ASF 001: Brent Ozar interview

ASF 001: Brent Ozar interview


Brent Ozar talks about himself, his passion, hobbies and carreer.

Brent Ozar is one of the most known person in the SQL Server world. He is a Microsoft Certified Master (MCM) and Data Platform MVP. His passion and energy is shared among all people he work with. He is known as a very energetic speaker. He loves sharing his knowledge. He loves cars. He loves dogs.

This talk was recorded during the SQLDay 2017 in Wrocław, on Wednesday 17th May, 8 am.


Kamil Nowinski: Yeah, great. That’s my first interview.

Brent Ozar: Ha, ha, awesome!

KN: I’ve never been working as a journalist!

BO: Oh, I think it’s so much easier when at least you’ve talked to the person before. You’ve spoken to them and at least you know you’re not nervous or worried because it’s… If I had to go and speak to politicians or something like that, oh man!

KN: Yeah!

BO: Or celebrities…

KN: Yeah, exactly, that would be even worse, too stressful. But in that way, I’m not stressed because we are simply a family, so there’s a great approach, everyone has a great approach. Everyone is very friendly and that’s amazing.

BO: As opposed to if you’re trying to interview a celebrity or a politician that always has something to hide and you’re trying to get it out of them, like trying to out-think: “alright, how am I gonna get this person to talk about their policies or whatever that’s gonna…”, and they’re trying to battle it back. Oh, I could never do that! Very tricky.

KN: Yeah, that would be difficult. Ok, how was your night?

BO: Wonderful! Very good. It was neat to see so many people out there. I was like 60 seconds late to the group photo, the first one, the huge one.

KN: Yeah, but I saw you on the photo so you were there.

BO: You mean in the speaker when I was there, in the speaker when I was on time. But in the huge group with all the attendees, I was working my way up through the back, ‘cause I’m like, I thought I was looking at the time, I’m like: “oh, still got another five minutes”.

KN: Yeah, I heard that.

BO: Oh my gosh…

KN: I was a couple of minutes before it was seven, or something like that, 7 pm. But I saw you on the picture that Paweł Potasiński took.

BO: Oh, yeah!

KN: So he just took the picture or something like that…

BO: Oh, cool, yeah.

KN: I will send this photo to you as well.

BO: Haven’t seen any of them yet, so… It’s been a zoo. Thought it was a nice party. Nice talking to people.

KN: Yeah, exactly. I think it was a very good conjunction with the knowledge and fun, so every time it’s good to relax after a lot of knowledge about the whole day. A lot of sessions.

BO: Yeah, you must be happy too, because everything looks like it’s going great!

KN: Yeah, yeah! Everything looks good so far.

BO: Touch wood, but yeah…

KN: Unfortunately, my laptop didn’t work yesterday. I tried to connect my laptop to the room, when I was showing my session today, and it doesn’t work. I mean, the laptop works, but the duplicate screen doesn’t work.

BO: Noo!

KN: So I just tried to fix that problem yesterday and I spent about 19 minutes and I didn’t fix it…

BO: Oh, exciting!

KN: So today I will check two other tricks and if that doesn’t help, I will need a laptop from some guy.

BO: I’m guessing you do demos? Or you’re doing demos with like SQL Server or is it only PowerPoint?

KN: No, its PowerPoint, 50/50, so…

BO: If it helps, I have spare laptops. It’s SQL Server 2016, if that works.

KN: Do you have Replication there?

BO: The replication?

KN: The old one, yeah. The old SQL Replication [laughs].

BO: No! [laughs]

Damian Widera: So you don’t have the component installed.

BO: Wow, well, yeah, that’s a problem.

DW: No, I think we can manage that because we have laptops.

KN: Yeah, we will.

DW: I already offered Kamil a laptop but I have to leave right after the lunch and Kamil has his session then.

BO: Well, there will be enough presenters, so somebody will have…

DW: Yes, we can do this but it’s very interesting that the audio does not work. I mean the video does not work.

KN: But I guess it’s the fault of my laptop because I had some similar issues at home, so yeah.

BO: You should check with this Greg Low, too, cause I bet Greg has Replication on his. If he’s not in the same time slot, I bet he…

KN: No, no worries, we can manage that.

DW: You should start early. [laughs]

KN: At least one of them will give me the laptop.

BO: Yeah, wow.

