Three Things

So for the latest database geek meme, Paul Randal started this thing off and tagged Tom LaRock, who enlisted Grant Fritchey, who finally tagged me. This one simply asks, “What 3 things or events brought you to where you are today?”

The Eyes

Barely a year out of high school, I was working full time in retail and occasionally attending classes at the local community college. Through my job I had befriended a local Marine Corps recruiter. Doing what recruiters do best, he saw a young man who could use a little direction and discipline, and invited me to lunch to discuss my future. After a few months of meetings with the staff sergeant, I was convinced that I was to be a United States Marine. I would enlist and become an MP, pursuing a dream (up to that point, anyway) to be a police officer.

My recruiter was on vacation on the weekend I was to make it official, so another recruiter drove me to the enlistment station in Dallas, where I underwent a battery of physical exams, blood tests, urine tests, aptitude tests, hearing tests, and a variety of other procedures. At the end of the second day, we had reached the point of no return – I was called into the CO’s office to put my name on the big contract. I brought up the specifics of what I would do as a Marine, citing my intention to work as a military police officer, but it was then discovered that my poor eyesight, although corrected to 20/20, would disqualify me from serving as an MP. I was invited to still join up, but in a different MOS (method of service).

Now in retrospect, had my recruiter friends been there to counsel me, I probably would have still enlisted. But there I was, young and naive, surrounded by strangers and incredibly disappointed that my well-laid plan was not to be. I spent a couple of hours by myself in the enlistment station, pondering whether to join up or walk away and regroup. In the end, I chose the latter. Was it the right choice?  I must have asked myself that a hundred times since. Whatever the answer, it’s clear that the choice I made helped get me to where I am today.

The Boast

Twelve years ago, I had a friend who was searching for a new career. He wasn’t quite sure what he wanted to do, and he decided to explore a couple of different options, including taking some vocational training. Our local community college offered a computer repair course, essentially a CompTIA A+ prep course, and he seemed to enjoy learning the basics about computer hardware and software and such.

At the end of the course, he took the A+ test and unfortunately did not pass. I remember bragging that I had always been a computer whiz in high school and would probably excel at such an endeavor, and certainly would have passed the certification exam on the first try. My embellished tales of brainpower and academic prowess must have reached the maximum BS threshold, and I received a good old-fashioned southern put-up-or-shut-up. Not to be bested by a challenge, I scraped up the $500 to take the computer maintenance course – and for the record, I did excel in the course, and I did pass both A+ exams on my first try. More importantly, the bit of experience I gained through the course and exam prep led directly to my first technical job – it wasn’t glamorous, mostly installing white box computers and deploying Ghost images, but it was the foothold I needed to get started in the business.

The Notebook

Back in the early 2000s (Is that really what we’re going to call the first 10 years of this millennium? Bah.), I was working as part of a 3-person IT team supporting the entire technical infrastructure for a 10-campus, 6000-student school district. We didn’t even have a ticket tracking system of our own, instead relying on the antiquated system used by our building maintenance department, and because we didn’t own enough licenses for our IT staff to directly access their ticketing system, I had to rely on printed reports to administer our workflow. We could only open or close tickets by submitting hard-copies of the request forms, and it often took weeks for the maintenance secretary to open or close an IT ticket in the database.

I started keeping these reports and written forms in a three-ring binder that we dubbed The Notebook. Twice a week I would print out a list of the “current” (yuk yuk) list of tickets, and had a rubber stamp that I would mark those that had been completed but not yet marked as such in the database. Also stored in The Notebook were copies of the hand-written requests awaiting data entry. The system worked, but was a time sink; I would often spend 15% or more of my time just keeping up with workflow issues, not to mention the wasted time and opportunity cost for the entire team for lack of having the right information at hand.

So I began quietly keeping track of wasted hours, as well as researching ticket tracking software packages. I found a package that was affordable and relatively easy to administer, and, with an armload of research data, presented to my boss a software solution to the problem of The Notebook. After much convincing, my request was fulfilled, with one stipulation: that I learn enough about SQL Server to maintain the back end and create a few reports. It wasn’t long before that one SQL Server installation helped me find my true calling, and it slowly changed over from a secondary duty to a full time career. And the rest is history.


About the Author

Tim Mitchell
Tim Mitchell is a data architect and consultant who specializes in getting rid of data pain points. Need help with data warehousing, ETL, reporting, or training? If so, contact Tim for a no-obligation 30-minute chat.

1 Comment on "Three Things"

  1. Cameron Mergel | January 18, 2010 at 11:57 pm | Reply

    Three Things topic has taken off. Great read. I love the fact that of the ones I have read most everybody has this big decision/fork in the road that shaped their lives.

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