Michael J. Swart

February 9, 2011

Pinal Dave: Blogger, MVP and now Interviewee

Filed under: Miscelleaneous SQL — Tags: , — Michael J. Swart @ 12:00 pm

Pinal Dave is a popular blogger and if you follow any number of blogs, you’ve most likely heard of him. Pinal Dave’s blog Journey to SQL Authority (SQLAuthority.com), has the highest traffic of any SQL Server Blogger and the third most traffic for any site dedicated to SQL Server (after SQLTeam.com and SqlServerCentral.com). Recently, Pinal was kind enough to agree to answer some questions for an interview. It’s been a fun process and I’m happy to present the results of the interview here.

Although he doesn’t know this, I’ve actually met Pinal Dave. It was at the SQL Server Summit 2009 and I was running between one session or another and I sat down to check email. Pinal was in a seat nearby talking with some colleagues of his and I recognized him. I chose not to introduce myself because he seemed busy at the time. I kind of regret that now. Some day I’ll get the chance to introduce myself in person. But meanwhile, we’ve exchanged messages through our blogs and email messages. He was good enough to submit an article on indexes when I hosted TSQL Tuesday in September last year.

I hope you enjoy this interview. I think (and hope) you’ll find it fascinating.

The Interview

You and your family

Q.Hi Pinal, Thanks for taking the time to answer these questions. First of all, how do you pronounce your name? (As you would pronounce it when introducing yourself to an English speaking Canadian.)

A. This is great question. People from India usually pronounce my name correctly. However, every time I travel internationally, I have issues. The way to pronounce my name is ‘Pinul Daway’. However, it is spelled ‘Pinal Dave’. Every time I travel to Canada, the USA or other English-speaking countries, people often call me ‘Dave’ – thinking that is my first name. However, Pinal is my first name and Dave is my last name.

Very interesting question indeed. I always wanted to clarify that on my blog but never got chance.

Q. Tell me where you grew up and where you went to school.

A. I can give you the names of the places and schools but it will not make sense. My father had a government job and he had to transfer from location to location. This meant I changed schools quite often. I cannot name one city as the place I grew up. I changed schools 12 times before I entered grade 12, I think that says it all.

Q. Tell me about your family. I believe you’re a husband and a father?

A. I have a beautiful daughter, Shaivi, and a lovely supportive wife, Nupur. Everybody has an interesting story about how they met their wife or life partner. I have interesting story about how we did not get introduced for long time.

Our homes were very close to each other. We have many common relatives and friends. But for almost 25+ years neither of us ever met each other. However, I had met her whole rest of the family (father, mother, sister, grandparents, etc) hundreds of times. Well, the same thing goes for her. She had met my family but not me. We were finally introduced to each other by our parents and it was love at first sight.

… and then there is Shaivi. She is now everything for us. This morning for the first time she said the word that I always wanted to hear – “Daddy.” I am overwhelmed with emotions.

Q. What is your favorite memory?

My top two favorite memories are already mentioned in the earlier questions.

  • The day I met my wife.
  • The day my daughter said ‘Daddy.’

I guess nothing can top those two moments.

Pinal’s blog: Journey to SQL Authority

Q. Your blog SQLAuthority.com is very popular. Why is that?

A. If I am polite and say I do not know or give you some kind of philosophy, it will not be the truth. I personally believe there are two reasons.

English – English is not my first language, which limits me to writing everything in the 500 English words I know. I think there are plenty of readers all over the world who are in the same boat as me.

Simplicity – I try to make complex subjects simple enough for even beginners to understand. We are all beginners at one point. I believe that the smartest guy is also a beginner in a new subject. I strongly believe that we all are beginners but the only difference is we all have different powers of understanding.

Q. You have written so many articles. With training and other events,when do you find time to write?

A. It is difficult – very difficult- extremely difficult! I have to ration my time. I sometimes feel guilty when I ration time away from my daughter. I promise I will not do that today.

Q. Your blog is written in English. Why is that? Do you also train in English?

A. English is my third language. The reality is that I have never received training in English. I did not formally learn English at all. I speak Gujarati (regional language) and Hindi (national language). I learned English because on the very first day I was in the USA for my master’s degree, I went to bed hungry because I did not know how to ask for vegetarian food. (I learned that I should say ‘no meat, no sea-food please’ or ‘sin carne’ in Spanish.)

