What I Wish I Knew Sooner

Mike Walsh tagged me in his post 4 Attitudes I Wish I Had Earlier as a DBA.

When I look back over my career in IT, I think I have done pretty well. The opportunities and people I needed to meet just seemed to be there for me when I needed them. I often joke that my life is kind of magic. I suppose that it really isn’t magic, and actually networking, hard work, and goal setting are the reasons for my success.

What are some things I have learned? One thing I learned even before working in IT is the importance of customer service.  I learned that my customer might be my coworker, my manager, someone in another department, or a client who has engaged my services. This means that I will communicate the progress of the project, either through scrum meetings, emails, or even stopping by my customer’s desk to chat. I will make sure that I understand their requirements and do my best work. I won’t promise things that I can’t deliver, but I will always deliver more than I promise.  I understand that I am being paid a very nice wage to do my job, and my customer is going to get their money’s worth.

One thing that I am struggling with is how to handle criticism. When you put yourself out there as a speaker, writer, or trainer, you get a lot of it! For example, I gave a webinar presentation a couple of months ago with over 500 people attending. Not everyone put in comments, but most of the comments received were very positive, either asking a question or stating how much they liked the presentation. One person, though, wrote two paragraphs saying how terrible the presentation was. He didn’t really say what I could do better, just complaints. Was this guy having a bad day? Was he right and everyone else wrong? I still don’t know what to think or how to handle this. I think I am making positive contributions to the community, but maybe I am not.

Another area that many of us struggle with is saying “no” and knowing our limits. I think I am doing a pretty good job with this, and end up saying no to opportunities quite often. For example, I am not going to take on a big side project when I am in the middle of writing a book, and I can’t go to every SQL Saturday even when the organizers personally reach out to me. I still find myself overbooked from time to time and sometimes end up a bit overwhelmed.  Going forward, I’ll be working part time, so I will be able to take on more of the projects that I have turned down in the past.

One thing I realized last year is to not turn down opportunities for fun even if they seem expensive. Last year, I didn’t take a week long vacation, but I took several mini-trips. For the most part, I thought of the trip and just decided right then to do it and started making plans. Some of the trips were expensive, but I realized that I will make more money. In IT we work really, really hard and sometimes long hours. We must have some fun once in awhile with our families and friends. It’s easy to get burned out. My kids are grown up, so they are more like friends to me now, but I also have four grandchildren. I make sure that I spend lots of time playing with them. They are small for such a short time.

The things that I have learned and wish I knew earlier:

  • Provide stellar customer service
  • Don’t dwell on unfair criticism
  • Know my limits
  • Have some fun






About Kathi Kellenberger

I am the editor of the online journal Simple Talk. I love talking about SQL Server to anyone who will listen, just ask my seven year old granddaughter. I love to write and teach. I am so humbled and honored to say I am a Data Platform MVP, a volunteer with LaunchCode and co-leader of PASS Women in Technology Virtual Group.
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7 Responses to What I Wish I Knew Sooner

  1. Mike Walsh says:

    Good stuff, Kathi! Thanks for sharing. Amen on have some fun – and I like how you say to not focus on the unfair criticism. We shouldn’t ignore good criticism – but life’s too short for the other stuff 🙂

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  3. Craig says:

    Hey Kathi, Thank you for putting this and yourself out there. I was touched at your dilemma about how to deal with your critics and have one suggestion about that difficult comment and really all criticism you face. At this point in your career, you have nothing to prove to anyone and your time is more important than to have to deal with people who just want to complain – for any reason. Instead, take any and all criticism for its value to help make you, your writing and your presentations better. If there is no value add in the criticism, which can be defined in a couple of different ways – 1. if it is something that you recognized yourself or already knew, 2. emotional downputting, ie no actual information is communicated, beyond “I didn’t like it.”, just let it go. For anything else, use the information as you will. For the ones you are not sure about, ask some other people whom you trust to be honest – but keep the context whether the idea or info will help you. Try as hard as you can to not let any of it rise to the level of affecting you personally (vs. professionally). It is obvious to everyone that you are trying very hard to communicate the subjects accurately and be as helpful as possible.

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  7. Paul Kemner says:

    Negative comments that don’t offer suggestions for improvement are just noise, and they usually come from people who haven’t done anything themselves. Writers, musicians, artists, and anyone else who puts their effort “out there” face this and have to learn to ignore it, and it’s not easy.

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