It was October 2013, and I was in Charlotte, NC. I’d attended Red Gate’s SQL in the City event during the day, and was heading over to register for PASS Summit. I started chatting with one of the SQL in the City attendees. He was a DBA familiar with Red Gate’s tools and events, but he’d never heard of PASS or PASS Summit. You bet I started talking about how amazing the organization, the conference, and most importantly the community is. I gave him my card and said I hoped to hear from him soon.

This is how I met Derik Hammer (linkedin | blog| twitter) , and gosh, am I glad I did! A week after Summit, I emailed Derik with some information such as his local chapter and some of my favorite community resources. I followed his Twitter account. He did the rest on his own – continued to blog, started a PASS chapter, and started speaking. He has been getting after his own career! What he has done in the past two years should motivate all of us!

I got a chance to ask him a few questions via email recently!

You blog about a lot of great things. What’s your current favorite SQL Server feature?

I have to say that I have two favorite SQL Server features. The one that I enjoy playing with the most is Availability Groups. Anyone who reads my blog likely noticed a heavier focus on AGs and they are also the topic that I speak on. High Availability and Disaster Recovery are areas that I cannot get enough of. When someone fails to deliver a feature on time, the company is usually not in any real danger. When mission critical systems drop offline for hours, careers end. An AG can keep an entire company alive. When I see an automatic failover and all the applications gracefully retry, I can’t help but drown in pride.

[Aside from Jes: Derik’s blogs on AGs have answered more than one of my questions in the last year. Thank you!]

My other favorite is the optimizer. The optimizer is the work of geniuses and I continue to be in awe of its sophistication.

On the other hand, what feature do you use regularly that you think needs the most improvement?

Replication (transactional/merge/peer-to-peer) has always driven me crazy. Replication is a great feature but the library of stored procedures is a challenge to use. In addition, the replication monitor leaves a lot of room for improvement. I feel that the underlying feature could remain mostly the same if its usability were to improve.

Within two years, you went from not knowing about PASS Summit to being very involved in the community – you’re a chapter leader and a speaker. What is it the draws you to the SQL Server community?

In 2013, I was close to exhausting what I could learn from the DBAs in my immediate vicinity and I was looking for something more. That is when I drove down to Charlotte, NC and attended the Red-Gate SQL in the City, where we met. On day one I was overwhelmed by the community. I walked up to Grant Fritchey and had a lengthy conversation about replication where he was genuinely interested in my challenges and experiences. Next thing I knew I was walking with you down the block. Your passion and energy is always intoxicating. When we parted I was jazzed up to seek out the Buffalo Wild Wings networking event that Steve Jones was planning. Upon arrival, I was once again shocked as Steve introduced me a number of people and took time to talk to them about me as if we were friends, even though we had just met.

From that point, there was no turning back. I’m like Megatron thirsting for more Energon. Above all things, I love going to a SQLSaturday or PASS Summit and being welcomed by friends. Many people call the PASS Summits, family reunions. I can definitely see the similarities. The PASS mission statement spells out the goal well. Connect. Share. Learn. By simply participating, you join a positive feedback loop that empowers you.

The #sqlfamily is like no other technical community. I cannot even imagine what my life would be like if I hadn’t found it.

Tell me about your Epic Life Quest. What sparked that, what have you accomplished, and what’s next on the list?

I joined the U.S. Navy right out of high school. Once enlisted, I realized that the Navy, as an organization, was deeply flawed. I was contracted to live with that for a minimum of 6 years which motivated me to try and improve my situation. Making positive change in the Navy, however, is not easy. I quickly learned how to pursue meaningful long-term goals rather than spin my wheels on minor short-term struggles.

After separating from the Navy, I became a DBA and found myself without a solid understanding of where I wanted to go with my career. In the first couple of years I just hoped around learning different areas of the SQL Server suite. Then I began pin pointing celebrity role models to learn from. Brent Ozar was one of those role models. What makes Brent a particularly good example is that he is extremely open about how he go to where he is. In addition, his published content is not strictly technical, it includes invaluable information on how to be successful in general.

I stumbled upon Brent’s Epic Life Quest and found the method of goal achievement appealing. What I liked the most is that I could define a large number of small goals which all build to a larger target and then work on them out of order. Most goal setting methodologies that I’ve learned require a strict road map. With My Epic Life Quest, I can treat my life more like building rather than traveling. I can assemble pieces out of order, as long as they contribute to the whole. It also makes for a pretty great day when I glance at my web page and realize that I just leveled up again.

My Epic Life Quest goals / achievements typically fall into one of three categories; family, community, and career. In 2016 I hope to finish my SQL Server MCSA, hit 250,000 unique views on, and be selected to speak at #summit16.

What advice would you give to 2005 Derik about his career?

Let me geek-out on you for a second and attempt to define the time travel scenario. If I were to travel back in time and retain everything I know today, I would never head off to Navy boot camp. I figure that, I’ve already learned what I needed from that era of my life and would not need to re-experience it. Instead, I would dive into the SQL community and move forward like I am now, only 10 years younger and with far less responsibilities and ties.

2005 Derik was just about to join the Navy and leave his home for the first significant period of time ever. If I was speaking to myself as a stranger, I would encourage 2005 Derik to join the Navy. I would explain that the sword never thanks the anvil for its forging but is better for it anyways. Above all else, I would advise him to work on breaking out of his shell and participate. I find it the most amazingly simple concept to simply be involved, in everything. When you engage with others you find yourself.

Have questions about how to get involved in the community? Reach out to Derik – he’s a great example of someone who has done just that!