This month, Argenis Fernandez (blog, @DBArgenis) is hosting our monthly T-SQL Tuesday, and he wants to know: Are you specialized? On something? Or anything at all? Has that been a good or a bad thing? Why?

I do specialize, in SQL Server, in development and administration areas.

Why I decided to specialize

My decision to specialize occurred many years ago. I was working as a long-term consultant, programming in Delphi (what I still feel is the best programming language ever) and using SQL Server 6.5 as the back-end database. Of course, this meant that I fell into the accidental DBA role that so many of us have started our SQL Server careers in. After being in this long term consultant role for almost 8 years, the company made what I refer to as a “penny-wise, but pound-foolish” decision to eliminate the consultant line item on their expense sheet, and to replace me with a cheaper programmer. (They couldn’t find any Delphi programmers willing to work for as little as they were offering, so they then decided to convert the application from Delphi to Visual Basic, where programmers were a dime a dozen. At last check, they had three programmers working on just the application side, plus database support, and they are now paying more in salary for them than what they were for me as a consultant.)

Why I decided to specialize in SQL Server

Well, the Delphi market has never been strong in the United States, and during this time that I was consulting I had noticed it dropping even further, what with companies switching to the .NET platform. So, an analysis of my skills was pretty easy: a programming language that is becoming obsolete (especially in the geographic area where I work), and SQL Server. Now, I feel that I’m a good programmer, so I know that I could learn .Net and C# myself… but I really didn’t want to both learn and keep up with all the advances in this language, plus all of the advances in SQL Server. And thus, the decision was made to specialize in SQL Server.

My progression to specialize

With having made my decision to specialize in SQL Server, I then focused on learning all that I could about it. One key area to me in this was in taking and obtaining some of the various certification exams and certifications. (Even though the certification process has a bad reputation in the community, let’s face it: prospective employers like to see them, and I needed a job – I needed that edge over other candidates.) As I would study the areas being testing, and practice the skills being taught, I learned so much more. When reaching out to the internet to understand some of these items, I encountered the wonderful SQL community that we are all a part of. As good as I thought I was, I quickly learned that there was a lot more to this path than what I had envisioned – and everything that I was learning intrigued me even more. Even though I didn’t pass every certification exam on the first try, I strove on. As I earned these certifications, I was able to land jobs that enabled me to focus on improving my SQL skills even further.

The best side-effects of my decision to specialize

Most importantly, and not beating around the bush, specializing in SQL Server brings in a pretty comfortable income. I’m able to take care of my family, and to do things with them that we otherwise wouldn’t be able to do.

Secondly is the connections that I’ve been able to make with the SQL Community. The encouragement and friendships that I’ve made with all of you’ll has been extremely up-lifting. The sharing between people, both about SQL and personally, is very special to me.

And this leads directly into the next best reason – through the SQL Community, I’ve made several good friends. My life is immensely better for having them in it.

What’s next?

Several years ago, due to the encouragement of the SQL community, I pushed beyond my comfort zone and starting writing some articles. And I found out that I like writing articles, and am pretty good at it. And then, with more encouragement from the community (specifically those of you that pushed me really hard), I took one of my popular articles and made a presentation out of it. I have to tell you that I was very scared… remembrances of my poor speaking while in the Navy a lifetime ago had me terrified. And as I stepped out of my comfort zone yet again, and started doing SQL presentations at user groups and SQL Saturdays, I found out yet once again that this is something that I like and enjoy very much. So much so that I can envision myself in the future, becoming a traveling trainer in SQL – I really do enjoy teaching people, and seeing them learn something from what I’m saying.

Why I’m glad I specialize in SQL Server

So, in summary, there are several reasons why I’m glad that I made the decision to specialize in SQL Server:

  1. SQL Server – it’s a fabulous product, and I find out more and more about it all the time.
  2. Money – I’m able to provide for my family.
  3. Job Satisfaction – I really love the work that I do with SQL Server.
  4. Community – what can I say, we all know and love the SQL Community for what it is, and for how it is so different from other online communities for technology. It’s one of a kind, to be emulated by all. I’m honored to be a part of it.
  5. Friendships – I’ve met and become friends with so many great people that I otherwise would never have met.
  6. Training – I don’t think that I would have started writing or teaching without having immersed myself into SQL Server by specializing in it. And to think that I can envision myself in several years doing just this as something to do in retirement – it just wouldn’t have been possible without having made the decision to specialize in SQL Server.

So, my decision to specialize has had a dramatic effect on my life. I wouldn’t be where I am today, or have the plans that I have for the future, without it. I feel like I am living the blessing spoken by Mr Spock so frequently, and which I now wish upon all of you: “Live Long, and Prosper”.