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Merrill Aldrich

Technical content about Microsoft data technologies. All opinions expressed are purely my own and do not reflect positions of my employer or associates.

T-SQL Tuesday #34: HELP!

TSQL2sDay150x150_thumbI owe my career to the SQL Server community, specifically the Internet SQL Server community, so this month’s T-SQL Tuesday is especially poignant. I changed careers “cold” about eight years ago, and, while I had some educational background in computer science, I had relatively little real-world DBA experience. Someone gave me a shot in the form of an entry level job, for which I am grateful, but I also had to make the argument to him that I would figure out whatever I needed to do to be successful in that position. Without the SQL community, that would never have been possible.

Here’s how:

Early on I used the heck out of traditional forums, especially places like, back when it was run by Brad McGehee, and I read a lot after hours, Joe Celko and CJ Date for theory and Kalen Delaney’s phenomenal “Inside SQL Server 2000” first, then a stack of other titles. I read SQL Server Magazine. I read forms by the hour, just soaking up the issues other people were facing, and the solutions.

I still always keep Kalen’s book in a special spot near my desk. It’s in pretty good shape:


When, at my first DBA job, we really needed professional help wrangling an ISV, the internet community helped me find Ron Talmage and Joe Chang, when the company had no idea where to look for high caliber SQL Server consulting. They were amazing.

Once I got a little experience and knew at least one or two things, I started trying to give back. On the forums I ventured answers for some easy questions. (I still didn’t know much. Heck, I still don’t now.) Brad McGehee was kind enough to accept a couple of articles I wrote based on technical challenges from work – articles which lost their relevance years ago, but gave me some practice and some confidence writing. When StackOverflow arrived on the scene I switched to that pretty exclusively as a forum site, if only because I like the format and the UI so much.

When changed hands in 2006, I wanted to keep writing, and realized that blogging was probably the thing to do rather than formal articles. My writing is uneven, but the practice helps, and I find that forcing myself to compose an argument or explain a solution really helps to solidify my own knowledge. The old saying, “if you want to learn, then teach” really holds true. I was able to secure a spot blogging here at in the summer of 2009 with Adam Machanic, and I still try to contribute odds and ends if I think they will be useful to someone out there on the interwebs.

Somewhere in there I reluctantly accepted the fact that I should try Twitter, and unfortunately or fortunately, depending on whether you ask my wife, I’m fairly addicted. #SQLHelp is a marvel. I have also begun attending submitting sessions to SQL Saturday events, which is both a blast socially, and incredibly helpful professionally.

That’s my history – I hope, if you are reading this from a position like mine, that you’ll consider doing two things: take advantage of the community resources out there, then, when you are able, pay it forward.

Published Tuesday, September 11, 2012 10:25 AM by merrillaldrich
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