OK. Here it goes again.

This Web 2.0 chainposting is brought to you courtesy of Mr. Paul Tripp and his post “What three events brought you here?“ He tagged me and several others (luckily he also tagged Kevin Kline, otherwise Paul would never hear the end of it). Paul’s question was a tough one for me to answer right away; I had to spend more time than I anticipated. At first glance I thought it was fairly easy, but once I started thinking about the topic and my path in life it was hard to select only three things to share.

In order to get it done I decided to work backwards. Doing so allowed for me to hop backwards through time and select three things about me that help to explain how I got to be where I am today: sitting on a sofa, eating olives stuffed with prosciutto and cheese, watching a football game and blogging while my children are snug in their beds. Since I had to work backwards in order to get this done, and since Paul was not specific in saying I had to explain events in any particular order, I will explain them with an ORDER BY DESC.

I Got a Job

Seems simple and logical, right? In order to be here, right now, I needed to get a job. My current job is a DBA, but it is not the first professional job I had. Wait, that doesn’t sound right. What I mean to say is that I used to work odd hours, spent a majority of my time in a hotel room, would charge by the hour, and someone else collected the money. That’s right, I was a consultant. And during my time as a consultant I found myself exposed quite frequently…to databases.

I recall setting up my own test databases, creating tables, building PK/FK relationships, and tying to get a feel for database design. Performance tuning was not even on my radar, just getting data in and out was all I would think about. The idea that my queries could be made to run faster was something that came along later. But my days as a consultant allowed for me to participate in a handful of different projects and at some point in each project I fond myself playing with databases in some way, shape, or form.

Along the way I started to look into a career as a DBA. Once I found out that Oracle DBA’s routinely take briefcases full of cash to strip clubs to make it rain, I really knew I wanted to be a DBA. I was able to eventually secure my opportunity as a DBA, but in MS SQL, so I haven’t been to any strip clubs recently. (You can read more details about my journey in my upcoming book, DBA Survivor.)

Now, how did I get that job?

I Got an Education

I landed that first job with a consulting firm because I had completed my MS degree in Mathematics from Washington State University. While at WSU, the mathematics department was tied with the astronomy department. I had a love for both fields, so attending WSU was an easy decision for me despite growing up in Massachusetts. I chose for my advisor an astronomy professor, Dr. Jeff Secker, and he and I decided that I should do a project as part of the coursework to obtain my MS. It was going a little beyond what was required, but I knew that the extra work would pay off.

The extra work, in this case, was programming. I was going to construct a model representing the interstellar radiation field of a globular cluster using FORTRAN-77. By the way, the radiation field inside a globular cluster would not prohibit the formation of life as we know it, in case anyone ever asks you. I have the data to back that up, just in case.

Because I did the extra work, and because it was astronomy based, is the reason I got hired. See, the manager at the consulting firm had a PhD in Physics. Although I did not have any relevant programming experience, his exact comments to me were “…It’s fine, I know I can teach you whatever I need you to do.”

Now, how did I end up in graduate school, looking for an advanced degree in Mathematics?

Candlepin Bowling

Math always came easy to me. I started to realize that math was not easy for others while bowling. Some of my earliest childhood memories are of my family at the local bowling alley. Being that we are from New England, it is easy to understand that the nearest bowling alley was a candlepin alley, not ten pin. And everyone in my family bowled. I was bowling by the time I was four or five, and was being asked to keep score by the time I was seven or right. No one ever wanted to keep score, so they would just have me do it, and if I ever did get stuck someone would just tell me the answer anyway, all I had to do was write it down.

But I didn’t get stuck very often. After all, the math isn’t very hard. After you learn the patterns involved with spares and strikes, it was easy. Over time you start doing other things, like calculating the pin differential between people or teams. Toss in some handicap numbers and that is about as hard is it would ever get. The more I kept score, the more math was easy for me, and that translated into the classroom as well. I remember being able to finish my math worksheets ahead of the other students all the time. The teacher usually just gave me more worksheets, which meant I got more practice, and I got better.

I never had an issue with math while in grade school or high school. Sure, I was not always the most motivated student, but the concepts were never difficult to comprehend. The first time I ever got stuck on something was my sophomore year in college when trying to figure out the disc versus the shell method while taking Calculus II. Because math was always easy for me I ended up as a graduate student at WSU, doing some extra programming work on an astronomy project, which helped me land my first professional job, which eventually got me here and blogging this post tonight.

So, now I must tag someone else. I am going with Steve Jones, Andy Warren, and Grant Fritchey.