Reflection On My First Webinar

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reflectionAfter my first presentation about a few weeks ago I got the chance to present for the PASS PowerShell Virtual Chapter thanks to Aaron Nelson and Chrissy LeMaire. To help myself and other I’d like to do¬† reflection on my first virtual presentation.

During the weeks before the event Aaron or Chrisy would inform me about the amount of attendees that registered for the event. At first it didn’t go that fast but in the last few weeks before the amount of attendees grew to a staggering amount of 300! No pressure there ūüėČ

I practiced like mad to get my presentation exactly as I wanted it. I read upon Cathrine Wilhemsen’s post, Presenting a webinar for the first time, to get some invaluable tips. Citrix also published a few tips that helped me out 10 Tips to Look Like a Rock Star in Your Next GoToMeeting Session.

A few days before the webinar I caught a cold and of course had to cough a lot. That’s not an ideal situation for giving a presentation especially when people don’t see you and only hear you.

Be prepared

  1. Download and install the software for the webinar
  2. Get comfortable the interface
  3. Try to create a webinar and test the different functions
  4. Start a webinar with a colleague or a friend to test your presentation.

Me getting prepared

I like to be prepared especially if people are counting on you. Aaron was so nice to login to the webinar with me an hour before the presentation. It turned out a good thing that we did that because some things worked a little different than expected.

I had already download Citrix’s GoToWebinar software to make it easy to login to the webinar.

On thing for instance was the fact that I have multiple screens. If you have multiple screen you have to use the drop-down which is located under “Start sharing my”.

gotowebinar sharing dropdown

This complicated a few things for me because I constantly had to switch between screens when doing the demos. In the end I got the hang of it and switching screens become smoothly.

Be sure not to put any screens, which aren’t selected in the drop-down box, over your current shared application. If that happens the GoToWebinar software will show a highlighted border around that application because the attendees will not be able to see your shared application.

What Did I Learn From This Presentation, And What Feedback Did I Receive

If you have experience in working remotely and having conference calls. It’s exactly like that but instead of people talking back, you’re the only one talking. The fact that you have no interaction with the attendees makes it hard to gauge the audience.
If you don’t have a lot of experience in having conference calls try tip 4 in the “Be Prepared” section.

I didn’t pause to ask the audience if there were any comments or questions. That could’ve made a difference that I could’ve adjusted some parts to make some parts easier to understand.

I paused at the wrong times in a phrase, which was caused mostly by the fact that I had to cough, but I noticed it in several other parts which made the delivery of the message not that efficient. This means I have to practice even more.

In the last presentation I did I went through the demos too fast. This time I took the time to explain several concepts in the code. I got a lot less questions about the code than the last time from which I may conclude, considering the bigger audience, took away a lot of questions.

Conclusion

In the end I’m glad I did the webinar and it thought me a great deal of things I can use in the future. The scariest part was starting and now that, that’s over I can focus on improving my skills.

I want to thank Aaron and Christy for all the help because it made me better focus on the presentation.

If anybody attended the presentation and has any feedback, please send it over. I appreciate any feedback how small it may be.

Up to the next one!

Reflection On My First Presentation

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I finally got the chance to present and I want to do a reflection of my first presentation. What do I think went alright and what can I do to improve. I want to share my experience presenting because this was amazing! If anybody was present and wants to give more feedback or has any other tips please leave a comment. All the feedback is appreciated!

In 2015 I had the opportunity to go to the SQL Cruise Mediterranean. During that trip I was amazed by the people who came to present and the level of skill they had.

I’ve been blogging for a while and I wanted to take the next step and start to present. It wasn’t until the SQL Cruise that I really set my mind to it. Also the MVP’s there convinced me to do it and of course who would say no to Grant Fritchey who’s telling you to do something (imagining the baseball bat in my mind…. )

A couple of months later I meet up with Andre Kamman on the SQL Saturday Netherlands and we start talking about presenting. I had a presentation ready but never had the opportunity to present.

The day comes

When I got the message from Andre about the event I became a bit anxious.
Would I be able to keep the attention of the attendees?
Was the content good enough to present?
How many people would show up? 10, 20, 50…..

Just a few weeks before the presentation Andre send me a message that there is more than a hundred people coming to the event. OMG!

What Did I Know About My Presentation Skills Up To Now

Imagine that I’ve never done a presentation like this before. Of course as a professional you have to occasionally present for colleagues but that’s something completely different. Besides presenting for colleagues, everybody has to present themselves during an interview for a job.