KN: Ok, let’s start! I hope that we’ll have some questions from you as well! [laughs]

DW: I have some in my head, so…

BO: You have to put a piece of paper in the middle, then he can steal your questions. [laughs]

DW: But you can start.

KN: Of course, yeah. So Brent, thank you for accepting my invitation.

BO: My pleasure!

KN: As I mentioned, this is my first interview, so…

BO: Ta-daa. I’ll go really easy on you. [laughs]

DW: Sounds like we’re trying to hire you to… [laughs]

BO: Ha, ha! Oh, that’s not gonna go well. I’ve had so many bad interview stories!

KN: I saw that kind of interview on your blog, so… where you’re explaining people how to ask people if you want to hire them.

BO: Yeah! Especially because I get to a point in my career where I don’t wanna do job interviews again. Like I feel like I never wanna go to work for anybody, I have my own company. But that’s when you do really well with interviewing, when you’re confident and relaxed. When you’re mellow. And so many people go out try the interview for a job, and they’re freaked out, they’re worried, and it comes through. If you can just be relaxed and be yourself, you’ll make world of difference.

KN: Yeah, true. So at the beginning, I would like to say you shouldn’t worry if some questions are simple because I just want to prepare this article, this podcast for people who maybe don’t know you very well, or also, this interview…

DW: We have people who do not know Brent?

KN: Probably not!

BO: My parents…

KN: Sometimes there are new people on the market so it would be good to introduce Brent to them, and allow them to start working with a very good tool from Brent like Blitz, yes?

BO: Oh, cool! Yeah, that’s true.

KN: But also, I want this interview to show you as a person, not only as a professional. From another side. Like a usual person, your ideas for life and… So the first question is: what is your name and where do you live?

BO: My full name is Brent Gregory Ozar and growing up in high school, I always went by Greg, cause my Dad goes by Greg, so I wanted to be just like my dad, so it’s Greg, Greg, Greg. And in college, when you get to start over when you go away from home and I went: “Ok, I guess I need to be my own man now”. And so I started going by Brent again. But in America, I never use my initials, Brent Ozar, because BO stands for body odour in America, so no-one wants to use those. So I was going by BGO. Right now, I’m in down town Chicago, but we telecommute full-time, so I move… It’s been every few years, so I’ve lived in, throughout my life, Kentucky, Indiana, Illinois, Texas, Florida, Mississippi, Missouri, all over the US. And I really love travel and seeing new places.

KN: And currently, where are you living? I know that but you know, just wanted to… [laughs]

BO: Down town Chicago. My wife is from El Salvador, she grew up in El Salvador and had never seen snow before! So at one point I said: “let’s go up north so you can see what snow is like”, cause growing up in Michigan, I know what it’s like. I thought one winter would cure her and she would never want to see it again. We had 10 feet of snow in the first 40 days, and she loved it. She couldn’t get enough of it! But she missed the big city, so we moved to Chicago instead of Michigan and we totally love it. The winters suck but…

DW: For us, but maybe not for her.

BO: Yeah!

DW: I hate winter too because I have a lot of work with the snow, so…

BO: Yeah, yep. We have a little small dog, and I have to put boots on the dog, and all that, yeah.

DW: So how is Ernie going?

BO: Very well!

KN: Ernie is your dog?

BO: Yes!

DW: I’ve seen a lot of pictures.

BO: My hairy daughter.

KN: On Instagram?

DW: On Instagram.

BO: She’s just the love of our live. My wife has never had an indoor dog before and I’ve always had dogs, so I got her finally to have a dog. But she has sworn that once Ernie passes away, that’s it. No more dogs, no responsibility, just goof off and travel all the time.

KN: That was the trade-off, yeah?

BO: Yeah. Cause when I leave, I come to Poland, I’m going to Florida next, she’s at home with the dog. And she’s like: “eh, I don’t wanna go outside five times a day”. I’m like: “OK, I can understand that”. I don’t like responsibility either.

KN: Another simple question: what do you do for the living? In a few sentences.

BO: I love making SQL Server faster and more reliable. When I was growing up as a… I worked at hotel, I worked in restaurants, and that’s too hard of work. You’re working continuously, you work every holiday, you work every weekend, because that’s when people wanna go to hotels and restaurants, and I said: “I’m done with this, I gotta find something easier”. And I went into IT cause I’ve always loved computers. And I didn’t realise in IT, you’re on call, and you work every weekend, and things break every holiday. But I’ve always had the strategy of “I wanna stand near whatever’s most expensive and wait for it to break”, cause that’s the fun part of the business, you learn a lot.

