“Why are you people so miserable?”
The thing about Rob Collie is that he has a way of asking the most direct questions possible in the nicest way possible.
The year is 2010, and I am at TechEd in New Orleans. It’s my first day on the job for Confio. We are in a bar on Bourbon Street, upstairs in a private room for one of the vendor social events. I have no idea how Rob was even there, to be honest. But he sees me and, being Rob Collie, he wants some data. So he decides to get it by accosting me in front of others.
“What do you mean,” I ask.
“Your people. You DBAs,” Rob continues. “You are all so miserable, all of the time. I see you all talking to each other on Twitter, and it’s mostly depressing. Why?”
I’m stunned. I’ve got no answer for Rob. I’m defensive, trying to tell Rob that we aren’t so miserable. Rob sees this and presses but does it in that Rob Collie way that lets me know it’s safe to open up a bit, even though we’ve just met.
I’ve never looked from the outside on our SQL Community and how we treat each other, or others. It only took a few minutes of conversation with Rob before I realized he was right. We are a bunch of curmudgeons. We complain a lot. We like to prove we are smarter than others. We like to prove we are better than others. We strut and point out the mistakes others make. We are dismissive of others, especially non-DBAs. We talk down to people with new ideas. We are everything you aren’t supposed to be online. We are a miserable lot.
I try to explain that DBAs are miserable because our jobs are miserable. On a weekly basis, we are asked to convert pickup trucks into Ferrari’s, colored green, and if we can’t do it then management will find someone else who can. Or, at least promises to try. We are asked to do things, crazy things, and when we try to explain why something might not be a good idea we are just seen as saying “no”. It’s not fun for many. And saving everyone’s ass at 2am because an end user did something silly gets tiring, especially when the people you save don’t even acknowledge that you’ve saved them. You are Superman, unbeknownst to anyone, and without a three-movie contract.
It takes about ten minutes of conversation before I see Rob’s eyes light up. It’s like he just discovered that he never need to do a VLOOKUP again, that’s the look he has in his eyes.
“Oh! I get it now! You are just like us! Excel professionals suffer in the same ways that you do. We can be a miserable bunch, too. But we don’t do it in public. And we always come together to help each other.”
And that’s when I realized Excel was a thing. It was no longer a spreadsheet. Excel became alive to me. Excel wasn’t just an application that came with Office, Excel was a Community.
Excel also had Rob. And I wanted to hang with Rob. And not just because he had a seemingly endless supply of Rum ‘n Cokes to hand out at conferences.
It’s been seven years since I met Rob. In that time I have found out things about him, personally and professionally. I found out that Rob was a former roommate of Conor Cunningham. Yes, that Conor Cunningham. Rob also worked for Donald Farmer. Yes, that Donald Farmer. Rob worked at Microsoft helping to build PowerPivot into Excel, which has changed how millions of data professionals do their jobs. Let that sink in for a minute the next time you think it’s cool that a few people are using a script you wrote. Rob’s contributions to data are cool, squared.
In short, Rob Collie knows a thing or two about data, databases, the business of data, and Community, too.
I didn’t believe it at first. Excel is just a spreadsheet, right? Yeah, it’s a spreadsheet used by 300+ million people. Excel secretly powers every business on the face of the Earth. Embedded in a world of Microsoft SQL Server I find myself in many arguments about what database platform to use. Now I look and smile, knowing that the single most important feature of any application is the ability to export to CSV so someone can bring the data into Excel and PowerBI.
Why Am I Telling You So Much About Rob Collie?
Rob wrote a post yesterday, a personal one, a post that struck a chord with me. Rob knew this, too. Because last night he tweeted to me as I watched the Celtics.
Rob, as usual, was right. I did like his post, The Intertwining of Professional and Personal: a Note from Rob. In the post, Rob talks about the phrase “It’s not personal, it’s just business” and explains why INPIJB is not acceptable. It’s a way for one person to absolve themselves from hurting another. I’ve had this phrase on me more than a few times and I’ve never accepted it or any variation. Here’s my reason why: When you use this phrase you are telling the other person that money is more important than your relationship.
Let that sink in for a minute.
You are telling someone, perhaps a (current, maybe soon to be former) friend of yours, that you would rather have money than their friendship. And while some jerk is now getting ready to leave the comment “everything has a price” my answer is “not my friends”. If you can put a price on your friendships then maybe you need better ones.
A wise woman once said, “If money is all that you love, then that’s what you’ll receive.” I cannot, and will not, accept being told that my friendship has a price. I value friendships, honesty, and loyalty over money.
We are all human. All that we have is personal. INPIJB is a lie people say to make themselves feel better.
I am certain that there are circumstances where the money would matter more. But I am also certain that, no matter what the circumstance, you can put the relationship first and figure out the business part later.
Seriously, What’s This Post About?
It’s just personal, it’s not business. As Rob talked about in his post, there is a blend of professional and personal in everything we do. If you are coming to this blog for a steady stream of SQL Server tips and tricks then today I let you down.
I have long advocated that writing is something that must feed one’s own soul first before it feeds the souls of others. I needed to get these words out. Today, I woke up and this post needed to happen.
That’s how writing works for me. You should do you.
But don’t let people put a value on your friendship.
Relationships matter more than money.