Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Finding a Home Instead of a Job

Changing Direction

It's time to take a little break from my motorcycle posts, and start talking about work.  Not going technical this time, but I think it's a good idea to start with some background about how I arrived at this point in my life and career.  I'm happier than I've ever been, and a huge part of that has been my job at SQL Sentry.

This post is quite belated, but I think it's important to cover a bit of history.  I'm only ten days from my third anniversary here at SQL Sentry, and what an amazing three years it has been! After my start in on the SQL Sentry Support team, and what an awesome team it is, I transitioned into my current role in Sales Engineering.  I'm on the technical side of our small sales team.  Our SEs are primarily focused on assisting new customers and evaluators with our software.  We are roughly equal parts educator, tech support, customer liaison to the sales team, and product demonstrator.  We also get to be a big part of the "face" and outward personality of the company due to our frequent travels to trade shows and community events, and online interaction with customers.

"You did what before you worked for SQL Sentry?"

I often get asked what I did before my current job, and I think the usual expectation is that I must have worked in the SQL Server space as a DBA or developer.  I usually get a bit of a shocked reaction when I answer that I came to SQL Sentry from the mortgage business.  My last job was trying to cope with the mortgage crisis at was not fun!

"How did you end up making that change?"

While I was still at my old job, I knew I desperately wanted to make a change, but I didn't know what direction to go.  Luckily, a good friend provided me with the nudge I needed, in a direction I never expected.  That nudge came from Jason Hall.  Jason heads up the support team at SQL Sentry.  I know Jason from a shared hobby, nerdy tabletop wargames.  Jason and I, along with many of our other friends played games like Warhammer 40,000 on the weekends.  It's a hobby I picked up when I was in high school, and have come and gone from over the years.

Think of it like chess on steroids with hand-painted pieces, and you're about there.
One evening, I was sitting around having a few beers with Jason and some other friends when Jason asked if any of us had interest in going into an IT support job.  Maybe this was the break I was looking for.  I wasn't going to miss what sounded like a great opportunity, and Jason picked up on my enthusiasm.  He took a copy of my resume, and championed the idea of giving me a chance to prove I could do the job.  I didn't have SQL Server experience, but I did have high-tech sales background and some of the other soft skills that were needed for the job.

In the end, both the management at SQL Sentry and I decided that this was going to be a good fit, so it was time for a crash course in both SQL Sentry and SQL Server.  Jason, and the rest of the team at SQL Sentry took a big chance on me, and I was determined to make the gamble pay off for all of us.

Why Gamble?

I think there's an important takeaway here for those in a position to make hiring decisions.  The real opportunity in taking a chance on someone, and allowing them to grow and find a new career is the loyalty it creates.  I have never felt more loyalty toward a company or the people I've worked with than what I have here at SQL Sentry.  Knowing that the company and team took that risk to give me a chance is certainly a big part of my loyalty.  So is the great team and corporate culture.

There's also something important here for those who have run out of room to grow at their job, or are without a job.  I've learned a lot from this process, but most of all that opportunities aren't always where you expect to find them.  Never underestimate the value of networking!  Don't be afraid to gamble on yourself.  If you apply for a job that you have experience in everything listed in the job spec, you probably won't have much room to grow.  If you are going to ask someone to take a chance on you, be ready to explain how the skills and experience you do already have will benefit the company.