#SQLVacation and Chattanooga Choo Choo

Kevin Kline

Published On: July 27, 2017

Categories: SQLFamily, Community, SQLVacation 0

Chattanooga is the fourth largest Tennessee city, and one quite close to my own home. As a city I visit frequently on the SQL Vacation and for other reasons (one of my daughters is attending UT Chattanooga) it’s nice to come to the city with fresh eyes. The city lies at the transition between the ridge-and-valley portion of the Appalachian Mountains and the Cumberland Plateau. With a population of 176,588 in 2015 Chattanooga is internationally known for the 1941 song “Chattanooga Choo Choo” by Glen Miller and his orchestra. You can try taking a cruise on the river or check out the city on a guided tour (choose from duck tours, double decker bus or even ghost tours).  Then relax and enjoy a wine or whiskey tasting.

Chit Chat Chattanooga


Larry Ortega


Although Larry Ortega was not able to attend this SQL Vacation, Heather Durham and him are what makes these user group meetings possible.

When did you begin your professional career?

H: I changed careers 2 1/2  years ago to begin work with SQL, so I am fairly new  to the  SQL community.

L: In the late 70’s I was still in school and started working on Lotus123 spreadsheets for a manufacturer’s rep. I was using hlookup and vlookup functions so I guess that was my first data job. I was fascinated by the possibilities even though I didn’t see half of it. DOS 2.1, an IBM PC and an XT.

What’s a normal week at work like for you? 

H: My work is centered around our company's operations department. My weeks vary from heavy data analysis and trouble shooting issues in the database  to mass data updates and migrations.

L: I do a lot of migrations, I’m a sprint leader and a dispatcher so I coordinate the work of a great 7 person team. We have a pretty good size enterprise so there’s always plenty to do.

What was your first IT or computer project that added value? (For example, something that was not a part of school assignment or a learning project) 

H: After my first year at the company, I began creating new Parameterized tools for our client services team to aid with complex mass updates of data.

L: I put the functions in the spreadsheets mentioned above that calculated commissions real-time that once took a couple of hours to calculate. At the same business I put in one of the first accounting systems. The first improvements were in payroll calculations and printing tax forms.

What sort of career do you think you’d pursue today if you hadn’t chose IT?

H: Data analysis or research.

L:  I love to cook and almost pursued that. I like working with wood too but I’m not very good at it. My mom still has a hideous pot holder hanger board I made in middle school shop.

When did you come to the area?

H: 2 1/2 years ago

L: We moved to Chattanooga in 1966 about the same time Hank Aaron and the Braves moved to Atlanta.

What caused you to decide to help as a volunteer leader? 

H: I  enjoy being able to contribute to the  community. The SQL community is a very supportive one which has made my career transition go much more smoothly. Volunteering allows me to give back.

L: We didn’t get a lot of training when I first became a DBA. A friend took me to SQL Saturday Atlanta. I thought it was cool that all of this education was being offered at such a low cost. Then I started to get to know the community and it was on.

What is the IT community like in your town? 

H: Chattanooga is experiencing a push for growth in the  IT industry. Our businesses and educational institutions are developing more programs and opportunities for growth/training in the IT industry. There are  several user groups, dev ops groups, an active women in technology group, as well as our local PASS chapter.

L: Like everything technological, it’s starting to boom. We have a lot of technological and entrepreneurial energy in Chattanooga, including the fastest residential and commercial internet speeds in the country.

What do you enjoy doing in the area? 

H: I love the problem solving and data analysis portions of my job.

L: We have a great minor league ballpark, lots of good restaurants and a vibrant live music scene. We’re right on the edge of the rain forest that’s the Smokies and it’s a great climate to garden in. There’s great fly fishing not far from here. And Bonnaroo is right up the road, I’ve been to a few of those.

What do you recommend visitors to your town do on their own #sqlvacation? 

H: A visit to the Terminal brew house for good  food and drinks. Chattanooga also has a wonderful outdoor community. I would  recommend visiting any of  it's green spaces.

L: Go to the river downtown. There’s a nice area centered around the Tennessee Aquarium, which is world-class. The Chattanooga Choo-Choo has a lot of cool shops, restaurants and clubs. And get out in the area to check out the Tennessee River Gorge and the Civil War monuments and parks. We’re known as the Scenic City for a reason.

Enter the #SQLVacation 2017 Contest!

Have you set your vacation plans for the summer? If so, share them with the #SQLFamily community and on social media using the hashtag #SQLVacation for a chance to win an awesome apron and ThinkGeek gift card! Visit the SQL Vacation page for more contest details.

Contest ends July 29th, and you don't want to miss it. Happy Summer!


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Kevin (@kekline) serves as Principal Program Manager at SentryOne. He is a founder and former president of PASS and the author of popular IT books like SQL in a Nutshell. Kevin is a renowned database expert, software industry veteran, Microsoft SQL Server MVP, and long-time blogger at SentryOne. As a noted leader in the SQL Server community, Kevin blogs about Microsoft Data Platform features and best practices, SQL Server trends, and professional development for data professionals.