#CareerAdvice from a friend

My friend Steve Jones posted a couple of career-oriented articles on his ‘blog that caught my attention, and I figured they’d be helpful for people possibly looking to make career adjustments. I thought they were worth passing along.

First, Steve talks about job satisfaction. Is your job or career fulfilling to you? Do you enjoy working a hundred hours a week, or would you rather work fewer hours for less pay but manage to balance your work and your life? While Steve’s article doesn’t necessarily answer those questions outright, it does make you think, and I think a number of people can benefit from his thoughts.

Second, he also mentions an offer by Andy Leonard. In an effort to help those who are recently jobless due to the COVID-19 crisis, he is offering free training to those who have lost their jobs. The courses are about SSIS, and you need to email Andy directly to register for the courses (follow the instructions on his ‘blog article).

In that same spirit, while I don’t have wide course offerings I can give, I can provide a link to my online presentation about ‘blogging that I did back in January. I hope you find it helpful.

The #Coronavirus chronicles, part 2: The work-at-home environment #COVID19

Several years ago, I had a job for a virtual company. There was no brick-and-mortar location; the entire job was work-from-home. To accommodate myself for the position, I went out and bought a new, comfortable office chair. If I was going to work-from-home, I wanted to make sure I was comfortable. I made sure my home office setup was one that I could deal with over the course of the position.

Several years later (present-day), I’m working a position where I am able to work from home, although I much prefer going into the office. I have a comfortable desk setup and two monitors. I’ve adapted it to my preferences, and it’s an environment I enjoy and in which I’m productive.

Before COVID-19, my work-at-home setup was me sitting in my living room recliner with the TV on in front of me. I didn’t do it all that often, but for the few times that I worked from home, it wasn’t a big issue.

That changed with COVID-19. It took me a little while, but I realized that I was being unproductive. There were too many distractions. My work environment was uncomfortable… or, more accurately, it was too comfortable. I was picking up bad habits. I was watching TV more than I was concentrating on my work. I wasn’t concentrating on what I was doing.

It took me a while — about a week — before I realized what I was doing. It’s like the situation where you’re working on something and you start zoning out, completely unaware that you’re doing it.

When I came to that realization — today — I realized that I had to change my setup. I cleared out some space in my home office (I hadn’t been making much use of it, other than for my personal non-work laptop), put my work laptop on my desk, and started working. The difference was night and day. I was suddenly focused on my work again. My thought processes were better. I wasn’t sinking into my chair the way I was with my recliner. And I don’t have the TV to distract me.

Granted, I’m still not in a completely ideal environment. My desk (and my entire home office) is cluttered, so there isn’t a lot of room to work. Subsequently, I am working entirely off my laptop, as opposed to having a monitor, mouse, and keyboard with which I’m comfortable. That should come along as I get reacquainted at my work-at-home office space. Getting a new monitor setup and clearing out my home office has soared up my priority list. But to be able to work and be productive again is well worth the change.

The #Coronavirus chronicles, part 1 #COVID19

Quarantine: How to prepare to isolate due to possible coronavirus ...

I’ll admit that I haven’t been doing a very good job of staying on top of my ‘blog lately. This is an article I’ve tried to start several times during the past couple of weeks of confinement, but I’ve fallen into some bad habits during this ordeal. I won’t get into them right now; it’s not a subject I care to delve into, although I might write about it another time (there’s a reason why I’m titling this article “part 1;” I suspect this won’t be my first article about COVID-19).

I suppose a good way to start this article is the start of my personal COVID-19 experience. The crisis hit home for me when this news bit appeared. I play the piano for OLA, so of course, I was there. Upon hearing about this, I immediately left my office for home, where I self-quarantined until this past Sunday.

Even after my quarantine period expired, however, I didn’t really leave home. I haven’t had much reason to do so. My office is closed through at least April (thankfully, I have the ability to work from home). The Albany Catholic diocese has shut down churches, so I have no reason to go on Sunday mornings (disclosure: I am not Catholic; I only go because I play the piano for a Catholic church on Sundays). My gym is closed, and the band I play in is shut down until further notice. Even if I can go anywhere, I don’t have any place to go.

A number of my events have been affected. SQL Saturday Philadelphia and a concert I was supposed to play with my band have been canceled. I was supported to go to Chicago for another SQL Saturday a couple of weeks ago, but that’s now been postponed, if it ends up happening at all.

