The #Coronavirus chronicles, part 11: Goodbye, farewell, amen (again) #COVID19

Today is my last day at PwC.

Well, okay, my paycheck came from TEKSystems, not PwC, but nevertheless, I still felt like I was part of PwC. They accepted me as one of their own; heck, I even represented PwC at an event or two. And although I’m finished at PwC, I’m not necessarily finished at TEKsystems; they are looking into either placing me with another client or finding me employment at another firm.

I won’t get too much into it (for privacy reasons, I’m not going to ‘blog very much about my job hunt exploits), but my job search continues. I had a phone interview last week, and I have two more lined up for today. I’m still sending out resumes and filing applications. Also, I have my business that I started. I don’t yet know whether or not that will become my full-time or my side gig; it will depend on whether or not I can find new employment. But I do intend to keep it going, regardless.

Anyway, leaving a job is rarely ever easy, even if you don’t like your employer. You develop relationships with whom you work; these people become your brothers and sisters. I still maintain friendships that I made from pretty much every job I’ve ever had. Not only do I feel good socially about the friends I made, it also benefits me (and them) professionally because it expands and solidifies my professional network. These people have worked with you, and they can speak to your skill sets that you develop.

In any case, it’s time for me to move on. Until my next stop, wherever it is…

Uninstalling SQL Server

As I wrote earlier, I discovered, much to my chagrin, that I vastly underestimated how much disk space I would need when I purchased my laptop. So I went to Amazon and bought a new 2TB internal SSD for my machine. It’ll take about a week or so to arrive. Until it gets here, I needed to free up some space on my drive.

I decided to uninstall SQL Server. I don’t need it immediately, and I can reinstall it later once I get my new SSD.

So, I first went to my Control Panel and looked at uninstalling SQL Server. But when I got there, I saw a number of things under Programs and Features, as you can see below. What, exactly, am I supposed to uninstall?

I went to my old and trusted friend, Google, for advice, and found this article (among others).

The first step is backing up your data. Well, I don’t have any data to back up, so that isn’t an issue at the moment. It likely will be somewhere down the line, but at the moment, I don’t anticipate that to be an issue. That said, if you do have important data that you want to save, make sure that you back it up first!

Next, they tell you to stop the services. I opened Services (hit the Windows key and type “Services”) and look for any SQL-related services. I shut down MSSQLSERVER, SSAS, SSIS, and so on — basically, anything that looked like it was tied to SQL Server. I checked everything listed under “SQL Server.” I also looked under “Microsoft,” but I didn’t immediately see anything related to SQL Server when I did.

I then followed the steps to uninstall. Step 2 tells you to “search for ‘sql’ in the search box,” but what it doesn’t tell you is that you need to do that from Apps and Features, not from Settings. That step is missing from the instructions. I selected Microsoft SQL Server (Version) (Bit) per step 3 — for me, it was Microsoft SQL Server 2019 (64-bit) –and selected Uninstall. I selected the appropriate prompts, and off it went.

I didn’t think to time how long it took to run, but by my estimate, uninstalling SQL Server took about twenty minutes to run. It appeared to uninstall cleanly; I didn’t see any errors. By the time it was finished, I had about 16GB of new space on my drive.

So, that’s my adventure in uninstalling SQL Server to clear space on my drive. When my new SSD arrives, I’ll make sure it gets reinstalled. (And stay tuned for a future article about installing my new SSD on my laptop.)

The #Coronavirus chronicles, part 10: We’re having a parade! #COVID19

This morning, the local grammar school put on a car parade by its teachers. I took some photos, and I wanted to share! Good things happen in neighborhoods, and I have good neighbors!

First, my neighbors wanted to show their support! The chalk art was by my neighbors across the street. I could also see other people out in front of their houses with balloons and signs to show their support as they drove by.

I figured it was a good excuse to take out my horn, so on a whim, I grabbed it and serenaded the cars as they went by. I figured, what’s a parade without a band!

Here goes the parade! I guess-timate that there were about a dozen or so cars, maybe more. I only got a few of them because I was busy playing my sax as they drove by!

Despite the COVID-19, everyone is making the best of the situation. This put a smile on my face today.

A gigabyte ain’t what it used to be

I’ve had my HP Pavilion x360 since November, and for the most part, I’ve been happy with it. Lately (for about the past month or so), I’ve been getting storage warnings, saying that I needed to free up space on my hard drive. This was puzzling to me; I hadn’t even had my laptop for a year (or even six months), and I was already getting storage warning messages?

I checked my storage settings. Sure enough, this is what I saw.

I have a 256GB SSD on my machine. I had used nearly all of it. What gives?

Since Apps & Features was using up the most space, I looked there first. I sorted my list by size. This is what I saw.

I uninstalled a few apps that I didn’t need and managed to free up some space on the drive, but it was still just a drop in the bucket.

I didn’t remember having space issues on my old laptop, and then I realized my issue. My new laptop has a 256GB SSD. My old one — which my new one had replaced — had a 512GB HDD.

There was my problem. I had underestimated the amount of disk space I needed when I bought my new laptop. I thought 256GB would be plenty, and as it turned out, it wasn’t.

So it appears that I’ll have to add more storage to my laptop. The first question I had was whether or not I could do so easily, without replacing the existing SSD. I found this article about how to disassemble the same model laptop that I have, and sure enough, it appears that I can. There is a space inside where I can add a second drive. So, now it appears that I will be shopping for an additional drive.

It’s funny. I thought 256GB would be big enough. I remember my first job out of college, when we took delivery of a new backup tape drive, capable of handling 1GB tapes. Back then, we didn’t have to worry about storing data formats other than ASCII and numeric text, not like the graphic and audio formats that we have now. Large storage at the time was measured in MB, not GB. We would pick up a tape and joke, “in my hand, I hold the Library of Congress.”

Back then, 1GB was a lot of storage space. Now, it’s small potatoes. Apparently, a gigabyte of space isn’t what it once was.

Modern technology requires modern documentation

While I was perusing Indeed.com, I came across a job listing that included these two paragraphs. (The bold type is my own add for emphasis.)

Responsible for technical writing/editing for all types of documentation produced within a modern software development environment.

Strong knowledge of word processing software, strong writing and analytical skills to document software capabilities

As soon as I saw it, this Dilbert cartoon immediately popped into my head.

Tina the Tech Writer is absolutely correct. Technical writing is not word processing. The two terms are not interchangeable. But there are too many ignorant people out there who think they are. Too many people still think technical writing is either just glorified administrative assistant work, or is something that can get thrown together in just ten minutes. It’s my number one professional pet peeve. And it’s a major reason why I preach the gospel that I do at SQL Saturday.

Technical writing and communication is more than just writing documents and manuals. It’s about presenting data and information. It’s about online help. It’s about design and UX/UI. It’s about life cycles (I’ll say it again: there is such a thing as a document development life cycle). It’s about knowing your audience, readability, understanding document structure, developing the right kind of document for the situation, and so on, and so on, and so on. I could keep going (but I won’t).

How often do you look up a paper document for instructions anymore? These days, it’s mostly PDFs, web pages, and online help. Granted, books and hardcopy still have their place, but these days, a lot (if not most) people turn to other resources for their information. Technical writing is about supplying that information, using whatever means necessary.

It is not word processing.

By the way, in case you’re wondering, no, I did not apply to the job.

The #Coronavirus chronicles, part 9: Going into business for myself, part 3 #COVID19

Yes, two “parts” in one post. Go figure.

So, now when someone asks me, “what did you do to improve yourself during the COVID-19 crisis?”, I can now say that I started my own business!

Well, at least I will be able to do so soon, anyway! Technically, I can say that I have my own business, even though I am not yet in business; last week, I registered an LLC. My thinking is that, at my age, there is a lot more uncertainty each time I lose a job, and as I get older, that uncertainty gets greater. I figured that the time was right to start my own venture, so I did so. I’m not quite open for business just yet — I still have some things left to do — but at least I can now refer to myself as a president and CEO!

I won’t kid. This is a little scary. I’ve never had my own business before, so I’m venturing into uncharted waters. Then again, doing something new adds to professional growth. As I’ve written before, you won’t get anywhere unless you step out of your comfort zone.

And by the way, I did have a phone interview last week as well. If I do end up landing another job, I will keep my new venture going. Even in just a few days, I’ve already invested quite a bit into it, so I might as well keep it going. Even if I’m employed elsewhere, it would make for a nice little side gig.

So, what did you do during your Coronavirus quarantine?

Going into business for myself, part 2

Earlier, I wrote about the possibility of going into business for myself. That idea is gaining traction.

This is uncharted territory for me. I’ve thought about being self-employed before, but I lacked the knowledge, motivation, and focus about how to approach it, not to mention that the timing just didn’t feel right. Well, now that I’ve reached a possible crossroad in my professional career, the moment now feels right to attack this.

I will mention that there is a precedent within my own family for this. My parents — who are both now retired — owned their own businesses, as do my siblings. I guess it runs in the family, and now it’s my turn!

Last night, I had a meeting with a friend who’s in the business of consulting small businesses. Her website is here, if you want to check it out; I’m listing it here both (1) for my own reference, and (2) to send referrals her way. Drop Lisa a line, and tell her I sent you!

Per her advice, she told me to hire a CPA. It just so happens that I have a friend who’s a CPA. I have a phone appointment with him later this morning.

I spent yesterday afternoon writing up a business plan. I looked into articles about writing business plans, and came across this. I used this (note: link downloads a Word document) as an example to formulate my own. After running my plan past Lisa and asking for her feedback, she gave me suggestions for improving it. I’m still tweaking it as of this morning.

One question that I had: as an individual business owner, how much can I pay myself from my business? I Googled the question, and as it turns out, the question is not as uncommon as I think.

I’ve started working on a website for my business. It’s currently a work-in-progress; I’ll reveal it once it’s closer to completion.

I even have my first client already lined up! I told my friend (and client-to-be) what I was doing, and he had some advice (he, himself, is also a small business owner) and words of encouragement for me.

I will say that, even though I’m looking into doing this, it’s entirely possible that my endeavor might not be enough to pay my bills (at least not at first). So as I’m pursuing this course, I’m still hunting for new employment.

So, the ball is rolling on my endeavor. If the pieces fall in the right places, it’s entirely possible that my new employer will be… myself!

Going into business for myself?

This afternoon, I had a phone call with an old friend and colleague. We used to work together in a previous job, and although we haven’t said much to each other in years, we still remain friends.

Yesterday, my friend, who has his own business, pinged me. He had heard my news about my contract ending, and wanted to provide me with a small project. It’s not a full-time job, per se, but it’s work, it sounds like an interesting project, and it’ll look good on my resume and my portfolio.

It also got me thinking about something else. Could I make a living from doing projects like these? Can I get enough of them to sustain an income?

In other words, maybe my next job shouldn’t be looking for a new employer at all, but possibly going into business for myself as an independent contractor.

I’ll admit that the idea scares me. I don’t know the first thing about starting my own business. I Googled “how to become an independent contractor” for some ideas. I did read one article, and it seems straightforward enough. There were a number of other articles on the list that I’ll also have to look through.

I already have an idea of the type of services I’d offer. Mainly, I would do documentation work, as well as other related services as they pertain to IT and technical communication. To the best of my knowledge, there aren’t a lot of contractors who do that (I know of one local firm off the top of my head). Whenever I’ve done technical writing in previous positions, I’ve always thought of it as “doing the work that nobody else wants to do.” Perhaps there’s a possible business niche to tap into?

I have a number of friends who are independent contractors. If any of you have any advice, please feel free to ping me or leave a comment below.

I’m still making calls, filing job applications, and sending out my resume, but perhaps striking out on my own is a possible career avenue to consider.

I am #JobHunting again #Networking #SQLFamily

I just got the word this morning. I was informed that my contract will end at the end of the month.

I did not see this coming. I was blindsided by this.

After an almost three-year run, I am, once again, looking for a job. I enjoyed working in this position, and it was a fun ride while it lasted.

So, I wanted to write this article to post a few thoughts.

  • Let me emphasize that I am NOT taking this personally, and I do not have any ill will toward my (soon to be ex-) employer. I know how the game is played. Right now, my main emotion is getting over the shock of being blindsided by this news. Once I’ve had a chance to collect my thoughts (which is the main purpose of this very article), I should be okay. To their credit, my employer and client have reached out to me and offered their willingness to help me out. It is entirely possible that I may remain with the company handling my contract, but we’ll see what happens.
  • The secondary purpose of this article is to shake the networking tree. If anyone knows of anything (per the guidelines below — keep reading), feel free to reach out to me.
  • In terms of what type of position I’m seeking, I’m probably best-suited for a role in business or data analysis, technical writing, or technical training. I’m pretty far removed from my days as a developer, but I will not rule it out.
  • In terms of positions that do not interest me, I have no interest in sales or helpdesk call positions. That said, if necessary, I would be open to any temporary position to hold me over, regardless of whether I’m interested in it or not.
  • I want to remain local to the Albany, NY area. That said, I am open to remote/telecommuting positions (which seems to be just about all tech positions these days).
  • In regards to what industries interest me, I would be willing to work for almost any industry, but the one that interests me the most is academia.
  • If you are connected with me on LinkedIn, please consider writing me a recommendation. If I am able to do so, I will reciprocate. Additionally, please let me know if you’re willing to serve as a reference, and if so, send me your contact information where you would be willing to be contacted by any of my potential employers.

I’ve worked a wonderful position for the past three years, and as I sit to think about it, I realize that I’ve been spoiled during this time. I’m saddened to be leaving this position, but I’m also excited to see what the next chapter of my professional life brings.

The #Coronavirus chronicles, part 8: Food, wonderful food #COVID19

Tips and tricks for grocery shopping online during the coronavirus ...
(Photo credit: USA Today)

Here’s a little-known secret: I actually can cook. Granted, you won’t often see me cooking up any gourmet meals, but I’m also not so bad that you’ll see me on Worst Cooks In America. I can hold my own in the kitchen. (Just ask my wife; I haven’t poisoned her yet!) That said, with my (non COVID-19) busy schedule, I have to be in the right mood to cook, and when I’m busy, that isn’t often. My microwave oven and GrubHub are my best friends.

In that regard, I’ve gotten into some bad habits, and the COVID-19 crisis has exacerbated some of them, especially the part about ordering out. Even though I’m not going into the office, I’m still keeping myself pretty well occupied throughout the day (as I mentioned before, I am still working from home, after all). If I have good things in the refrigerator or pantry, I’m pretty good about throwing together a quick sandwich for lunch, but if not — hello, GrubHub! It’s a habit that I desperately need to stop doing, and I’m well-aware of it.

One thing that I have taken more advantage of during this crisis is that my local supermarket offers delivery, something I’ve never used before this crisis. I’m usually insistent on going to the store myself to get whatever I need, but with my quarantine at the start of this crisis, that changed out of necessity. It isn’t perfect — on my first order, I requested 1.5 pounds of Angus ground beef, and instead got 1.5 pounds of Angus roast beef cold cuts (this is a major reason why I’d rather go grocery shopping in person, not online). Also, because the supermarket is overwhelmed with seemingly everyone using this service, there’s no guarantee that I’ll get my groceries delivered on the same day that I order them. That said, I’ll give the supermarket employees credit; they’re doing the best they can throughout this crisis, and they are among the unsung heroes out there trying to make life better for all of us.

We all need to make adjustments during this crisis, and I am definitely no exception. It’s just another thing to deal with until our lives get back to normal.