#TSQL2sDay 28–Jack of All Trades, Master of None
This monthâ€™s topic was chosen by Argenis Fernandez (blog | twitter): "Jack of All Trades, Master of None?". Itâ€™s interesting to me lately because I seem to keep encountering blog posts and articles that ask some variant of this question. Iâ€™m not sure if itâ€™s spurred in part by the recent release of SQL Server 2012 (which is going to change a lot of the ways we manage data), or if itâ€™s something in the collective waters bubbling under the Internet. Or perhaps, itâ€™s just the fact that Iâ€™m trying to define myself in a new role at my work. Donâ€™t know.
Iâ€™ve always been a data person; one of my first jobs in IT was working for a forestry agent doing data entry; my job was to take the handwritten note cards from the tree counter, translate their coding system into digits, and enter it into an old Macintosh computer (this was the late 80â€™s, and Macs were super sophisticated at the time). These numbers were important; they represented an estimate of how much timber (and what kind) was on a property, so that the value of that property could be accurately assessed. It had nothing to do with SQL; wasnâ€™t really even any sort of programming. Just look at a card, mentally transform the code into a number and tree type, and punch it in.
Later, in college, I got involved in doing social science research; this eventually led to a position as in public health & communication research. Still digging on numbers; I was using SPSS at the time. I went to bed at night dreaming of statistical relationships and discovering new stuff. When our department encountered resistance from the IT department for managing one our studies, I started hacking into Microsoft Access to build a contact management platform. This was a transition point for me; I went from entering numbers to evaluating numbers to finally programming. However, it was always data.
I made a career change and dove into true IT work shortly after that; my job title said â€śAccess Report Developerâ€ť, but I became the DBA (because there wasnâ€™t one). I loved SQL 2000, but when the IT department at that company shrank, I became not only a programmer, a report developer, and the DBA, but also the guy that fixed printers. When I had an opportunity to jump ship to another company to become strictly a DBA, I took it.
Iâ€™ve been here for 9 years, now. In that 9 years, Iâ€™ve been the DBA, a database developer, a data architect, and now a manager. Although Iâ€™ve primarily worked with SQL Server, Iâ€™ve dabbled in mySQL, XML and Visual Basic. Iâ€™ve looked at backup jobs and maintenance plans, DTS and SSIS (and other solutions); my T-SQL is strong. I used to think I was a specialist in database development, but Iâ€™ve come to realize that thereâ€™s people that are a lot more specialized than me. Iâ€™ve also come to realize that data without context is meaningless.
I guess Iâ€™m growing up a little; when I was kid counting trees, I didnâ€™t really care about how efficient the system was. I was just earning spending money at a job that was better than mowing the lawn. When I was doing research, I realized how important my work was, but even then there was little that I could do to change long-term outcomes; I was just an analyst. In IT, I could finally get to a point where I could take the numbers that I saw and do something about it. Iâ€™m just not collecting data for a reason; Iâ€™m using that data to help make decisions that make my company more profitable (which ultimately leads to more money in my pocket). I collect, I analyze, I interpret, and I react.
So what does this little trip down my history mean in terms of the post topic? For me it means that Iâ€™ve got a niche, but itâ€™s a pretty big one. Most of work is done with a certain tool, but the skills Iâ€™ve learned along the way donâ€™t restrict me to that tool. Iâ€™ve worked with people who get the specifics of the platform a lot better than I do, but miss the big picture; Iâ€™ve also worked with visionaries who get lost when I discuss normalization and efficiencies. Iâ€™m neither a Jack of All Trades, nor a Master of just One. Iâ€™m just a data guy, and I like it.