My Journal and Career Maintenance

This week in twitter I’ve participated in discussions on resumes and how to construct them and how to improve them. Most of us only really think about our resume when we find ourselves needing them. We’ve either just ended a contract, or we’re looking to improve our position. As a result, changes and improvements are more difficult. We haven’t been keeping them up to date.

The consequence of not visiting your resume on a regular basis: you forget what you’ve accomplished.

Nearly everyone I work with does so many tasks, they often will forget how impressive some of their accomplishments have been. They may have optimized so many queries, they have no idea what the impact they’ve had on performance on their server. They may have automated so many administration tasks, they don’t realize they’ve been able to serve as primary admin on 100 servers, while others in their organization only manage 25.

Learning to keep hard and fast numbers on tasks will not only serve you during resume maintenance, but also when you go into end of year reviews.

How I track my tasks

About 3 years ago I purchased a LiveScribe Smart pen. The basic idea of their smart pen is everything you write is stored to internal memory. From there, you can sync it to your computer. After that, you can make copies to share with others, or sync it to the cloud for safe keeping.

I bought the pen because I had notes everywhere. I had post-it notes, notepads of all sizes, stored all over. I had notes at work, notes at home, notes on my cell phone, notes on my computer. I needed to bring all those notes together in one place.

After getting the Livescribe pen, I started writing all my notes in a set of two notebooks. One for home, one for work. I then synced all those notes to my computer. Now they were with me as long as I had either my pen and notebook, or if I had my computer.

Enter Evernote. Once I found evernote, just over a year ago, I started syncing all my notes from the Livescribe to my Evernote account. Now I truly had all my notes in one location (yet every location).

I write a note in my notebook, sync it to evernote and it’s everywhere. My computer, my iphone, at work, at home. Everywhere. This system is awesome!

What kind of Notes do I keep?

My primary notebook is the lined journal. I start each page by putting the date at the top in yyyymmdd format. Then every task I complete during the day is entered along with notes to support that task.

Let’s say today I see a job that’s running over 250% of it’s normal run time. I dig into the job and look at the history of that job. I take some notes on the average run time, and notes that show me the run time has been very steady up until today. I dig into the job and determine it’s just one stored procedure. I dig further, I determine the one query that’s out of whack.

I’ll note the specific procedure and query that’s causing the problem. Then I begin to look at solutions. I research query rewrites. I research indexing solutions. I find if I add this one index, the query times return to normal. I write down the query times and STATISTICS IO for both the before, and after. I also write down the index name that I added. I also record the time the index is put into production (down to the second).

I roll out the changes and know I’ll need to check in on this job over the next week to determine if my index helped or hurt. I’ll also need to make sure this change doesn’t negatively affect any other queries. I put an event in my calendar to review this in a week. I also reference the page(s) in my notepad where I did this work in case I need to refer back to this data.

By keeping this type of note, I can research when changes are made, and what logic I followed before making the change. I can also roll back the changes if needed. But the big pay off comes at the end of the year, or when I go to compose changes on my resume.

I can say for certain, I improved performance on this query X%. I could then take all the times I improved performance, and compute real statistics on how much positive impact I’ve had by performance tuning queries.

That’s how I was able to determine how much improvement my tuning was able to accomplish at a previous employer. Not only will you be able to keep track of what you’re doing on a daily basis, but having it all written down will serve as a perfect history you can draw on to answer “What would you say you do here?” And never break a sweat.

When you keep track of what you do every day, Maintenace becomes much easier. You just have to make it a priority. Take your notes and summarize them on LinkedIn regularly. I’ve committed to updating LinkedIn every three months. I should take the time to update all the job sites more often.

So should you.

Even if you’re not looking for a job. Updating these sites can train you to be ready for a job review. You don’t want to freak out when you have to talk tot he Bobs…do you?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *