What led me to where I am today and what’s inspired me along the way?

Ha… I'm finally sitting down today to write my homework. Homework created by my lovely husband when he tagged me in his blog post: https://www.sqlskills.com/blogs/PAUL/post/What-three-events-brought-you-here.aspx.

Obviously, there are many factors which lead people to where they are now. Some influences are small – almost undetectable. While others are large – and can’t possibly go without notice. Finally, some changes are fleeting while some last a lifetime. Really, it takes a lot to make a person – to make me/you. It’s hard to break this down into 3 – especially as I’m planning to focus on where I am – in this industry (and wrt to SQL Server – as it's been such a large part of my life!). As a person and the values that I have, I thank (blame? ;-) my Mother and Father. They were instrumental in giving me the personality that I have and the compassion that I value. Technically, however, my Mother doesn’t even have a computer and it wasn’t until last year that I convinced her that she needs a cell phone. Ironically, I think I’ve only called her on it once (maybe she didn't need it?). My Father is no longer with us but I’m certain his biggest influence was his value for adventure. (Donald Wayne Tripp: https://www.sqlskills.com/blogs/kimberly/post/Donald-Wayne-Tripp-August-6-1944-November-28-2007.aspx)

As for computers, computing, databases and SQL Server…

#1: Jeremy Smith, PCDistributing -> Computers!

The first and most consequential was meeting Jeremy Smith – who, at the time, was President/Founder of PCDistributing (PCD). The funny part about how we met was that I worked at the local AM/PM Mini Mart and gas station (I even did full-serve on occasion) on the corner of Lake Ave. and Milwaukee Ave. in Northbrook, IL – only 1 block from PCD. PCDistributing had an onsite credit card (a card they could use only at our store) for the executives (Jeremy and Marie). I knew he worked with computers and well, I was interested in a better job; I was 16. During one of his stops in the store, I asked if they were hiring and he said – stop by and ask for me.

I worked after school and summers for PCD through my sophomore, junior and senior years and my job mainly consisted of data entry. However, I was pretty good at it and computers definitely interested me. I ended up starting night school at Loyola University (which was just down the street from where my Father lived in Rogers Park, Chicago) while in the 2nd half of my senior year of high school (my Mother moved from Northbrook to Vernon Hills, IL).

At Loyola I really learned a lot – some of which I learned from my partners in crime at the Data Center (where I worked). This would be Ross Naheedy (who I affectionately *still* call geekbag), Yatrik Shah (aka Yatman), Michael Dillon (aka Matt), James Kalemis, Carlos Talbot, Alvin Paul, Amy Overmyer, Cesar Lopex, John Long, Shelley Naheedy (now ;), Mike Abel, and Rita Moy – all of whom are on facebook (which is excellent!). This was an absolute blast. I remember many LATE nights and/or all-nighters in the data center. Probably the most infamous is one (probably more than one) where Ross and I wrote a program to trigger the PC alarm to wake us up from a nap we finally decided to take on the floor of one of the classrooms – where we had been geeking out all night. I have no memory of what we were playing with/on or if we were just writing code (Pascal probably, maybe LISP [I really enjoyed LISP]) – and I think it was on PCs but it may have been the mini or even the System 370 mainframe.

And, that brings me to #2 (even though I have to admit – my escapades with this motley crew definitely had an effect…).

#2: System 370 Assembler, Dr Hamilton and IBM -> Ward L. Christensen

At Loyola, I majored in Math/Computer Science and minored in Fine Arts (Graphics/Design) and Philosophy. Ah, it's no wonder that I never finished my degree. Can we say left-brain/right-brain confusion (or ADHD ;-) with too many distractions (boys, bars, jobs that paid money!). I did end up finishing most of my math/comp sci and even a fair portion of fine arts/Philosophy (I loved ethics) but I never did get my degree as I just loved working. And, in fact, this is where things are really interesting. My instructor for System 370 assembler (Dr. Hamilton) gave my name to a Marketing Manager at IBM (Dennis Kapral). Dennis called me one afternoon and I remember the call well, “Hi Kimberly, my name is Dennis Kapral and I work for IBM. We'd be interested in having you come in and apply for a job as a Marketing Support Assistant for the GET (Government, Education and Transportation) branch.” Er, I thought this was a joke. I interviewed with Dennis and then he passed me on to another gentleman for my technical interview. I remember this interview still – we chatted about how harddisks worked and the interview flew by. I remember this gentleman dropping me back in Dennis' office where he said, "Hire her!" and walked out. Dennis joked that he was impressed that I held a conversation with Ward and well, that was that – I was hired.

