In Year 1, I only wrote 6 blog posts. In Year 2, I made a conscious decision to take things seriously, and kicked things into high gear. During this 12-month period, I wrote 36 blog posts–my best 12-months as far as pace & productivity in these five years.
This was an incredibly transformational year. I spoke at a user group for the first time. I went to PASS Summit for the first time. I spoke at a SQL Saturday for the first time. I helped organize a SQL Saturday. I had blog posts picked up and published in multiple SQL Server newsletters. To say it was a whirlwind would be an understatement. I wrote a blog post that, to this day, remains the most popular post on this blog.
Today, I’m going to look back at that post, but I’m also going to look back at what is easily the most influential single moment in my career.
Brent Ozar Unlimited FreeCon
I had started blogging at a furious pace. I was mostly just working on instinct. Being a regular reader of many different blogs, I knew what I liked in a blog, and I was trying to deliver on what I wanted to read…but…I had no idea what I was doing.
About a month before PASS Summit, someone told me about a “FreeCon” that Brent Ozar Unlimited (blog|twitter) was putting on in Seattle just before PASS Summit. The FreeCon was a full-day training about “the SQL Server community, presenting, marketing, branding, networking, and yes, some technical stuff too.” And it was completely free. Even breakfast, lunch, and coffee were included in that free price tag.
Even though I was blogging, I didn’t quite think of myself as a blogger, and it didn’t seem like an event where I would fit in. I was urged to email Brent Ozar (blog|twitter) and ask if there were any available seats in the FreeCon so I could attend. I was nervous about it, but I sent Brent an email. The reply came back about a minute later:
“Email us at [email protected] and I’ll have Erika put you on the list.”
OK. I was going. I sent an email to my husband declaring it “cool” (but apparently forgot to tell him I was going):
I did tell my friend Mike, and his response was pretty spot on:
That day at the Big Picture Theater in Seattle really did help jump start my career. Brent and Kendra Little (blog|twitter) taught the majority of the class, along with some help from Doug Lane (twitter). It helped me confirm that I was doing a lot of things right. It helped teach me a whole boat load of new things. It helped kindle excitement in helping the community. It was overwhelming, but I took tons of notes and focused on learning all the things. It changed my way of thinking to realize that if I kept it up, I could be a “real” blogger–if I wasn’t already.
My favorite session from the day was “Inside the Management Studio” with Kendra & Brent. Inspired by Inside The Actors Studio, it was just Brent interviewing Kendra about a mix of topics from professional and personal life. It was a really fun session, but it was also inspirational. It helped remind me that the speakers at the front of the room are regular people, too. Seems simple, but imposter syndrome is stronger than reason.
For Brent & Kendra, this class wasn’t just class. They were our mentors, and they were available to us to help us be successful in our careers. Brent has been a constant mentor and cheerleader for me ever since.
I didn’t do much networking. I didn’t meet many new people in that class. However, I’ve gone on to become excellent friends with many of the people in that room–in quite a few cases, only realizing years later that we were in that class that day. My classmates and I have gone on to become Data Platform MVPs, authors, consultants, and at least one Program Manager at Microsoft.
I can’t speak for everyone else, but I owe a huge amount of my success to that class. Thanks, Brent, Kendra, and Doug!
How to shrink a database in 4 easy steps
A few months after the FreeCon, I wrote a post on how to shrink a database in 4 easy steps. This post was one where I had pulled together a bunch of advice from the FreeCon. The title matches search terms, and stands out in results so that people will click though–those make for good SEO. Also, it was content that didn’t have an existing go-to article. Most blog posts on shrinking databases explain why you shouldn’t do it, and that it should be an action taken only occasionally. I took a different approach–I looked at the reasons you shouldn’t do it, and described a way to minimize some of the problems–because people still shrink anyway.
The post was my most popular to date. Not only did I get thousands of hits from being in multiple newsletters, but it made the rounds on reddit and social media. It wasn’t long before Google Analytics showed significant traffic coming in from organic search. The organic traffic has kept coming ever since. In 2017, I added ShouldIShrinkMyDatabase.com to my arsenal to complement my database shrinking prowess.
Not every blog post will be popular, but this one had filled a need that wasn’t well-covered by other blogs posts, and matched the terms people are searching for. I was also finding my “voice” when I wrote. I was starting to harness my personality in my writing, and doing so in a way that made me happy, and seemed to be resonating with readers.
A banner year
Without a doubt, this 12 months was when my career took off. I figured out how to take my career to the next level, I was executing on it, and I was having an awesome time. I was starting to think of myself as “a blogger”, and was speaking at SQL Saturdays & user groups, even helping to organize SQL Saturday Boston. I was a becoming a better DBA by speaking and writing about my work, and I was making networking connections with other SQL Server experts. I’d set the stage for Year 3 to be an incredible year, too. Even “Inside the Management Studio” will come up again next year… You’ll have to wait for