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Tag: Personal

Microsoft Data Platform MVP 2021-2022: Vaccinated Edition

It’s July 1st, 2021, and I’m currently sitting here with a slightly sore arm and all the emotions. Why? Because… First, I got my first Pfizer shot. Then, I was renewed as a Microsoft Data Platform MVP 2021-2022! 🥳🤓😭🤩😁

Cathrine Wilhelmsen smiling with a bandaid on her arm after getting vaccinated and being renewed as a Microsoft Data Platform MVP 2021-2022

The Vaccine

I’ll start with the most personal thing… the vaccine. This past year has been difficult, as it has been for so many of us. I’m extremely privileged to live in Norway, my family is safe and healthy, I have a secure job, and I know so very well that I’m one of the incredibly lucky ones. But I also lost most of my life when the pandemic started. I could no longer travel to meet my friends, help others by speaking at events, or do any of the things that have been my most important coping mechanisms for my mental health.

Last spring I was constantly afraid, I struggled to sleep and focus, and I couldn’t keep up with work. The result was that I crashed hard. I took a break from everything and even shut down my website for a while because everything was overwhelming. By the end of summer, I thought that things were slowly getting better. They weren’t. In October, I realized that I had completely burned out, finally asked for help from my boss and my doctor, and ended up on sick leave. I thought I’d be fine after a couple of weeks, while my boss smiled and kindly told me to prepare for a rollercoaster ride that would last for months. He was right, of course. It took me 8 months before I was back working full-time. And I’m still not back to my old self yet.

But now… I feel hopeful. I get to go into the office again in August to see my coworkers, and do things I used to take for granted like go out for a coffee or visit the library. Maybe I get to see friends again before the end of the year. (It’s been two long years without them!) Things are slowly starting to feel more normal, instead of everything being scary and overwhelming. Getting the vaccine is the first step in starting to live again and not just getting through the days, and I am so ready for that!

Phew! That was… a lot 😊

Microsoft Data Platform MVP 2021-2022

On top of all those 👆🏻 emotions, I was renewed as a Microsoft Data Platform MVP 2021-2022! 🥳 I don’t feel like I deserve the award this time because I haven’t been able to do much this past year, but I am so, so, so grateful that Microsoft showed empathy and understanding and decided to give me another chance 💙

I’m excited, and that’s a feeling I haven’t felt for a while. It feels good. I’m looking forward to a sort of kind of new start? Or maybe a refresh? F5. Let’s go with that one 🤓

Personal Highlights from 2019

It’s December 31st, 2019. WHAAAAAT? 🤯 I have no idea how we’re almost in 2020, but here we are! Just a few hours left of the year. (Hi to my friends around the world who are already in 2020! 👋🏻) Like many others, I enjoy reflecting on the year that’s almost over. This year, I’ve decided to collect some of my highlights from 2019.

(Warning! There will be lots of tweets and pictures.)

This is a total brag fest that I’m writing solely for myself. It’s my 2019 highlight reel that I can look back on when days get rough and I need a reminder that life is actually pretty awesome and I’m insanely lucky and privileged to be here. And when we get to 2025, future Cathrine can re-read everything and go “oh yeah, I remember that, we were so young and inexperienced back then, awww!” …like I do now with my old posts. It’s fun. You should try it! 😁

Lessons Learned in 2019

I also started writing about some of the more difficult parts of my year and what I learned from it… And in the middle of it, I realized that I’m not quite ready to share those thoughts yet. I still have lots of processing to do before I can turn my struggles into any kind of useful advice for others. I’m hoping to be able to do that in 2020.

But for now, I’ll share the short version:

Mark Manson taught me The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck and it changed my life.

After reading that book in 2018 and reflecting on it for all of 2019, I’ve started learning to take responsibility for my own feelings, to set healthy boundaries for myself, and to choose my f*cks wisely.

So should you 💙

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Bullying, triggers, reactions, and reflections

After spending a week at MVP Summit with old and new friends, I feel energized. My brain has been refilled with lots of happy memories :)

And one not-so-happy memory:

One. Just one negative experience during an otherwise fantastic week. One negative experience that objectively really wasn’t that big of a deal, followed by an absolutely overwhelming number of replies full of love and support. (Thank you 💙) And yet, this one negative experience has dominated my thoughts and feelings for days.

It’s easy to say that I refuse to let one stranger and one negative experience take over and push my happy memories away. Actually doing it is a whole different situation. No matter how determined I am or how much support I get, dealing with an experience like this is never easy for me.

I have trained my brain for many years to respond in a certain way, to gnaw at the negative even when it’s surrounded by positive. That habit does not change overnight just because I want it to. It’s something I need to actively work on to improve, and that requires determination and effort over time.

Writing is my way of dealing with things like this. Structuring my thoughts, describing my feelings, and reflecting on why I reacted the way I did is all part of my process.

But why are you sharing this publicly?

I’m very aware that my social media accounts are mostly highlight reels. I choose to focus on the positive things in my life, and so what most people see is the happy, bubbly, super excited version of me. I wish life was like that all the time :) But it’s not. Most days are not. Some days, you get flat out told that you suck, and instead of being strong and brushing it off, you end up crying and withdrawing from everything and everyone.

