Kathi: Cindy, what is your title at Microsoft and what does it mean exactly?

Cindy: I am a Dedicated Support Engineer (DSE) within the Premier Field Engineering (PFE) organization at Microsoft. That means I deal with large, enterprise-level customers who have a big investment in SQL Server and want a long term relationship with Microsoft. They buy long term contracts that include DSE time for given technologies. If my customers have any question related to the SQL Server stack (SQL Server, Analysis Services, Reporting Services, and Integration Services) it's my job to find the answer for them. I help them with things like planning their SQL Server infrastructure, troubleshooting, learning new features, understanding how features and components interact, best practices, pros/cons, maintenance, installs, and upgrades. A large part of my job is to help the SQL Server DBAs and SQL Server developers understand SQL Server better so they can make better decisions and have a healthier SQL Server environment. I'm there for them to bounce ideas off of and to provide deep technical advice. I learn their environment and organization which means I can provide better answers and advice tailored directly to their needs and capabilities. My role is mostly as a proactive agent. For example, I help them with reactive issues as needed and then loop back to make sure we can mitigate the underlying causes to reduce the chance of a given problem happening again. I also help them design systems that are more robust and less likely to experience failures.

Kathi: Have you held other positions with Microsoft? If so, what were they and how did they lead to your current job?

Cindy: I was hired in 2000 as a Support Engineer (SE) in Product Support (PSS) in Irving, TX. I spent 7 years in PSS, always with the same title but in a variety of roles. Within PSS I was a front line engineer for the entire product, a performance specialist, an engineer in the queue that supported clustering, replication, security, and connectivity, SQL Content Lead, Yukon Readiness Lead, soft skills trainer, new hire trainer in the US and India, "train the trainer" for SQL 2005 in Europe, and finally an engineer supporting Analysis Services 2000 and 2005. In addition to constantly expanding the depth and breadth of my skills with SQL Server, I learned to search source code, interact with the product team, "influence without authority", do project management, and deliver training. At that point I was ready to move to Boise, ID and wanted a job where I could work from home. The DSE role is a great fit for all those skills I had been honing in PSS and allows me to work remotely.

Kathi: How did you get started with SQL Server? Were you a DBA before working for Microsoft?

Cindy: I was hired as a SQL Server DBA for a hospital and health plan company as my first job out of college. I had a very supportive learning environment. For most of the time I worked at that company all the SQL DBAs were women, though most of the mainframe DBAs were men. We worked on logical and physical design, created maintenance routines, did troubleshooting of production problems, and mentored developers on how to write good, performant TSQL code. I started with SQL Server 1.11 where we barely had a GUI interface (the SAF tool basically had connect and file open/save and not much else) so I learned how to do everything with TSQL and batch files. We had to develop our own pseudo alter table scripts, create something similar to what autogrow does now, write backup plans from scratch, and develop BCP.exe code to do bulk loads. We automated everything we could, and it still surprises me today how many DBAs just use the GUI on server after server rather than scripting something out and reusing the code. I worked there for 7 years, working my way up to Senior Database Administrator, before I left to work for Microsoft.

Kathi: Have you always enjoyed working with computers?

Cindy: I took my first computer class in high school. We used Apple Macintoshes and spent a lot of time using the Paint tool. I was fascinated by computers but wasn't sure that it was what I wanted to do for a career. I switched majors a few times in college but did finally settle on what was then called "Management Information Systems". I like the fact that computers always follow the logical rules. You may not always immediately understand exactly what those rules are, but finding out can be a lot of fun!

Kathi: Is there anything else you would like to tell our readers?

Cindy: I love all the great friends I've made though SQL Server, like Kalen Delaney and Lara Rubbelke. The three weeks I spent in Microsoft Certified Master : SQL Server  training with SQL MCMs like Jimmy May, Jens Suessmeyer, and Bertil Syamken was grueling, invigorating, insightful and powerful. It's great to be a geek and have the chance to hang out with other geeks! Getting to attend PASS and the WIT luncheon at PASS every year is one of the best perks of my job.