KN: So you like it. [laughs]

BO: Yeah, SQL Servers, they’re expensive part of the business! And everybody in the business interacts with it, you get to work with sales people, developers, IT executives, so it’s just so much fun to be near SQL Servers that are breaking, and figure out how to fix them.

DW: But how did you find that SQL Server is interesting? There are a lot of servers. You could’ve ended up with Exchange for example, yes?

BO: Yeah. It’s not expensive enough. There was even a point where I almost went into Oracle. I had a friend of mine who worked in Oracle. But at that point, I had already learned so much about SQL Sever, and it looks like a black box, but the more you work with it, the more predictable it is, and you understand how it works. And the community is so good! The first time I found Pass, the whole SQL Server community, I went: “Wow, there’s actually like a family here of people who talk to each other, they share things”. And it’s not that way in all other servers. A lot of other servers, people hoard their knowledge, they don’t wanna share anything, they’re afraid. And it’s so different here. So it’s been like coming home.

KN: So when was your first conference? So you have been as an attendee, and at some point in time, there was a switch and you were a presenter.

BO: I wanna say in 2006, I went to my first user group meeting. It was either 2005 or 2006. I went to a Microsoft office in Florida, Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and I sat in a meeting, and I remember the presenter, and he wasn’t a great speaker, but he was sharing what he knew. And I went: “Oh, I’m not a great speaker, I can share what I know, let’s do this!” And so like from the first user group I went to, I went: “I wanna be up there on stage, cause I have that I can share, mistakes that I’ve made”. Within that year, I went to my first PASS summit, because my boss said: “We have a training budget, do you want it?” I’ve been working in IT for like 10 years, I didn’t know there was a training budget! You know, I just got into the right company where I can go to a conference? Are you kidding me? So I went to the summit, the first summit I went to, and I couldn’t find anyone to even have lunch with! I just didn’t know the right questions to ask, I didn’t know who to go up to, I didn’t know I could go talk to presenters. It was terrifying! And the second time, I got to know more and more people, I think the third time, I know I applied to speak and I got turned down. And I knew Kevin Kline at the time, and Kevin happened to email me and say: “Hey, we have a presenter drop out”, while I was there, he said: “Could you jump in and do a session?” And I went: “Sure! I’d love to!”

KN: Wow, that enthusiastic?

BO: Yeah! Why not! Because I had spoken at a few user groups, that’s the way you want your first PASS summit speaking session to go. There’s no pressure. I didn’t have to worry about making everyone perfectly happy cause it was better to have a session than none at all! I was just happy to be up there. So I got really lucky there, and I think I’ve been speaking every year since then. I think I missed one year switching schedules, but it’s just been addictive. Once you get up there and you see the light go on and people’s eyes, it’s so rewarding.

KN: OK, so your first user group was in 2006, yeah?

BO: Sounds about right. Either 2005 or 2006.

KN: And what was your first contact with SQL Server?

BO: 1998–99, I was a sysadmin at a hotel company, and the accounting software was in SQL Server. And my boss is like: “Hey, this thing breaks every now and then, can you go and fix it?”, “Sure, let me go figure it out, how hard can it be”. And then once I understood how a table worked, and how you could write SQL queries, I started playing around with Microsoft Access, but I wasn’t happy with that, I switched over back into the SQL Server side. And I did some web development with Macromedia Dreamweaver, it was this old Ultradev…

KN: Yeah, I remember that too!

BO: We’re all old… Dreamweaver Ultradev. And we’d make little webpages for hotels to enter in their sales numbers every day, and it would go into our accounting system. So I dabbled a little in 6.5 but got much more into it when 7 came out. Like I don’t remember anything about 6.5 but I liked 7 a lot.

KN: What kind of specific tools are you using during your professional work?

BO: I have the weird job ware. As a consultant, I usually only have to fix one server. So I don’t do the same thing a lot of DBAs do. A lot of DBAs would get into PowerShell, cause you need to manage fifty servers or a hundred servers. If I had a full-time DBA job now, I’d be using PowerShell. I’d be using Visual Studio code, coding my PowerShell inside there. But because I have the weird consulting job, where I only get one server at a time, it’s just Management Studio, PowerPoint, and Excel. And just back and forth between those things. I have a weird mental competition thing, where I tried to get better at stuff, so these days I’m trying to code my T-SQL in a text editor with no IntelliSense, to see if I can figure out if I know the joints and the DMVs and all that.

