I write on my blog and get a couple comments at best. I talk at conferences and a large part of the audience fills out evals at the time. Then I often wonder if I’m making a difference while rarely, if ever, knowing if anyone actually used what they learned at work. There are some confidence issues at hand here, which I was convinced were just limited to me. However, talking to a couple others in the SQL community, it’s not just me.
In fact, I told one of the leading respondents to SQL Server Central forums questions that he really made a difference in my career with the quantity and quality of the knowledge he shares. His response was a lot like I’d imagine mine to be. A humbleness and sincere thank you with a follow up that it’s very difficult to know if the work you put into the community really makes a difference. That’s saying something considering that he’s in a more personal position than me with his online presence because he’s often answering user questions while I offer unfocused unsolicited advice.
The blog posts, articles, and forum help you see online is all done on a volunteer basis. Sure, some people get paid $25 for an article, which is a lower hourly rate than an entry-level DBA if you think about how much work they put into them. Some people write blog posts to promote their business or help their careers while knowing without a doubt that well over 99% of people who read what they have to say will never hire them. Yes, there are ways you can say it’s not on a volunteer basis, but if any of us were really in it for the money then almost all of us would opt for something more lucrative such as setting up a lemonade stand on the corner with our kids.
That wasn’t even getting into in-person events like SQL Saturdays where volunteers put everything together then ask for volunteers to come speak, many of whom pay their own travel expenses. Full disclosure, it’s not completely unpaid, we get invited to a free dinner the night before and typically get a free shirt. Both of these are amazing benefits because I’m eating dinner with people I look up to then I have a shirt that I wear to work every time I need a good confidence boost, so I can’t say it’s really free. By-the-way, every SQL Saturday is numbered, and I they all have an email address of SQLSaturday###@SQLSaturday.com. Help keep the motivation going and force me to update that masked email address to have four digits!
So, you may notice that I write at length about not getting much feedback on my only post that does not allow comments. I even went out of my way and deleted the name of the guy whose answers I liked so much on SQL Server Central. Why?!?! It’s not as counter-productive as it seems. I know this post didn’t make your career better, I know it’s not likely to change your life, and this isn’t a plea for you to comment on THIS post or for people who inspired ME.
This post is a challenge to you. Think back to blog posts that helped make you awesome at work. Think about conferences that were put together so well that all you noticed were the great learning opportunities. Then go out and comment as publically as possible how it helped, adding as many details as you can. After that, keep this in mind when you’re learning in the future, be it free or paid events, reading blog posts, or using #sqlhelp on twitter. Say it all, constructive criticism, compliments, offers to buy someone a beer, don’t hold back! If you want more of something, speak up. We have an amazing community, and I want more of it!
By the way, the guy from SQL Server Central likes plain old Budweiser.