Also I’ve got experience teaching kids martial arts from the age of 5 to 18. If I had any experience standing in front of a difficult crowd try teaching a class of 30 highly active 5 to 12 year old kids and try keep their attention. Thank you Sensei!

So I knew I’d probably not get nervous presenting in front of a large group.

What Did I Do To Prepare Myself

Tips From The Pro’s

I’ve been fortunate to know people how have been presenting far before me (thank you Jes, Grant, Argenis and Tim). They gave me invaluable tips on how to prepare for a presentation

Here is a list of some of the tips I got from them:

  1. Enjoy!
  2. Practice, practice, practice
  3. Test your demo (if you do a demo)

Enjoy

First of all you have to have fun doing it. If what you’re telling people doesn’t create a spark in you than you better not present about it because everybody will notice. People came to watch something that interests them so you have a relationship there.

Also this is fun, you get to tell about stuff that matters to you. If one person goes away from the presentation thinking they learned something you’ve already won.

Practice, practice, practice

You’ve got to practice your presentation until you no longer have to think about what to say, just how to say it.

Record your presentation and take notes on how you sound, on how fast you speak and about the things you say.

Present in front of someone else and have them take notes on how you did.

Test your demo

Make sure your demo is solid. Go through the demo as if you’re presenting it.

Make sure your physical or virtual machine is working perfectly. There’s nothing worse than trying to do a demo and everything false apart.

The Internet Is Your Friend

I went online to my good friend Google and searched for tips on the internet. I found a lot of information how to prepare.

A few I found helped me out:

What Did I Learn From This Presentation, And What Feedback Did I Receive

In the past I learned that I’d rather just talk than have lots of text in my slides. It’s because of that that my slides never have more than a few bullet points. In most cases the slides will have one word or small sentence.

Because I had little to no text in my slides I rehearsed my presentation numerous times. However, even though I had gone over what I was going to say many times, I still stumbled and stalled a few times during the presentation.

In the first part of the presentation I noticed that when I got a question, I would turn the question to myself instead of answering the question. People ask the question from their own perspective and I should never feel challenged about these question but take them with me to improve my presentation.

The second part went a lot better because I finally got into a flow where I no longer had to think about what to say but got to presenting. This was the moment I got a lot more questions and I was able to answer most of them.

What Can I Do To Improve My Presentation Skills

I learned that my confidence level wasn’t too high. That might be the reason why I going through the slides pretty fast the first part of the presentation.
I noticed that after I presented the demos there was a lot more interaction with the audience. This might be because I tried to interact with them more by asking questions to the audience.

The interaction made me think less about the presentation itself and more about what I wanted to present.

I think that I started the presentation with a story made the audience connect. I could’ve made the story more interesting and more about the presentation.

Overall I was pleased with all the feedback I received both the good and the bad. I learned the areas I was confident in and also areas that could use some improvement.

I want to thank all the people who were present at the presentation and especially the ones who gave their feedback. I want to thank PASS Netherlands, and in particular Andre Kamman, for giving me the opportunity to start presenting. This is just the beginning and I’ll certainly continue to present in the future.

 

 

 

 

DBA performance evaluation

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evaluationLike most people I get my yearly performance evaluation¬†but I’ve had the experience that my peers don’t really know how to evaluate me. So how do you effectively evaluate a DBA.

Your manager/team leader/superior has the information from previous performance interviews and based on that sees if you have performed as you should, or under, or above what was expected.

What I found out is that when the IT department doesn’t have a good understanding of the DBA’s responsibilities and possible metric to measure the effectiveness of the DBA (group) the evaluations don’t work.

How are most evalutions done

Your superior should have at least the following information:

  1. Knowledge of the DBA’ s job requirements
  2. Record of classes / training attended throughout the year
  3. Attendance records
  4. Productivity reports
  5. Records of previous performance interviews

You and your superior come together and based on the information above your superior shows how you performed.
In most cases you only have little room for discussion because most things are already discussed in previous interviews.

The problem

The problem is that there are so many factors that make this so difficult. A few questions that come to mind are:

  1. There are many different types of DBA’s, which one is used for evaluation
  2. What are the metrics to measure the performance and effectiveness on
  3. When is a DBA successful and and when is his/her performance good/medium/bad

The problem with this is that most managers¬†I had (don’t get offended if you’re one of them this is just my experience) only look for certain aspects that can be found in other IT related jobs like how many incidents you solved or changes that are made.

