The PASS Professional Development Virtual Group is a resource for information and conversation on the professional development topics for people in the technology industry.

Category: Soft Skills

An Interview with SQLRally Speaker, Scott Shaw

Scott Shaw was recently selected to speak at SQLRally. He has published articles at MSSQL Tips and is working on a book project. Kathi spent some time with Scott to learn about his journey from teaching English in grad school to SQL Server DBA. 

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Paul Randal on the Record

Today’s presentation by Paul Randal, entitled The Most Import Consulting Skill was recorded and that recording is now available on demand.  Click here for the recording.

Recording of Don Gabor Networking Skills Presentation Available

The recording of Don Gabor’s presentation for the Professional Development Virtual Chapter, entitled Networking to Build Your Professional Contacts is now available online and will remain available for the next 365 days.

Next month’s presentation by Joe Webb will be on March 10 at 10:00 AM PST / 1:00 PM EST and will be on the topic of How to Conduct Effective Meetings. More details are available at our web site: http://prof-dev.sqlpass.org.

Recording of ‘Communicating Up’ Now Available

The recording of today’s Professional Development presentation by Kevin Kline on the subject of Communicating Up is now available for streaming or download.

Book Review: The Last Lecture

Partially due to the ease of carrying hundreds or thousands of books around with you easily today (Thank you Amazon for the Kindle!), I am reading more non-technical books. I recently read “The Last Lecture” by Randy Pausch. You may have heard about this lecture, available on youtube.com.

Many college professors give a “last lecture” based on what they would like to say if it was actually the last lecture they would ever give. Randy was a computer science professor at Carnegie Mellon University when he learned that he had just months to live. He decided to give a last lecture, in part to leave a legacy for his three young children.

His lecture was based on how he had achieved his childhood dreams and enabled the childhood dreams of others. He claims some pretty specific and far-reaching dreams, such as working for Disney Imagineering and experiencing weightlessness. He encountered many of what he termed “brick walls” along the way to achieving these dreams, but, because of networking and perseverance he managed to meet most of his goals.

Professor Pausch was a pioneer in virtual reality technology and one of the developers of the Alice http://alice.org/ programming software. It was important to him that investments in Alice continue after his death so that he would continue to make a difference long after he was gone.

Of course, I while reading I had to think back at what my childhood dreams were. There were some silly things like marrying Davie Jones, but I also wanted to be a teacher and to write a book someday. One of the big stars when I was a kid was Cher. I dreamed about singing.

Unlike Randy, I forgot about my dreams for many years. Eventually, I just fell back into them. I wrote a book in 2009. I have taught at the college level and also teach training classes for Pragmatic Works. If you know me well, you probably know I love to sing and was the person who originally introduced the SQL community to Karaoke. I developed a new dream as an adult, to be a programmer, and let nothing stand in my way to achieving that goal in 1997. It’s also always been important to me to make a positive difference in the world. As “Aunt Kathi” to SQL Server professionals all over the world, I believe I have done that.

“The Last Lecture” is a great read with lots of good advice about managing time and focusing on what is important. I think that the overall lesson is to have fun no matter what you do. Even when he had just months to live, he was determined to have fun until the end.

Another thing that struck me was Randy’s stories about his childhood. His family was very focused on education and providing great experiences for their children. I noticed the same theme when reading the memoir of Steve Wozniak. Both of these men were innately brilliant, but their parents helped create the spark.

Many of us SQL Server professional work long and odd hours. We need to make sure that we get away from computers once in a while, spend time with our kids, and, well, just have some fun. Be sure to take a look at the lecture or read the book if you need a bit of inspiration.

The Art of Questions–The Recording

The recording for Brian Moran’s presentation on The Art of Questions – How Can IT Pros be More Successful? is now available.  Just click the link in the previous sentence.

What Did You Do? is a Bad Question

Brian Moran (blog | Twitter) did a great presentation today for the PASS Professional Development Virtual Chapter on The Art of Questions.  One of the points that Brian made was that there are good questions and bad (or at least not-as-good) questions.  Good questions tend to open-up the conversation and engender positive reactions (perhaps even trust and respect) between the participants; and bad questions tend to close-down a conversation either through the narrow list of possible responses (e.g. strictly Yes/No) or through the negative reactions they can produce.  And this explains why I so frequently had problems troubleshooting real-time problems with users in the past.  I’ll explain that in more detail below, but before we go on, let me recommend that you watch the recording of Brian’s presentation to learn why the question Why is often problematic in the U.S. and yet we so often resort to it.