And that’s ok. That’s life. We’re flawed, and if we weren’t flawed, we wouldn’t be human. But being human also means we have choices. We can choose to take responsibility for our own feelings, get back up, try to learn from our experiences, and keep going.

Writing helps me. If I can also help someone else by sharing this publicly, whether it is helping one person understand why someone can react strongly to something seemingly small, or showing another person that they’re not alone in experiencing similar feelings, I will count that as a double win :)

So what happened?

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Why I’m a Business Intelligence Consultant (T-SQL Tuesday #111)

T-SQL Tuesday #111: Why I'm a Business Intelligence Consultant

This month’s T-SQL Tuesday is hosted by Andy Leonard (@AndyLeonard). Andy wants to know what is our “why”, or why we do what we do. Before I can answer the why, I will briefly explain the what :) I work as a Business Intelligence consultant, focusing on Data Warehousing, Data Integration, and Data Visualization.

The short answer to “why?” is because the work is both challenging and rewarding. As a Business Intelligence consultant, I get to use all my skills from programming to design. I get to satisfy my instinctive need to group, organize, and sort things when working with data. Then I get to make things shiny and pretty. Finally, I get to work with other people, learn about their industries, and help them do their jobs better.

The long answer is… longer :) I absolutely love my job now, but I ended up in the world of data completely accidentally. I’ve gone from Web Development to Graphic Design to Interactive Design to Java Programming to SharePoint Development to Data Warehouse Architecture to Community Evangelizing… And now I’m here :) (Phew!) So why am I a Business Intelligence consultant?

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Collecting Geeky Norwegian Humor (T-SQL Tuesday #99)

T-SQL Tuesday #99: Collecting Absurd Norwegian Humor

T-SQL Tuesday #99 is hosted by Aaron Bertrand (@AaronBertrand) and the topic is Dealer’s Choice. What does that mean? Aaron wanted us to choose between two topics: write about something we are passionate about outside the SQL Server community, or write about T-SQL bad habits and best practices. I’m too afraid to argue with Aaron, so I chose the first option ;)

But what did I want to write about? Truth be told, I’m pretty boring. I don’t have any real hobbies outside of tech, just a few interests. I first considered writing about hiking. I need to disconnect completely once in a while, and my favorite way of doing that is to get sweaty while walking for hours up a mountain or waterfall. My Instagram (@cathrinesqueee) is my highlight reel, full of pictures and happy memories from my trips.

Some of my favorite hiking memories are: descending into Thrihnukagigur Volcano, eating lunch on top of the Rocky Mountains, relaxing at the Alluvial Fan, exploring the Garden of the Gods, climbing Seven Falls, overlooking the Norwegian fjords, driving across the never-ending Jotunheimen mountains, watching the fog roll in over Trollstigen, hiking Dinosaur Ridge, crossing the Capilano Suspension Bridge, taking a break on Mount Falcon, visiting the Loveland Pass, and gazing at presidents at Mount Rushmore.

Mads Eriksen M

However, instead of embedding all the pictures that are already on Instagram, I decided to write about something completely different. Something obscure. Something fun and geeky from way before I got involved in the SQL Server community. Something from my good old teenage fangirling days…

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Dealing with Disappointment and Learning from Failures

I have written posts in the past about how to deal with technical failures as a speaker: Be prepared. Have backups of your files. Take screenshots or videos of your demos. Rehearse presenting your session with and without your slide deck. I have made plenty of I-wasn’t-prepared-for-that mistakes in the past, and I learned from them.

Last weekend was different. I was supposed to do a precon and a session at SQLSaturday Nashville. I didn’t experience any technical failures. I experienced what felt very much like personal failures.

On Friday, our precon got canceled due to weather.

On Saturday, no one showed up to my session.

I had not prepared for either of those things to happen, and I definitely had not prepared for both of those things to happen on the same weekend. I went through a whole range of emotions in a short amount of time, from embarrassment to disappointment to amusement.

Since then, I have debated with myself about whether or not to write this blog post. I have written and re-written it several times. I did not want to write a blog post full of whining and complaining, but I did want to share my experience as a reminder to both myself and others that:

  • These things happen. It’s ok to feel disappointed, but don’t let it stop you from trying again.
  • There is always something positive to take away from a negative experience.
  • Life is full of ups and downs. Social media (especially my own) often focus on the ups, but life is not amazing all the time.

If you only needed a few reminders, feel free to stop reading here :) The rest of the post is quite long and a little more like a journal entry, really.

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Goodbye 2015, hello 2016!

Happy New Year 2016! :)

Happy New Year 2016

2015 was a year of highs and lows for me. I did so many things for the first time and really pushed myself out of my comfort zone. I made new friends and grew closer to old friends. At the same time I struggled more than ever with my old enemies depression, insomnia, migraine and impostor syndrome. All in all, I guess you can call it “life” :)

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A shy first-timer at PASS Summit 2013

PASS Summit 2013

It’s not easy to write about PASS Summit 2013 in a structured way. Just like the summit was buzzing with energy I feel like running around tossing keywords and hashtags at people: #SQLFamily! Ribbons! First timers! Sessions! #SQLKaraoke! Exhibitor booths! It was all a little overwhelming for this shy first-timer, but also exciting and fun at the same time.

