Work To Live

This editorial was originally published on May 2, 2012. It is being re-run as Steve is at SQL Bits.

I’m halfway through my career, having spent about 20 years since college working in technology with another twenty to go. The rest of the community is probably spread out around me, some older, some younger. It doesn’t matter what part of your life you are in, there are a few things about work that I think always apply. The first is that we work to live, and don’t live to work. The second is I like to hope for the best, but plan for the worst.

It’s all too common for people in this business to overwork themselves, work very long hours, and neglect the rest of their life. I have rarely seen someone that is retired or late in life complain that they didn’t work enough over their lifetime, and I’d caution you to keep that in mind as you go through life. There will always be more work, more things to do, and more requests from clients and customers. Keep a balance in your life, and remember to enjoy it along the way.

The second part of my advice can apply in many parts of our career, but it ought to apply to our finances and our retirement. Unfortunately, I’ve seen a few articles like this one that notes many people have not funded their retirements well. We all have expenses, and it’s easy to delay the investments in our life until later, but that is a bad idea. Whether it’s your IRA/401K or your health, you’d be better off sacrificing a little today for a little more security later.

In the US, many employers match contributions and you ought to take advantage of that. There are all sorts of options for retirement, like ROTH IRAs, that it seems many people aren’t aware of. I also meet many people that don’t realize they can borrow against their 401K as well, taking a loan whose interest goes back to your own account. There are few excuses to not plan for the future. Enjoy today, but plan to live a long time and to enjoy your retirement.

How much money you might need depends on your lifestyle, and that’s something you should spend time thinking about and talking with your family about. Many of us may not be able to retire at 65, or count on social security, but I’d hate to have to work longer than I want to because I cannot afford to retire.

Steve Jones


2015 For Me

This was an interesting year for me. Certainly a time of change with one kid starting high school, one entering his last year, and one graduating from college. These events signal a bit of a change for me, and have me starting to look forward to a life without kids, where I may work more, or differently, and explore other interests. As I freed up some time, and became a bit excited by changes in learning for my kids, I also kick started some of my learning.

After lots of puttering, I finally decided to actually get back to writing some code this year. I’ve been working to build small utilities in C#, Python, and M this year. My goal has been to not only improve and expand my skills, but also get back to some software development and observe how this aligns with my work on ALM/DLM for Redgate. It’s been exciting to follow along with the San Diego Tech Immersion Group, Pluralsight, and even the Advent of Code.

In terms of travel and vacation, this was a pretty good year. Despite some long trips (two 10+ day journeys), I managed travel pretty well overall. Still a bit much as I was worn out by the time November hit, but I learned a few things. I am managing things better for 2016 already, limiting the number of trips I’ll take. I also managed to take almost all my vacation, and spend a few different trips with family. I’ve got at least one big family trip planned next year, so I don’t feel bad about carrying over the 3 days I have left.

Career wise, I’ve enjoyed some of the changes that have come along in my work with Redgate. I do more development than administration, which I enjoy. I started more as a developer, so getting back to those areas, at least for a year or so is nice. I’m looking forward to some of the changes at Redgate, and am especially interested to see where we go with Ready Roll. I really like the product and that style of work.

I’m certainly getting older, and felt my age this year more than ever. I struggled to run, even sporadically, and while my surgically repaired knee is fine, I think I hurt the other one playing baseball. We’ll see how it does over the winter with snowboarding, but I am more conscious of how I work and take care of myself than ever before. I think 2016 will be a rededication to building more muscle and improving health. In line with that, I think I may actually get a real standing desk I can adjust to allow me to go up and down during the day. I don’t mind standing too much, but I do get a little worn out and I’d like to have my desktop and laptop set up semi-permanently in one environment. Right now I drag my laptop to a couch or table, which isn’t ideal.

All in all, a good year. Hope it was the same for anyone reading this.

Closing Down for the Year

Today is my last day of work for 2015. I’m actually proud that I’ve managed to take almost all my vacation (3 days left), and will be enjoying myself next week with my family, taking our holiday vacation in the mountains.