Now I do training in English and I write in English. The reason I write in English is because I learned SQL in English only. I still think in my local language and then quickly translate it to English.

The reason I prefer English is because I believe English is a Global Language and if I want to help the global community, I must express myself in English.

Q. Who has helped you the most with your successes? How have they helped?

A. As this question is in a SQLAuthority.com section I understand you are asking this question in a professional aspect.

I have four icons:

  1. Ben Forta – He is an Adobe Evangelist and I learned a lot reading his blog and books in my early career. I always wanted to be Evangelist like him. I think I want to give him complete credit for inspiring me to write a technical blog.
  2. Vinod Kumar – He is an MCT-Technology Specialist in Bangalore, India. He was an SQL Server Evangelist from the inception of the program in India. After coming back to India, I read his blog and always wanted to be like him – helping the community become more technology aware.
  3. Rushabh Mehta – He is Solid Quality India CEO and world famous BI expert. He is one man, who have given me chance – chance to prove myself, chance to grow, chance to learn technology, chance to help community, chance to go to next level and many more. I own a lot to him.
  4. Rajendra Dave – He is my father. He reads each of my blogs and gives me his feedback. He always encourages me to write creatively and constructively. He has one rule – “Praise in public, criticize in private.” I think this has helped me tremendously. Others have inspired me but he has put 100% of his efforts in making me successful.

Q. You mention on your blog that you’ve been awarded the MVP award. How long have you held that distinction and how did it feel when you first won it?

A. The MVP was the best thing in my life professionally. The feeling was that Microsoft is watching me and appreciating me. I felt – “Microsoft Cares.” It was great feeling. I have been holding this award for three years continuously. I think being an MVP is the best thing that can happen when one is dedicated to the community.

The MVP award has enabled me to do lots of things. It has connected me with great peers and given me access to essential resources, which enabled me to help community further.

Q. Besides blogging, consulting, training and family time, how else do you spend your time?

A. I like to travel. I travel for consulting, training, the community, and for family vacations. Due to the nature of the job, I have to make a conscious effort to stay away from work many times. When I travel with my family, I make sure I do not keep computers around. I do not even check my email and spend 100% time dedicated to my family. They love it and I love them.

Thanks Pinal

Thank you again Pinal, I’m grateful that you took the time to answer my questions.

October 4, 2009

Spotlight on Brad Schulz Y'all

Filed under: Miscelleaneous SQL — Tags: , , , , — Michael J. Swart @ 5:46 pm

Every now and then, I come across an idea where I think “Man, I wish I thought of that”

Reading Brad Shulz’s blog post The Age-Old SELECT * vs. SELECT 1 Debate was one of those times. In that blog post, he explains how relevant the select expressions are when used inside an EXISTS’s subquery. By looking at the official docs here: http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/ms188336.aspx you’ll learn enough to get by. But after reading Brad Shulz’s article, you’ll never forget.

Brad is relatively new to SQL Server. He spent much of his career so far focused on Visual FoxPro and was a Visual Foxpro MVP for years. SQL Server is a new focus for him and he’s already moderating the MSDN T-SQL forum. It won’t be long before he’ll be able to create test database servers with one hand tied behind his back (Interesting trick: Sit on your right hand and try typing “create test database servers”.)

His blog http://bradsruminations.blogspot.com/ deserves more exposure. I was first introduced to the articles he writes in September as he syndicated his blog at SQLServerPedia.

His style is sometimes hilarious, and funny most of the time, but always clever. I’m always surprised when SQL Server writers manage to keep their articles engaging because of the subject matter. Brad seems to keep up just fine.

Also Must-Read (if only for the laughs)

Brad recently agreed to answer a number of questions I had. (Huge thanks Brad for taking the time!)

Michael J. Swart: What skills in Visual FoxPro (VFP) transfer easily to SQL Server? (Any surprising ones?)

Brad Schulz: Just working with the concepts of databases, tables, columns, relations, and indexes for many years in VFP makes the transfer easy.  And basic SQL syntax has been part of the VFP language since 1991, so that eliminates an enormous learning curve right away… We VFPers have been doing INSERT, UPDATE, DELETE, and SELECT for almost 20 years.

That being said, though, we would still do a lot of one-row-at-a-time processing, because it was easy and it was lightning fast.  But the equivalent of that in SQL (i.e. cursor) is slow as molasses, and I’ve learned a lot of set-based techniques in SQL Server that I had never used before.  Thank goodness that I started playing with T-SQL recently… I think I would have gone bananas if I had started with SQL2000 with no CROSS APPLY or CTE’s or window functions (i.e. the OVER clause).  How did you guys stay sane before SQL2005 came out?

