Interviews as Learning Experiences (T-SQL Tuesday #54)

T-SQL TuesdayT-SQL Tuesday #54 is hosted by Boris Hristov (@BorisHristov) and is all about interviews and hiring.

I have a confession to make: Once in a while I say yes to interviews, not because I’m actually looking for new opportunities, but because they’re both fun and challenging.

For me, it’s a great way to learn and grow. I haven’t walked out of a single interview without having learned something new about myself, a technology or the industry I work in.

Going to interviews forces me out of my comfort zone and makes me feel stressed, nervous and a little scared. Sometimes I get questions that I don’t immediately know the answer to and I get flustered. Sometimes I knock over water glasses or burn my hands on hot coffee and make a complete fool of myself. But every time I go to interviews I get a little better at small talk, calming my nerves, thinking on my feet, handling unexpected situations, structuring my thoughts and formulating answers.

It’s a great opportunity to reflect upon my own situation and where I want to be in a year or two. It gives me a peek into what skills are needed and wanted right now, and if it’s a technical interview I quickly find out which skills I need to improve.

My best interview happened early in my career, it was just supposed to be a first introduction interview for a junior developer position. Halfway through the interview I mentioned that I like to challenge myself to learn from the experience, and the interviewer promptly decided to follow up on that statement: “What would you do if we gave you a challenge right now?” (I couldn’t really say no, could I?)

The challenge was to skip right into the second, technical interview without preparing. I had to look at a screen capture of a website and explain the HTML and CSS I would use to replicate it, I had to draw data models and SQL queries on a whiteboard, and I had to guess my way through some JavaScript – and it was fun. I left the interview feeling proud, not because I did well (I forgot important things and made mistakes), but because I was thrown into a new situation and handled it better than I had feared.

The opposite experience was when I was still a student and had a series of speed interviews in one day. They lasted ten minutes and you had three minutes to introduce yourself, three minutes to listen to the company introduction, and the rest of the time to ask questions. The first speed interviews went really well. I grew more confident and didn’t feel like a complete nervous wreck anymore, but as I approached the next table and saw three very serious men in suits stare at me I could feel my palms getting sweaty again. Thankfully they never noticed that, because none of them even wanted to shake my hand. They told me to sit down, grabbed their pens and stared at me in silence. I took that as my cue to introduce myself and spent the next three minutes telling them about my background and why I had applied. When my three minutes were up they looked at each other, looked at me, looked at each other and finally said: “You know that there are mostly men working in this industry, right? How are you going to handle that?”

My jaw dropped to the floor. Inexperienced and flustered, I answered as best as I could that I was used to working and studying with guys and that it had never even been an issue before. They looked at each other again, sighed, looked at me and said: “Well, we don’t have any more questions, so you can just go.” What? I looked at my watch and saw that we still had more than five minutes left, but it was so uncomfortable to sit there that it was better to leave early. So I got up, utterly embarrassed, and zigzagged my way out of the room trying to ignore the stares from everyone still in the middle of their speed interviews.

It is by far the worst “interview” I have ever been to. I felt small and ashamed, but it was also when I promised myself that I would look at each interview as a learning experience. It also made me bring my “I’ll show them!” attitude to the next interview – and that next interview got me my first job :)

Biml Scandinavian Tour (Oslo May 12th and 13th)

Biml Scandinavian Tour 2014

From May 5th to May 15th Varigence and Rehfeld will visit six cities in four different countries to present Biml and Mist. The highlights of the tour are the four full day Biml Master Classes in each country. The classes will be taught by Scott Currie, the creator of Biml, and Rehfeld Principal BI Architect Peter Hansen.

SQL Server User Group Norway is happy to announce a Biml techie meetup for our members on Monday May 12th! Join us for a technically oriented introduction to Biml and a presentation on the use of Biml and auto generation of ETL in one of the biggest data warehousing development projects currently running in Denmark.

Visit Varigence for the full schedule with registration links for all the cities.

Volunteering at SQLSaturday #275 Copenhagen

SQLSaturday #275 Check-inLast weekend I was in Copenhagen for SQLSaturday #275 Denmark. What a great event! I had signed up as a volunteer for several reasons. I wanted to help the Danish (and Nordic) SQL community, I wanted to get more experience as a volunteer, I wanted feedback and inspiration that will be useful for when we’re organizing SQLSaturday #317 Oslo, and most importantly I wanted to meet all the great community people I only knew from Twitter.

Planning volunteer tasks started a few weeks before the event when the event organizers and volunteers decided on who would be responsible for each task via e-mails. I felt a bit like Donkey from Shrek going “pick me! pick me!” when I told the event organizers I could volunteer all weekend if needed, but they had done such a great job they didn’t really need much help. The main tasks were volunteering as room attendants and helping out with registrations.

SQLSaturday #275 SessionI was assigned a room after lunch, so I spent the morning listening to the keynote, attending a few sessions, getting to know people and talking to sponsors. (I may have had moments where I ran around like a headless chicken trying to figure out what to do, which usually made me grab some more coffee, which in turn made me run around even more… At least I got to see a lot of the venue this way!)

