SQL Cruise 2011 - The Beginning

15 June 2011

“The best way to predict the future is to implement it” - Alan Kay

A year ago, several colleagues and friends including Kendra Little (b / t), Crys Manson (b / t), John Halunen (t), Mike Decuir (b / t), and Argenis Fernandez (b / t), went on SQL Cruise. They came back with fire in their eyes, new skills, and a lot of new contacts. This time, I decided to go as well.

Why Should I Go?

At first, my reason for going to SQL Cruise was “This will be fun!” I knew the organizers by reputation, and knew I would learn. A lot. I had never been on a cruise before and was curious what it would be like.

Later, I found I had different reasons for going:

  • I needed a break
  • I felt as though I was not growing in my career
  • I didn’t have enough professional contacts
  • I can’t learn as much in my day-to-day work
  • My ‘soft’ skills needed a lot of work

What Did I Do?

I dislike the unknown. I learn what I can to avoid risk. Here’s what I did to learn about SQL Cruise, and cruising.

  1. Got my travel and work plans in order. This was easy, since the ship left from Seattle, where I live.
  2. Go to CruiseCritic.com, and read all about the cruise ship, and the excursions.
  3. On the CruiseCritic website, kept a running tally of cruisers’ advice about each excursion, shipboard restaurant, and what to pack. I read enough reviews that a clear picture emerged.
  4. Booked shore excursions at least a week ahead of time, and kept the receipts.
  5. A few days before the cruise, checked the weather forecast. Packed accordingly.
  6. Read past attendees’ blogs about SQL Cruise. Crys has a particularly useful post.
  7. Learned about the other SQL cruisers.
  8. Learned about the training.
  9. Tried to relax. After all, this was going to be fun!

The Beginning

And so it begins…

Boarding was very easy. I had read that earlier is better, so I arrived at 11am and was on board in 15 minutes. Our cabins weren’t ready yet, so I went up to the outdoor dining area to chat with the other arrivals.

The first four hours of the cruise were spent in the sunshine, eating soft-serve ice cream and getting to know the other cruisers.

Some of my fellow cruisers, like Neil Hambly (b / t), were social and easygoing. Others, like Klaus Aschenbrenner (b / t), are more reserved, but have a wealth of experience. The others, like Ryan Malcom (t), are brilliant up-and-comers. It was clearly a great group of people to be with.

The Team-Building Exercise

Confio had sponsored a search-the-ship team building exercise. We split up into teams of 4 or 5, some of us merrily inebriated, and were told to find 25 different things on the ship. The winning team would win fabulous prizes.

45 minutes (and 500 calories) later, we finished. Sadly my team did not win. Still, it was an amazing experience, and worked brilliantly to break the ice to all of us.

Exhausted, content, and ready for the next day, I went to bed. The training was about to begin…


A Good Book Has No Ending

08 June 2011

“A good book has no ending” - R.D. Cumming

Last week I was immensely lucky to be at SQL Cruise Alaska, and to attend Buck Woody’s (b / t) session on career development. A mere two hours later, I came away with about 5 pages of notes, a stunned expression, and the realization that I have not been sufficiently proactive in my own career. I’ll have a more complete write up in a few days, but one of the things Buck did was lay down a challenge for everyone there.

The challenge is for each of us to read 12 books that will help us advance our careers, and then do book reviews on our respective blogs. Here are my book choices, in no particular order:

  1. Hadoop, the Definitive Guide, by Tom White. For a developer who does business intelligence work, Hadoop/MapReduce is now a requisite skill. This is double true with companies that have large amounts of data (web logs, etc). I’ll be using what I learn to analyze the stock market data I have been downloading from online APIs.
  2. Basic Business Statistics, by Berenson, Levine, Krehbiel, Stephan. Working with large data sets is important. Equally important is the ability to know what kinds of analysis are best for a given problem. That means statistical analysis. My knowledge in this area is insufficient, hence this book choice.
  3. The Long Tail, by Chris Anderson. The reason to read this book is because of a question: how does the Internet affect businesses? Therefore, how does the Internet affect business needs? Therefore, how does the Internet change who is needed in future businesses?
  4. Pro SQL Azure, by Scott Klein and Herve Roggero. I expect most medium-sized businesses, and all start-ups, to eventually use cloud computing for their IT needs. The cost benefits are too great to ignore. For me, that means learning a lot more about the best practices when doing database work ‘in the cloud’.
  5. On  Writing Well, by William Zinsser. As someone without a lot of writing experience, gaining writing skill is critical. My style as a blogger is not that accessible, and I believe my readers would benefit if I expressed ideas in a more intuitive fashion.
  6. 97 Things Every Programmer Should Know, by Kevlin Henney. As a working developer, I occasionally get ‘stuck’ in a problem and forget about tips and tricks that can help. Memorizing said tricks would make me more effective when I write code.
  7. Applied Architecture Patterns on the Microsoft Platform, by Seroter, Fairweather, Thomas, Sexton, and Ramani. This book was recommended to me by Brent Ozar (b / t), and I had the luxury of skimming through it one day at a library. In 10 minutes I had a half-dozen options to solve design problems I had been struggling with. I would recommend this book to senior developers and budding architects.
  8. Adapt: Why Success Always Starts With Failure, by Tim Harford. I read Tim Harford’s The Undercover Economist two months ago, and am highly impressed by how well he can convey complex ideas using intuitive examples. Rapid prototyping and innovation is the best way for any company to produce new products and services. That means building lots of projects, many of which will fail, in order to find a few runaway successes.
  9. The Mythical Man-Month, by Frederick Brooks. This is one of the classic books in software engineering because it spells out a lot of common wisdom, and then explains why it’s all wrong. I’m very curious about which aphorisms and assumptions I am using that are incorrect.
  10. The Data Warehouse Lifecycle Toolkit, by Kimball, Reeves, Ross, and Thornthwaite. I read this book four years ago, when I was starting as a junior developer. I didn’t understand a lot of it, but the basics I picked up were enough for me to rapidly understand what my mentors were trying to teach me. I hope to pick up a lot more nuance this time around.
  11. Design Is How It Works, by Jay Greene. A lot of the truly iconic products and services out there are successful because of amazing design. As a developer who does a lot of back-end work, user-facing design is not one of my strengths. This would help remedy that.
  12. The Innovator’s Way, by Peter Denning and Robert Dunham. I don’t believe a developer can be successful unless they are creative and innovative. Working in a large company makes that tricky sometimes. Having some best practices and the proper mental attitude would be very, very helpful.

The second part of the book challenge is to check on at least one other person at SQL Cruise to make sure they’re reading as well. I’m tagging a few other people. Enjoy!