T-SQL Tuesday #99: Life Outside SQL Server

T-SQL Tuesday

T-SQL Tuesday is a blog party held the second Tuesday of each month.

I am late to the party (I am often late to the party, just ask Aaron Bertrand, this month’s host).  I chose door #1 for this month’s T-SQL Tuesday Dealer’s Choice party.

If you follow me on Twitter, you know I’m a runner.  You might also know that I like spin.  And maybe you know that I’m a spin instructor at Psycle, a studio here in Ohio?

The bike...

The bike…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My regular class is on Tuesday mornings, but I sub for other instructors when my schedule allows.  Teaching spin is big in some places – like Soul Cycle which some say started the whole spin craze – to the point where instructing is a full-time job and it includes benefits.

I’m not in it for the money.

The extra cash is nice, but what I love is watching people evolve, and get better.

I’m a coach at heart.

I have found that I love not thinking about how I’m doing, but rather thinking about how to get someone else to do their best.

The studio...

The studio…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is why I teach

Both spin, and SQL Server.  Off the bike my favorite course is IE0, for the Accidental/Junior DBA.  The first day everyone is pretty quiet – they don’t want to share what they don’t know.  By the last day everyone has realized that no one is an expert, and they will tell stories and ask the fun “why” questions.

This happens in spin.

People show up the first ride and they are afraid they’ll be the worst rider in the room.  A few rides later and they’re asking questions about their bike set up, or sharing how they’re feeling about class.  Weeks, months, even years go by and you see those individuals get stronger, faster, more efficient…and in some cases become instructors themselves.

Rock Hall Ride (thanks Colleen!)

Rock Hall Ride (thanks Colleen!)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

That happened to me.

I started riding to become a stronger runner, but I found that I loved the dark room, loud music, and sanctity of the spin studio just as much as I loved the fresh air, sunshine, and the sound of my feet running.  It is, at our studio, therapy on a bike.  Some may scoff at the notion, others attend and find it isn’t their thing.  And that’s cool.  You do you, you find your thing and go all in, and spread that light wherever you can.  But if you find yourself in Cleveland and you’re up for a ride, let me know 🙂

 

 

 

 

Thoughts on public speaking / presenting / teaching

A colleague of mine asked me this on Twitter the other day:

When you started speaking did you know straight away that it was something you loved doing?

My answer: No.

It’s a really good question, and I said I’d go more in depth.  We have to go way back in time.  In asking the question, I believe my colleague was thinking about speaking in the SQL Server community, but for me it started before I found the SQL Server community.

I don’t think there are many people that love public speaking from the get-go.  At the University of Michigan I had to take Communications 101 (a public speaking course) in order to graduate.  I dreaded it.  Most people did.  But I took in in the fall of my sophomore year and got an A.  (Yes, I went and checked my college transcript.)

But the first time I really spoke to a group of peers and professors to explain or teach something was my first year of graduate school.  We had a day to celebrate the accomplishments within the Kinesiology department, and I had been working on a grant that tested the effects of Botox on children with cerebral palsy.  My advisor, Dr. Brown, wanted me to present our initial findings.  I had 10 minutes.  I created 10 slides and had a one minute video to show.  I remember Dr. Brown telling me that she used talk about one slide for 10 minutes, she had no idea how I’d get through all 10.  I was terrified I’d finish in 5 minutes.

I have hazy memory of my talk – I remember what I wore, I remember thinking my voice was shaking, I remember feeling nervous, I remember nodding at Dr. Watkins to start the video…and that’s it.

I can’t remember any feedback, but I do remember thinking I didn’t want to do that again.

Flash forward a couple months to Dr. Brown’s idea that I could teach the motor control section of the Movement Science 110 course.  Teach to freshman and sophomores.  People who were PAYING a lot of money to go to school at Michigan.  Again, I was terrified, despite Dr. Brown’s logic: I’d get paid, I would experience teaching, and it gave me a chance to learn the material even better.  I didn’t even have to create the content – I could just use what she had already been using.  I don’t know if I even tried to argue, I probably knew I wouldn’t win (Dr. Brown was pretty persistent).  So in the fall of 1997, I started teaching.  On the first day I had student argue with me about theories.  THEORIES!  I was teaching science.  I wanted to quit, but I didn’t.  I taught that class for two years, and I probably learned more than my students did.

