2011: A New Year / A New Decade
The end of the year 2010 marks the end of the first decade of the 21st Century. It has been a decade of commotion in many aspects of our every day life: 9/11, war, political and economic crisis. For IT Professionals it has been undoubtedly a decade of many changes: new privacy and security regulations, improvements in technology, shifts in delivery models like SaaS and Cloud Computing, re-shaping of roles, etc. All these changes are part of the IT evolution that never ends.
Being an IT Professional I’ve had the need to keep up with this wave of change, always adapting, and trying to find my call. As I look back at this decade, there are so many things I have accomplished for which I’m grateful to God and to the many people who have helped me become who I am now. These are my milestones:
2000: Survived Y2K
Y2K was an event of catastrophic consequences, or so the media portrayed it. Banks were going to lose all your account data, airplanes were going to fall out of the sky, nuclear missiles will start firing at will, the end of the world was near. People started building Y2K shelters, some withdrew all their money from their bank accounts, and many embraced themselves for the turn of the century with fear. We survived.
During this time I had my own Computer Sales and Services business while finishing college back in Honduras. Y2K was very lucrative for me as many companies needed firmware upgrades, software patches and updates. I even got my hands dirty with an obscure product at that point to me called SQL Server 6.5 helping install Service Pack 5a for one customer. Little did I know this product will be what would feed my family a couple of years later.
2001: The World collapses
9-11 made the whole world collapse to its knees in shock. I was in Honduras still sleeping when my dad woke me up and told me to come watch the news of an airplane accident in New York. As I watched in shock what appeared to be a replay of what had happened, it was several seconds later that I realized it was not a replay, it was a second plane.
At that point in my career, I was working as a jack-of-all-trades for a larger Computer Sales and Services company with foreign capital as Sales Manager, network and computer technician, graphic and web designer, and supporting a couple SQL Server and Sybase ASE database systems. I had no real clue where I wanted to focus my career on. I liked everything about IT, I enjoyed selling, building and troubleshooting those Pentium IIIs and PIVs, designing webpages with raw HTML with occasional use of FrontPage.
2002: A New Country
On a Friday morning I get a call from one of our customers requesting assistance with one of their applications that we supported. Since it had a Sybase database backend, I took the ticket and proceeded to the customer site. The issue was simple a data window was not saving the data on the screen. I put my PowerBuilder skills to work, and pinpointed and solved the issue in 10 mins. It turns out that the developer of this third-party application had been trying to fix this issue for several days, causing the business loss of productivity since they had been relying on paper base format in the meantime. Next morning on Saturday, after waking up at noon from playing StarCraft all night long, I received an instant message via Windows Messenger (yes, old school!) by one of the client’s staff. The message was, “Would you be interested in going to our Miami office to fix some of our issues there?” Cue: Coming to America by The System
2003-2005: The “Network Guy” years
Once my work contract was over I decided to apply for permanent residency, obtaining a temporary work permit and enabling me to seek other job opportunities and study. One area of IT that really interested me at the time was Cisco networking, so I enrolled at Miami-Dade College and completed the CCNA program with flying colors. Little did I know, that no company was willing to hire a guy fresh out of some Cisco classes to manage their network. After several interviews, only one company gave me a chance, and boy it changed my life.
It was an airline, but all their networking was outsourced so all I had to do was open the door for Cisco technicians to come install and configure equipment at our data center. I learned some things here and there from them, but the most valuable lesson was that all the configurations were given to them by their top-level Cisco engineers, and they simply copy/pasted into the equipment’s configuration. I could have written the configuration myself, but no, that’s the job of experienced CCNPs and CCIEs. That was a little heart-breaking for me and soon realized Cisco no longer appealed to as my career focus.
Working at this airline I expanded my knowledge in other areas, Windows Server troubleshooting, Exchange, IIS, some Oracle Financials, and SQL Server. At this point I learned upgrading, installing and troubleshooting SQL Server 2000/2005. I did not like it, since databases was not an area I was interested in. I thought of database professionals back then as being the equivalent of report writers. And no, report writing was never my call and never envisioned myself being so, but little did I know.