Tip #1: Tweet and use hashtags!

You’ll connect with many people in the community. They might even approach you because they recognize you from Twitter! #SQLFirstTimers, #SQLPass and #Summit13 worked wonders for me :)

This year the PASS Summit was held in Charlotte, North Carolina. Since I traveled from Norway I arrived on Saturday to have a couple of days to be a tourist. Sunday was all about roller-coasters in Carowinds for me. I’ll skip that day and fast-forward to Monday when the fun really began.

Even though this strictly wasn’t a part of the summit I have to mention Redgate’s SQL in the City event on Monday. That really was my first experience with the SQL community. I hadn’t signed up for the pre-conferences at the summit, but was lucky enough to attend this event instead. Redgate’s tools have saved me a lot of time and frustrations, and it was a great opportunity to learn, talk with the developers and see people like Steve Jones and Grant Fritchey present live.

Redgate also invited attendees to an informal networking event on Monday night. Deciding to go to that event was a great idea as that was where I met a lot of great people for the first time. I also met quite a few people who asked me if I knew Tone, a fellow Norwegian whom they all missed. Unfortunately I didn’t, but we quickly got introduced via Twitter. Hopefully we’ll get together at the SQL Server User Group Norway one day!

Tip #2: Say hi to people!

I’m a shy introvert and my first day alone in a foreign country at an event where I knew no one was truly terrifying. I was lucky to meet a couple of great people who introduced me to some other great people who introduced me to some other great people and after a little while it became easier to introduce myself :) Just go for it!

Tuesday was the first day of the actual Pass Summit 2013 conference for me. I attended the “Get to know your community” session hosted by Kevin Kline and Kendal Van Dyke, met up with my PASS Summit buddy Aaron Nelson and the rest of his first-timer group, attended the First-Timer Orientation Meeting, and then the Welcome Reception. And if that wasn’t enough, the night continued on with some great #SQLKaraoke!

PASS Summit 2013 Badge

All attendees had a name badge with their name, company, country and Twitter handle, as well as various ribbons on it. The badges were a great way to connect – you could easily take a look at the ribbons to see who were Speakers, Volunteers, MVPs (and more), instantly follow someone on Twitter, or just start a conversation about their company or home country.

On Wednesday I met a couple of nice ladies in the elevator at our hotel. We were all wearing our name badges with the First-Timer ribbon, started to talk and decided to have breakfast together. For lunch I met up with fellow Norwegians at the PASS Chapter Luncheon. It was actually a bit strange to speak Norwegian again for an hour, but nice to get some new contacts in my home country.

Tip #3: Join someone for breakfast, lunch and dinner!

There are always someone who are too shy to sit down at a table and introduce themselves, why don’t you try to be the one who joins them instead?

Between all the food and coffee breaks I attended my first keynote and sessions. Trying to build my session schedule was actually quite frustrating. There were always at least a handful of sessions I wanted to attend! I really look forward to getting the USB stick with all the session recordings so I can watch the sessions I missed. In the evening I attended the Exhibitor Reception where I learned quite a lot about the vendors. I also got some nice SQL swag. And if that wasn’t enough, the night continued on with some great #SQLKaraoke (again)!

On Thursday I started to feel the effects of not enough sleep and too much #SQLKaraoke :) I attended the Women In Technology Luncheon and Panel Discussion which was a lot more than an event just for women. The topic of the day was “Beyond Stereotypes: Equality, Gender Neutrality, and Valuing Team Diversity”. I encourage you to watch it on PASS TV. One of the highlights for me was Gail Shaw‘s response to the question “Do you have to make an effort to fit in?” – “No I don’t, because I can’t bloody well be bothered”. That answer earned a lot of applause from the audience!

On Thursday night we all gathered in the NASCAR Hall of Fame for the Community Appreciation Party. And as if that wasn’t enough, the night continued on with some great #SQLKaraoke (again again)! I had no energy for karaoke that night, but spent a couple of hours getting to know Bob Pusateri and Andy Yun even better. The next time I’m going to PASS Summit I will definitely work harder on not getting tired ;)

Friday was a bit of a sad day and I wished it could be Tuesday so I could start all over again and do even more. Learn more, meet more people, be more active in the community. But instead of looking back I’m going to take all of these great experiences with me. Now I look forward and use the new inspiration and energy to grow personally and professionally in 2014. I hope to attend and volunteer at a SQLSaturday, maybe even help organize one in Oslo. I hope to share my new knowledge with my co-workers and help improve our solutions at work. And I hope to learn even more and get to know my new connections better. Maybe I’ll even make my own presentation and be a first-timer speaker some day!

Tip #4: Keep in touch

Keep in touch with everyone you met and take good care of your new #SQLFamily :)