SQL Saturday #813 (BI Edition), Boston, MA — I’m speaking!

I just got the official word! I will be speaking at SQL Saturday #813 (BI edition), Boston (actually, Burlington), MA on March 30! This is my first scheduled SQL Saturday presentation for 2019!

I will do my presentation on talking tech-speak to non-technical people!

This will make three times (all in the same building, no less!) that I’ve spoken here since this past September. The first was for SQL Saturday #797, and the second will be in two weeks for the New England SQL Server User Group.

Hope to see people there — either in a couple of weeks, or at the end of March!

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Speaking in Burlington, MA, Feb. 13

Image result for new england sql server user group

On February 13 (two weeks from today), I will be speaking at the New England SQL User Group meeting (assuming it doesn’t snow)! I will be giving my presentation: “Tech Writing for Techies: A Primer.”

Documentation tends to be, as I put it, “the Rodney Dangerfield of technical professions.” It’s important, and everyone knows it’s important, but nobody wants to do it. In my presentation, I talk about possible reasons why that is, and what can be done to encourage people to write more.

For more information, go to the Meetup link. Hope to see you there!

There’s a first for everything

“The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.”

Lao Tzu

Take a moment and think about your career — where you are now, how far you’ve progressed, and so on. Do you like where you are?

Okay. Now, if you do like where you are, take a moment and think about how you got there. How did you get your start? When was the first time you did (insert the first time you did something to advance your career here)?

For whatever reason (don’t ask me why; I don’t know), I started thinking about first steps in my career. I especially thought about my involvement with SQL Saturday and the steps I took to get here. I’ve written before about how I got my start with SQL Saturday. There were several “first” steps that I took to get to this point. There was my first idea for a presentation. I wanted to take it for a test-drive, so to speak, so I first presented it at a user group meeting. That led me to my first submission to a SQL Saturday event. I enjoyed it so much that it prompted me to submit to my first SQL Saturday out-of-state. I knew almost nobody at this event, so this was stepping out of my comfort zone. (I’ve since become friends with many people I met at this event!) And as they say, the rest is history. That was more than three years ago. I’m still submitting, and now, I’m even getting asked to speak at other events. I’m pretty happy with where this endeavor has taken me so far, but I’m still in the middle of this journey.

First steps don’t just apply to your career. They apply to everything you want to accomplish in life. For example, I’ve been doing CrossFit for over four years now. I’ve come a long way in that time, but there are still a lot of things to accomplish. I wouldn’t be where I am had I not taken that first step into that gym one day.

I’m sure you’ve heard the age-old quote: “there’s a first time for everything.” I’ve taken countless first steps to get to where I am now, and I’m still going. I probably won’t stop taking them until I’m six feet under.

So where do you want to be in your career, or, for that matter, your life? Do you like where you are? What first steps are you going to take to get there? Wherever it is that you want to be, the only way to get there is if you take that first step.

The perfect workspace

My client office is in the process of redesigning and rebuilding the office space. The old environment was the traditional “cubicle farm,” along with individual offices used by managers. The new environment — still a work in progress — eliminates the cubicles and utilizes a more open office environment. Each worker who is not a director will have a desk — and not much more.

I have mixed feelings about the new setup. For over a year, space has been an issue; there had been talk about moving to a larger office. The new setup maximizes the use of space. The office spaces have a sleek, modern new look; it looks like a brand-new workspace (which it is), and the new furnishings appear comfortable and attractive. A part of me looks forward to relocating to a clean and shiny new desk. At the same time, it also leaves something to be desired; privacy is non-existent, I have no place to hang my jacket (I do NOT like putting it on the back of my chair), and seeing that many of us participate in virtual meetings through our computers, it could potentially get noisy.

Throughout my professional career, I’ve had a variety of workspaces. In my first job out of college, I didn’t even have a desk of my own; my “workspace” was a data center. Granted, I didn’t do a lot of “sitting at a desk” at that job; much of what I did involved roaming around the data center. Nevertheless, I wasn’t too happy that I didn’t have a space that I could call my own. My next job (and for many jobs afterward), I had my own cubicle. I once had an office (that I shared with another guy) with its own window and door. (I even bought a small dorm-sized cube refrigerator that we shared.) Other times, I worked (as I do now) in an open shared office space. And every once in a while when the need arises (daytime appointment, illness, bad weather, etc.), I’ll work at home in my own living room, sitting in my recliner with the TV on, my laptop, and (sometimes) Bernard — our tuxedo cat and my co-worker for that day — in front of me.

