Data Professionals at Work – a book-writing adventure


I love to write. It is how I express myself best. During the last fall I was pondering starting on a book, my first one. I’ve heard many people talk of the experience. Some enjoy it, others think it is too much work in return for too little. (We don’t need a lot of intelligence to figure out that writing books does not yield a lot of money). I wanted the experience, not the money. I was also a little afraid of over committing to a solo-writing project – mostly because of the many other commitments I had. I wanted something relatively light that would get me started as an author, and if it was something I enjoyed doing – I could take up more projects going forward. Last fall was also a time when I was going through some serious decisions with my career – I was not sure I wanted to remain a pager-carrying operational DBA for longer than I already have. I knew many people in the community – so I could talk through my needs with them and figure out what to do next – but, what if I didn’t? What if I was one of those many people who really didn’t have a ton of contacts or friends and was unsure of where to take his/her career next? We all need to read stories of others to form our own – noone is entirely on a solo journey. We need to know what is out there, how to make ourselves seen/heard and find out what worked or did not work for others like us. And most importantly, we are at a juncture where then are a flood of new technologies, hundreds of different ways of doing the same thing – we need to know what to learn that is likely to be the best for us. It occurred to me that I would personally benefit from a book that talked to a lot of successful people in the data profession and made me understand how they dealt with their career and how they got to where they were. There are a lot of podcast interviews available..so why a book though? This occurred to me too – I am a huge fan of podcasts and listen to as many as I possibly can during my daily walks. But here was what I found – it is hard to find specifically who you want to listen to and when. You have to be ok with subscribing to what the podcast channel puts out there, and many times the questions are not about any career direction, they are an in depth discussion of the technologies the person has been working on. I did not want this to be a technology discussion – there will absolutely be some of that as most people here are gurus at what they do, but it had to be more around providing people direction.

This is partly what got me attracted to the ‘at work‘ series of books that Apress has – I thought an addition to this with the data profession as focus would be useful to many people.

After my proposal was accepted – I had to do the hard work of finding the people to interview for this. My publisher and me agreed that we wanted a blend of data folks – DBAs, BI/Analytics people, Product Managers, Technical Editors and such. I wanted people who did not have books to their credit, as it would be a joint launch pad for me as well as them – but we decided that we’d need a few known names there too, just to make the book attractive to people who read often. So most of people chosen here are those who have not written books before, but a few aren’t. This worked fine. A few other things did not work as I thought they would-  as below.

1 My initial decision to go for a cross cultural blend of people did not work out well. The process for this book involved interviewing the person, transcribing the interview using a third party transcriber service and then editing it for the book. I discovered the hard way that american transcriber services did not do foreign accents well at all. They even had trouble with various american accents such as strong southern ones. So I had to restrict myself to local people to interview and work with.
2 As the book matured I found it easier to work with a blend of verbal interviewing and letting some people write their answers down. This again was not something I knew at the start of the book and was a learning experience. By the time I got here I had very little time left – so interviewing people across time zones or countries became very difficult to do. I am explaining this in a lot of detail because I sincerely did try to get a diverse group of people on board and that became very difficult to pull off.
3 A third lesson was this – this was a fairly time consuming project. It did not take a *lot* of time, but it did take time and commitment from people involved. Some people committed but did not have time for the follow up and for making the corrections/changes needed. I had to replace them with other people and move on.
4 The last lesson was also this – some people just did not have much to say although they seemed very skilled at what they did. It could be that their experience was limited, it could also be that they are not used to talking much about what they do at all. Talking about myself is still a difficult thing for me. I could understand that. But a book needs content to fill a few pages – so my understanding of that was not sufficient to push it forward. I had to leave those people out too.

I want to apologize in advance for any hurt caused to any of these people – it was not intentional and absolutely nothing personal.

That said, below is the star-studded list of people who are featured in this book. My long time dear friend/mentor/guide Kevin Kline has written the foreword.
I am insanely honored to have my name out there with them. I hope what they say will help you – it helped me in getting to where I am, and still does. The book will be out in October 2018, and will be available at the PASS Summit as well. I must mention special thanks to Jonathan Gennick of Apress for supporting and encouraging me, and to Kathi Kellenberger, who did the introductions and has been a friend/mentor to many in the community.
(Footnote: I tremendously enjoyed the experience and am already planning on another book).
Edited: The book is now listed on Amazon.com here. Am working on changing the category from Oracle(?!?) and adding list of interviewee names. Watch this space for updates.

Chapter Name
1 Mindy Curnett
2 Julie Smith
3 Kenneth Fisher
4 Andy Leonard
5 Jes Borland
6 Kevin Feasel
7 Ginger Grant
8 Vicky Harp
9 Kendra Little
10 Jason Brimhall
11 Tim Costello
12 Andy Mallon
13 Steph Locke
14 Jonathan Stewart
15 Joseph Sack
16 John Martin
17 John Morehouse
18 Kathi Kellenberger
19 Argenis Fernandez
20 Kirsten Benzel
21 Tracy Boggiano
22 Dave Walden
23 Matt Gordon
24 Jimmy May
25 Drew Furgiuele
26 Marlon Ribunal
27 Joseph Fleming



7 thoughts on “Data Professionals at Work – a book-writing adventure

  1. Hi Malathi,

    Great efforts. I would not buy this book because of following two reasons:
    1) The book is just about SQL Server people and also does not have many popular names. Many famous SQL Server people who are known are not there in the list.
    2) Most of the folks are from USA and couple from UK.
    This book should have people from different countries around the world. You can always ask them to write up answers and get it corrected afterwords by editor. No need to go with verbal recorded interviews.

    Great effort but not seeing many European, Indian or South American experts.


    1. Hi Matt, did you even fully read my blog post before commenting? I have explained the process. There were too many hassles involved in working with people overseas – written interviews do not give me any opportunity for in depth questioning and for me to add value as an interviewer. These books are difficult to write based on that alone. I tried.


      1. Hi Matt,

        Your comment is a bit harsh. No one is forcing you to buy the book.

        Hi Mala,

        Your list is indeed missing five of the legends of Data Professionals.

        1) Paul Randal
        2) Brent Ozar
        3) Pinal Dave
        4) Steve Jones
        5) Kalen Delaney

        As far as I know they all are from the USA.


      2. Hi Ramaprasad, this is not meant to be a collection of legend interviews. This is just a collection of data professionals I found interesting, the majority of them have not had any books to their credit before. thanks.


  2. I like the idea and looking forward to it. It’s good to see names I don’t recognize. Thanks for the list and the post! Best of luck!


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