I’ve made a big decision in my career and life – I’m going to become the manager of a really difficult employee. In fact, I’m going to manage his career closely and be responsible for paying him and his success or failure will spell my success or failure. At least he is smart, charming and handsome… Should make it easier to get over his long e-mails, crazy ideas and time spent doing SQL community “stuff”.

That’s Right. I’m Going It Alone

Well sort of. Remember last fall when I told you I started a new job with a great company and it was going to be all unicorns rainbows? It was all that. I love the company I am currently working for – Winxnet. The founders and partners care a great deal about their customers and doing right by them. Sure they want to make a buck, but it is great working in a culture that looks to adding value to a client first and knowing that the money will eventually follow things done for the right reasons. I’ve been able to help build a great SQL Server practice, share plenty of knowledge and really forge some great relationships. A few months back I was thinking that the only thing that could ever pull me away would be giving it a shot working for myself. Well over the course of the past few months, lots of cues have led me to come to the conclusion that I wanted to give it a shot. I approached the executive I report to with what was on my mind and asked about an agreement of sorts. The reaction was further confirmation that this was something I should try out –

Sort of on my own…

Right, so I said “Well Sort of” above. I am starting my own company specializing in SQL Server Consulting but I am starting it with a great agreement for both Winxnet and myself. I am going to continue helping them on a regular basis. I am going to continue providing support for their SQL Server clients, continue to train and build the SQL Practice with them. I am going to continue to hope to see their company grow but I am going to do a few things on my own that make sense for me. Winxnet is an established company with a great model – they help companies with IT needs in a long term partner relationship. Maybe they provide Exchange or Virtualization wizardry coupled with their 24/7 help-desk and professional engineering staff for escalation to a company that can’t afford or justify hiring that specialized expertise. Maybe they provide complete managed IT solutions for a company through that great help desk, engineering staff and domain experts in various technology stacks. When it comes to SQL, that looks like providing a Remote DBA services component, but not just a “we’ll stick a box in there and tell you when it beeps” level of service – they establish a relationship, document the environment and train their staff on the ins and outs of supporting that specific client. Under that model, Winxnet can manage day to day tasks, DBA escalation (or even help take on 24/7 duties or the “more mundane” – but vital – DBA duties, freeing the partner company’s DBA staff to focus on the future) and provide targeted expertise through myself or some of the senior engineers or developers. We’re already familiar with their environment so we get to provide a bridge over that knowledge gap when a new system is being planned, or performance issues start to creep up. It works great and I enjoy it. I get to keep doing that. I get to continue to provide that expertise, escalation assistance and mentoring/training for Winxnet staff and the staff of our clients.  I have a soft landing into the world of independent database consulting and I get to stay affiliated with a company I truly love and recommend. Through Winxnet, I have helped a lot of great companies, become a V-TSP for Microsoft (which I will continue to do through Winxnet) and learned a lot about business development and the importance of a right relationship with a customer.

So What Will Straight Path Do, Then?

When I’m not busy helping Winxnet out, I’m going to try and focus on some areas that make more sense for me, a one person, specialized consultancy. Services and opportunities that I have a passion for but may not fit that “long term managed services partnership” model that Winxnet  excels in. I get to put myself out there and try and do what is “fun” for me –

