Plays Well With Others – Inaugural

Professional Development for the SQL Server Technologist

This series of posts is dedicated to enhancing your soft skills.  For many technologists, the day-to-day grind of work tends to keep us focused on the SQL Server part of work and causes us to overlook the Professional.  While we, as technologists, spend the majority of our time honing hard, technology skills, but it’s important to remember that we are first and foremost employed to add value to the business processes of the organizations we work for.  In this series I will cover a wide variety of topics, including soft skills like management, teamwork, communications, time management, and negotiations, as well as semi-soft skills like budgeting, project planning, project estimation, and so forth.  And let’s face it, people who are good at the soft skills while also having strong technical skills often see better career growth and more opportunities than those of us who are purely technical.

To begin, I provide some homespun wisdom about effectiveness and efficiency in our jobs. These words are, of course, loaded with meaning and have produced multitudes of academic papers and big-name, New York Time best selling books.  Everyone wants to be more effective and more efficient in their job.  While I might bring up some of the more imaginative ideas and innovative concepts at other times in the series, I want to be direct with you today.  Just as the simplest concept for financial well-being (“Spend less money than you earn!”) is sometimes the hardest to implement, so too the simplest concept for effectiveness and efficiency can be hard to make a workplace rule.

The first and most elementary rule of efficiency is to spend the majority of your time working on projects that are your forte.  Management studies have shown that people aren’t just 50% or 80% more productive when working on what they’re best at, they’re actually 300%+ productive compared to activities where their skill is merely “satisfactory”.   Here’s an example, if you’re really good at crunching code, do not spend lots of time attending and running meetings.  Delegate that to another member of your time or find someone on your team who does enjoy that sort of thing.  If you’re exceptionally good at performance tuning or designing databases into relational integrity works of art, do not spend all of your time writing requirements.  You’re simply ruining your sweet spot for productivity.

Of course, many of us are on the prowl for a promotion or better job, which often require us to spend more time working on activities that are outside of our forte.  I’ll address how to get back to your strong points when your job asks more of you in a future post.

Now, there’s a similar easy and elementary rule for achieving high degrees of effectiveness.  The primary point to remember in being effective in your job is to focus your activities, at any given time, to only two or three things on which your performance will be judged.  This might sounds simple and easy, but I’m constantly surprised how many people find it almost impossible to say “No” when more work comes their way (and this also applies to their personal life at the PTA, with the kids’ activities, with the church or volunteer organization, and so forth).

It’s very simple.  If you cannot focus on successfully closing out a small set of activities, you’ll fail once you reach the point of being overwhelmed.  Think of a juggler who seems quite competent juggling three balls.  But when they try to juggle five balls, they’re lucky that they can keep one of them from falling to the ground.  Plus, anyone watching is thinking “That person can’t juggle at all!” because they never saw the juggler successfully keeping three balls in the air.  So, learn how much you can handle and then, when asked to do more, respond with “I’d love to take on this new project, but what of my existing projects has to be put on hold?”  Taking on too many projects has the additional very detrimental effect of upsetting your work/life balance too, because most of us try to complete more projects by spending less time recuperating or with the family.

As with efficiency, we’ll come back in the future to specific techniques you can use to stay on task and limit the number of active projects you’re responsible for, even when management is asking you to take on more than you should.

In the meanwhile, think of other soft skill questions you might have and I’ll address them in future posts.

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Comments

  1. I am finishing up my associate degree in database development and enjoy writing code for ad-hoc reports or one time queries or reports to be imported into Crystal reports and SSRS/SSIS.
    I really like the MSSQL platform but use Embarcadaro when needing to query Sybase tables.

    First, I would love anything and everything that could help be code better. I am not an expert but I am definately not a beginner. I love reading information, even if it does not apply to my field of interest (query writing-report writing). If you have any helpful sites, books, posters, or PDF files, I would love to reveive them. My mind is like a sponge.
    You can mail them to me by email (jgallas@bcidaho.com) or you can mail them to my work:
    Blue Cross of Idaho
    c/o Joe Gallas
    3000 E. Pine
    Meridian, ID 83642

    Second question, I have been querying Sybase tables with Embarcadero for years but recently started MSSQL and I love it. I use MSSQL to access data in our warehouse but I was told the MSSQL can not access SYBASE servers. Is this true? or Is there a workaround so I can use MSSQL for querying SYBASE (appart from exporting tables from SYBASE to MSSQL using a SSIS package)?

    Like I said earlier, my mind is like a sponge when it comes to writing queries and reports and I love doing it. If you have anything that would help me advance and grow, please send it to me using the contact information above. Thank you very much for your help.

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