You can look at the amount of incidents that were registered and fixed during that year but that’s only the case when you talk about real incidents like a server going down, low disk space or performance related problems.

This can be very offending towards other people who could do a tremendous amount of work in the background but is never really visible.

A¬†DBA is a “jack of all trades” kind of person but to clearly evaluate a DBA you have to have a clear understanding what he/she does.

The solution

To address the first question in Problem-paragraph Craig Mullins wrote a nice article about this which gives a good overview of what kind of DBAs there are. Of course there are different versions and flavors especially with the DevOps who are hot nowadays.

An article that helped me out and for most still applies is an article written also by Craig Mullins called “Measuring DBA Effectiveness“. It helped my manager and me to create an evaluation metric.

The last thing, and I surely hope that’s in place, make reports from your service management application like Topdesk or SysAid. The reports give a clear understanding of the workload that’s been done.

To have another metric for the workload I used Brent Ozar’s “sp_Blitz” to create a health-check with all the items that need to be addressed. When an item of the list is done, remove it or give a status done, to keep track about what’s been done. When the manager asks for the progress of the list you can hand over the list.

I hope this helps you out for your next evaluation.

 

Should I support this database?

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database_supportAs DBA’s one of the jobs is making sure all the databases and database servers are working properly and you have a controlled environment. Once in a while you have¬†skeleton in the closet where suddenly a database server comes around and you’re scratching your head where it came from.

Your manager (and maybe your colleagues) expect you to support it because you’re the DBA.¬†You don’t know the server, your colleague doesn’t (really) know the server. So now what. Are you going to take responsibility for everything on the database server of the database itself when you don’t know anything about it?

I have had this so many times that I decided not to support a database (or entire database server) until I did thorough scan of the environment to see if the database server is up-to-date, the settings in the server are set properly etc.

I use this checklist to make sure I cover all the aspects of the server:

Database server

  • Is the server a virtual of physical server?
  • What version of Windows (hopefully Server edition) is being used?
  • What version and edition of SQL Server is being used?
  • When was the last time the Windows OS was updated?
  • When was the ¬†last time the SQL server instance was updated?
  • How much memory is in the system
  • How is the storage configured?
    • What disks are being used?
    • What kind of disks are being used?
  • How many cores are present?
  • What services of SQL server are running?
  • What accounts are being used for the services?
  • What logins are present in SQL Server and what are their permission?
  • And maybe the most improtant one, is there a SLA on this server?

Database level

  • What’s the size of the database?
  • When was the last backup taken?
  • When was the last time an integrity check was executed
  • How are the files set up?
  • What compatibility setting is being used?
  • What are the options in the database, i.e. auto close, updates of statistics, page verification etc?
  • What users are present in the database and what are their permissions?

resized_diagnostic-house-meme-generator-it-s-not-the-database-it-s-never-the-database-but-it-might-be-lupus-d2af08This is just a small list of the things I’d like to know about a database or database server. Based on that information I can make a decision either to support the current state of the database or server or not to support it (support it best effort) until I’ve gotten the chance to change settings I don’t approve.

Normally you’d get a discussion why you’re not fully supporting the database or database server. People know you’re the DBA and that it’s your job to support the database servers.
Unfortunately we’re not living in a perfect world and as soon as shit hits the fan, and you’ve taken full responsibility for a database that’s not up to your standards, then you have explain yourself and don’t say the database is not up to your standards because you should’ve have said that from the beginning.
In these situations I would put all the findings in writing and inform the IT manager of the “new” database or database server and what to do to support it. This may sound political but you’ve got to protect yourself. I’ve seen people get lower performance reviews because they supported items that were not up to standards and had gone haywire.

resized_jesus-says-meme-generator-jesus-says-sort-out-the-fucking-database-675a7dOne of the situations I had was a database server installed by a system administrator working at the software¬†vendor. No documentation about the installation, configuration, databases, logins etc. It was all installed during a project and now the project was finished, maintenance was the responsibility of the DBA’s. Logins used as service accounts for the application running under sysadmin privileges, no min or max memory set, SQL Server service running with the local system account etc etc.

I wasn’t going to fully support this server and mentioned this to the IT manager in writing and personally. It wasn’t that the server was buggy but it wasn’t up to standards. After a while we had an issue with the server. Turned out that the service account of the application had destroyed the system database because a consultant forgot to include the “USE [database]” clause in a script and because it had sysadmin privileges, the default database was “master”, it dropped and truncated a lot of tables. Besides the fact that the consultant did all that DDL with a dynamic query, if the privileges were set correctly, the login would never been able to corrupt the system databases.