Fast-forward a couple years to my first job in technology, at a software company, providing technical support.  I was soon asked if I was interested in training customers as well, as there was only one other person who handled training at that time.  I said yes – voluntarily this time.  I learned the software, I learned how to teach other people how to use it, and I got better.

By the time I worked in the Database Services department at Hyland I sought out opportunities to teach.  Every year there was a user conference, and during my first year on the team I asked a senior member of management if I could help with his presentation.  Now, I don’t remember the impetus, but we started co-presenting, until the year that he looked at me and said: “You can do this without me, I’m about to retire.”  I taught that class at multiple conferences over the next few years.  I asked to add database classes to the conferences and I developed and delivered those.  I provided internal training and recorded material to be viewed by partners and users online.  By then, I loved it.

When I discovered the SQL Server community and found out there was a conference every year (the PASS Summit) my initial thought was, “I want to present at that!”  And so I worked my way up.  I presented to my user group in the winter of 2010, and then at the Cleveland SQLSaturday in February 2011.  My first Summit was that same year, with a lot of other SQLSaturday events in between.

I’ve now been “presenting” off and on for about 20 years.  And I put presenting in quotes because I don’t think of it that way; I think I’m always teaching.  I’ve gotten a lot of experience in those years, and as a result I’ve gotten comfortable in front of a crowd and have developed my own style.  And while I’m proud of what I’ve accomplished, I still work to improve.  I tweak every session trying to figure out how to make an explanation even clearer.  I change demos all the time, trying to get them *just right* so they easily demonstrate a concept.  I continually read an audience and make adjustments on the fly when I can.  It doesn’t end, and I’m ok with that.  I do enjoy presenting/teaching now, but I didn’t when I started…because it was uncomfortable, because it was hard, because I didn’t know what I doing.  Because like everything else, it takes practice to become good, even if you have a knack for it from the start.

The greats weren’t great because at birth they could paint
The greats were great cause they paint a lot
~Macklemore and Ryan Lewis

Be the change

My day had a wonderful start…hot yoga at 6AM with one of my favorite instructors. Homemade cinnamon rolls for breakfast.  Great progress made with some client work. Then I read the email from Tom LaRock and the post from Wendy Pastrick regarding a harassment issue at this year’s PASS Summit. My heart is heavy.

I’ve read both texts multiple times. This line from Wendy keeps sticking in my head, “I declined, telling him I was fine.”

I understand. I’ve been there. And it’s an awful place. Any person who has been harassed knows this. Whether the harassment was physical – having someone grab your ass (or part of your body) is never funny, whether it was verbal – a sly comment with a lewd look that makes you go “ew”, doesn’t matter. The emotional response that comes with it is the indicator that you are not fine, and that you need to do something.

Very often we are taught to not “rock the boat.” Pull up your boots, put it behind you, and move on. It’s as if there is shame in experiencing that discomfort, and we must wholeheartedly deny that. If we do not, when we do NOT call out the offender, we let the offense continue. That person does it to someone else, who may or may not speak up, and the cycle continues.

I applaud Wendy for realizing that she was not fine, and for reporting it. For anyone who might think she over-reacted, I’ll strongly tell you to sit down and just stop. If you have ever experienced that feeling of discomfort, where your body temperature rises and you feel embarrassed – EVEN THOUGH YOU DID NOTHING WRONG – then you have been harassed. And if shame or fear has stopped you from saying anything, then I ask you – not encourage you, but implore you – to act differently if it occurs again. Do not wrap up those feelings inside a blanket and hide in a corner. Be brave and step forward.

I believe in going to any event with someone you trust – particularly events at the PASS Summit because there are so many people and because it’s a city where you probably don’t live. That person that goes with you is your wingman. You have his/her back, he/she has yours. You never, ever leave your wingman (if that sounds familiar, yes I’m quoting Top Gun…those pilots are on to something). If what happened to Wendy happens to you, you go right to your wingman. Do not say that you are fine. Let your wingman help you figure out next steps. One of those steps is reporting the event to PASS (or the proper governing body – HR, another Board – depending on the event) because this behavior will not change unless we begin to speak out and condemn it.

I leave you with this:

Be the change you wish to see in the world.

Be the change you wish to see in the world.

It starts with each one of us. Wendy has taken that path. In the unfortunate event that this happens to you, I hope you will follow.