Networking your business

As I come up on two months of my LLC being in business, I’m learning a lot of things as I go along. A lot of it is the boring administrative stuff that comes with running your own business. But another thing I’m finding out is how critical it is to network when running your own business.

As of today, I currently have two clients, and I’m hoping to pick up some more. What’s important is how I got those clients. I got them both by networking. One was a friend with whom I worked at a previous job, while the other was introduced to me through a mutual friend. To me, this drives home the point of just how critical networking can be if you’re running your own business.

I started looking into business networking resources, and came across this article. Of course, the article lists groups such as BNI (which, I understand, is a very good group; however, I’m not sure if I’m ready to pay the steep membership fee just yet. Maybe at some point down the road, when I’m better established). It also lists groups that didn’t occur to me, such as the local Chamber of Commerce, Rotary, and Kiwanis. I also found a link for local Meetup groups (this link lists groups local to me here in the Albany, NY area; you might want to check similar groups for where you’re located). I am going to make it a point to look into these resources and see if I can tap into them.

I also spoke to a friend who also has his own consulting business about possibly establishing some kind of relationship that would be mutually beneficial to both of our businesses. While neither of us had work for the other, we agreed that some kind of business relationship could be beneficial for both of us. We might look into something later down the line.

Of course, there are the other resources that I’ve been preaching all along, such as user groups and conferences.

I’ve written before about how important networking is for an individual’s career. I’m also discovering that networking is important for business as well. It might very well be key for keeping your business afloat.

Check in on your black friends #BlackLivesMatter

Just this once, I’m addressing a controversial topic. I usually don’t write about these things, but I am deeply troubled by the state of my country and the world, and if, by my words, I have the power to change it, then I’m going to do it. I’m not sure what kind of effect, if any, one ‘blog article will have, but I would regret it even more if I could’ve said or done something to make things better, and I sat by the sideline and did nothing.

In light of everything that has been going on (I won’t get into that here — but by reading this article, you should get a sense of where I stand), I wanted to check in on some of my friends. So this morning, I posted this — a simple question — to my Facebook and Twitter.

To my black friends:

I wanted to check in. How’re you doing?

I was asking this question seriously. I have a number of black and African-American friends. I was concerned about their welfare, and wanted to make sure they were okay. I wanted to know how they were holding up. And especially given the current political climate, I wanted to let them know that, if they needed anything — even if all it was was an ear to bend — I was here for them.

My post was a simple and small gesture, but I wanted to send a clear message to my friends: I’m here for you, and I’m listening. I have your back.

Granted, I’m not a white person (for those of you who haven’t paid attention, I’m Asian-American). Nevertheless, I grew up in a rural and mostly white neighborhood with mostly white friends; subsequently, I’ve adopted white attitudes and mindsets. Even when I was a kid growing up, my parents had to explain this to me; I remember, as a child, being puzzled about why my own skin tone wasn’t as pale as my friends.

I did have a couple of black friends when I was young, and they are still among my best friends to this day. I never thought of them as my black friends (and I still don’t). I thought of them as my friends. Period. End of story. There was never any “black” preceding the word “friends,” and there never will be. Okay, so they looked different. So did I. Big whoop. I never had any problem interacting with them, playing sports or music with them, going to school with them, and so on.

That said, our present society is forcing me to see them as black. And I’m worried about them. The last thing I want is to read their names in the newspapers, hearing that they died for the sole reason of the color of their skin.

I want my black friends to know I’m worried about them. So I asked a simple question: “how’re you doing?”

I think, ultimately, that is how we achieve racial peace. If you’re white, and you have black friends, drop them a line. Ask them: “how’s everything going? Are you okay?” And if something’s on their minds, lend them your ear, just as you would with any other friend. Listen to them. That is what the demonstrations, protests, and riots are about: they have something to say, but nobody is listening.

Let them know you’re listening. If you hear their concerns and are able to do something about it, great. But above all, listen. Let them know that you hear them. And let them know that you have their back.

June CASSUG Monthly Meeting @CASSUG_Albany #SQLUserGroup #SQLFamily

Our June speaker is Hilary Cotter!

Topic: SQL Server Replication

Replication is a native SQL Server component used to distribute and aggregate data between SQL Servers and other heterogeneous data sources. In this presentation, Hilary Cotter, covers how to effectively chose and deploy optimal SQL Server replication solutions. He also covers performance tuning, optimization, monitoring and integrating replication into your DR solutions.

About Hilary:

Hilary Cotter is an industry veteran and has been a SQL Server MVP for 17 years. He specializes in replication, SQL HA technologies, full-text search, perform acne tuning and SQL Server Service Broker. He has worked for many fortune 500 companies implementing cutting edge replication solutions. He has written and co-authored several books, white papers and authored Microsoft exams. He has answers over 10,000 questions on the Microsoft SQL server forums, some of them correctly.

Our online meeting schedule is as follows:
6:00: General chat, discussion, and announcements
6:30: Presentation

We usually wrap up between 7:30 PM and 8:00 PM.

