unSQL Friday–Lessons Learned while Presenting

Jen McCown (blog|twitter) has organized a great topic for this unSQL Friday–lessons learned while presenting. Like she mentioned in her post–these don’t necessarily have to be tragedies, just things you’ve picked up along the way while presenting.

Fortunately, in my few years of doing technical presentations, I’ve never had a major demo failure, or a laptop crap out, but I have picked up some tips and hints along the way. So here goes:

  1. PowerPoint presentation mode, for the win. This is feature in PowerPoint that allows you to have your slides up on the monitor, while looking at your presentation notes and timer on your monitor. I kind of use it like a mini-teleprompter. The one pain point of this is, it does make a bit harder to go in and out of demos, but I feel like that headache is easier than dealing with 10 pages of 16 point speech notes.
  2. Get a presentation mouse. I use a Microsoft presentation mouse, that I was able to buy off of eBay for about $20. It has a timer, which is a nice feature that I like to use. The presentation mouse allows me to move around the room, which leads me to my next point.
  3. Engage, engage, engage the audience. Some of the best presenters I’ve seen do this the best, but try to plan a couple of points in your presentation where you can engage the audience. In my recent SQL Azure presentation, I sent an Azure Reporting Services report to an audience member who had a Windows Phone 7. It breaks up the monotony of a technical presentation, and helps keep people from falling asleep–I’m looking at you guy in row 3.

One last note, based on some feedback I received from SQL Rally, it’s generally not the speakers responsibility for how comfortable the chairs and the room are. If you have a problem with the room please see the conference organizers, please use the evaluation form to comment on me, so I can improve my talks in the future.

If you are reading this, and you are not a regular presenter, but would like to get in on the act, talk to your local user group, they are always on the lookout for speakers, and many organize special events where first time speakers can talk for 10-15 minutes.

The Top 5 Things I learned during my MBA program.

This post originated one night when John Sterrett (blog|twitter) was asking for a good place to find salary information. I was able to quickly refer him to O*Net, a government database of job descriptions, and extensive salary info based on IRS return data. I mentioned that it was one of the top five things I learned about during my MBA program.

I’d like to just add while I don’t know if it’s totally a worthwhile endeavor, I really enjoyed going to business school. My company at the time paid for most of it, so I took advantage of that benefit. It was a great opportunity to network with a bunch of really smart people, and change the way I looked at a lot of things in business and IT.

John mentioned that he hoped to learn about the rest of my top 5–I had to step back and think about what those were. So here goes my attempt at classifying them.

1) O*Net — As I mentioned before this is a Federal website, that shows both salary information and detailed job descriptions for all professions. Need a job description for a DBA? It’s here. I’ve used this before when our HR org didn’t put together a job description of my liking.

2) HR–I learned how HR works, how to work with them to hire good people. I learned the legal process behind the review process, and the performance review process in general. I also began to understand that in really successful companies, HR is used as strategic asset, and not just a gatekeeper and processor of information. There are other better writings on this, but it’s a good topic to study further on. I also learned that the best way to get hired, is to avoid going to HR, and network your way to the hiring manager.

3) Managing Your Career–Tom LaRock (blog|twitter) wrote a book on this, but one of the key bits of wisdom I picked up in my second take at college was that you and only you are responsible for your career. Your manager probably doesn’t care, as he/she is focused on their own job.

4) Statistics–Or the class where I really learned how to use Excel. I had some vague knowledge of statistics, but a management statistics class gave me knowledge of confidence intervals, how statistics get used in business situations. And despite what some say, marketing is more than liquor and guessing, you can use statistics to model and focus in on a target audience.

5) Don’t murder anyone. As much as I wish it did, this has nothing to do with a product liability class. Unfortunately, one of my classmates, who I witnessed having a liaison with another student on a class trip to France, is on trial was convicted for the murder of his wife. Last month I got to have thewonderful experience of testifying in the case. That sucked, what really puts in perspective is he was a fairly normal guy, with some priorities a little out of whack. I don’t intend this to be one of those “it can happen to anyone things”, but it does really make you think.

So I’ve covered salary, HR, career, stats, and felonies. There were many other interesting things I learned about including a great class on Organization Culture and a series of very interesting Supply Chain classes, but overall these were my top 5 takeaways.