KN: Wow, that’s the challenge.

BO: Yeah, why not! Just to see. Intel script stuff as far as I possibly can dare, and then I go: “OK, now let’s go check and see what I’m doing”. And then I’ll switch in the Management Studio again.

KN: Like in the old school way when we just wrote our code in C++, C+.

DW: Or webpages in Notepad for example. Simple tools.

BO: And I think the other thing that’s tricky with that is I have to write a lot of my own scripts, only because a lot of the time clients won’t let me install stuff. I love third-party tools! I mean, third-party tools are amazing. If I had a full-time job, I would buy all third-party tools immediately! But they usually sit me down in front of SSMS and say: “Go”. So I write a ton of scripts, that’s where the sp_Blitz, Blitzcache, Blitzindex comes in.

KN: That would be my next question, how do you find that you should write your own procedure or diagnostic tool and how did you decide that you would like to share this tool with everybody.

BO: On GitHub.

DW: Because that’s the point, that you have your knowledge and you would like share the knowledge among all other people.

BO: When I first got started with this, I had this script that I would go run whenever someone brought me a SQL Server when I was a DBA. Because people kept bringing me horrible SQL Servers. They would say: “here, we just acquired this company, they have these five SQL servers, they’re yours now”. So I would go look for triggers, is there database corruption, is mail set up, is alerting set up. I had this big, long script, and I had to run it section by section, and read the results. So I gave this out to the public, and I did a PASS summit session on it. This was the original Blitz, before it was sp_Blitz. And I told people: “I need you to run it section by section and read the results, and understand what it means”. One of the scripts in there tested database mail, and the email address was mine. And I said in the script: “Change this email address to your own”. What I learned very quickly was no-one was reading the script. [laughs]

KN: They just ran the scripts and… [laughs] waited for the results.

BO: Unbelievable! They just copy things from the Internet, and they run them in production! So I got emails every day from SQL Servers all over the world. And you could tell which companies they were from…

DW: So you must’ve been very surprised.

BO: I was shocked! So I thought: “If this many people need this this bad, and all they’re gonna do is hit Execute, why don’t I give them a stored procedure that just gives them what they need and say, here’s the things you should go do on your server”. So that’s where sp_Blitz came out where I… let me just give you a stored procedure and it will tell you what to do. And for the longest time, we kept it as a free download on the site, but it wasn’t open-source. It was copyrighted, because we would find that sometimes people would take the script and they would change the contents to make it look like it was from them. I was like: “That’s kind of crappy, I wanna be able to stop that in case it happens”. Over several years, I went: “I don’t really care if it does happen. If it does happen, that’s kind of OK, because if people can get their problems fixed, I can’t fix every problem, I can’t be everywhere”. And sometimes people need this for different purposes. They need to take out some of the checks, they wanna add their own checks, whatever. So we just talked as a company and went: “What if we just open-sourced the whole thing and call it a day? And then, if people wanna check in their own code, they can”. Plus, Microsoft has been slowly moving towards the dance floor with open source. And I went: “Why don’t I get experience with that and give it a shot?” And this community is so friendly and open-source welcome.

KN: Yeah, many people want to be involved in that.

BO: Contribute, yeah. So I just went: “Let’s see what happens”. And it’s been great! People checking contributions, they file their issues on GitHub. GitHub is not easy to use, it’s not friendly, it’s a pain in the rear. But it’s what we have for an open-source community. So I’m like: “OK”.

DW: Open-source community loves GitHub and they use it all the time, so.

BO: It’s the best thing we have, so.

KN: But still, I see a lot of comments from you and from Eric, I can see a lot of his involvement in that project. And I was wondering when you have time for that, for everything?

DW: Isn’t that that you are working at, for example you’re going to fix a server, and you think: “OK, I would need that script because maybe I can use it also in some other place”.