  • Mentoring & Training I have found that I thoroughly enjoy teaching. I enjoy sharing what I’ve learned on purpose or through making the mistakes over these past 12 or so years with SQL Server. Whether it is speaking a bit more at events, teaching some MOC courses (I have the MCT, might as well start using it), doing more custom courses based on a companies needs and knowledge or writing some custom seminars, I want to do more of itThrough Straight Path, I can.
  • Firefighting – Incidentally, I am re-joining with my local fire department and ambulance – but that’s not what I mean. I enjoy helping a company go from a poor experience to a positive one. This can look differently each time but it involves some quick assessing of current frustrations, trends, and best practices. It involves digesting performance data (from all sources, not just the database) and it involves charting a plan out of the trouble. Sometimes it gets to involve helping a client walk that chart, sometimes it just involves setting them in that direction and being there to answer the phone for follow-up. Either way, I’m looking forward to helping more people have a positive experience with SQL Server.
  • Strategy – I’ve been around companies and clients of all sizes. I’ve seen a lot of frustrations caused by ill planned designs. I’ve seen successes because of great designs and well thought out plans. I want to help clients map out how they handle their (here comes that DBA/Data Person bias) most important assettheir data. Whether it is a strategy for moving it around their world, integrating systems, planning their data warehouse (I know, that can be a scary word, but it doesn’t have to be!) roll out or designing their next large database infrastructure or virtualization purchase/migration, I want to help architect the plans.
  • Professional Development – I don’t know what this looks like, but I enjoy blogging and speaking on professional development topics. I enjoy taking lessons out of bad situations and I find they are useful lessons. I want to explore how I can do this as a service for companies, to help them be more efficient and less prone to preventable problems.
  • Give Time Back –One goal in trying this “experiment” is to continue to make “enough” to survive but  eventually get to a point where I can “survive”, and have a little more free time – by my math, that is eventually possible. I hope to see that free time redeemed in a few ways –
    • My kids are only kids once. They are growing fast, I want to enjoy them and help “shape” them while I can. We home school our kids. That means we have some flexibility in their education schedule which means we have some unique opportunities to make their classroom be someplace different from time to time. I don’t know what that looks like, but I sure like the fact that I –may- have more chances to say “let’s do a family field trip” tomorrow to a museum or someplace outside (and relevant to studies). I’d love to be able to teach some classes on US History or civics for our own kids and other home school kids. I may have more opportunities to do this someday, if this is successful.
    • Missionaries and Ministries need help – There are plenty of organizations out there who live to serve. How great would it be to be able to serve them through helping them be more efficient with their data, with their IT budgets and allow them to put that much more of their time and effort into what they are first called to do. I want to be part of that help for them.
    • Youth Group/Church – My wife and I are going to be helping run our church’s youth group program starting this fall. I am going to be starting to take some online classes with a seminary this fall. I don’t know where this is leading but I’d like to explore that.
    • Firefighting/EMT – I did this for 4 or 5 years but gave it up a few years back when I realized that paying bills, being there for my family or it would have to go. I am hoping that if I do it right, take things slowly and don’t bite off more than I can chew, I can serve my own community in a way I enjoy and still handle my other priorities.
    • SQL Community Give back – I hope to continue that and hope to find some neat ways to do that and perhaps even incorporate some light business travel into opportunities to visit new user groups and SQL Saturdays.
    • Disclaimer – I have no delusions that all of this free time is going to magically appear, or that when it appears I’ll even want it to be there instead of billable hours because of a “lean” month. I am saying that I like the flexibility that this arrangement allows and the potential free time changes that could happen someday. Either way, I still get the flexibility, sense of accomplishment (and sense of responsibility 😉 ) that working for myself will bring.

What’s Next and When Does This Happen?

I get that last steady paycheck with 1/2 of the payroll taxes already paid by someone else the first week in July. After that I am on my own for the time that I’m not helping Winxnet as a partner/sub-contractor of theirs.

I have a couple things lined up that should keep me busy at first but then I’ll be looking to incorporate some training opportunities and client work. If you ever need any SQL Server consulting or troubleshooting, you know where to find me 😉

What’s Next?

I’m going to be revamping this website, I’m going to be spending some time building opportunities and relationships. I’m going to spend a lot of time praying and leaning on God (in a way I’ve never had to before – that is exciting, actually) and trusting His provision. I’m going to be spending money on lawyers and accountants to help continue to start this properly. Finally, I’m going to continue  working on a hierarchy of guiding principles. I want to have a purpose and mission behind this company and evaluate every decision against that hierarchy. If it doesn’t fit, I want to be true to the mission and not do it. Maybe I’ll post that someplace once I figure out what it looks like.

I’m also going to be selfishly putting out a meme blog post in a week or so. You don’t have to participate and it’s a one time deal but I think it will be a good way to help everyone, not just me, I promise.

Thanks for reading, I’ll let you know how this works out over time. Feel free to e-mail me any questions you might have had while reading or to slap some common sense into me before it’s too late.

– Mike

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