It’s been quite a year for me. Lots of travel in short spans, some long trips, but also some good breaks. I’ve spent some time learning, and improvind my skills, and at the same time I turned down lots of work that might have overloaded me.

I think 2015 was a good year for me, and I’m looking forward to continuing some momentum and making 2016 even better.

A Few Days Off in Space Country

The new Star Wars film opens today, and while I won’t see it then, perhaps I’ll get to it early next week in the shadow of the US space program.

My middle son is in his last year of high school before he goes off to college and as his birthday present in 2015, I’m taking him down to Florida and Cape Canaveral for 4 days. We leave early tommorrow, not returning to Denver until late Tuesday.

A couple days of vacation for me, and hopefully some memories for my son. He was there a long time ago, at 2, so he doesn’t remember much. However he’s interested in flight and space, and looking to study aeronautical engineering in college, so this is a treat for him. In fact, when we were talking about where to take him, his eyes lit up when I suggested this trip.

It will be an interesting trip, with the chance to visit the Kennedy Space Center, meet an astronaut, and study some of the history of US space travel in person.

I’m also excited to go. Not that I want to go into space, at least not until they get artificial gravity, but I find the subject fascinating and I felt rushed the last time I visited. It will be nice to be able to spend time and not hurry around as we get the chance to vacation together.

Enjoy your weekend, and I’ll see you briefly next week before I close down for the year.

Graduation – An Exciting Day

It’s quite an exciting day for me today. My oldest son graduated college this morning, finishing his Bachelor’s degree and beginning the next phase of his life.

I’m quite proud of him and just wanted to put a few memories of him down related to data. He was the first kid in our household to seriously use a computer for school, and while his younger siblings are much more comfortable with computing than he is, we had some good times.

  • Setting up a networked computer and trying to limit access to various topics and sites on the Internet (a complete fail, BTW)
  • Reinstalling OSes for him after various viruses or other sites rendered computers unusable.
  • Discovering all my bandwidth was gone as my son found the wonders if BitTorrent.
  • Buying him a computer for Christmas, the first time I’d done that for someone.
  • Helping him learn some SQL as he studied GIS in college.

It’s been an amazing time watching him grow, learn, and mature into an adult.

Thankful in November

I’m taking a short break from technical talk today to spend a few minutes thinking about life. My wife started the Thankfulness challenge in November, and while I didn’t participate, I’ve been thinking about life as I watch her posts.

This is a career and learning blog, and much of my life has been about growing my career. However I’ve also had many things outside of my career that are important to me and occupy much of my time. My wife, my kids, my health and fitness, and various hobbies keep me busy, not to mention occasionally filling in as the ranch hand for my wife. I even got some unexpected, but very appreciated thanks this week.

However there is something that I was amazed by this week. The outpouring of support for my call to make a #sqlwish come true was incredible. I was truly touched that so many people came together and donated money that allowed us to raise the entire amount in a day. Not even a day. This is one of those things that makes me think the SQL Server community, the #sqlfamily, is truly a special and amazing thing.

Life is Hard

I do struggle at times with the overall load. I struggle with stress at times. I have plenty of guilt when I’m away from home and something happens. I definitely find that I don’t always have the time I’d like for myself amid all the chaos in life.

However I’m very lucky. I have a wonderful wife I love dearly. I have three kids, well two kids and an adult child, that are all healthy and successful in life. I have a good job that I enjoy. My family is financially secure. We don’t really have any complaints, and I definitely appreciate all that I have. I truly do try to stop and think about the amazing times I’ve had. I use Timehop to revisit memories in my life. I stop as I travel and reflect on the good and bad I see, while considering how I can leave the world a little better than what I found.

I wrote about a fundraiser yesterday, trying to make a #sqlwish come true. I can’t imagine for a moment how my life would be different, or how much things would change if someone in my family were sick. I can’t really imagine the situation, and my heart goes out to Lucy and her family.

As great as it’s been to make the wish come true, I also would like you to reflect a moment on the good things in your life. Your family, your health, your beliefs, the people around you, I’m sure there is some good around you. Stop for a minute and give thanks.