As of right now, I don’t have anything of note to write about. My days at home are spent writing documentation, watching TV, and playing Xbox (in case you’re wondering, my main Xbox addiction is EA Sports NCAA Football). There are a lot of other things I can and probably should be doing during our period of confinement, including (but not limited to) spending more quality time with my wife, taking advantage of the time to learn things, and work out. I wish I could tell you that I’ve had a great revelation during my time in isolation, but that moment hasn’t happened yet. When it does, I’ll make sure I write about it.

Image may contain: Raymond J Kim, beard, possible text that says 'KEEP CALM AND CARRY ON WAYWARD SON'
Some advice to myself (and maybe you) as we experience this crisis.

So for now, the main reason for this article is to let my regular readers (both of you) know that I’m still alive. I’ll try to get better about writing any insights I might have. Until then, carry on (my wayward son)…

How I’m dealing with #Coronavirus #COVID-19

Image result for doctor wearing mask

As is the rest of the world at this moment, the current COVID-19 crisis is affecting my world. It is, indeed, an unnerving event; I’ve seen Outbreak and read The Stand, and never did I think I’d be living in an environment akin to the 1918 flu outbreak or the Black Plague.

I’ve already had events on my calendar canceled, postponed, or rescheduled (including, among other things, SQL Saturday Chicago and Albany Code Camp), and as a sports fan, I’m disappointed that the NCAA Tournament is canceled and the start of the MLB season is being delayed, among other events all over the sports world. It’ll be strange turning on the TV and not being able to tune into a sporting event. But I understand why these things are happening. Events can always be rescheduled, and there are some things that are bigger than sports.

Nevertheless, all we can do is adapt and persevere. In case anyone is wondering (or cares) about how I’m dealing with the COVID-19 crisis, here you go…

Things I’ve been doing anyway, even before COVID-19

Not panicking

Should we be concerned about COVID-19? Of course we should. The WHO has declared a pandemic, which is not something that should be taken lightly. That said, for me, life goes on. I’m still getting up and going to work. At the moment, I haven’t gone out of my way to change my routine, unless I have to.

I’m also not one of those people who’ve rushed out to stock up on toilet paper or hand sanitizer. I still have that big package of TP that I bought from BJ’s a few months ago, and I still have a number of rolls left.

I am not walking around wearing a mask. According to CDC guidelines, only those who are sick should wear a mask. To the best of my knowledge, I am not yet sick. Hopefully, I’ll stay that way.

Bottom line, I’m following common sense guidelines, and doing what people who know more than I do (such as the CDC) suggest I do.

I live in a region where we get snow during the winter. I refuse to panic any time we get reports of heavy snow. And I refuse to panic now.

This isn’t to say I’m doing nothing. Keep reading…

Washing my hands

C’mon, people, this is common sense. Wash your hands after using the toilet or when they get dirty. This is something I do, anyway. Can I tell you how disgusted I get whenever I see people walk out of the bathroom without washing their hands? Seriously?

Stay hydrated

I don’t know how helpful this is (if a medical professional who know more than I do is reading this and tells me to refrain from passing this information along, I will gladly do so), but I regularly drink lots of water during the workday, anyway. I keep a Nalgene bottle at my desk, and I fill it with ice and water at least two or three times a day, if not more. My thinking is that staying hydrated is a good thing to do anyway, and it’ll help flush nasty things out of my system.

Helping others out when possible

In this time of crisis, there are other people out there who might need some extra assistance. If you see anyone in this situation, it pays to be a good neighbor and lend a hand.

Staying informed

Probably the best thing we can have is information — good information (and not propaganda). I’m checking the CDC’s Coronavirus website for updates and advice. The WHO site is probably another good site to monitor. Additionally, the NY Times is providing free access to a page providing news and information about the crisis, as are other reputable media outlets such as Syracuse.com.

(Note: at the risk of sounding political, if there was ever a reason why we still need good, reputable, unbiased, and accurate local news coverage, this is it. That’s another conversation for another time.)

Things I’ve changed because of COVID-19

Getting more vigilant

“Life goes on” doesn’t mean that I’m not trying to stay on top of the situation. I’ve become much more wary of people around me. Whenever I hear anyone cough or sneeze, my ears immediately perk up. To the best of my knowledge, none of my coworkers are sick. I usually try to avoid people who are sick, anyway, but I’m a lot more wary about it this time around.

