UnSQL Friday – My Tech Giants

It’s not just Friday, it’s UnSQL Friday.  Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean that DBAs and database developers have the day off.  Instead, it means that Jen McCown (Blog|Twitter) has asked us to first read her recent tech giants blog post “and then write whatever you want about Tech Giants.”

Whatever I want?  Okay, in that case I will write about three non-tech giants, then tie that back to tech.  So please stick with me during the non-tech parts, I’m going somewhere with this.

Nice arrangement, Dad does the work and I get the award

Here is non-tech giant number one.  My father is a Master Shepard, has been an officer in numerous sheep organizations, judges at livestock shows, is a director on the state board of animal health, goes overseas on fact-finding missions for agricultural organizations, and so on… oh yeah, and his flocks have amassed quite the haul of awards over the years.  He’s a known-person in the sheep community.  I’ve watched over the years as we walk into events and he’s suddenly surrounded by people.  I’ve also seen people look at me, like I’m somehow going to benefit from being his son, or as though I will be competing against them someday (I love caring for animals, but have no interest whatsoever in livestock competition).  There are also the whispers of people who think that my father is somehow making money from everything he does with the sheep community, when quite the opposite is true.  Strangers contact him and think that he should drop everything to provide them with free and quick advice.  So, does any of this sound familiar?

Moving on, non-tech giant number two was the head of my doctoral dissertation committee back when I took a run at grabbing a PhD.  Let’s call him Doc Will (that’s not his name, I chose this alias because he looks a bit like William Gibson).  Doc Will walked around campus barefoot.  He would stand on his desk because he claimed it helped him come up with new ideas.  Doc Will was known by everyone in his community and he held some prestigious positions.  When we went conferences, graduate students would ask me what it was like to work so closely with such a prominent person.  This would slap me into reality, because day-to-day it was easy to forget how fortunate I was.  However, I think some people simply wanted to slap me into reality themselves.  Or maybe they didn’t like Doc Will and wanted to take that out on me.  I don’t know.  I usually don’t care about such things, except one such situation that was possibly the weirdest encounter I’ve ever experienced.

I was at an academic conference standing in the buffet line when the editor of the most influential academic journal in my field walked up to the buffet line a few feet in front of me.  This would be non-tech giant number three.  Without any greeting or introduction, she held out her hand, looked at me and said “Come over here and put a slice of cheese in my hand.”  Other people standing nearby quietly slipped away as I grabbed a plate, which is when she commanded “no, put that down, I said in my hand.”  There were napkins in front of me as well, so I said that I could put the cheese on a napkin.  She firmly snapped “I.  Said.  In.  My.  Hand.”  I gingerly used tongs to lay a slice of cheese in her hand, at which point she said in a rewarding tone “There you go.  Now another.”  She began directing me to put food in her open hand until she finally turned and walked away without saying a word.  I almost watched her walk away to see if she would eat the food, throw it in the trash, or shove it into some unsuspecting person’s face.  However, I was afraid if she saw me looking at her that she might come back.  It was as if looking down and pretending nothing happened was the buffet-line-equivalent of hiding your head under the blankets to keep the monsters away.  All of the people nearby who witnessed this also kept quiet and acted like nothing unusual had happened.

It’s time to bring this post back to the tech realm and get to my point.  Here it is.  The people out there in our SQL community are not much different from those in other communities, even the non-tech ones.  In other words, it’s not just tech folks who are rude, who ask others to help them immediately and for free, or who make up fantasies about tech giants somehow getting rich from community involvement.  So if you are a tech giant reading this, my two cents is that this kind of behavior isn’t unique to the tech world.

Also, it’s not just tech nerds/geeks who do things like walking around barefoot at work.  And if anyone ever tells you that DBAs and developers have weird food habits or overly obsess about bacon, just remember my cheese story.  Seriously, have any of you ever heard of someone at a tech event commanding people to put cheese in their hand?  Okay, let me rephrase that, have you ever heard of someone other than Tim Ford (Blog|Twitter) or Buck Woody (Blog|Twitter) doing such a thing?

Okay, to wrap this up I’m going to list my tech giants.  There are so many, and I’m continually amazed at how reachable, humble, helpful, etc. they are.  But I decided to list just three.  One might be a surprise, one won’t be a surprise, and one is the guru who keeps teaching.  And they are

  1. Jeremiah Peschka (Blog|Twitter) – I met Jeremiah last year at SQL Saturday #31 in Chicago.  I’d been to some SQL Server events.  I was spending some time on Twitter, and it seemed like the “involved” people were learning lots and having fun.  So I decided to be less of a wallflower at SQL Saturday Chicago.  The first session I attended was Jeremiah’s on Dynamic SQL, and before he started, I walked up and introduced myself.  We talked until it was almost time for him to start the session.  It was a great session.  Jeremiah was easy going and interactive and pointed out better ways to do things.  With that, the ball was rolling on my getting more involved in the SQL Server community, with Jeremiah and many others keeping that ball rolling.  And I do mean many, many others who’ve been fantastic to me in this journey.  So why did I list Jeremiah here instead of those others?  Possibly because he took the time to chat with me before his session instead of saying that he had to get ready for it and couldn’t talk.  Maybe because he let me get in a little volunteer time at the 2010 PASS Summit.  Or it could be that he’s been working with technologies other than SQL Server lately.  I’ve been wanting to get back to working with open source, so it’s inspiring to follow his blog and tweets.  Either way, he’s the first person I thought of when I read Jen’s UnSQL Friday declaration, so he gets my number one spot.
  2. Kalen Delaney (Blog|Twitter) – She writes.  She shares knowledge.  Her work is referenced regularly.  That’s impressive, but what made Kalen stand out to me was attending her “Seeking SQL Server Secrets” session at the 2010 PASS Summit.  It was like watching a hacker typing on the keyboard (breaking the “never type in a demo” rule with great success) demonstrating her awesome skills.  But she wasn’t showing off, rather she was showing us what was going through her mind, her process flow, etc. while diving into SQL Server.  In other words, she was using an I Did This And So Can You approach to give the audience confidence and encouragement to try things themselves.  It was educational, exciting and fun, even at the end of a long day.
  3. Ken Henderson (Blog) – As I sit in my chair, The Guru’s Guide to Transact-SQL is within a natural, easy reach to my left.  That book is beaten-up, full of notes in the margins, and still the first book I recommend when someone needs to learn T-SQL.  Ken has passed on, and he’s still teaching skills to people.  I think that speaks for itself.

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7 Responses to UnSQL Friday – My Tech Giants

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention UnSQL Friday – My Tech Giants | Noel NOT NULL; -- Topsy.com

  2. Mike Walsh says:

    Come to think of it, Jeremiah is kind of tall, isn’t he?

  3. I am sorta tall. I’m also incredibly flattered.

  4. Pingback: SQL Awesomesauce » Blog Archive » Un-SQL Friday #002 Roundup (finally)

  5. Claire says:

    Wow, I think this my favorite Un-SQL so far–the responses are such fun to read. I’ve been working on assembling a SQL bloggers master list for some time, and I keep uncovering more and more amazing bloggers with slightly different angles and areas of expertise. Thanks for this list!

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