BO: Oh, that’s exactly… I’m on a project right now where the client wants to know if the server goes down, how much data are they gonna lose, and how long will they be down for. So I talked to him and said: “Can I write it as an open-source script? Can we just build it and… you’re still gonna pay for it either way, whether we build it just for you, or whether we build it open-source. But the nice thing, if we build it for open-source, people will find our bugs, and help us fix them, and they’ll add more features for stuff that they want, so you’ll get a better product. And it’s not your business”. That’s not a software company that’s selling monitoring tools for SQL Server, it’s not like this is gonna make you more money, so they went: “Sure, yeah, why not”. So a lot of the time when we’re working with clients and we find something weird on the server, we try to build that back into these stored procs, so we can catch it next time, too. Another thing that’s weird with this, you might thing that by giving the scripts away, you’re kind of taking away business. What we find is that most companies, when they call us, they haven’t even run those stored procedures. Or if they did, they’re like: “I understand what this means”. This is too much work. Help me figure out the plan to make this happen.

KN: It’s not about having the tool, you need to know how to use the tools. And that’s the knowledge. You are the knowledge. OK, let’s talk about your hobby. What is your hobby?

BO: Oh, that’s a tough one. I have a few things that I love to do but the most devilish is watching TV with my wife. At 5 o’clock, the instant the day is done, I check out, I’m done, and I go watch some of the dumbest TV you’ve ever seen. I watch Survivor, there’s a lot of shows on Alaska in the US that I love, Project Runway, just all kinds of goofy things. But beyond that, I love travel, and I really love cars. I adore cars.

DW: Yes, we’ve seen some pictures. [laughs]

BO: Man, I just love cars.

DW: I think the car must be really fast, you like speed too.

BO: Yes, and even old cars, as long as they’re beautiful. And one of the reasons I love coming to Europe is seeing all the cars that we don’t get over here in the States. Even small hot hatchbacks, just things we don’t get the chance to get is amazing to me. Building a car is so much work, there’s so much engineering that goes into it, all this precision that people don’t realise. Especially with all the features everyone wants. Airbags, anti-lock brakes, it’s incredible technology to see how these things work. I love them.

KN: So which car is your most favourite?

BO: My most favourite is probably the one I just sold. I had an Audi RS6 and I loved that dearly. But there’s no reason to own that in Chicago. It’s all potholes, 30 miles an hour, just drives me crazy. So I made the decision that I’m not buying another car again until I get out in the country somewhere where I can just go hammer it, and then it’s a Porsche 911 Targa. I want a Porsche 911 Targa, I’ve always wanted one since I was a kid, it’s just waiting until I get the nice open space. Right now I have a Jeep Wrangler and an Infinity G35, which is like just a regular 4-door family car type thing.

KN: Great. What do you think about work-life balance, what is your approach to that?

BO: Oh, I have strict time limits on when I work. I’m a really early-morning person, so I’m usually up at 5, I walk the dog, have breakfast, and I’m working by 7 at the latest. But I’m done at 5. I’m sometimes done before that, just cause I’m kind of stupid in the afternoons. Afternoons are not my best time. And then at the end of that, at 5 o’clock, I’m not walking back into the office if I can help it. I’m just not interested. I’d rather spend time with my wife. But on the weekends, she and I kind of have an agreement that she’ll sleep in until 9 or 10, so on the weekends from like 6 till 10 is another little nice work, just some jump that I get into. Now where it gets awkward is my wife works for us now. She’s like our office manager, admin assistant, so when she has stuff that she needs to get done, she will work on the weekend. And then if she’s working, I am not working.

DW: Do you remember the MCM programme, when it originally started?

BO: Yeah, I do, I loved it dearly.

DW: How do you find it? Was it a great programme? Because it was initially like the first round when you had to go to Seattle or Redmond… Three weeks…

BO: There were two parts of the programme. One was: you got to be in Microsoft, at their offices, for 3 weeks, listening to people who were brilliant, asking all kinds of questions. And it was very hard. They gave you written tests every week, and if you failed any of them, you were out. You could still stay there, but you weren’t gonna be an MCM until you could pass those. And those 3 weeks were amazing because it was like a boot camp with other people who were really good at SQL Server. And there was no work-life balance in those 3 weeks. You were in the hotel, you were all studying continuously, making flash cards, telling stories about SQL Server. We built some really close bonds amongst the 15 or so people who were in each class. And it wasn’t a class that was going to take you to master level if you didn’t already come in with a lot. It had like a 70–80% failure rate, cause they were really hard tests. That was the first part. And then the second part was: at the end of the 3 weeks, you had a 6-hour lab, and this lab test was the closest thing for me to a real consulting engagement that I had ever seen. You walked in and you had three sheets of paper, front and back, just single space, crammed with a brain dump from the client. They were just talking about things, here’s our servers, here’s problems that we’re having. This wasn’t a test where it was question 1, question 2, question 3. There wasn’t even a task list of “you must do this”. You had to figure our what you needed to do, and then there were your VMs: “Go!”. There was no-one left behind to help you. It was just “Go!”.