For a short portion (3 years) of my career, I taught basic computer skills and Office applications in an adult vocational school, and this gave me ample opportunity to do live troubleshooting of user challenges with computers.  And like many people who ended up in computer related jobs, I also have had numerous times where I was called upon by less computer-savvy individuals to help them with some challenge they were having, whether it was part of my job or not.  One of the things that I noticed, especially during my time as a teacher, was that when I was helping somebody, typically the first question I would ask them was, “What did you do?”  This seemed to me like a good way to start my detective work trying to figure out what happened, what went wrong, how to fix it, and how to help the person avoid it again in the future.  I always asked it in a polite tone of voice as I was just trying to gather the facts before diving in deeper.  However; 99.999% of the time, I always got the same answer, “Nothing!”  For a long time this frustrated me because (remember I’m in detective mode at that point) I knew it could not possibly be true.  They HAD to have done SOMETHING…just tell me what were the last actions you took before this problem presented itself.  But no, they always stuck with “Nothing”.  At which point, with frustration growing, and not a little bit of disdain for their lack of helpfulness, I would usually ask them to move aside while I took over their machine and got them out of whatever they had gotten themselves into.  After a while I just grew used to the fact that this was the answer I would usually receive, but I always kept asking because for the .001% of the people who would actually tell me, I could then help them understand what went wrong and how to avoid it in the future.

Now, after hearing Brian’s talk, I understand what the problem was.  Even though I meant to just be in an information gathering mode, the words I was using, “What did YOU do?” have such a strong negative connotation that people would instinctively go into defense-mode and stop sharing information that might make them look bad.  Many of them probably were not even consciously aware that they had gone on the defensive, but the self-preservation instinct, especially self-preservation of the ego, is so strong that people would end up there without even realizing it.

So, if “What did you do” is a bad question, what would have been better?  Well, one suggestion that Brian makes in his talk is something along the lines of, “Can you tell me what led up to this?” or “what was happening on the computer right before this came up?”  It’s subtle, but the point is to take the focus off of the person and their behavior; instead depersonalizing it and talk about events from more of a 3rd-party observer point of view.  With this approach, people will be more likely to talk about what the computer did and what they did in response to it without feeling the interrogation spotlight is on them.  They are also more likely to mention other events that occurred around the same time that may or may not be related, but which could certainly help you troubleshoot a larger problem if it is not just user actions.  And that is the ultimate goal of your asking the questions.  So yes, it does matter how you ask the question; and there are such things as good questions and bad questions.  Excellent topic Brian!  Thanks for getting the thinking gears churning!

(Cross-posted to Ajarn’s Corner on SQLTeam.com.)

Recording of Communicate for Great Good by Matt Velic

The recording of today’s presentation by Matt Velic on Communicate for Great Good is now available online.

Nov 2014 webinar recording available, Dec 10th next event

Hello

So under the new Professional Development VC leadership team (@Neil_Hambly & @MatanYungman) since November 2014, we hosted the 1st of our Professional Development VC events, this one with the legendary Kevin Kline @kekline (MVP, SQLSentry) his session was on Convincing & Influence

So if you did make it to the live recording then I'm sure you will agree is an excellent one, but of course we can't always make it to these scheduled events or simply we want to be able to view or replay it @ a later time, thankfully we did hit the record button and can now direct you to the recording of this for viewing on your own schedule, so here is the link to view the recording https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/recording/6813369355493913858

We of course do also have the other previous webinar recordings and these can be accessed via the Resources section

Our next session is on 10th December and will feature Craig Purnell with his Summit 2014 session "The Professional Networking Toolbox"

So please register and join us for that one if you can

Regards

Prof-Dev VC Leadership team

 

 

 

March 2015 Webinar - Presentation design. Why you should care? Boris Hristov

Hello

Well that's another Professional Development VC event on 11th March in the can

Our presenter on this one was MVP Boris Hristov with his session was "Presentation design. Why you should care?"

Here is the link to view the recording  https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/recording/3495149917689951490

Also remember we have other webinar recordings available in the Resources section, please enjoy those also

We will also upload this to our YouTube site {shortly} https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCDP2iCgt7rRu6zyvxwz4uug

Regards

Prof-Dev VC Leadership team

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