T-SQL Tuesday #59: MY HERO! - Jason Hall
This month's T-SQL Tuesday is being hosted by Tracy McKibben (@RealSQLGuy).
This is my first (hopefully of many) participation in T-SQL Tuesday, and I really like this topic because I think the individual I have in mind today just doesn't seek recognition, and I really think they deserve it.
Tracy has asked that we write about someone we might consider a "hero" in our lives. Frankly I have many that I owe quite a lot to, but in terms of where I am today, which is very happy in my professional life, there is one person that stands out as kick-starting my journey into the world of SQL Server.
I met Ashton Hobbs (t) when Microsoft .NET was in beta, and we ended up on a project together building a rather complicated system using development tools that we were all excited about, but really didn't yet know, because again, it was in beta.
At that time, two things stood out to me about Ashton. First, he saw things from a different angle like he had an innate way of seeing solutions to problems. That drew my attention, because I really wanted to be able to do that myself. Second, he was masterful with regard to the foundation of just about every business software in existence: the database. In this case, we were using SQL Server.
I had been a software developer for a few years at this point, but here was someone who showed me that the database wasn't just the place to stuff data. It was, even then, a platform that could provide a wealth of tools to aid in our development tasks. It was also a system in and of itself that required management and monitoring, else everything that depended so much on it would suffer as it suffered. This holds true even today.
To top it all off, Ashton is a fun, pleasant, and interesting person to be around. A great friend and mentor in every sense of those words.
What they did for me
Back to the story, halfway through this project Ashton decides that SQL Server Query Analyzer (that's the pre-SSMS query editor for all the young folk) is pretty much, well… garbage and decides to build his own query editor. I was naturally immediately interested in this, but he didn't really need any help with it at the time.
Down the road though, he wanted to add debugging capabilities to the tool, and he asked if I would be interested in working out how to attach a small application that could be used to step through a query and stop at breakpoints. I jumped at the chance, and thus began my fascination with tools for managing SQL Server.
Later, we worked together again on figuring out how to create add-ins for the earliest version of SSMS, which didn't really have an official framework for add-ins.
After this, I decided that I would really like to be involved deeper with SQL Server tools in general, and I began actively seeking companies that were building tools.
Where it landed me
Finally, in the summer of 2006, after I had worked with Ashton on two separate corporate engagements and several side projects since early in 2000, a recruiter contacted me about a company named SQL Sentry.
I have to say I was scared to death walking into the place for the interview. I had only ever worked for two types of companies, the US government and very large corporations. Here, there were very few people. I met Brooke Philpott (b|t), the lead developer. I asked where his team was mostly located. He replied that he was the team right now, but the CEO writes some of the code. This made me even more scared. There were so few people here that the CEO is coding! Then I spent a few hours with Brooke and Greg Gonzalez (b|t), the CEO, and I discovered that these folks are simply amazing (hero stories for another time). They were building SQL Server tools, exactly what I wanted to do, and they were both absolutely brilliant, just like Ashton. These were people that I wanted to work with.
Brooke sent me home with a development problem to work on, and I remember it well, because it was a weekend trip up to my wife's parents' in VA. I took my laptop with me, and spent the whole trip working through that problem, and had it ready to send back to him on Monday. Truth be told, I don't think he was that impressed with my work, but he did mention that he liked some of the approaches I took to solving the problems. They were a little "outside the box." That coupled with the fact that I think he intentionally threw something in there that I knew nothing about, and had to learn over the weekend, and did, landed me an offer.
Fast forward to today, and I can't imagine working anywhere else. SQL Sentry is not just my job, but a part of who I am. I'm actually not even with the development team anymore, though I still do development from time to time, but that development team is as large now as the whole company was when I first started, and they are still growing.
Just for the record here too, I'm pretty sure Greg is still coding, and he does it because he likes it, not out of necessity.
The bottom line
I name Ashton Hobbs as a hero to me because, if I had never met him, I would likely still be a developer at some gargantuan company where nobody knows my name other than the people sitting on either side of me. Worst of all, I'm certain I would be one of those developers that DBAs love to complain about, who don't know/care about the database server, and don't build software with SQL Server performance top of mind.
Jason has worked in technology for over 20 years. He joined SentryOne in 2006 having held positions in network administration, database administration, and software engineering. During his tenure at SentryOne, Jason has served as senior software developer and founded and managed both the Client Services and Product Management teams. In September 2019, after five years of leading Product Management, Jason returned to head SentryOne Client Services, where he ensures that SentryOne customers receive the best possible end-to-end experience in the ever-changing world of database performance and productivity.