Saving Grace

According to Merriam-Webster the definition of grace is:

1a : unmerited divine assistance given humans for their regeneration or sanctification; b : a virtue coming from God; c : a state of sanctification enjoyed through divine grace; 2a : approval, favor <stayed in his good graces>; b archaic : mercy, pardon; c : a special favor : privilege <each in his place, by right, not grace, shall rule his heritage — Rudyard Kipling>; d : disposition to or an act or instance of kindness, courtesy, or clemency; e : a temporary exemption : reprieve; 3a : a charming or attractive trait or characteristic…

That’s quite a lengthy definition; in fact, I captured less than half of what was in the dictionary.  It seems like a lot of words to describe something so simple.

So what does grace have to do with a blog about SQL Server?  Quite a lot actually.

When I first went to college, I wanted to be a teacher; in fact, I wanted to be a math teacher.  I had this great math teacher who inspired me in high school.  He was not only brilliant, but he was infectious with his desire for learning.  He was a young guy, I think it was his first teaching job, but you could tell that teaching was what he was meant to do.  He would explain things in a way that made sense (that’s a gift when teaching high school sophomores abstract algebra).  If he could see that the class was completely lost, he would change mid stride and go a completely different direction.  I don’t think a single person failed that class, he wouldn’t let them.  He was the definition of grace, “..disposition to or an act or instance of kindness, courtesy, or clemency…a charming or attractive trait or characteristic”.

There was another math teacher in my high school.  He was old (probably forty or something crazy like that) and a bit pompous; he had the letters “PhD” behind his name.  His attitude was that he had the credentials, so if you didn’t understand what he was talking about, maybe you didn’t belong in abstract algebra.  He also had a reserved parking space close the entrance, because he had those three little letters after his name, “PhD”.  He was the exact opposite of grace and almost half his class failed.

The point I’m trying to make is that for some people, their driving force is ego, not love of learning and therefore they have no grace.

I recently attended the SQL Saturday event in Atlanta.  I love these events because they are so personal.  You have smaller classes and you can actually interact with the presenters and most of them are just like you and me, regular people.  However, in Atlanta I noticed a very disheartening trend.  Ego is taking hold and grace is losing ground.

I am not a speaker and I never will be.  I have a horrible phobia of public speaking (which is the reason I didn’t become a teacher).  But I want to give back to the community that has helped me get where I am today, so I volunteer behind the scenes for many things.  Atlanta was no different.  I was attending, but I was also a volunteer.  There were some great nationally and internationally known speakers presenting, in addition to the local and regional people and it was so exciting to be part of the largest SQL Saturday event to date.  As it turns out, it was probably the most disappointing PASS event I’d attended to date.  Not because I was disappointed in the content of the sessions I attended or even in the speakers that presented them, but because there were many other speakers who seem to have lost their grace.

I’m not going to give specific examples or name names (that just elicits finger pointing).  But what I am going to do is ask you, as a speaker, why do you do it?  Is it because you have those three little letters, “MVP”, after your name or is because you want to share your knowledge and inspire others to learn more?  If it’s the latter, I applaud you and ask that you keep on doing what you are doing.  We in the community appreciate all your hard work and your generosity in sharing.  If it’s the former then I might suggest you try to save grace and have a slice of humble pie, it never hurt anyone.

Angela Henry



I have recently begun to contemplate pursuing the MCSA Certification.  I have been working with SQL Server for almost 20 years and have never considered getting a certification before now.  I have met so many people through the years who have the certifications and were quite frankly “dumb as a box of rocks”.  They just happen to be good at regurgitating information on an exam but had no practical experience.  Throw them an unusual situation and they stare back at you with blank eyes.

I know having those extra letters behind my name could give me a boost if I was in the job market, but I’m happily settled at my current employer, with no plans to move on.  I realize that anything could happen and I could be out looking for a job tomorrow, but if that were the case maybe I could have used that $450 I spent on certification to pay for groceries.  I am not saying the tests should be free, but it is a hard pill for me to swallow when I’ve managed just fine without those letters after my name this long.

Who knows, I may have missed opportunities that I didn’t even know about because I didn’t have those letters, but how can you miss what you’ve never had?

The Long and Winding Road


“The Long and Winding Road” is one of my favorite Beatles songs, it reminds me of my dad, he was a huge Beatles fan.  My dad passed away almost five years ago, but I still miss him like it was yesterday and I still remember the advice he gave me when I was a kid, “Work hard and don’t let anybody tell you you can’t do something, there’s always a way.  It may not be easy, but there’s always a way.”  I credit that advice for the success I’ve had in my life, both personal and professional.

I started working with SQL Server back on Windows 3.11 (version 4.21a).  I know I’m dating myself here, but that’s kind of the point of this post.  We thought Windows 3.11 was so cool after having to deal with DOS for so many years, we didn’t think it could get any cooler.  But it did.  We got Windows 95, then 98, XP, 7 and now 8.  I can’t wait to see what they come up with next.

The same goes for SQL Server.

We started out with what I thought was a great tool, then they made it better.  We went from having to create devices to hold our database files and keeping track of each file growth, to just being able to create our database files and let them grow on their own.  I don’t know about anybody else, but that made me so happy.  No more sp_helpdb every night to make sure I could recreate my databases if needed in a disaster.

It used to be very hard to write T-SQL code if you weren’t familiar with the database objects, the old iSQL query window didn’t have an object browser so you couldn’t see a list of your tables, let alone column names.  Now we have intellisense built right in to the query window.  This feature alone is with worth its weight in gold.  It allows me to be so much more productive, type the first few letters and hit tab.  “BAM!” as Emeril would say.

BCP really used to be the only way to get data in and out of your database, then they gave DTS.  Once again it’s like going from DOS to Windows.  Then they came out with SSIS.  Holy Cow, I thought I’d won the lottery after writing my first package in under 5 minutes.  It truly was an amazing transformation (pun definitely intended).

There are so many other features that have improved along the way, too many in fact to list them all here.

It’s been a long road,

The wild and windy night
That the rain washed away
Has left a pool of tears
Crying for the day.
Why leave me standing here?
Let me know the way.

There were definitely many tears shed along the way to where I am today, tears of frustration and of joy.  But I wouldn’t change my long and winding road for anything, it’s made me who and what I am today.

SQL Server let me know the way…