This blog post is part of T-SQL Tuesday #96 – Three People Who Made a Difference, hosted by Ewald Cress. T-SQL Tuesday is an online blog party started by Adam Mechanic and you are invited to join in. A record of every previous T-SQL Tuesday is maintained by Steve Jones.
My very first speaking experience was a bit of a baptism of fire. In my very first blog post (except ‘hello world’) I refer to being ‘half volunteered and half press-ganged into joining the panel’ at Pipeline Conf in London. (A Continuous Delivery conference. A depressingly small number of people from the SQL community attend.) It was Chris O’Dell who press ganged me to get up and talk. Now Chris would not call herself part of the SQL community, she is part of the CD community, but I wish those two communities were better acquainted so I’m including her here.
Not only was this my first speaking experience, but it also inspired one of my first blog posts. You can read it here, and there’s even a video of the panel discussion:
How to sell Continuous Delivery to the more resistant people at your organisation
It’s not the best blog post I ever wrote, not by a long shot, but it was basically the first. And that was a big step.
Thank you Chris for the nudge – it’s made a massive difference.
After Pipeline Conf I spoke at a couple of user groups, but I never had the confidence to submit my own session to a conference. I needed another nudge and this time it was Steph Locke who obliged. I keep a record of all the talks I’ve ever delivered and if you scroll to the bottom you’ll see Pipeline Conf first, then a few user groups and then a bunch of sessions at SQL Relay. After that, well, it’s a long list.
Steph, if you had not given me a push I would not have taken the leap. By speaking at conferences I was forced to do my homework so I was sure I knew my sh…ugar. And that learning and speaker history helped me to have authority in my sales conversations (I was a Redgate sales person at the time). And that lead to career progression into Product Champion and Sales Engineer roles. And that led to more learning, and more speaking, and getting to know other SQL Community folks including Steve Jones and Grant Fritchey from within Redgate, as well as a huge number of other folks from the wider community. And eventually that lead to me quitting my job and starting my own consultancy. And when Steph stepped down as sponsor co-ordinator for SQL Relay, I placed my little feet into her enormous shoes. And after several years of speaking and blogging and helping out with events like SQL Relay, Pipeline Conf, the London CD Meetup, SQL Bits and various other events Microsoft awarded me an MVP award.
Graduate sales person to consultant and MVP in 7 years, and it wouldn’t have happened without people like Chris and Steph who gave me the push I needed.
Little things, chance conversations, small acts of encouragement… These can set you on a course towards big changes.
Tom Austin (does not do social media)
You’ve probably never heard of Tom. He was my line manager at Redgate. It’s not normally the famous names that make the biggest differences in your life.
As a newly hired sales person at Redgate I was opinionated, outspoken and I often didn’t do myself any favours. I felt my approach to selling was the best and I felt like sales managers who tried to get me to change my style were sabotaging me or that they just didn’t understand. We used to have a daily stand-up and at one point Tom would have a pre-stand-up with me privately so I could do my ranting with just him so I avoided doing it in front of the whole team.
It’s fair to say my soft skills could use some work.
As it happens Tom actually shared some of my views about what good technical selling looked like. I’m sure I was a problem for him on many occasions and I’m sure he had opportunities to get me fired. Instead he protected me from myself. He helped me to understand the consequences of my uncompromising and over-self-confident attitude. He helped me to listen – and when appropriate he helped me to be more effective by picking my battles and conducting myself in a more professional manner.
Without Tom I would probably have left Redgate before I did. Either through my own choice or not. Without Tom I doubt I would have progressed as quickly with my technical skills. Without Tom I do not know if I would be where I am today. With Tom’s guidance I became a far more productive member of the Redgate team and I stayed at Redgate much longer than I would have one without him. Without Tom I’m not sure I would have learned the soft skills that I need to be an effective consultant.
Good managers, who understand and encourage their workforce, make an enormous difference. If I ever get a regular job again I’ll certainly be asking questions about who my line manager will be.
Thank you to Chris, Steph and Tom… And all the other people who I didn’t mention. Limiting it to three is hard.
And in writing this post I’ve been inspired to do a better job at supporting other people.