I’m also staying on top of my own health. I remain wary about potential symptoms, such as fever, cough, congestion, or shortness of breath. So far, I haven’t seen any symptoms, and I don’t think I’m sick. (Disclosure: I sleep with a CPAP machine, so it’s not unusual for me to wake up congested or with the sniffles.) Of course, if anything comes up, I’m ready to self-isolate, if I need to do so.

Preparing

Although my go-to-work routine hasn’t changed, I’m one of those fortunate enough to have the ability to work-from-home. Should my employer direct me to work-from-home, I am able to do so.

As I write this, it occurred to me that I likely should pick up some groceries at some point. Hopefully, all those who are panicking haven’t cleared out the aisles yet.


Did I leave anything out, or do you have any other suggestions to help people out? Feel free to leave them below in the comments.

We’re all in this together. Let’s work together to nip this thing. And by working together, we’ll get through this crisis.

I’ll be in the Windy City on March 21! #SQLSaturday #SQLSat945 #SQLSatChicago

I got the official word this morning that I will be speaking at SQL Saturday Chicago on March 21!

I will do my presentation about job hunting and networking entitled “I lost my job! Now what?!?

This is a milestone SQL Saturday for me. It will be the farthest I’ve traveled for a SQL Saturday (PASS Summit excluded), and the first where it is not feasible for me to drive to it. For me to drive to Chicago would take longer than a day, and that’s not a drive I’m willing to make!

This will also be only the second time I’ve ever been to Chicago. (Changing flights at O’Hare doesn’t count!)

Hope to see you in the Windy City on March 21!

Another year down, another year coming

As I write this, it’s fewer than forty-eight hours until the new year, which, I figure, is just a good a time as any to review the past year, and look forward to the next.

Because I focus my ‘blog about professional development and technical communication, let’s start there. How about a run-down of my speaking engagements this year?

It looks like I’ve had a busy speaking year. While compiling this list, it also made me think about other events around my calendar.

So, those are some of what I did in 2019. What do I have coming up in 2020?

As of today, I have two confirmed speaking dates.

Also, as of today, I’ve submitted presentations to the following events.

I also intend to apply to speak at Boston on October 3. As of today, this event page is not yet live. I am also contemplating applying to speak at PASS Summit in Houston and SQL Saturday in Virginia Beach.

2019 was a busy year, and it appears that I will not be slowing down in 2020.

Happy New Year, all! I’ll catch you on the other side!

Want to learn something new? Get off your butt, and go get it!

A few weeks ago, Monica Rathbun wrote a ‘blog article about pursuing education or learning opportunities. It had been shared and retweeted a number of times by a number of people. I had meant to do the same, but it came out right around the same time that my father-in-law passed away, so the timing was inconvenient for me. After a few weeks of dealing with family issues, not to mention a week away at PASS Summit, my life has settled back into a state of semi-normalcy, so now I can go back to boring all of you with ‘blog articles and posting things I find interesting.

Additionally, Steve Jones came out with an article this morning about the benefits of conferences. Conferences are a great source of learning and networking. Some, such as SQL Saturday, are even free. If you ever have an opportunity to attend a conference or a seminar, I recommend it highly.

People, all too often, make excuses as to why they don’t learn anything new. Monica’s article lists out many of those excuses, and goes on to say why they are all invalid. She goes on to list resources you can use to further your education. It isn’t just about getting a degree or a certificate credential; it’s also about attending conferences and user groups, reading ‘blogs and articles, talking to people and networking, going to your local library, and getting involved with activities. Go read Monica’s article; it’s a great read.

I’ll make another suggestion: consider starting your own ‘blog. One of the best ways to learn about a topic is writing about it, even (and especially) if it’s a topic you don’t know. Writing about something you don’t know is a challenge, and it can sometimes be uncomfortable. But you won’t get anywhere unless you step out of your comfort zone.

Education is important, and we are always learning. Don’t use lack of money or lack of time as an excuse not to learn. There are many learning resources out there that you can do on your own time and require little or no money. If you’re seriously interested in learning about some topic, take the initiative and go get it. Otherwise, you run the risk of remaining in the same routine rut for the rest of your life.