process was a tough at first. I was very rusty and looking for a SQL Server gig with only a couple of years production experience under my belt. After multiple interviews, I began to gain confidence in myself and once again understood what it was to be interviewed. When all was said and done, I had 3 equally great offers at the same time. One was very difficult to turn down as the company was smaller than the others, and I felt very welcome during the interview process. The issue was the limited insurance package was not right for my family. My final decision came when my current employer offered me a nice compensation package. They were professional and appeared to have what my family required.

So here we are present day. I have been at my current employer for 4 years in July. I am currently working for a large food retailer in the Tampa Bay area. Times are good and I have more work than I can complete on any given week. I am proud to be in this position due to the crazy times we are living. I am a member of a strong 5-person team. We support 2000+ instances of SQL Server 2000. We have over 200 SQL Server  2005 instances.  Currently,  we are in the process of upgrading our enterprise to 2008 R2. My day finds me executing  mundane tasks mixed in with some very challenging projects. I consider myself a working man and have no issues with getting my hands dirty. Grunt work is what I consider my specialty. That being said, I believe that problem determination is one of my strongest skill sets. Maybe this came from my days in QA, maybe it’s how I’m wired. I attribute this skill set back to my tenacity. This tenacity makes me dig deep into production issues and pushes me to learn new ways to solve/prevent  outages daily.  It is a true passion finding out the Why, the How and the What it takes to fix a problem within the systems I support. I have even stepped into the server, network and application arena. Yes, is fair to say I have literally “stepped into it” when I move away from my comfort zone.  It is this same tenacity that has me grinding late into the night, working weekends and spending time away from the family.

The last 17 years have been the best years of my life. I am looking forward to giving back to the community that has been support for me day in and day out on my I.T. journey. In the years to come,  I will be sharing steps I use in problem determination, techy stuff, and the many things that make me tick (music –Punk/Metal/Rap/80’s, hiking in the Smokey Mountains, fishing,  and taking time out with my friends and family).

                                                                                  Smokey Mountain Sunset – July 2010