Influential People and Moments in My Career

Sorry for the earlier 404. I think this should work.

With my 15 minutes of fame as a contestant on the DB2Night Show’s DB2’s Got Talent competition, I’ve been thinking about the turning points and formative forces in my career.

I started out as an accounting clerk, and wanted to be an accountant. That was after I got my first real job and got over a strange desire to go into advertising. When I met my husband, he was just moving into a help desk position after being a temporary receptionist. I saw that the work he was doing was dynamic(accounting is NOT dynamic) and interesting and also had incredible pay increases. Then the company I was at implemented a new accounting system (going from DOS based to Windows for the front-end), and I thought the implementation had been done horribly and that I could do better. That’s when I decided to go back to school (at 20) to turn my Associate’s Degree into a Bachelors in Computer Information Systems.

I remember my advisor telling me that maybe my impetus for wanting to be a DBA wasn’t the best one, but it wasn’t a “wrong” one either. I had an awesome professor – Dr. George Garmin – who had classes not just on the typical database design, but also an actual true database administration one – where we had to find configuration files and take backups and deal with permissions, and deal with datafiles (it was Oracle – 8i, I believe). That class really prepared me to move right into a DBA role and thrive. I also remember a fabulous introduction to programming (C and COBOL) that taught walkthroughs and had such a great approach – the professors wrote their own book because the ones available didn’t teach it right.

I am kind of anal about school. I ended up with a 3.96 GPA, which in the Business School put me near the top of my class. I was the co-president of an on-campus IT student group that put on a job fair each year. I graduated in 2001, and the job fair was just before the dot bomb. I was one of the main organizers of that job fair, and handed out lunch tickets to the exhibitors, and handed them a resume with it. I was invited for an interview with IBM up in Boulder and found the start of my career in Global Services as a DBA. When I got there, they told me I’d be doing DB2.

I learned under fire and figured it out as I went along. I had some training, and a good team of DBAs to work with and ask questions, but had to figure out how to be a DBA with a lot of work. I found scripting to be one of my passions. For several years, I had already worked 2000 hours for the year by sometime in November. Usually early November. One of my most influential early DBA role models was Trussel Millet. She was a development DBA and I was a physical DBA, but she gave me a great role model for what an involved and nice DBA could be. She always asked questions and also always answered them.

One revelationary thing I remember about two years in was when I took an Advanced Database Administration class for EEE from Melanie Stopfer. Two things struck me – first the whole performance thing. I had been a DBA for two years and had no clue on performance. I got the basics in that class. The second was that I wanted to be like Melanie. Here was this DBA who was an expert with connections to answer any question anyone could ask, and she got to go around being a DBA while teaching others how to do it. My new career goal was to be a DB2 guru. To learn and to teach and to present at conferences. I was lucky enough to take one or two more multi-day classes from her over the years.

Another turning point for me was in 2005. I got to go to a couple of days of IDUG while it was in Denver, and I paid out of my own pocket for one of the pre-conference educational sessions. It was a performance session given by Scott Hayes, and man, learning about read efficency changed my DBA life. There was more to database support than just this physical dba role, and even in that physical database role, I could analyze things and help developers do better, even when I couldn’t change the SQL. It really demystified that area of performance tuning for me.

When I met Melissa Logan as a seasoned DBA of 5 years, I knew I had found a kindred DBA spirit. Our views on things meshed, and with her as the logical DBA and me as the physical DBA we rocked for a specific client of IBM. When Melissa left, I knew there might be an opportunity to follow her. After a year of LEAN, the loss of the world’s best manager (Wayne Workman), and seeing the upcoming dissolution of the team I was on, I decided it was time to make a move. Just a few months after she had left, I emailed Melissa and left IBM for a job that would put me in less of a box and also pay more.

In my last year or so with IBM, I was fortunate enough to work some with John McKay. He introduced me to a methodology for looking at performance that still forms the basis for my scripting and information gathering in that area. He took the time to show me details and help me understand how to best gather performance information. And how to identify the bad SQL.

What a great job I have now. I get to train other DBAs. I build some systems and hand them off while retaining support of others. I get to set policies and write scripts. I work with two DBAs I’m totally in sync with and we support and cover for each other. Did I mention that I get to train other dbas?  I find inspiration and encouragement from Melissa and from Scott Hayes and from Rebecca Bond and from many others. And I get to work from my home in Denver. I really love where I am now in my career, and thank those transformational people and moments in my career.

I’m sure I’ve missed people and moments, and I’m sorry to anyone I’ve missed. I just hope I can be that type of person in other people’s careers.

Take a moment to reflect on those transformational moments and experiences. Who helped form you and your career?

Ember Crooks
Ember Crooks

Ember is always curious and thrives on change. She has built internationally recognized expertise in IBM Db2, spent a year working with high-volume MySQL, and is now learning Snowflake. Ember shares both posts about her core skill sets and her journey learning Snowflake.

Ember lives in Denver and work from home

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