2005: Newly Wed
While working for the airline, I met my wife. It was not love at first sight, quite the contrary. Our jobs crossed in a way in which we did not get along at the beginning. After several months of having to work together, I discovered her true-self and immediately fell for her. After a short relationship, we decided to get married.
2006: An Angel from Heaven
In 2006, we were blessed with our oldest daughter. That’s when it hit me: Get your career on track! During this period I had left the airline job and decided to start my own company, with two incomes, I could afford a lower-income as I built my customer base. I had a good two-month start but when my wife gave me news of our baby, I panicked and decided to get a job, get my career on track, and start saving for a house.
After a six-month contract with a Cruise Line, I was offered a management job at a financial services company I used to provide networking and desktop support services during my short-lived entrepreneurial time.
2007: A New Career / A New Home
According to the job description I was going to be IT and Operations Manager. I knew the IT Management part, but Operations? The great thing was that the previous Operations Manager was becoming full-time Marketing Manager for the company. He had been Marketing and Operations manager but the Operations Management part was more in par with IT since all the company’s processes had a technology aspect to it. He was great to show me all the tasks he did for Operations and it helped me fine tune some processes and introduce new technology to facilitate our operations such as SharePoint, SQL Server 2005 and other technologies.
As our daughter grew, so was her need for space. Living in an apartment in Miami was not the best of places to raise a very active little girl. During that time the housing bubble was on the rise and properties in Miami became outrageously expensive. On the other hand taxes were high and schools were bad. Thinking in a long term investment for our home and for a good area to raise our girl we decided to move to the suburbs of Tampa. My employer allowed me to relocate and work from our Tampa office.
2008-2010: SQL as a Safe Heaven / A Second Angel from Heaven
Several months after I moved, our management meetings became more and more centered on the loss of revenue. Every month the conversations revolved around the sharply decrease of customers coming back. The real estate bubble had just exploded. The majority of our customers where in the construction business, mainly immigrants who now where out of work and had been relocating north to other states were there was still some construction going on. The forecast was to close down in a period of six months. I could not afford losing my income as we were expecting our second daughter and decided to jump ship. At that moment only two areas were safe to do a career move, government or health-care. I was lucky I was able to land a job as database administrator for a local government organization, what I considered a safe-heaven, to weather the economic crisis.
By the end of 2008, our youngest daughter was born. Another angel sent from the heavens.
My move not only let me weather the economic crisis between 2008 to 2010 but it also allowed me to learn so much about database administration. This organization also gave me the opportunity to build my skills as a Business Intelligence architect and developer. I was given the task of architecting our Data Warehouse and Business Intelligence solution, which I was able to accomplish with great results, allowing our Executive Team to be able to surface important facts about the population and geography served.
2010: My calling
After going through some organizational changes at my local government job and due to some other family related factors I decided to move on and pursue other opportunities out there. At the moment, my heart was split between Database Administration and Business Intelligence. I received two offers, one as DBA and for ETL developer. I was ready to accept the job as DBA when a third offer came from nowhere to become a Business Intelligence Consultant. I had always wanted to be a consultant but did not feel I had enough knowledge and experience to become one. After a lot of soul searching I decided to take the plunge and accept the offer as a Business Intelligence Consultant. It was the best decision ever. I had found my true calling.
During 2010, I became more active in the SQL Server and Business Intelligence community. I decided to get my SQL Server certifications. I jumped on Twitter, started following and met MVPs, book authors and all of my blogging rockstars. I established new friendships. I attended and spoke on my first SQL Saturday, I attended PASS Summit 2010 and I became the leader of the Tampa Bay Business Intelligence PASS Chapter.
The 2011 New Year awaits great things for me. The beginning of a new decade. The continuation of my true calling as a Consultant in the Business Intelligence field. A new employer: Pragmatic Works (website).
More details coming soon…