I wrote in an earlier article that I believe a comfortable workspace is important. (For the sake of context, “comfortable” means “I feel good in my workspace,” as opposed to “I love my job.”) Most of my waking hours during a typical week, I am in my workspace; for all intents and purposes, it is my home away from home. If I spend so much time at my workspace, I want it to be comfortable.

What makes a perfect workspace? It depends on the person. Personally, I like having multiple large monitors, a comfortable adjustable chair (that I always adjust to its highest position), a place to hang my coat (again, NOT on the back of my chair), some type of climate control (I usually prefer it cooler, so I usually have a small fan at my desk), a little space where I can put my wife’s picture on my desk and a Syracuse pennant on the wall, and a little bit of privacy while still maintaining some face time with my co-workers. Even those requirements have changed over the years; at one point or another, I would’ve wanted a door that closed, a window with a view, and a place where I could put a small refrigerator. As time passed, those features became less important to me.

No workspace will ever be “perfect.” No matter how comfortable you make your work environment, there will always be some kind of flaw. Nevertheless, it should be a place where you’re comfortable while being productive. Consider it your “home” when you’re at work — because that’s essentially what it is.

Explain it to me like I’m a five-year-old

As my department’s de facto technical writer, I spend most of my time working on document-related projects. One of the things I’ve been working on is a glossary of terms. Among other things, I’ve been trying to come up with a “dictionary”-type definition of the term “management entity.”

Unfortunately, I have not been able to find an adequate definition anywhere. I did a Google search, and the results were, to put it mildly, disappointing. I also tried the glossary in our application. Here’s how it reads:

A Management Entity (ME) is used by Capital (sic*) entities for Tax (sic*) and Financial Statement (sic*) purposes. Capital entities are matrix organizations with multiple businesses reporting in a legal entity, the ME represents that business’ activity in that legal entity.

(*Misuse of capitalization — ugh!!!)

This “definition” (and I use that word loosely) is nothing short of atrocious. I refer back to an article I wrote a while back about bad and useless definitions. This is one such useless definition. This blurb explains what (a “capital entity”) uses a management entity. It explains what it represents in relation to a capital entity. It explains the attributes of a management entity. It even explains what a “capital entity” is. But it never explains what a management entity actually is!!!

Explaining the attributes of a word is not the same as defining a word! I can tell you that a car has four wheels. That is not the same as explaining what a car is!!!

If you haven’t figured it out by now, this is a major writing pet peeve of mine.

I’ve mentioned before that you need to know your audience when you write. Since I’m working on a glossary, I assume that my audience doesn’t know much about the terminology about which I’m writing. When I tried looking up the definition for “management entity,” I kept finding references that either didn’t completely define the term or obfuscated it in legalese. The writers assume you know all about the topic. If I’m looking up a definition, then I likely don’t know about it. If I’m a beginner in a topic, I have a demand: explain it to me like I’m a five-year-old.

Unfortunately, this tends to be a failure when it comes to people trying to explain technical terms. To be fair, this is a skill that not everyone has (I previously wrote about how difficult it is to simplify concepts, and I even have an entire SQL Saturday presentation in which I talk about talking to non-techies). It takes time to develop that skill. The problem I have is when an SME (subject matter expert) tries to explain a concept, and when the audience doesn’t get it, the SME’s attitude is one of, “what are you, stupid?”

Well, yes, as a matter of fact, we are stupid. We have no idea what you’re talking about.

Last night, Andy Mallon spoke at our user group meeting. He spoke about data compression. As part of his presentation, he provided an example using a common index out of a cookbook. He showed how the index would be changed if data compression was applied to it. The example provided a clear picture of the concept, and it allowed me to better grasp what he was presenting. That, to me, is a great example of making it simple!

If you’re trying to explain a concept, the worst thing you can do is dance around a definition or obfuscate it in terminology that only you and your cohorts can understand. Explain it to me like I know nothing about it — because more often than not, I don’t.

SQL Saturday #855 Albany announced!

The Capital Area SQL Server User Group (CASSUG) is pleased to announce that, for the sixth time, we will host SQL Saturday #855, Albany on July 20!

For additional information, to register for the event, or to submit a presentation, click the link above!

I’ve already submitted presentations, but I will be there, regardless of whether or not I’m picked to speak!

Hope to see you there!

Monthly CASSUG meeting — January 2019

Starting with this ‘blog post, I’m beginning a new habit. Since I’m responsible for communications for my SQL user group (CASSUG — “Capital Area SQL Server User Group”), I will start announcing monthly meetings here in my ‘blog. This is my first such entry for this year.

Our next meeting — our first of the new year — is on Monday, January 14. Andy Mallon will give his presentation titled “Demystifying Data Compression.”

For more information and to RSVP, go to our Meetup link!

Hope to see you there!