Monday, April 11, 2011

Your Training is Approved! How Do You Get It Again?

With the upcoming SQL Rally there has been a lot of discussion amongst the community of how to help people ask for training. 

One of the first things to go in a tight economy is being sent to Training.  There is a lot of great information out there for free.  There are great blogs, videos, SSUGs (SQL Server User Groups) and not to mention SQL Saturdays.  As a DBA if you are looking to improve yourself there are a lot of great resources available to you.

“So Ball’s do you want me to go to Training or what?”

Glad you asked Dear Reader, yes I do.  The one thing that free training lacks that in-person training provides is social interaction.  Not only does this help you personally but professionally as well.


Two words, simple concept, Social interaction.  There are a lot of things that makes up a DBA’s job, and I’m not just talking Job Description.  What sets apart a really great DBA from others?  It’s not just what they know, don’t get me wrong you have to be knowledgeable in your field.  What sets a great DBA apart is something more fundamental than that, it is their social skills.

Social skills are just like any other that we have, if you do not utilize them then they rust.  If you practice them then they flourish.  When you are at a SQL conference, SQL Saturday, or SQL User Group this is your opportunity to stay sharp.  There is a lot of good information being passed around, ask questions, make points, discuss what you’ve done, and learn something.  This will help you when you get back to your job.

I would ask you to close your eyes and think of a meeting you’ve had at your company.  There is a complex technical issue, perhaps a production environment is down, and the Users/Sales are impacted.  How do people work together?  Do ego’s come out?  Is your opinion listened to and openly discussed?

 I cannot tell you how many MVP, Authors, and in-general SQL Legends that I’ve met that are nice, humble, and willing to listen in a complex technical setting.  If you do not work with a team of DBA’s, or if that team is not a cohesive team, then this is a refreshing experience.  Being in person with people from the SQL community is a treat and can help you use Technical  Social Skills that you can utilize in other areas of your job.

How To Ask

For great blogs on HOW to ask for training check out Kendal Van Dyke (blog|twitter) and Brent Ozar (blog|twitter)

If you need help on how to approach your boss, Kendal wants to help he is very available through his blog, or also on twitter.  Anything short of him having to pay your way, and he’ll be glad to help J.

Brent presents a lot of wonderful ways for you to approach your manager.  He also answers his comments, (as you can see by reading them), so if you have a situation that you don’t feel he covered ask him!  He is also readily available on Twitter.

***************UPDATE 4/11/2011**********************************************

Later in the day while at work I discovered that the Awesome people putting together SQL Rally had a great ROI section that was posted in March.  Not only are there wonderful arguments listed as to why you should go, but there is also a great form letter that can help you ask to big boss to be able to attend.  I had to include the links to this.




I want to focus on the idea that you have been APPROVED to go.  Your SUPER EXCITED, and you should be!  But through the haze of the excitement you need to consider a few tings.  You don’t want this to be a one shot deal.  You want to go to training again.  So how do you make that happen?  You need a plan.  So ask yourself the following:

1.       What am I going to Learn?
2.       How Will I apply it when I get back?
3.       How do I show my Boss the Training was worth it?


So your approved to go, now is the time to look at the track’s being offered and determine what your 1st, 2nd, and 3rd choices are for each time slot.  But as you decide I’d like you to think of any issues or new technologies that are being used by your company.  Try to set yourself up to be a returning superstar.

You should think about the projects your working on, or the upcoming one’s you know you’ll be roped into working on. 

If you are working on a project to get your arms around your SQL Environment then look for Sessions on Policy Based Management, Auditing, and Powershell. 

If you are looking at adding High Availability to your environment look for Sessions on Disaster Recovery, Mirroring, Replication, and Clustering.  If Performance is where you need to concentrate look for Sessions on Indexing, Wait Stats, and Compression. 

The point is knowing where you are going and what you NEED to learn to get there will help you achieve some WINNING in the long run.


So now it’s Monday and your back at the office.  Your inbox is not Zero, you’ve got meetings, and a to-do list a mile long.  What did we get out of our trip?

While things are fresh it is easy to be excited and ready to go, back at the office reality sets in.  Now is when I like to make a list.  You should do a top 5 things that you learned from training that you want to apply to your job.  If you have co-workers that went to training with you, you can talk to see what their top 5 things are, and align them to work together.

We attended some training a couple months back, and when we returned I had a list of what I thought the top 5 things we could apply were.  The number 1 thing that I wanted to do was pretty low on the list.  After talking with all the other DBA’s it turned out that was the number 1 thing on their list, which they thought could benefit the company right away.

So now that you’ve got your list, and your co-workers are on board, set up a road map of how you will present this to your boss.

Let’s take Policy Based Management for example.
  1. Find a Dev, Test, or local SQL Server Instance on a Laptop that can Server as your Central Management Server.
  2.  Register the instances you would like to run Policy Based Management Against. 
  3. Work with your co-workers, determine policy’s that are most beneficial to your environment. 
  4. Set them up and Run them.
  5. Demo it for your Boss
There are so many features in SQL Server to take advantage of, that it is rare to find a place that has it all figured out.  There is probably something that could benefit your work place that you are not currently using:  Snapshots, Mirroring, Backup Compression, Filtered Indexes, Sparse Columns, Policy Based Management, Data Compression, Central Management Server the list is long. 

If you can find something to apply, and actually get it in place, then future training should be easy to obtain.

What if you didn't find anything new?  What if you were the only DBA to go?  When you come back try to share the wealth.  You just spent some time watching a lot of people present on topics, now is your chance to try with your co-workers.  Work up some of the topics where you learned or gained a clearer understanding of how something works.

  1. Work up a Summary of the Topics and some Demos (grab the decks and scripts if they are available for download)
  2.  Set up a meeting with your co-workers
  3. Present the topics
  4. Get Feedback, go back to the top and start working on your top 5 list with your co-workers on board


Here’s the big payoff.  The next time you try to go to a conference, when your boss hems or haws you say “Hey boss remember problem xyz, and how I fixed that after training.”  Or even better “Here’s how we improved things after training.”

Businesses are all about Return On Investment, ROI, if you can show them that sending you to training is an investment they will get a return on then you’re already on your way to your next round of training.

I hope to see you at SQL Rally this year and next!



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