I have never been to SQLBits (https://sqlbits.com/) before (due to budgets) but I am really looking forward to attending which is just over a week away. The Data Platform has evolved so much and this is the chance to get some quality training under my belt especially in areas I know I need a “refresh” in.
A non-technical post but something I have been asked about few times so I thought that I would put pen to paper and tell you about my journey on becoming a senior DBA. You might find it fun to read.
This idea basically started from Andy Bek’s TSQL Tuesday last year #84 growing new speakers (https://sqlbek.wordpress.com/2016/10/25/t-sql-tuesday-84-growing-new-speakers/ – thanks Andy) and I have decided to share my experiences about what was going on in my head for when I was prepping for my first presentation for my local user group.
I was having a conversation with Oracle professionals the other day and they started to discuss the Oracle ACE program and they asked me (being the one that works with Microsoft technology) what Microsoft’s equivalent was, to which I answered MVP.
It was fascinating to hear them speak about the program more specifically the fact that in the Oracle world there are 3 different levels to an ACE.
Anyways they started to mention that they would like to achieve this as a goal, I kind of disagreed and said that if the by-product of you sharing knowledge walking and talking is the entry level award then great, if not then great, keep doing what you enjoy right? Let’s be honest here who really knows that it takes? (Even though their nomination form gives away some clues).
A lot of people who have helped me from proof reading articles, presentations and general mentoring are MVPs and they have my utter most respect, especially Erin from SQLskills who has read my PowerPoint slides many times and provided me with feedback reminiscent of my University days and Brent Ozar who actually reads blogs and helps grow their reading base.
Keep doing what you are doing, we little people appreciate it. I sure do.
It’s coming towards the holiday season for me and I thought that I would wind-down a little with a non-technical post. I have been asked a few times over the past month where I got my online name from – BLOBEATER.
Well I will tell you. Firstly one of my favourite topics is DBCC CHECKDB ( and no I can’t use DBCC WRITEPAGE to fix corruption). Learning about it via sqlskills I noticed an internal variable called BlobEater which is a dummy variable with no purpose other than to consume any output from the CheckIndex function (source: http://www.sqlskills.com/blogs/paul/checkdb-internals-what-is-the-blobeater).
I thought this would be a good name for my online identity when you also throw in the fact that in my younger days my nick-name was BLOBBY!
So a past nick name + reference to of my favorite subjects ( which happens to be written by my ex-mentor) = best possible online name for me.
Thanks for reading.
Every now and again I would navigate to Microsoft’s certification page and see what / if any changes have taken place regarding certification within the Data Platform space. (Check out the link – http://www.microsoft.com/en-us/learning/certification-overview.aspx)
Nothing has changed in terms of the “pyramid” grade structures, you know, going from MTA, MCSA to MCSE which I will get to later.
However there is one change I have noticed – MCSE: Data Management & Analytics (they still have the MCSE: Data Platform and BI) where for this certificate you would need to know about Designing and Implementing Cloud Data Platform Solutions and Designing and Implementing Big Data Analytics Solutions.
It makes sense cloud, data, data analysis / mining is becoming more important as data grows, businesses can leverage these techniques to gain advantage so it’s good to see Microsoft adapt to this and change up their certifications.
HOWEVER, I am still slightly disappointed that there is still no tip of the pyramid certificate.
A bit of background, I used to hold all three MCITP and MCSE: Data Platform certificates (I failed them a few times but I got there in the end). Logically I would then look to the next step; I just feel that there should be a certificate that surpasses the level of questioning asked in the MCSE exams.
When I went to the SQLskills training on the last day we were given questions to troubleshoot and fix. They were tough, made me think hard and we had to “apply” what we learned from the last 10 days or so. These are the sorts of questions I want to evaluate myself against.
I won’t be renewing my MCSE certificate, not because of a lack of motivation to learn, if anything it’s quite the opposite. I am hungrier than ever to pick up and improve my Azure (and SQL) skills and get my hands dirty then hopefully share the knowledge that I gain within my blog.
I will say if you are new to this technology I think it’s a great way to help you get started and learn to a set plan so I would encourage you start at the MSCA, just like I did 10 years ago (It was MCTS back then).
I have been eager to write this blog post for a while now.
I want to share my experience of the process that I went through (last year) when I applied to Microsoft for a SQL PFE (Premier Field Engineer) role. Why would I want to do this? Well when I was going though the process I was online all day trying to get some insight into what I was going to go through, so I hope for those that are thinking of applying they will find this useful.
I will say that I received some advice from Gail Shaw about contacting Microsoft before writing this in case I was violating some piece of legislation; I thank her for this as I was sent some documentation by Microsoft to read before writing. So I am going to play it safe and not indulged on what was asked but what I went through (from my perspective).
