My 5 Questions series continues with one of my favorite people, Mala (blog | twitter | linkedin). She and I met at PASS Summit a few years ago, but it was on SQL Cruise Alaska 2012 that we really got to know each other. Mala is a little firecracker. She’s a great DBA, a long-time PASS chapter leader and regional mentor, a world traveler, and brilliantly curious. I always look forward to seeing her at events.

I asked her a few questions so you could get to know her better, too!

Mala, what’s your favorite part about working in IT? You’ve had so many experiences in it – different cities, different companies, different roles. What is it about IT that you love?

I love the fact that IT is just about the most diverse field you can possibly be in. Every little country in the world is doing something with IT – while we were on SQL Cruise some of us took a guided tour of Monaco, the smallest country in the world (also the wealthiest) – the guide was telling us about some corner of that little country they call their own ‘silicon valley’..that gave me goose pimples.You have accountants, engineers of other kind and many other professions that are common across countries – but it is not like this, not like a profession that defines every little country in some way. On SQL Cruise itself we had people from 4 different countries on board..and at the Summit i’ve simply lost count of how many people from how many nationalities attend. To me every country and every person has their story and I have something to learn from it. In our own #sqlfamily – we have community in every country almost and people who invite you so warmly to visit. I already have plans of visiting England and Norway, because of friendships I made on the cruise, and I think that is simply so amazing.

You’re an avid traveler, and I adore that about you! What’s your favorite city, and why?

My favorite city in the USA to visit and hang around is definitely Washington DC. I am a history buff – I read up a lot about places I visit and like to see what I read. After several visits I still have tons of things to see in the DC area. I also love cities that are well connected by public transportation, have great food and a variety of things to see. DC was my most favorite city because of its history, ease of getting around, lots of gardens and greenery, and awesome food. I loved Rome and Barcelona, they were both similar and definitely plan to explore them further.

You’re a long-term PASS chapter leader. Why would you tell other people that joining and actively participating in your local chapter is a good investment?

I actually handed over the reins of the local chapter to Dave Fackler sometime ago. I am a Regional Mentor now, over TN and KY states. I think getting involved with community and your local chapter is by far the best thing you can do to help your career. Especially if you are the kind of person who does not want to move or travel much and find work in your own neck of the woods – there is nothing better than that. I tell people all the time that since the year I started the chapter (which is 8 years now) – I have never ever looked for work the traditional way. All the 4 jobs I have had were via networking and people I got to know via the chapter/through previous jobs etc. And it has never failed to amaze me that people are consistently impressed by community involvement stated on a resume. They may not be the kind to wholeheartedly support it as a company and not all companies do community in a big way, although they should. But they know that means you are the kind of person who goes above and beyond to help other people, who can take initiative and make things happen. So..attend chapter meetings and get involved, in any small way you can. It helps.

How many SQL Saturdays have you organized? What have you learned from that experience?

2015 is my SQL Saturday #8. I have loved every single year, although it is a lot of hard work. I have learnt many things from it – a SQL saturday team is a team of volunteers – leading it is very different from leading teams elsewhere because they are part of it out of their own interest and you are really not their boss or anything. You have to work with goodwill, understanding, make some rules but not too many, and make sure people are happy doing whatever they choose to do. You also have to live with the fact that people may choose to leave and there is no binding commitment on their side to stay. All of it adds up to a lot of uncertainity – dealing with it helps you in so many ways. Also I really really love to organize things, and as a DBA I dont get too much of opportunity to do that. So it satisfies me in that way too. Not to mention that the community and interest in learning has really grown since our first event – I recall asking Andy Warren if it was a ‘good idea’ to get it started here, because interest in those days was so very low Our first SQL Saturday, event number #23, had 40 people in attendance. Now we are well into the 100s. It has been a great experience.

If you weren’t in technology, what completely different career would you choose, regardless of schooling required or salary earned?

That is easy 🙂 I’d be a travel writer. I love writing, I can write a story on just about anything, sometimes getting very descriptive 🙂 Travel is an easy way to tap into one’s writing skills because people are always curious to know more of distant lands they have never seen, or seen long ago. I don’t want to be just another travel blog – nothing against them but there are so many of them around. I want to write stories about the people I see and the places I see. SQL Cruise has really helped the traveller in me – from next year I hope to get at least one National Geographic Expedition every 3 years (because they are so expensive!) and get more travel done that way. (I want to be in technology all the while though, no getting away from it now!)

Thanks for answering a few questions Mala – I can’t wait to reunite with you at PASS Summit in October!