Well, that and I hope I never have to testify in a criminal matter ever again.

SQL Saturday Boston Links from Presentation

Allan Hirt Pro SQL Server 2008 Failover Clustering

Paul Randal—White Paper on HA Solutions in SQL 2008

Also, in answer to the question–if you lose your private heartbeat network, in 2008 the cluster will revert to using the public network, so no outage will happen. If you lose the public network (which is your general network) you have bigger problem.

SQL Saturday #71 — Boston

I’m presenting at 10:15 AM Saturday, at SQL Saturday in Boston, on “Building Your First SQL Cluster”. I really love presenting this topic–if you want to learn about high availability and disaster recovery concepts, and how they apply to SQL Server.I will cover clustering concepts and hardware requirements.  Additionally, I will go over who in your organization needs to involved in this process, and what infrastructure components you need to plan to have in place.

After this session, you will be ready to try your hand at clustering. I’ll post the slides here when I’m done.

In my earlier post “Adding a New Disk to a SQL Cluster Instance“, I needed to clarify something based on a comment. Any drive that gets added to your cluster that is not a mount point, as in occupies a physical drive letter, needs to be dependent on the SQL Server service.  I didn’t think to mention that, because I recommended using mount points.

Thanks to reader Shaun Archer in the West Indies for pointing that out in the comments. I’d offer to send him some rum, but I believe he has a better supply chain than I do.

SQL Rally–What I’ll be watching

If you’re still on the fence about going to SQL Rally, and need more rationale for why you should go, then check out the GREAT schedule at the website.

Below are the sessions I plan on attending when I’m not presenting my session—Using Data Tier Applications to Deploy Applications to SQL Azure (which I’ll discuss more in another upcoming post).

Aaron Nelson The Dirty Dozen: PowerShell Scripts for the Busy DBA

Wesley Brown – Understanding Storage Systems and SQL Server

Jennifer McCown – T-SQL Code Sins: The Worst Things We Do to Code, and Why

Tim Chapman – Writing faster queries

Edwin Sarmiento – DBA Disaster Recovery Techniques To Keep Handy

Kendra Little – Big and Tall: When to Partition

Devin Knight – Performance Tuning Analysis Services

Jonathan Kehayias Deadlocking for Mere Mortals

Bradley Ball – Page And Row Compression How, When, and Why

That is a wide variety of sessions presented by some of the leading SQL Server professionals in our community—and it’s under $400. You need to make it here!!!

SQL Server Cluster SAN Migration–Part I The Easy Way

Recently, we got a new SAN (yeah!!!), unfortunately, our SAN vendor’s migration utilities are priced at such a level, that there is no way we were going to use them. So we had to resort to manually moving the disks. Fortunately in this instance all of the directory names and data files were the same, so there was no need to do anything internal to SQL Server. What happens when you have to make those changes will be part II of this post.

I would feel remiss to not include a statement about discussing your storage layout and performance needs with you Storage Administrator, but that’s outside of the scope of this particular blog post.

Of course, with any all activity like this, the #1 rule is TAKE A BACKUP BEFORE DOING ANY OF THIS! This is a NON-destructive process, but better safe than sorry.

If you don’t need to change any directory names—the process is as simple:

  1. Mount the drives in your cluster (See my post here on how to do that)
  2. Make your SQL Server service offline–I used failover cluster manager to do this
  3. Copy the directories from your source drive to your target drive
  4. Remove the older drives from your cluster service and take them offline (This isn’t a necessity, but I do it to prevent any possible conflict). You can bring these drives back if needed–you are not destroying any data
  5. Select the drive you had chosen as the root drive (S:\) and change the drive letter to match what your SQL Server instance is expecting. The mount points underneath it should be maintained.
  6. Make the SQL Server service dependent on the root disk. In order to do this right click on the SQL Server service name > Dependencies Tab > Add. See screenshot below
  7. Restart your SQL Service–everything should be ready to go.

 

If anything fails investigate the alert log, for both Windows and SQL Server, and resolve any issues. A common problem would be the dependency or a directory not being copied (generally SQL binary files)

Of course, this is assuming you do not have to change directory names or move any databases. More on that next week.