I do hope that all of you reading this are well, and you are able to create a great career doing something you love. I will help where I can, and hopefully SQLServerCentral does that. However I know that life isn’t always easy or smooth. I hope that when you experience tough times that you have someone to help pull you through. If you really need an ear, the #sqlfamily is great. On Twitter, or in our wild and wacky thread, there are plenty willing to listen.

Make a #SQLWish Come True

A few weeks ago I was sitting in Farestart at the annual Friends of Redgate dinner when my eyes teared up. The waiter was explaining the mission of the organization, and I was proud that Redgate chooses to support them. However I was also touched that people choosing to help others when there is so much pain, strife, and suffering in the world. I’m glad the speech was short or I would have had a wet napkin.

I have been lucky in life. I’ve had career success, my family is healthy, and we really don’t have any problems in the world. The difficulties we have are really minor annoyances compared to what so many must deal with. I suspect many of you are in similar situations, working in technology and making a good living. However not that’s not the case for everyone.

We have a prominent member of the #sqlfamily whose child, Lucy, has been sick with a life threatening illness. Mark Broadbent has spent the last few years volunteering his time, helping with the user group and SQL Saturday in Cambridge, UK. He has volunteered to speak and write about SQL Server. I would venture to guess that some portion of you have been helped by Mark’s willingness to share his knowledge. At the same time Mark and his wife, Lorraine, have been dealing with Lucy’s struggles at home.

I’d like to make a wish come true for Lucy and her family. Lucy loves Disney, and I’d like to send the entire family to Walt Disney World in Florida. This is a gift, a gift for a person in our community, a gift that will bring some joy after all they’ve been through.

I’m asking you to join me. I’m asking you to donate funds to help us bring the Broadbents from their home in the UK to the US for a vacation, for a break from the strife in their lives. Lucy is doing well, but she has a long road ahead, and I’d like to bring some joy to a little one that didn’t deserve the struggles she’s faced. I’m asking you to show some love for a member of the #sqlfamily that could really use it.

I’ve set up a fundraiser on, and started off the donations with $200 of my own money. I rarely attach my name to donations, but in this case, I’m hoping to inspire a few of you to join me in trying to raise the $15,000 this will cost.

Whatever you can give is appreciated. $5, the cost of a coffee, or maybe the $10 cost of a quick lunch, or more if I’ve touched you. Maybe a few of you might even get your company wants to participate. Every bit helps, and we’d very much appreciate your generosity.

I’m asking you to pause in your life when you read this. Imagine your child were sick, or a niece or nephew, or even the child of a good friend. Imagine the worry about the child’s future. Imagine the stress from bills and the struggles as you try to somehow work while a child suffers at home or in the hospital.


Now reflect on your good fortune.


Join me in showing the world just how amazing the #sqlfamily can be and make Lucy’s #sqlwish come true.

View the fundraiser at Youcaring

UPDATE: Thank you very much for your support. We achieved our goal in one day and I’m am so proud of the #sqlfamily out there. On behalf of the Broadbents, thank you for your generosity and support.

Steve Jones

The Voice of the DBA Podcast

Listen to the MP3 Audio ( 3.9MB) podcast or subscribe to the feed at iTunes and LibSyn.


Culture Differences: US v UK

This is a bit of an off topic post from the technical stuff, but there’s a bit of a tie-in, so stick with me.

I had to get a tire fixed this morning. I actually owned a replacement tire, so I just needed someone to mount it on the existing wheel (the existing tire needed to come off). I stopped by Discount Tire this morning in Parker, and I had a quick conversation with the salesman, Brian. He arranged for the service, even gave me a discount, and told me it would take about an hour.

At this point I knew I needed to do some work, and at 9am, I wanted some coffee. I mentioned this to Brian, who said, “It’s a long walk to get coffee.”

He noted that Starbucks was quite a distance for a walk. Certainly it was a hot day, approaching 85F as I exited the shop with my laptop, but a long walk?

My friends and colleagues in the UK would laugh at this. I had to go down a busy road, and it was warm, but 0.6mi is “long”? I think not. Certainly no navigational issues following the blue dotted path.