It took us many hours to get everything back up and I was called into an office with some managers who wanted to know why the server went down the way it did. The managers were angry because this incident cost the business a lot of money, a full department couldn’t work and foremost customers couldn’t be helped.
All the findings were put in changes, the changes were scheduled in a low priority by the business because the chance of things going down was pretty slim.
I mentioned the findings and the correspondence about the low priority changes for the findings. If I hadn’t done that I would probably have been fired because of the impact the incident had on the company.

It’s not about playing the blame game but if it’s not in your power to change things that should be changed than you have to protect yourself.¬†At the end of the day you want to the best job you can do and have a good night sleep without the thought in the back of your head that hell could break loose at any moment.

If you have any stories like this please share them in the comments. I’d like to hear if anybody had the same experience I had and maybe it helps someone else to avoid such a situation.

Don’t reboot SQL Server

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rebootOver the years I can’t count the times that I’ve seen people reboot a SQL Server instance because there was some kind of problem. I can’t emphasize this enough: “In normal circumstances there is no valid reason to reboot SQL Server to solve an issue.”

I’ve had the task to investigate performance problems, login issues and other problems in SQL Server that suddenly appeared. The only problem was that the first action people took in that case is to reboot the database server.

If you reboot the SQL Server service (or the entire server) you create the following scenario in SQL Server

  • Force a cold cache for data
  • Force a cold cache for execution plans
  • Collected statistics from DMV’s are no longer available
  • Default trace is empty

Rebooting a server can, in some cases, solve an issue temporarily because in almost all the cases, this is just solving the symptoms of the issue instead of the issue at hand.

The situations where a reboot is needed are:

  • when you install an update and it needs to a reboot to take effect.
  • changing a setting in SQL Server is also a situation where a reboot is acceptable.
  • the server is complete frozen en nobody can get in

But this is all why you shouldn’t do a reboot, but what should you do:

The examples above are just some of the actions you can do before rebooting a server. You should be able to find the problem with the above examples and work towards a solution.

Next time you reboot the SQL Server instance without doing the proper investigation imagine someone behind you holding a baseball bat ready to strike.

 

 

But we do have licenses for all our servers…

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https://hawaiiesquire.wordpress.com/2012/05/08/draw-the-law-licensing-agreements/In almost every company I’ve worked for there was this indifference about licensing for SQL Server. Every time a company, appointed by Microsoft, came by to check the licenses of all the Microsoft products, at least one server would not have been licensed correctly.

At a company I’ve worked for in the in the past I asked about the contract for all the SQL Server instances. The reason I asked was because, after a quick scan, I found out every SQL Server instance had Enterprise Edition installed.

Turned out that the manager told everybody that they could install as much SQL Server Enterprise instances as they wanted because there was some sort of enterprise licensing arranged. That wasn’t true and anybody with some knowledge of licensing would have questioned that. The company was just too small to have that kind of Enterprise licensing.

Projects can also put pressure on you to install new SQL Server instances to keep the deadline of the project. It normally goes like this:

– Project manager: We need a SQL Server instance for project Y
– DBA:¬†We don’t have a license for the instance
– Project manager: I don’t care just install the instance we’ll sort it out later

After the project is done, everything is delivered to the IT department and nothing has happened to license the SQL Server instance. I know the dba should have taken responsibility but as you know projects tend to put pressure on you.

I’ve seen companies that during an audit would shut down instances to make sure the servers weren’t picked up by the license audit tool (mostly it’s the MAP toolkit). That’s ridiculous! If you don’t have the license don’t install the instance!

About 6 months in the job we got such an audit for the licensing and it turned out that we had to buy about 30 SQL Server Enterprise server licenses and that we had to pay about 140.000 to get all these licenses. I’m not kidding, that was the proposal.
Fortunately I was able to arrange something else where I would consolidate the servers which didn’t have a license. I would than run the MAP Toolkit again¬†to see if we did everything we promised to do.

It took me 6 months, a lot of planning and a lot of headache to get all the servers consolidated to just 3 SQL Server instances. Consolidating database servers is not fun. You have to know exactly which databases can be put together, which databases have special needs like security, compatibility from vendors, performance requirements etc etc etc. You have to get all the objects to the other instances, test everything over and over to see if databases don’t slow each other down.
Brent Ozar has a nice article to get you started with consolidation.

From that moment on I was really keen on keeping up with every SQL Server instance being installed.