To join the meeting:
Go to our Meetup group event (https://www.meetup.com/Capital-Area-SQL-Server-User-Group/events/268274240/ — a Zoom meeting link is included in the event) to RSVP. We will send out a meeting password as we get closer to the date/time.

The #Coronavirus chronicles, part 15: The need to let off steam #COVID19

Think about a boiler or a steam engine. As steam builds up within, pressure increases. Eventually, pressure builds beyond the boiler’s capacity to contain it, and the boiler explodes, often with devastating results.

While we as humans don’t physically share the same traits as a boiler, psychologically and metaphorically, the principle is the same. Often, things in life causes stress and builds pressure. Eventually, the stress builds to the point where we just explode. The outlet can happen in numerous ways; at best, we cry on someone’s shoulder, and at worst, we hurt someone else in the aftermath.

I reached that point yesterday during my job hunt. My wife could see that I was visibly upset, and it got to the point that I vented on my Facebook account. I usually watch my language whenever I post to social media, but you know I’m upset when I start dropping F-bombs without any filters, and I did exactly that on my Facebook account yesterday. It’s not the first time I’ve done that, and it won’t be the last. There’s a reason why I keep my Facebook account separate from my ‘blog and from my other public accounts. My Facebook is strictly friends-only, and it’s the equivalent of keeping my private life separate from my public persona.

The point is that we all occasionally need to let off steam before the pressure causes any damage. If something is bothering you, don’t keep it bottled up. Find some kind of outlet to release the pressure. Talk to your significant other or a friend. Go out and do something to get your mind off of whatever is bothering you. Write in a journal (or a ‘blog). Find an activity to safely release your anger and your extra energy. Do something creative. Exercise. Go for a walk. Go out to your backyard and yell at the top of your lungs. Do something — anything — to release that pressure, and make sure that you don’t hurt anyone in the process.

One of my favorite — and funniest — examples of letting off steam is a scene in the movie Analyze This, where a psychiatrist (played by Billy Crystal) tells his mob boss patient (Robert DeNiro) to hit a pillow. What he does is amusing! (If you have sensitive ears, be forewarned that F-bombs are dropped in the YouTube clip link that I provided.)

In a couple of weeks (May 28), I will be giving my online presentation about the job hunt and being unemployed. (If you’re interested in attending, use this link to register for the webinar.) One of the first — and biggest — things I address is dealing with your emotions after you lose your job. You’re going to feel something after your employment ends, and before you can do anything else, you need to deal with those emotions before you can proceed with your job hunt. Once you do, you’ll be able to proceed with a clear head.

These days, especially during our confinement through the COVID-19 crisis, our stress levels are heightened. Make sure you find a way to relieve that stress before it reaches a boiling point. Don’t become an exploding boiler. People can get hurt.

Mental health and effects in the professional world

On Wednesday, I attended an online webinar, presented by Tracy Boggiano for the Professional Development virtual group. I actually wanted to attend her session at SQL Saturday Rochester, but it conflicted with one of my own sessions.

Tracy does a great job (as she always does) talking about a subject that is often the elephant in the room. Mental health is a subject that is rarely discussed openly, and it often has a adverse effect within the workplace (although Tracy frames her presentation as “mental health and IT,” I expand it to say “workplace,” because it likely encompasses more than just IT).

Everyone deals with mental, emotional, and psychological issues in some form, whether we acknowledge them or not. Addressing those issues can often improve upon your day-to-day issues, and perhaps even turn your life around.

I highly recommend Tracy’s presentation. Check out her presentation on YouTube (it’s about an hour long). It might just turn your life for the better.

The #Coronavirus chronicles, part 13: Running for my life #COVID19

I’ll admit that the COVID-19 crisis has had me fall into some bad habits. This morning, I decided to address one of them.

Since gyms have been shut down due to the crisis, I have fallen off the wagon when it comes to my CrossFit workouts. I’ve been doing a lot of sitting on my duff. Since I work in IT, it’s the nature of the beast and a job hazard. I woke up this morning to a sunny morning (for once — we’ve had a lot of rain, sunny days have been few and far between, and it’s directly affected my mood, not to mention my motivation), and decided to do something.

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It may not be much — I just went around the block a few times — but you gotta start somewhere.

I went to the Couch to 5K website and did a little reading. I’ve toyed with the idea before, but never pulled the trigger on it. For whatever reason, this morning was different. I downloaded the C25K app to my phone, put on my shirt, shorts, and CrossFit shoes, and followed the instructions for Day 1 as I went around the block several times. Day 1 is essentially a 20 minute AMRAP (or maybe EMOM might be more accurate — I’m not sure) that alternates between 90 seconds of walking and 60 seconds of jogging (not including a 5 minute warm-up and cool-down walk at the beginning and end). It sounds pretty easy, but I was still winded by the time I was finished.

Will I keep this up for eight weeks? We’ll see. Right now, the jury’s out. For all I know, I might wake up tomorrow morning and decide that I want to stay in bed. But hey, we all need to start somewhere. Maybe at the very least, when the COVID-19 crisis is over and I’m allowed to go back to my gym, I won’t cringe when the coaches tell me that the WOD is a 5K run.

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.)

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.

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.

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.