2015-07-27 12_53_47-Starbucks, South Parker Road, Parker, CO to Discount Tire Store - Parker, CO - G

This struck me as strange as I walked along the road. Certainly I think lots of people in the US might see this as a long walk. They would perhaps ask the shop for a ride, or they’d stay in the store and skip coffee. I suspect that lots of people think any distance outside of the parking lot of an establishment might be seen as “long”.

Far too many of us in the US as lazy in this manner, not willing to move dozens, much less hundreds, of yards. I’ve seen people wait minutes for a close parking spot to a store, when there were plenty of parking spots seconds away.

I thought about this as I walked, and as I walked back. The thought bothered me a bit as I tried to answer some emails and check on SQLServerCentral. Why do we struggle with simple movement in the US? Are so many of us really wedded to cars that much? A summer morning is hot, but it’s a few minutes in the sun.

I was curious how far I traveled in terms of steps, so I checked my Fitbit before leaving Starbucks. It was around 3,100 steps for the day. I checked when I got in my car, and I was at 4,500 steps. That’s about 1,400 steps for a cup of coffee. Each way, of course, but just a mile.

When I think about how little we need to walk, it’s amazing. My job is worse than many in some ways. My meetings are at my desk. My commute is a few dozen steps. Getting lunch in the kitchen is maybe 50 steps. If I don’t make a concerted effort to move, I can easily spend a day at work and get to 6:00pm having traveled less than 2,000 steps.

That’s sedentary.

I do make an effort to exercise and move. Certainly I could do better with my diet, but I am at least attempting to move. That goal was one thing that kept me going on my running streak. I often felt refreshed and no matter how much time I’d spent in front of a computer, I at least ran a mile.

We can all make an effort to move a bit more, especially those of us that spend lots of time in front of a computer. Taking breaks, walking up and down stairs, parking far away, scheduling walking meetings at times, or just making sure we spend some time before/after work moving.

Many of you will have long lives, regardless of how you treat your body. Your career might not be affected at all by poor physical health. However the quality of your life is lower, in my opinion, if you aren’t taking care of yourself a bit.

In the past we often had daily exercise as we lived. We walked around, we had to work to grow our food, or transport it, or just to find social company. Today we can avoid much of that, but I’m not sure we should.

Find some exercise in the margins, find a sport you enjoy, or just take some long walks to contemplate life and enjoy your own, or a friend’s, company.

The Importance of Our Work

My wife has often uttered a particular saying during stressful times in her career. She spent 20 years working in computer telephony and speech, often in sales, and would remind her colleagues that they “weren’t saving babies” as they worked with customers.

It was a reminder that most of our work isn’t, ultimately, that critical to the world. It matters for our businesses to success, for our careers to move forward, but most of the time we should keep some perspective on the value of the time we spend at work versus the rest of our lives.

I ran across that saying recently in a post from Scott Hanselman, and like him, I’ll apologize if your work is actually affecting life. If so, I agree with Mr. Hanselman, make sure you have unit tests. Lots of them.

However for most of us, we’re trying to improve commerce in some way. A few of us work for non-profits or the government and hopefully are trying to make the workings of that organization more efficient.  Some of us might be building systems using open data to improve society in some way. No matter what you do, remember that there is some life outside of technology.

Remember to spend time with your family, with friends, even taking care of yourself. Not only is it healthy to get away from work, it can help refresh you and give you a new perspective on the work you do. Work is important, but keep your efforts in perspective.

Steve Jones

The Voice of the DBA Podcast

Listen to the MP3 Audio ( 2.0MB) podcast or subscribe to the feed at iTunes and LibSyn. feed

RIP, Mr. Nimoy

I’ve got a lot of memories of Mr. Spock. Played by Leonard Nimoy in the iconic Star Trek series. I grew up watching him, and enjoying his character. While I liked Scotty, I think Spock might have been my favorite of the main characters.


He died today at 83, which I should have expected at some point, but after seeing him in the latest Star Trek movies, I thought he might live for quite some time. It’s a huge reminder of my own mortality as I see more and more people I’ve known, or enjoyed, for most of my life.

A sad day indeed, but I’ll have many, many fond memories of Mr. Nimoy in the years to come.