Do we have a license?! No! Fine than we don’t install the instance until we have licensing sorted out.¬†But the project will slow down because of that! I don’t care, we have to make sure we have the license before we will install the instance.

SQL Cruise 2015 Mediterranean

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SQL Cruise I know I should have posted this a long time ago but I have the same excuses as everybody, work, too busy, kids, wife etc etc etc ūüėČ .

Last year I entered the contest for the worst day of DBA’s life from Simple-Talk. The prize was a ticket to the SQL Cruise in the Mediterranean. That sounded really good and I started thinking if I had a really bad day in the past. It took me a while to choose which one because ¬†there were a lot of winners in my mind.

I sat down one evening and started to write my story and it got quite long at the end. I didn’t hear anything anymore after I send the story and thought that it might not have been good enough, but suddenly on November 4th I get an e-mail from Tom Russel stating that my story was judged as one of the favorites and that, if I wanted I could be put on the shortlist. Hell yeah put me on that list!

Now my story is mentioned on the shortlist and people can vote for the one they want to see. I send the link to everybody I know to vote for me because I really want to go on the cruise.

The story goes back and forward between me and the editors to make the story easy to read and make it so it fits into the genre of the DBA Team. Suddenly at the and of November I get an e-mail from Tom that I won.
I had to read the e-mail multiple times because I didn’t expect to win but it was true.

I didn’t know what to expect by going on the SQL Cruise besides the fact that I’d never been on a cruise before either.

During the check-in I met a few other cruisers who I could recognize due to the SQL Cruise t-shirts they had got from the goodie bag send earlier to members of the SQL Cruise. After the check-in I met a lot of the other cruises and the trainers.
The first thing I noticed was that everybody was so friendly and welcoming to me. They didn’t know me so why should they be like that. I didn’t expect that.
I met Andrew Kelly, Grant Fritchey, Aaron Bertrant and a lot of other people. I’ve read the books they’ve written and now I’m shaking hands with them and converse with me like they knew me for ages.

I’ve been in a lot of training sessions internally in companies but also at external locations. These training sessions usually go about a certain aspect and you don’t get the chance to dive into it so that it will stick.

The training sessions on the SQL Cruise are totally different. The trainers will tell a story but you’re allowed to start a discussion whenever possible. We’ve had situations where a trainer was convinced that a certain settings should be set on sight but other MVP’s and MCM’s didn’t agree. That resulted in a 15 minute discussion which was really educative.

One of the really strong items during the cruise were the office hours sessions. These sessions were set up in a way that cruisers could ask questions to other cruisers and/or trainers. You’re there with a lot of brilliant minds and people are experts in their own field. Somebody will know what to do with your question and I learned a lot from that.

Next to the sessions and the office hours I got the chance to network with the other cruisers. It made my network so much bigger and I got the chance to slingshot my career. I’ve been waiting to get the chance to give back to the community and now I got the network to get me in contact with people who could make this possible.

In the end I learned more in one week than I would be able to in months of training somewhere else. I met more people and got more connections and friends than I could normally get.

If I ever get the chance to do this again I would go in a heartbeat.

I want to give a special thanks to Tim Ford (t | w) and Redgate (t | w) for making this all possible.I also want to thank all the cruisers for this wonderful time and I hope to see you soon at other events.

Ignorance is bliss…. or is it?

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see-no-evil-hear-no-evil-speak-no-evilI recently read a post from LinkedIn where a dba had to use a tool to get certain warnings. If any other
warnings didn’t show in the third party tool than it should be ignored.

When I look at the situation I have mixed feelings about the choices the company made. I’ve worked in several environments¬†where I had these situation too. You could just ignore all the signs and go back to the normal things of the day but than you shouldn’t do this kind of work.

I agree that a standard tool should be used when a company doesn’t have a full time dba on staff. I can imagine when a non-dba has to interpret all kinds of code and information from different sources that things can get complicated.

On the other hand, when the tool doesn’t show possible errors and warnings which could possibly be harmful for the production environment than you shouldn’t use the tool or use it partially.

I would do try to find essential information that wasn’t visible to the monitoring tool and contact the supplier to maybe adjust or inform me that the information was visible. If my information was that essential for the continuity¬†I would also get management involved and get them involved in the fact that the monitoring of the systems wasn’t complete or inefficient.

How far you should go with explaining the situation is up to you?
At the end, as the dba, you’re responsible for the databases and data in it. When push comes to shove and you have an issue that wasn’t in the monitoring than you’re still responsible to fix it.