Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Three Events that Brought Me Here

Paul Randal started the latest community chain blog, What three events brought you here?, and I was tagged by Steve Jones (@way0utwest), his post, and Brian Kelley (@kbriankelley), his post

I could go a couple of different directions with this:

  1. How I ended up a DBA/Developer
  2. How I ended up serving as a missionary with New Tribes Mission doing DBA and development work.  Did you even know you could do that?

I think for this post I’ll go with #2 because I sort of covered #1 in this post which I wrote just before Paul started the chain.

Friends in Low High Places

I got started in tech because my best friend (Greg Corrigan) from high school and through college was (still is) as programmer and was also the software development manager at the local pulp & paper company.  He did some consulting work on the side that I helped out with as mainly a hardware grunt, but I also did some network setup and a bit of Microsoft Access programming with him.  During this time he had 2 Software Developer positions open and, for about 6 months, he kept asking me to apply, but I kept refusing because I didn’t feel qualified and I didn’t want to take advantage of our friendship.  This was in 1999 before the dot com bubble burst so to get experienced developers or even computer science graduates to move to northern NH (here’s where it is) was pretty much impossible.  My friend believed in me and I finally had (another) blow up with my boss and decided I’d apply.  I interviewed with Greg and the other developer on staff (Ernie Miner) and then with the Greg’s boss, the Controller.  I was hired, basically as an apprentice and I started out writing reports using Access as a front end and rather quickly moved to SQL Server development and I found I had an aptitude for working with data and that I could “think in sets” so I stayed with SQL Server, while still doing some VB and then VB.NET development.  My friend, Greg, was and still is a great teacher and he really provided a good foundation.  I still wish I had a better grasp of theory, but I’ve been getting the job done for 10 years.

A Failing Industry

The pulp and paper industry in the United States is, sadly, a dying industry.  While I was in the industry it seemed another mill was closing every month, and it finally happened to us.  About 20 months, late summer 2001, after I was hired the facility I worked at closed it’s doors as the parent company filed for bankruptcy.  It turns out I worked for crooks, I call that company a mini-Enron.  They were borrowing against inventory that, in some cases, we didn’t even have.  The owner of that company is now in prison.  Anyway, this was AFTER the bubble burst so I spent 9 months looking in vain for work as a developer (didn’t know I was or wanted to be a DBA), when our facility was purchased out of bankruptcy and I was one of the lucky few to be brought back, the only problem was that in that company’s opinion, “I.T. is a necessary evil that brings no value to the company.” so we were a bit hamstrung in what we could do, but I was happy to have a job.  About a year later I arrived at work one Monday to find out that there was a round of unexpected layoffs (the expected ones had happened a few months earlier).  At that point every salaried employee decided it was time to look for another job, including me.

A Fit including Faith

My wife and I had discussed becoming missionaries with New Tribes right after we had married, but decided to wait a year or two which turned into ten.  Based on that early discussion I decided to check out the New Tribe web site as part of my “job” search.  I clicked on “Go” and “Careers” and saw a posting for 2 Database developers in Sanford. FL.  I applied on-line and then called my wife to tell her what I had done.  This was in February 2004 and we were “hired” in May that year.  After about 2 1/2 years of travelling around New England visiting churches doing what New Tribes calls Partnership Development (we had to go out and fund raise our salary.  People of like faith pledge to donate money to the NTM for us so we can help spread the Gospel of Christ), other missions call it deputation.  We finally made the move in June 2007.  I started out with NTM learning the existing system in Visual FoxPro and doing some work with that, then I began working with one of the other developers on re-writing our personnel system using SQL Server and ASP.NET (C#).  I also eventually inherited a financial system that was running on a SQL Server in the Finance office on a PC AFTER it had crashed and needed to be recovered.  That recovery has been by biggest success to date with NTM.

The move to Florida also got me involved in the SQL Server community.  Prior to the move the most involved I had been was lurking and occasionally posting to the SQLServerCentral forums.  Now I have written articles, done videos, blogged, presented at user groups and SQLSaturday’s, and, recently, become a leader in my local user group (OPASS).

So that’s how I got where I am in 3 parts, even though there are a lot of other things that happened along the way.

I’m going to tag:

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