This is the second in a series of interviews with speakers presenting at the SQLServerCentral.com track at SQL Server Connections in November 2010. This interview is with Buck Woody, a SQL Server Senior Technical Specialist for Microsoft (blog | Twitter).
Tell us about yourself Buck.
Wow – I’m kind of old, so that would take longer than we probably have. Think of the old guy in the room randomly waving his arms blurting out “All of this used to be orange groves, far as the eye could see”, before dropping back into a nap.
But I actually feel like that. I’ve been around tech a long time, and seen the changes along the way. I’ve always been interested in technology and electronics, even as a little kid. Star Trek nerd, the whole bit. I grew up on the Space Coast in Florida, and when I saw the moon shot I decided I wanted to work at NASA when I grew up. After school, the Air Force and college, I did end up working at both Lockheed Space Operations at NASA and at the U.S. Space Command at Patrick Air Force Base. I worked with mainframes to start, then built my own PC from a Zilog chip and played with everything from Commodores to Apples and IBM PC’s, and was one of the early adopters in business of OS/2 and Windows NT.
I’ve been a sysadmin, a developer, a network tech and even a hardware tech. But I’ve always lived in the data space, first with COBOL flat-file systems, then with Oracle, Dbase (Clipper, actually) Sybase, PostGres and then finally SQL Server. As far as training, well, it’s been a mix of college courses, OJT, and lots and lots of reading and practical applications. And the training never ends. In fact, I teach a database course now at the University of Washington, and I’m still learning all the time.
What have you had published?
I’ve got five books on SQL Server published, from SQL Server 7 to 2005. I write each week at InformIT.com – you can find that here: www.informit.com/guides/guide.aspx?g=sqlserver and a full “TOC” here: buckwoody.com/informittoc.htm. I’ve written lots of articles along the way, and even have some articles and checklists out there on Simple-Talk.com.
Where do you blog?
I have a few blogs, but the main one (with links to the others at the top) is at blogs.msdn.com/buckwoody. I post multiple entries to that one every week, and it has to do with everything from technical career advice to T-SQL and PowerShell scripts, security, management tools and more. It’s all technical, though.
I’ve found great benefits in blogging. I get a lot of feedback, all useful – even when folks disagree. It’s just another method of communicating, and that’s always a good thing in your career and personal life.
What advice can you give to DBAs about writing?
Writing is easy. Re-writing is hard! Probably because you don’t want to do it. You write something down, and you think, “that’s awesome”. Then you look at it again and you wonder if you finished kindergarten. And you’re always sensitive that someone may not agree with you – and you have to get over that. One of my favorite quotes is one that goes back past Roman times: “We learn to write by writing.”
Tell us a little about your speaking experience.
I’ve been doing public speaking since I was a teenager. Once again, college courses helped, along with lots and lots and lots and lots of reading. And watching. I constantly watch others and their audiences to see what resonates and what doesn’t.
What advice do you have for DBAs who want to begin making public presentations?
Join Toastmasters. Brent Ozar and I are also doing a joint session at PASS this year that you don’t want to miss, called “You’re not attractive, but your presentations can be.” Definitely check that out.
How do you keep up with your SQL Server continuing education?
Read read read read read read read. And then experiment with everything I can.
What’s your favorite SQL Server Book?
It’s an out-of-print Oracle book from version 7 by Tom Kyte. I kid you not. The guy writes in such a clear style that the SQL constructs, maintenance concepts, and so on, just hold right on to every platform I’ve worked with.
Why should DBAs consider taking part in the SQL Server Community?
Because you can learn, and you pay for that learning by helping those who don’t know as much as you do. The examples are numerous – but you should at least start at the Microsoft forums helping out newbies at social.msdn.microsoft.com/Forums/en-US/category/sqlserver.
What are some of the key characteristics that you feel differentiate between “good” and “exceptional” DBAs?
Paranoia, and attention to detail.
What are some of the biggest challenges for DBAs in the immediate future?
Not adapting to new technologies. I see a lot of resistance in the community, to everything from new versions of SQL Server to the cloud. I saw the same thing in the mainframe days against PC’s and LANS, and those guys were soon out of work.
What advice would you give to a person who is considering becoming a DBA?
Check out my article series here: www.informit.com/guides/content.aspx?g=sqlserver&seqNum=247.
What do you consider one of the most useful, but underrated features of SQL Server?
Standard reports. They are incredibly valuable – I’ve blogged them all here: blogs.msdn.com/b/buckwoody/archive/tags/standard+reports/.
When you are not working, what do you like to do for fun?
Family adventures. You can see a list of what we’re up to here: carpedatum.spaces.live.com/.
If you were not a DBA, and could choose the perfect job, what would it be?
I’d be in tech somewhere. I’ve done lots of things in my checkered past, but I have always return to tech.
Tell us about the sessions you will be presenting at the SQLServerCentral.com track at SQL Server Connections this November?
I’m doing a database design session, and I’m hoping that I’ll get some folks new to that discipline. I’m also doing a “SQL Server for the Oracle Professional” that I trust will be useful to someone who codes in Oracle, and is looking to add (not change to) the SQL Server platform. I can’t wait to see everyone there!