Michael J. Swart: A common story is that many SQL Server professionals got their start as “accidental DBAs”. How did you get your start? Or how did you come to choose SQL Server as a focus?

Brad Schulz: My story’s not of the accidental variety.  I got a B.S. in Computer Science from USC (University of Southern California) in 1981.  I actually started out as a Building Design major, which is a combination of Architecture and Civil Engineering, but I dropped the Architecture class about a month into my freshman year, because I could see that I had no drawing talent whatsoever.  To fill that void, I ended up taking a FORTRAN class independent study with a Computer Science professor.  I gobbled it up, and finished the class in about 2 weeks.  The professor asked me to be a tutor for others taking the regular class.  I changed my major to Computer Science just before my sophomore year.

When I graduated from college, I immediately started working as a float in my parents’ pool.  But after a couple of months, a friend of the family recommended me to a pear-packing company in Kelseyville, California (I found out later they were the largest pear-packer in the state).  They had a computer system that no longer worked and the software company that custom wrote it for them was out of business.  To make a long story short, they hired me as a consultant (God knows why), and I read the manual on the programming language (a form of BASIC on an HP-250 machine) and ended up re-writing their entire system.  From that point, I got work by word-of-mouth, and I’ve been an independent developer ever since.

I worked in dBase II in the early 1980’s, and then eventually moved to dBase III, Quicksilver, Clipper, and then FoxBase+ and FoxPro.  I’ve found plenty of FoxPro work for more than 20 years, but it’s not going to last forever, so SQL Server seemed like the logical choice to move to.

Michael J. Swart: What motivates you to moderate the MSDN T-SQL Forum?

Brad Schulz: Back in the 1990’s I participated in the FoxForum on CompuServe, answering questions about FoxPro.  I enjoyed helping people, and I learned a lot just by helping others, and I learned new ideas from experts who hung out at the forum.  I wanted to duplicate that experience at the MSDN T-SQL Forum.  I’ve learned an incredible amount from some very talented people there.

Michael J. Swart: What motivates you to blog?

Brad Schulz: For one thing, I wanted to get myself known a little more in the SQL community.  Some of my blogs are humorous or tongue-in-cheek, and that’s just a release for the crazy creative side of me.  But I also enjoy writing “how-to” and “discovery” articles… they force me to practice and experiment more with T-SQL.  I wrote several articles for FoxTalk and FoxPro Advisor in the 1990’s, but the turnaround time took forever, from submission through the editing process, and then waiting months for eventual publication.  In contrast, I like the immediate publication of blog posts and getting immediate feedback.

Michael J. Swart: What’s one thing you can say about yourself that would make the SQL Server crowd say “Nifty”?

Brad Schulz: What’s a word that means “stylish; smart; fine; excellent” and rhymes with “thrifty”?  Okay, scratch that.

Let me see… I’m an adopted child whose birth-mother was German Catholic and who played the violin.  I always knew I was adopted.  My birth-mother had requested I be placed with a German Catholic family (which I was, though my mother was the Catholic and my father was the German).  My parents knew about the violin, and figured there was musical talent in me, so they set me up with piano lessons when I was 5.  I’ve been playing piano ever since (45 years).  The weird, spooky part is that I asked for more detailed non-identifying information from the adoption agency when I was about 25 years old, and when I received it, I was floored when it said that my birth-mother worked in and had a talent for “data processing” (whatever that meant in the 1950’s).  Talk about “nature” vs “nurture”… I think the “nature” argument wins hands-down!

I also have a passion for the stock market, which I discovered in 1998.  You can read more about that at my (now-on-hiatus) website http://www.stockciphering.com/whatis.htm.  The stock market is just one huge database of stocks and daily prices, isn’t it?  And so I wrote a suite of Visual FoxPro (VFP) programs to calculate technical analysis figures for stocks and produce buy signals for them, and I created the website to try to ca
pitalize on it.  The website never really set the world on fire, but in “eating my own dog food” and using the data for my own trading, I did very well… From Jan2003 to Mar2009, my IRA (where I do my trading) more than quadrupled in value, compared to the S&P500 which lost 25% of its value during that same period.

 Michael J. Swart: Thanks Brad

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