Year 3: May 2016 – May 2017

Year Two was a busy year, and I was taking blogging seriously. In Year Three, my goal was to keep focused on what I learned in the FreeCon the year before, and keep moving forward with both blogging and speaking at conferences and user groups. I was putting a bit more effort into my speaking (and thus easing off on the blogging some). I was still trying to get into a regular cadence of blogging, and most Sunday mornings, I was at a coffee shop in front of my laptop trying to focus. Dedicating time to blog doesn’t guarantee completed posts–but it helped. I published 27 blog posts during this 12 months–fewer than the prior year, but still averaging one post every other week. I have a full-time day job that doesn’t pay for me to blog–so those posts (and all my in-person speaking presentations) were written nights & weekends in my “free” time.

On the speaking front, I managed to speak at seven SQLSaturdays, and three User Groups. I even organized the first LGBTQ Meetup at PASS Summit. I had a few different topics on which I was speaking, but I was still thinking about new topics.

In my Year Two post I mentioned the Inside the Management Studio session that Brent Ozar (blog|twitter) and Kendra Little (blog|twitter) presented. I’m a big fan of Inside The Actors Studio, and that FreeCon session had resonated with me. One of the things that I loved about that session was that it helped me connect with Brent & Kendra on a personal level. Attendees at conferences are often intimidated by the speakers, and I loved the way that the session helped make both of them seem more…normal. I wanted to do a SQLSaturday session with the same idea.

Inside the Management Studio…again

I messaged Brent to see if he was cool with me stealing the idea. He loved the idea and encouraged me to make it happen. I still needed an interview subject. I looked at the events I was planning on speaking at, looked at who else might be attending those events, and decided to aim high. I told Aaron Bertrand (blog|twitter) what I had in mind, and asked if he’d be my interview subject… and he said yes! (Aaron had never heard of Inside The Actors Studio, and didn’t bother to look it up, or even ask me questions. He had no idea what he was walking into.)

Aaron describes the session as this:

Andy asked a bunch of questions about my background, my career, and my family. He showed a lot of embarrassing childhood pics, which got some laughs; but we had some real commentary about the industry, too, and that invoked a lot of audience interaction. I have to say that I got a lot out of this session – the questions were innocent enough, but they led to some personal and emotional answers that made me really think about where I’ve been, where I am, and where I’m going. I actually choked up, to the point of being teary, twice. But I felt a raw connection with the audience, and felt that I was relaying pieces of information from my own history that might be helpful in their own pursuits.

I had put a bunch of effort into prepping for the session, but I’d never done something like that before. It went as well as I could have expected. It certainly didn’t go perfectly, but it was good enough. The session had pushed both Aaron & I out of our comfort zones, but what we delivered to those attendees was great. I hope they were inspired to progress their careers. I hope they were able to see the non-traditional paths we take to success. I hope they were able to see that even SQLebrities like Aaron are just normal people with normal lives.

EDIT: When I told Aaron he was going to be in this post, he reminded me that after that session, we went to a restaurant to talk about the session some…and even though the restaurant is only 2 miles from his house, he still got lost on the way there. See? Aaron is human!

Award Season

A couple weeks later, Aaron surprised me by awarding me his first annual Community Influencer of the Year Award. I got a DM from Aaron at 10:30 on a Friday night telling me to check his blog.

You up? I’m about to blog about you. You’ve been warned.
~ Aaron Bertrand

I wrote my own blog post about the award that day (obviously, I fully identified as a Blogger now), including a little bit of a retrospective of things up until then. The award felt super important. It still does. Like the FreeCon, this was massive validation that I was doing the right thing. Not only did I get an award for what I had been doing, it was given to me by someone that I looked up to. I was doing community stuff like blogging & speaking because I wanted to help people. Now, one of the people who I looked up to as a role model had recognized me as someone who was helping the community.

What I didn’t mention in my post at the time, was that at the same Friday night that Aaron bestowed his Community Influencer Award, he also submitted a nomination for me to be a Microsoft MVP:

I submitted the paperwork to be considered, and in March, I received my MVP Award. You can read about my thoughts on that award here. It was (and still is) truly an honor to be a Microsoft MVP.

What the heck is a DTU?

Jumping back to my efforts at blogging…
I’d been keeping my eye out for a topic that I could own. I was also keeping my eye out for an opportunity to blog somewhere other than my own site. Following on my Community Influencer and MVP Awards, I proposed a guest blog idea to editor, Aaron Bertrand (remember how I said in Year One that he’d come up again? It seems I just can’t get rid of him). I wanted to backwards engineer the DTU Calculator to figure out how to correlate DTUs back to some metrics with which DBAs are more familiar, like CPU, memory, and disk IO.

That blog post was a lot of work, but it was a lot of fun. I put many hours into the experiments, the data, and the writing. By the time the post was published, I was super happy with it. The post was a hit. Web metrics showed that it was a popular post, but I also had other speakers telling me that they loved it, and were going to mention it in their own sessions on Azure SQL Database. I attended a webinar to learn more about Azure SQL Database, and my own blog post was mentioned as a resource. Best of all, Googling for “What is a DTU?” brings up my blog post right underneath the official Microsoft documentation. HUZZAH! I OWNED THE BLOG TOPIC.

It’s gotta be all downhill form here

Year Three was certainly a busy year (At least, my blog posts about the years keep getting longer). I was honored with multiple awards and had another hit blog post. I honestly wasn’t sure what the next year would bring with it…but I was excited to keep going.

Additional Reading