Three Books That Have Influenced My Career

(Originally published on Simple Talk at

I’m a lifelong learner. One of the ways I love to learn is by reading books. While I was making the transition to software development from my original career, I read the book “Code Complete” by Steve McConnell. This was back in the mid-90s before the Agile Manifesto was written or DevOps was a thing.


I did learn a ton from that book, however. It taught me the importance of making code readable with the use of naming conventions, formatting, and comments. Software methodology has evolved quite a bit since then, but these concepts are still important over 20 years later.

Once I became a DBA, I read the book “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.” This is not necessarily a book about technology, but there are quite a few habits that apply. My favorite lesson was about being proactive. As a DBA, it was important to spend time creating scripts to automate tasks. I had a rule that I didn’t want to do something manually three times, so I would try to find a way to automate it before I was asked the third time.


Another lesson that I gleaned from that book is that a tool that can help you do your job, maybe a monitoring tool for SQL Server, is going to save time and money in the long run. And when automating a task, a tool that can write a script for you is going to save development time and decrease the chance of errors.

Finally, I read the book “The Phoenix Project” about five years ago. This book is different. Instead of a pure technical or self-help book, it’s a novel. It’s the story of a company that has been working on this important project, called the Phoenix Project, for years. It’s late, over budget, and hasn’t been tested. Unfortunately, the company decides it must roll it on a certain date out to disastrous consequences.


This book is the story of how a company embraces DevOps and saves the organization. There is also that one guy, named Brent in this story, who knows more about the infrastructure than anyone else. He is both a valuable asset and one of the reasons that the IT department is in such a mess since everyone depends on him so much. From this book, I learned don’t be a Brent, but also what is required to embrace DevOps, from developing trust between the teams, to automating deployments, to having a good change management system. All three of these books are worth reading if you have the time.

By the way, if you are interested in learning more about DevOps, be sure to sign up for Redgate’s SQL in the City Streamed. This is a free online event, and I’ll be presenting a session along with some fantastic speakers like Kendra Little, Grant Fritchey, Steve Jones, and The Two Chrises. I hope you can join us!


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Fall SQL Road Trip

Next week, I’m heading out on a road trip to visit four user groups. If you happen to be nearby, please consider joining one of the meetings!

On October 8th, I’ll visit the Capital Area SQL Server User Group, East Greenbush, NY, to talk about T-SQL Windowing Functions. The next day, I’ll explain Execution Plans to the Tech Valley .NET User Group in Latham, NY. Before leaving the Northeast, I have one more stop at the SeacoastSQL User Group in Manchester, NH, to talk about Azure Machine Learning on October 10th. Heading south, I am visiting Nashville, TN, for #SQLPALOOZA Part Deaux! to present Azure Machine Learning. Before heading home, you can find me at the Columbus, GA, SQL Saturday where I will give two presentations: T-SQL Windowing Functions and Azure Machine Learning.

Wow! That is six presentations in as many days. See you there!

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Azure Machine Learning 101

I just wanted to let you know about a free webinar I’ll be giving as part of Redgate’s SQL in the City Streamed on September 5th. You can register here. The theme is “Adapt and thrive as a data professional.

The tech world is changing fast, and one of the hot careers of the future (and present!) is data science. Many of my friends in the Microsoft data platform community are learning new skills, like Python, R, and machine learning. Even if you don’t plan to change careers, these are skills that can help you in your current day-to-day job, but who knows what opportunities the future will bring.

In the presentation, I will demonstrate a cool service called Azure Machine Learning Studio that you can use for free to learn and experiment. This is Microsoft’s “machine learning for the masses” service. You definitely need to understand your data, but this service is an easy way to set up a machine learning model to make some predictions. Microsoft also made the models, once they are complete and tested, simple to deploy. I’ve heard that deploying models is challenging for many teams.

In addition to my session, you will see superstars Grant Fritchey talk about monitoring Azure SQL Database and Steve Jones talk about solving today’s complex challenges in tech. There is also a Q&A panel with the three of us and Rob Richardson, Skillsets for a Successful Career.

Be sure to tune in for these great sessions and more!


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