SQLVacation Postcards: Downtown Chicago, IL
Of the hundreds of cities that I've visited around the world, Chicago is one of my favorites. The food. The museums. The architecture. The scenery. It's all good - except for those outrageously cold winters. So I was really excited when my family agreed that they'd enjoy spending their summer vacation in the "Second City" as the midpoint for the #sqlvacation speaking tour. (Don't forget that the contest component of #sqlvacation lasts all summer long. You've got plenty of opportunity to win through July 31st).
While I'm working, the Horde will visit Navy Pier, Art Institute of Chicago, the Bean, the Museum of Science and Industry, Shedd Aquarium, 360 Chicago, and do an Architecture River Cruise.
One of the great things about being active in PASS and the broader SQL Server community are the interesting and inspiring local user group leaders. Chicago has a rich history of contributing to the SQL Server community. For example, Rick Bolesta from the Lyle, IL area served on the PASS board of directors for even longer than I did (13 years, iirc), acting as the board liaison for founding sponsor, CA. And I'd be remiss not to point out that PASS was founded on the concrete banks of the Chicago River under the aegis of the association management company Smith Bucklin.
The Thursday evening session at the Chicago SQL Server User Group meeting is completely sold out. (Of course, the meetings are free. But you know what I mean). I am presenting two of my sessions there - Ten Query Tuning Techniques Every SQL Programmer Should Know and Top 10 DBA Mistakes on SQL Server. If you can't attend, why not go ahead and download the slide decks now from my page on SlideShare! Let's learn a little more about the current leadership team in Chi-town, Frank Gill and Bob Pusateri.
- When did you begin your professional career? I started working in IT in 1999 as a COBOL programmer. DB2 was my first exposure to databases. I started working as a SQL Server DBA in 2007 and have been enjoying it ever since.
- What’s a normal day at work like for you? I work for a managed services/consulting company and split my day between clients. In the course of a day, I might install SQL Server, set up availability groups, and troubleshoot performance problems.
- When did you come to Chicago? I grew up in the suburbs of Chicago and moved into the city in 1993.
- When and why did you decide to help as a volunteer leader? When Bill Lescher announced he was stepping down in June of 2012, I decided to put myself up for consideration. I have really enjoyed the opportunity to get to know other chapter leaders and members of the SQL community. It’s also been rewarding to be able to give back to the SQL community.
- What is the IT community like there? The IT community is varied in Chicago. Our user group is made up of DBAs, developers, architects, and business intelligence analysts.
- What do you like about Chicago? What you recommend someone do there, if they came to town on their own #sqlvacation? I am a volunteer at the Art Institute of Chicago and I highly recommend a visit there. Chicago is a great place to eat. If you get a chance to get out of downtown, they are many opportunities to sample great food: Pilsen for Mexican, Taylor Street for Italian, Argyle Street for Southeast Asian, and Albany Park for Middle Eastern.
- What do you and your family enjoy doing in your city? We love the Art Institute and the Field Museum. We also love exploring new neighborhoods. I’ve lived in the city for more than 20 years and still make to parts of the city I’ve never been on a regular basis.
- When did you begin your professional career? I always wanted to end up in IT (except for those times where I wanted to be a doctor...or a fireman...or an actuary...or a city manager...). I actually started working with "databases" (MS Access) in high school. I had an after-school job working for a city and the building department was totally based on paper at that time. They were trying to move everything to Excel and it was failing miserably. I thought there had to be a better way, and looked into writing something using Access or MySQL. I probably should have chosen MySQL, but over a summer I learned Access and put together an application for managing building permits, contractor licenses and a couple other day-to-day tasks. I perfected it over the next year, and then they started using it to run the department. It went live in 2003. They still use it today. I also sold it to a few other cities, some of which still use it as well. All through college I knew I wanted to be a DBA and started learning SQL Server (2000) in my spare time. Tried as hard as I could but no company would hire a DBA straight out of college (probably a smart idea!) so I took a job as a programmer and then moved to the DBA team 2 years later.
- What’s a normal day at work like for you? First thing I'll do in the morning is go through the server and job logs from the night before and make sure nothing went bump in the night. If something did, I'll either fix it myself or get in touch with the responsible parties. Then I'll work on outstanding tickets and answer email. Lunchtime is for reading blogs. After lunch it's usually meetings with our team's customers and work on other projects.
- When did you come to Chicago? Aside from going to college downstate, I've never left. Born and raised in the Chicago area.
- When and why did you decide to help as a volunteer leader? I was a member of the chapter for a few years, and each year the chapter leader would mention they're looking for help. I had been thinking about it for a while, and last year decided to open my mouth and become a co-chapter leader.
- What is the IT community like there? I've always felt there's tremendous opportunity for IT folk in and around Chicago in pretty much every field imaginable. The financial district, especially the Chicago Board of Trade and the Chicago Board Options Exchange means you'll find pretty much every global player in financial markets has an office here. There's also a strong presence from the insurance industry, and several large academic medical centers that are always seeking top IT talent. In the last few years the startup community has really grown as well.
- What do you like about Chicago? What you recommend someone do there, if they came to town on their own #sqlvacation? There's never a dull moment in Chicago (for better or for worse). Always plenty to do, no matter what time of year. If you come here and are bored, you're doing something wrong. For those who have never been to Chicago before, my to-do list has several items. See Millennium Park and be sure to walk through The Lurie Garden, my favorite part. Check out one of the museums. If you're at all interested in architecture, there are some wonderful tours along the river. You have to eat a hot dog and a beef sandwich, so go to Portillo's. You also need deep dish pizza. I recommend Lou Malnati's or Pizzeria Uno. They're both great, but their restaurants are quite manufactured and touristy. If you want something a little more seedy, head to Exchequer on Wabash. Segway tours are a lot of fun and a great way to cover a lot of ground quickly. If it's a rainy day, check out the Lincoln Park or Garfield Park Conservatories. I'm not much of a plant person but they really are spectacular.
- What do you and your family enjoy doing in Chicago? If we're going downtown, it's usually for a specific purpose. Either we'll be heading out to dinner, maybe catching a show in the theatre district, summer concerts at Millennium Park, or checking out one of the museums. They're all great, but our favorite is the Museum of Science and Industry. The Field Museum and Art Institute are also amazing. For a real treat (and I recommend this for your family if you are staying downtown and have the time) after dark, catch a cab (or take a long walk and watch out for freaky people) to the Adler Planetarium. You get the most amazing view of the skyline from there. It's great during the day too, but really awesome at night.
On behalf of the entire SQL Server community, I want to say thank you to Frank and Bob for their volunteer spirit. Were it not for hardworking and unsung heroes like them, SQLFamily simply would not exist.
So how about you? Are you active in your local PASS chapter? If not, consider attending your next chapter meeting. They're all posted online at the PASS Local Chapters web page.
The #sqlvacation includes both a contest running through July and the live events at the eight PASS chapter meetings. Get in on the contest! One out of 25 entries wins. Check out all of the details at SQLSentry.com/SQLVacation.
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.