An Important Lesson Learned Over 20 Years

WP_20140504_006It struck me as I was staring out at San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge this evening that it had been twenty years since I last stood in roughly the same location.  The posts and chains keeping me from the beach had not changed, though their bolts hadn’t withstood the salty corrosion – a timeless gift from the bay.  The bridge that is the symbol of this iconic city – an icon in its own right, showed little in the way of aging.  I, on the other hand had not noticed much in the daily minute changes of my life.  Framed in the aspect of two decades and the changes were staggering.

Disregard the changes that come with navigating your twenties and thirties: marriage, children, homes, gray hairs and creases on my face that are starting to be more than just “smile lines”.   I’m dwelling on the professional changes.  The wayward recent college graduate that stood on this breakwater had fallen into a “career” of a production estimator.  It was more of a job than anything – a way to pay the bills.  The years prior he had planned on tackling a degree in applied mathematics without any understanding of careers available after college.  That changed after Calculus III my sophomore year.  I eventually ended up in Accounting and though I hated the thought of having to work in an office and wear a tie every day (my expectations of a life as an Accountant) I barreled through and received my degree.  I faced a glut of business graduates like myself dealing with a drought on jobs in our profession. After a short stint as a secretary for a defense data contractor (funny looking back on it how close I came to a career in data then) I ended up getting a job though my mother.  The money was decent for back then even if the company’s owner was in serious need of medication.  He taught me a great deal about running a business and dealing with difficult people – by setting a very bad example.  But I struggled through it and it was during this time period as a twenty-something with a job he had no love for that I made my first visit to San Francisco.

Fast forward twenty years…

I’m now a successful DBA, Team Leader, Subject Matter Expert, Speaker, Board Member for an organization with thousands of members, Author, Business Owner, Educator, Mentor, and World Traveler.  All of this developed because of one thing…

I took a chance on something new.

That something new, believe it or not, turned out to be Microsoft Access so let’s ignore the details and focus on the bigger picture… putting yourself out there.  That’s really what this boils down to.  Getting outside your comfort zone and taking a chance.  My foray into Access led to a next step with Microsoft SQL Server.  That led to attending the 2002 PASS Summit and volunteering.  That led to speaking in front of classes and the entire Summit audience at various events.  That led to teaching, which led to writing, which led to starting SQL Cruise and eventually acting as SQL Content Chair for IT/Dev Connections and finally what brought me back to San Francisco after all these years - my role as a Director for PASS and the Business Analytics Conference we’re hosting this week in San Jose.

I never really saw the distance these individual steps were taking me.  It was as though I just started walking down a beach and lost track of time.  It wasn’t until I took pause that I turned back and saw how far I had gone – come really.

Opportunities don’t come to you.  I learned this as a life lesson and as a cliché that turned out to be true.  What is going to be your first step?  Your next step?

I sat there looking at the fog roll in as the sun was doing it’s closing number, a damp chill in the air and I started wondering that very same thing… what’s going to be my next step and where is it going to take me in another 20 years?