SQLSaturday #275 SponsorsDuring the end of the lunch I realized that I wasn’t exactly sure what to do as a room attendant, but a quick briefing from the event organizers made it an easy task. The speakers in my room were experienced and had no problems running the show themselves, so all I had to do was agree on when to notify them about the amount of time left, make sure there was enough water, hand out speaker gifts and keep the room clean.

It was a long day, but a great day! What I enjoyed the most was meeting everyone in person and getting to know new people. It was a fun surprise to meet coworkers and members of SQL Server User Group Norway that I didn’t know were attending :) I got to attend sessions on topics I usually don’t work on and learned new things that way, and I have to mention the SQL swag I brought back home: volunteer shirt (also known as “shirt dress”), fleece sweater (I drowned in it, but it was lovely and warm), cap, candy, books and lots of other fun items.

SQLSaturday #275 #SQLBREWThere were a few things that could have gone smoother, but I really am being nitpicky when I point those out. The organizers could have sent out instructions on each task before the event, but I could also have made sure to ask earlier what to do. I could have talked more with the speakers in my room, but I didn’t want to disturb them while they were preparing. I could have greeted the attendees as they walked in, but they were there to see the speakers, not the volunteers, so I let the speakers greet everyone. I wish I could have met more people, spent more time with sponsors and attended all the sessions, but there was just not enough time for everything.

Volunteering is a great experience and I definitely won’t hesitate to help out at other events, but it does take time and you could miss out on sessions because you’re volunteering in another room. If that’s the case for you as a volunteer, try to switch rooms with another volunteer. If you’re an event organizer, try to make sure everyone gets to see the sessions they’re most interested in so it’s a great day for everyone.

At the end of the day there were giant jenga matches, raffles, organic hot dogs, #SQLBrew and lots of happy faces. Thank you to the event organizers for a great event and for inspiring us Norwegian organizers. Thank you to all the speakers and the other volunteers, I hope to see some of you in Oslo in August and hopefully at other SQLSaturdays!

SQLSaturday #317 Oslo 2014 is live and call for speakers is open!

SQLSaturday #317 Oslo 2014I’m super excited to announce that the first SQLSaturday in Norway, SQLSaturday #317 Oslo 2014, is live and the call for speakers is open!

The event will be held on August 30th, 2014 at NITH (The Norwegian School of IT).

Several great sessions have already been submitted, but we are looking for more speakers (especially local speakers), sponsors and attendees. Whether you’re a first-time speaker or an expert, with a non-technical or advanced topic – we are thrilled to see your session submitted! You can submit sessions in either English or Norwegian, choose the language you’re most comfortable with so you can deliver your best presentation.

Join us and help spread the word to make the first SQLSaturday in Norway a great event for everyone. If you’re on Twitter, use the hash tag #SQLSatOslo to join the conversation. SQL Server User Group Norway and the SQLSaturday team look forward to seeing you! :)

Starting my journey to MCSE: Business Intelligence

MCSA Training KitsOne of my goals for 2014/2015 is to learn enough to become a Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert (MCSE): Business Intelligence.

I can upgrade my MCITP certification, but I decided to start from scratch with the SQL Server 2012 exams because it’s a great way for me to learn new features while my company is still using SQL Server 2008. I’m also sure it will be very useful for me to step out of my comfort zone of data warehouse development / architecture and dive into the scary world of database administration.

The Microsoft Certified Solutions Associate (MCSA): SQL Server 2012 will remain in market without any alterations and passing the three required exams will be my goal this year. The MCSE exams will be updated with SQL Server 2014 topics and I aim to pass them later this year or early next year.

The three Training Kit books finally arrived yesterday: Training Kit (Exam 70-461): Querying Microsoft SQL Server 2012, Training Kit (Exam 70-462): Administering Microsoft SQL Server 2012 Databases and Training Kit (Exam 70-463): Implementing a Data Warehouse with Microsoft SQL Server 2012.

Reviews range from “useless” to “excellent”. Based on my experience I can’t rely on these books alone, but hopefully they’ll be a great starting point and will help me identify what I need to work on. My own reviews will be posted as I finish the books and take the exams.

My plan is simply to work my way through each chapter and write down useful suggestions and improvements for my company. It’s easier for me to learn when I can relate the content to my work. I’m most excited about learning more about database administration since that’s not something I do every day, and most curious about the data warehouse part since I’m kind of already supposed to know my way around dimensional modeling and SSIS :)

I passed exam 70-461 (Querying Microsoft SQL Server 2012) in January 2015.
I passed exam 70-463 (Implementing a Data Warehouse with Microsoft SQL Server 2012) in April 2015.
I passed exam 70-462 (Administering Microsoft SQL Server 2012 Databases) in May 2015.

Have you recently taken any of these exams? What is your job and what did you find most challenging?

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