This month's T-SQL Tuesday marks the 96th installment, and is being hosted by Ewald Cress (@sqlOnIce). The guidance to participate this month is to write about someone who has inspired you. Or, in Ewald's words:
… the opportunity to give a shout-out to people (well-known or otherwise) who have made a meaningful contribution to your life in the world of data.
As soon as I saw the announcement, I knew that I would be reminiscing about people who have made a difference in my life before I ever really entered into the world of data.
Of course my mom has always been a strong influence in my life, and shaped the person I am today. She has overcome a lot of hardships in her life and, if I do say so myself, I think she has raised a couple of pretty okay people.
Some others have had a great role in my technical career – Eric Picard, John Croy, Dave Lewis, Alan Charbonneau, Luke Magnus, and too many other past and current co-workers and tremendous community peers to list. Before all of that, though, and when I had no idea what I would do with my life, there were people here and there that I still feel help guide me today, even if they aren't doing anything directly.
Mr. Ure was my accounting teacher in 11th grade, and inadvertently played a huge part in my career direction. I had always done well in school, but I was kind of bored during these years, and didn't really know what I wanted to do next. Mr. Ure had this strange ability to make accounting interesting to me, and as a result, I eventually applied to the business program at Nipissing University. After one accounting class in my very first semester, I knew that accounting was not the thing for me; still, I pursued my degree in Economics, and that ended up leading to all kinds of other opportunities. I bumped into him at a bar in North Bay on a trip a few years ago, and told him how thankful I was that he was partly responsible for my success. His reaction, well, it was priceless.
Mr. McCallister was my volleyball coach when I was in 6th or 7th grade, and he taught me that attitude can be more important than skill, even in athletics (though maybe not so much at the highest levels of any sport). At the end of the volleyball season we put together a mixed team – 5 boys, 5 girls – for some tournament. I figured I was about the 6th best player on our team of 12, so didn’t think I had a shot at top 5. Lo and behold, I made the cut. Shocked, I pressed Mr. McCallister, and he confided in me that my attitude during tryouts is what got me on the roster. I don’t know that I’ve ever told a single soul about that until today, and I don’t even remember how we did in that tournament. What I can tell you is that it gave me a very positive feeling and continues to inspire me today.
Terry Eagles was a manager at McDonald’s, where I worked when I was 15 and 16. Having just switched high schools, I was an awkward teenager trying to fit in, understand social dynamics, and not get in too many fights. Terry taught me things about social interaction, personal space, taking jokes just far enough, and a variety of other things that changed the person I was. Some of these were intentional, surely, but others just came from observing how he carried himself and how he treated others. On my recent trip home with my girls, having not seen him in close to 30 years, I sought Terry out, stopped by his work, and told him pretty much this paragraph. He seemed very grateful to hear it, and we plan to keep in touch.
Don Miller – he ran that McDonald’s, and taught me two things. One is that a manager has to be able to make tough decisions. I watched him fire a co-worker for eating a muffin destined for the trash, and maybe there was more to the story, but as a witness it felt like a quick but calculated decision. The other – and this was certainly not intentional on his part – is that incredible things can happen right in front of your eyes. We went on a staff white water rafting trip, and halfway down the river, this poor guy got thrown from the raft. The incredible part was that the guide, without batting an eye, reached back behind him and pulled Don into the boat. He had a cut above his eye and was a little shook up, but I will never forget how that was the first time I had seen someone do something seemingly super-human. I think about that incident just about every time I see someone go above and beyond the call of duty to help others in our community.
So, four quick stories about people who made a difference in my career, and one of the most important things here is that if you have someone who has influenced you, tell them! Whether they knew or not, it will be good for them to hear it, and you will feel good about letting them know, too.