Working for IBM was a blast. I worked with a sharp group (including Ward, Mike Jania and many other folks that were fantastic but I’m struggling to remember everyone’s names) and my position was all about marketing. In '89, I learned PageMaker (on the 286/386) and I created an advertisement for our College Education team (that was the main area with whom I worked in GET). We were marketing the new PC line (286/386) to colleges around the country and I designed a simple advertisement that ended up going nationwide. See here:

But, you really need to read the text of the PCs for sale… especially the "Lightning Bolt" 386 (click the picture for the larger version):

To track all of the customizations (school name on the front, school colors for the titles, 8×11 brochure or folded/mailer style, etc.), I needed a database. I used DataEase. The advertisement was a huge success. In fact, we cross charged the other branches a *VERY* small fee (something under 1 cent per brochure) and we actually made some money for the branch. I won a "Branch Managers Award" (it was a first for an MSA) and I was even invited to the branch party at Arlington Race Track (I think it was Arlington). And, this was a HUGE deal because MSAs were not supposed to attend; they had to get Regional Manager sign-off for this. So, that was pretty cool!

The long story short is that I loved the advertising side but this database stuff was even better. A new project came up (working with FoxBase) and they asked Ward who they should hire and he said me. They asked him if I knew FoxBase and he said it didn't really matter (THANKS Ward!!). After 9 months coding in a large corner window office in 1 IBM Plaza (fyi – the office/view was gorgeous – I must see if I can find a few pics) with Stan Podolsky, the project was over and I really loved databases. Ward had heard of a small company in Chicago that was into training (and he knew I enjoyed training as I had delivered courses on WordPerfect at the Computer Center at Loyola) and the next thing I knew, I was working with LAN/mind. They were a training and consulting firm that specialized in NetWare but were branching (more and more) into OS/2, Windows, LanManager and this new thing – SQL Server (thanks to Marshall Olsen).

Oh, and here's a throwback to the 80s – my badge pictures from my IBM badges (I can't believe I'm posting these??):

#3 Marshall Olsen, SQL Server and finally, Microsoft

I started working for LAN/mind and immediately loved the Microsoft side of things (absolutely LOVED the team – Marshall Olsen, Jeffrey Starzec, Garry Forman, Charlie Spencer, Alice VonHansen (RIP Alice) and many others – we had a great time there). With LAN/mind I became a Microsoft Certified Professional (MCP #128 (I just recently stumbled on my old card :)) and soon after I applied to work for Microsoft – specifically, Microsoft University. I still feel like I could have spent a lot more time at LAN/mind but I loved Microsoft and I had fallen in love with the Pacific Northwest on my first trip out here. As for MSU, it was a great place to work as well – trainers played practical jokes on other trainers and once my good friend Robbie Laws (RIP Robbie) rollerbladed through my classroom.

However, it wasn't long after I joined Microsoft that they realized local training by their own trainers just wouldn't scale. This is when Certified Partners and Solution Centers really kicked off and MSU slowly turned into only content development (this is now Microsoft Learning). I joined the SQL team (and learned a lot and worked with some amazing folks!) but never really found my groove.

I loved writing, training, speaking at conferences and consulting… what do I do? I start my own company.

The rest has been here (SQLskills) for the past 8-9 years (well, that's when I started the web presence) and before that I did consulting/training mostly through word of mouth (since 1995). Speaking at conferences has also been an amazing experience. Not only have a traveled the world and met some of my best friends but it’s conferences that brought Paul and I together. The funny part is that we had exchanged emails on a few problems (as early as 2002 – we think) but it wasn't until TechEd 2006 where we first met. That was probably my biggest life changing event… As you know, there’s a lot of energy around Paul and as you can imagine, he came into my life like what I expect a huge steam engine roaring into the station would seem like… he asked me to come aboard and well, the rest has been smooth traveling (and lots of it!) since.

So, in a nutshell – I blame (but in a good way):

#1: Jeremy Smith

#2: Ward Christensen

Sidenote: It's wonderful to cross post with Brent Ozar's “What inspired him” post on how BBSes were so instrumental… why? Because Ward (and his business partner at the time – Randy Seuss) invented XMODEM and it’s this which led to the first public dial-up BBS. So, I think both Brent and I (and quite a few other folks too ;-) owe a lot of our direction to Ward! And, I still chat with Ward after we reconnected on Facebook. Even today, he commented on a picture from my early days (it’s “retro photo posting time on FB”) and quite a few of us were trying to think of where the time has gone.

#3: Marshall Olsen

What has and who have inspired you?

Or possibly better yet, where do you want to go from here?

Thanks for reading,

PS – Be sure to check Paul's blog post for trackbacks and links to other great stories/posts. Enjoy!

5 thoughts on “What led me to where I am today and what’s inspired me along the way?

  1. It felt so good reading this. And I distinctly remember the alarm clock program, in room 114 in Crown Center, with the "Newly Installed" Zenith 248’s, with color EGA monitors and PCX Paint from ZSoft. I think you were working on one of your projects for 270 (Pascal) and I was just goofing around on the PCs. Omg! That’s the same room I got busted by Rod Pompey (and later by Roger Addelson) for having an illegal copy of Norton Utilities.

    I noticed no mention of the Pontiac LeMans. Maybe it wasn’t that big a deal for you, but that car sure left an impression on me!

  2. Ha… I’ll take that as a complement if it’s her Adventures in Babysitting (or Karate Kid) days. But, please tell me it’s not her Leaving Las Vegas days.

    Luckily from your link I already know your answer. :)

    And, Brent – I always say that 6 degrees is WAY TOO MANY!


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