10 years ago today…

…the second stage of my life ended, when I left Microsoft on August 31st, 2007.

The first stage of my life was education, ending in June 1994, with a Batchelor of Engineering (Hons.) degree in Computer Science and Electrical Engineering from the University of Edinburgh.

The second stage of my life was being an employee.

The first company I worked for was Digital Equipment Corporation (a.k.a. DEC, a.k.a. Digital), working on the OpenVMS/VMS file system (including the VMS chkdsk equivalent, disk/tape initialization, and general mag tape functionality) from August 1994 to January 1999. Working for DEC taught me how to be a real software engineer, and I’m very thankful that my first boss and mentor was Duncan McLaren – a damn fine engineer, a sincere geek, and good friend. I consider myself extremely lucky to have worked at DEC with Duncan to start my career and I really loved working there.

And that led me to the second and last company I worked for: Microsoft, from February 1999 to August 2007, including the jump from Scotland to Redmond, WA. See here for an explanation of how that happened. It was at Microsoft that I grew into a principal software engineer and learned how to be an engineering manager, both of software engineers and of program managers, and to lead product-wide projects. But the most important things I learned at Microsoft were how to lead and mentor people, and the value of a technical community.

Of all the people I worked with and got to know at Microsoft, the person who stands out the most is my great friend Bob Ward, who I first met in early 1999. We worked very closely over the years, and labored tirelessly together on the supportability (and PSS training) of the entire SQL Server box for the SQL Server 2005 release. You won’t find a more passionate advocate for solving customer problems, a more capable SQL Server debugger, or a more honest and sincere human being.

I absolutely *adored* working at Microsoft but in the end I couldn’t do what I wanted to do in 2007: work with Kimberly and spend my time teaching and consulting, so I made the decision to leave in June 2007 and gave the SQL Server group leaders 10 weeks notice, so I could transition everything properly.

Now I’m in the third stage of my life – owning and running a company: SQLskills, with my wonderful wife Kimberly, who’d been running the company by herself since she started it in 1995 until I joined in 2007. Kimberly taught me how to be a great presenter, how to run a successful small business, and how to be more empathetic in the ‘real world’ outside Microsoft.

This has been, and continues to be, a blast and I wouldn’t trade my life now for anything else. I’ve lost count of the number of classes I’ve taught, conferences I’ve presented at, and blog posts I’ve done here (ok, that I can put a number to: 947, including this one), plus I naturalized as a U.S. citizen in 2012. I must say that part of what makes this job so enjoyable is the superb team we have: Jon (since 3/15/11…), Erin (8/1/12…), Tim (1/19/15…), and our long-suffering assistant Libby (since forever…).

However, the thing I enjoy the most about my job now is helping people – through my blog, email, Twitter, my waits library, our classes and conferences, and more – and I don’t see that changing any time soon!

What will the next ten years bring, I wonder? Stay tuned to find out :-)


30 thoughts on “10 years ago today…

  1. Good stuff!
    Happy Anniversary!
    My best wishes for you and congratulations for the job you are doing and long life in this field!

  2. Hey Paul,

    This is great! Congrats! Thanks for all of your hard work and everything you do. Be well and live long. You are a great role model for all of us for which I am very grateful.

    All very best,

  3. Happy Anniversary, Paul!! And many more to come — to you and to Kimberly! The information you provide is invaluable, and remains applicable and usable again and again, regardless of the time that passes! I admire you for your problem solving abilities and am incredibly grateful for your guidance and your mentorship. I also really dig our other shared hobby – scuba diving – and I think your dive pics are fabulous !!

  4. Your are too kind sir. It has a been a great honor and heck alot of fun being your friend. Thank you for being a great friend to me.


  5. Everytime I consume what you record or write or say, I learn new things. Thank you (and your colleagues) for sharing and being so generous. That’s inspiring and thanks to that, I try to do my best to do the same.

  6. Hi Paul & Kimberly, the work that SQLSkills does is a huge contribution to the MSSQL community and SQL Server itself.
    For me, SQLSkills is very important as it helps me to grow and being a better professional. Thanks for that decision you took 10 years ago!

    Best regards, Pedro

  7. Congratulations Paul! I will never forget the time (back in 2012) I first came across the MCM videos. Holy moly! I ran into my senior DBA’s office and said, “I came across a GOLD MINE!” :)

    I don’t know where the SQL community would be without your generosity (as well as the entire SQLSkills team).


  8. Congrats Paul,
    I have learned a tremendous amount from your classes. You and Kimberly have put together a great team. I am very grateful for you all! I look forward to seeing you again in the future.

  9. Congrats Paul, I learned quite a lot from you, especially on those issues, not just finding the issue but WHY is that happening and finding the root cause from Core of the Product. Thank you , you are a great resource for SQL community.

  10. Thank you for everything I have learned from you (books, PASS, blogs etc.). Your contributions to the SQL community are immeasurable. Thank you so much and wish you the best in the next 10 years.

  11. Congrats Paul. I Feel very lucky that I could attend one of your classes here in down under (melbourne). Thank you for everything you guys do!!

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