Send your CV! If you have dreams of working for Microsoft then why not try and send your CV? I was sent an email with a Job description and thought why not?
If they like the look of your CV then you move to the next stage.
Technical telephone interview, exactly what it says on the tin. At this stage they engage with you to see if you know the basics i.e. if you have a solid foundation. You know you are not going to get far if you don’t really know something as simple as Minimum Server Memory or isolation levels.
Without going into too much detail (question types etc) it was quite evident that their requirements on the Job description would be the source of questions here around the following:
- SQL Server (core product)
- SQL HA/DR solutions.
- Experiences with SQL Server Integration Services, Reporting Services, Analysis Services.
This started of fairly easy but if they feel you know more they will probe you. My advice here is if you don’t know the answer then be honest! This stage lasted around 1 hour. By the way if you lied on your CV you might get embarrassed here so be honest, this isn’t your local company interviewing you.
A Competency telephone interview was next. I found this quite tough. Alot of complex scenario based questions where Microsoft tries to find out how you would react to certain scenarios / situations. My advice here is to learn about Microsoft competencies and their expectations.
I was surprised to be invited to the last stage(s) the assessment day located at their HQ – Reading. If you reach this stage you will be in for a long but fun day.
Stage 4 – technical interview with 2 senior engineers. Yes I was nervous, they knew it and I knew but they were really nice people. They DO NOT try to trick you here, all they want to know if how deep you can go.
Its starts of basic, you answer it then they build a question on your answer and that keeps going until you either don’t know or they move on to the next question – and yes there were times we were talking about SQL internals ( Think allocation bitmaps etc).
Many times I did not know the answer and I was not shy in saying “sorry I don’t know”.
Stage 5 – Technical presentation – after stage 3 you will be sent material to digest and prepare a presentation on your findings. This required ALOT of effort in terms of information preparation and practicing in front of a mirror for the presenting side of things. Be confident! I wore my favourite tie so I felt good too.
Stage 6- competency interview with 2 senior managers – Here they want to get to know you and what makes you “tick”. It’s up to them to decide if you will fit in at Microsoft. The questions here were complex ones designed to understand what your personality is like.
Even though I didn’t get the job I really enjoyed going through this process, I learnt alot about myself, ultimately giving me the platform to improve myself. If you have any questions leave me a comment – I will try and answer without violating any T/Cs I was sent.
Well I finally accomplished a goal of mine– that being to complete the training for SQL Server Performance Tuning and Optimisation (IEPTO1 and IEPTO2) offered by sqlskills https://www.sqlskills.com/sql-server-training/
- Database Structures
- Data File Internals and Maintenance
- Transactions and Locking
- Row Versioning and Isolation
- Optimizing Logging and Recovery
- Index Internals and Data Access
- Index Fragmentation
- Internals and Covering
- Statistics: Internals and Updates
- Cardinality Estimation Issues
- Indexing Strategies
- SQL Server I/O
- I/O Concepts for DBAs
- Storage Area Networks for DBAs
- SQLOS Scheduling and CPU Performance Tuning
- Data Collection and Baselining
- Extended Events
- Wait and Latch Statistics
- Query Plan Analysis
- Statement Execution, Stored Procedures, and the Plan Cache
- SQLOS Memory Management and Memory Performance Tuning
- Deadlock Analysis
- Performance Issue Patterns
All the above was covered over 10 days (split across 2 courses), each day was very intense but fun at the same time – the sqlskills team are really engaging, passionate and have great energy between them which at times left me in stitches. Obviously I Learnt alot but more importantly certain areas just made much more sense to me after that specific session – I mean, who better to tell you about how logging works than Paul?
If I was to pick 3 of my favorite modules they would be: (No particular order) Wait stats, Transactions / logging and Memory performance tuning.
A special mention to the last module in IEPTO2 – Performance issue patterns. Here we had to use what we learnt over the 10 days to diagnose a scenario and present a solution to the problem given to us – which varied from plan cache bloat to INSERT hotspots – this was an interactive and fun module! It was really tricky as some parts of the issue would lead us completely down the wrong path, much to Jonathan’s pleasure!
If you get a chance to attend these classes you will not be disappointed, you will feel more confident in your daily job and be better prepared for those “late” nights.
Oh – here is my new friend Paulie.
I have been really busy lately with articles, podcasts and so forth. Lately I have been working on 2 public libraries for wait types and latches within SQL server. If you are interested ping me a message over Twitter or LinkedIn.
Keep learning !
Between attending SQL SKILLS immersion events, trying out for the PFE role at Microsoft I have managed to write some articles for SSC – SQL Server Central. Enjoy!