KN: So it was just like a description of a case scenario, or something like that?

BO: Well, it was like: “We’re having this problem, this query is slow, this server seems to throw an error, we don’t know what’s going on”…

KN: And you needed to just start investigating without a computer? [laughs]

DW: There were 15 questions and 6 hours or so…

BO: And they never really told you how many questions there was. So the first thing I did in those 6 hours was I took a piece of paper and I wrote down what I thought were the questions, and I came up with like 20, and I think there were less, because I know from one of them, one of them I wrote down was: the client had said: “We’ve never been able to get a back-up of this server” and in my mind, that is “Brent, we need you to set up back-ups”.

DW: That’s an amazing question, yes? Do you expect something like this on the MCM exam?

BO: It was tricky because I didn’t know what… Real clients run into that all the time. They’ll just kind of casually say: “We don’t have back-ups”. And I thought no MCM would leave a server without having back-ups. And you were allowed to write a text file for the client to leave behind, with instructions, so I said: “I’ve set up Ola Hallengren’s back-ups, here’s the instructions on how to use them”. Although, I think in mine, I actually used maintenance plans, because my logic was: if a client isn’t smart enough to do back-ups, they’re not smart enough to troubleshoot all the scripts either. So I think if I remember right I said: “Here, there’s maintenance plans set up and all this”. I burned time doing this, and it wasn’t even a question. It was just something they left in there as part of the case. So at the end of that 6 hours, I even stopped early because you had three VMs, but all of the questions involved these three. You could fix one thing and break something else that you’d done earlier. So I was maybe 5 or 5.5 hours in and I said: “Do you know what, I’m not gonna get any better, this is about as good as it’s gonna get, and anything that I touch, it’s gonna get worse”. So I closed everything up, when out, and I was just… my hands were shaking, I was on the verge of tears, I cried, called my wife, and I couldn’t wait to do it again! I was like, this is awesome, I love it, it’s like a videogame for SQL Server! And as the other students came out, we were all talking about what we thought the questions were, what we thought our answers were.

KN: A real community, yeah? At a high level.

BO: Yeah, very, very sharp. And you listen to those people, cause you really don’t know where you rank, where you are relative to them. And as I’m listening to some of them, and we’re talking about what we did, I’m like: “I’m screwed, there’s no way I pass”. And all of us are thinking that same thing, because it’s got a 70-some percent failure rate, you kind of expect it. And it took them a couple of days to grade it because there was so many. And when I found out I passed, I was just on top of the world, I was like: “this is amazing!”

KN: So back to the question on the MCM exam, you could have expected that kind of tricky question because if you passed some exams before, I mean the Microsoft exams, every exam has a lot of tricky questions.

DW: But this I think is a different level.

KN: But I mean the Microsoft approach to testing people. [laughs]

BO: Oh, it was bad. There were… and I’m sure I can talk about it now, cause it’s so dead and gone, but for example one of them was you needed to set up mirroring between two servers, and you think: “mirroring’s easy!”…

DW: “I can do it in three clicks”.

BO: Yeah, “I’m done!” And you go to set it up and it fails. It fails immediately. And you start digging in deeper, and databases were set up to auto-close and auto-shrink. There were the wrong encryption protocols on one of the servers. There was all this tricky digging you had to do, so when you write out there was 20 questions, you think: “Oh, 5 minutes per questions and I’m done, you know, I’m outta here, maybe 10”. When you catch one of those “just set up mirroring”, and next thing you know, you’re an hour into it and it’s still broken, and you’re like: “I gotta keep going”, so it was so tricky. Every one of the questions had even looked easy, they had purposely set up so many roadblocks to make it hard for you. I loved it! It was so much fun, so much fun.

KN: So I already know you’re planning to move to California, yeah? What is the reason?

DW: Windy City to sunny California.

KN: Completely different one.

BO: I’ve always felt like a California guy, I feel like I either belong to Texas or California, those are the two. And in America, they’re radically different states. Texas is a bunch of guns, and it’s a red state, all-Republicans. California is vegetarians that eat granola and it’s a very Democratic state. But they both have more in common I think than people realise. They’re very laid back, they’re friendly states, they’re welcoming, great weather. But I’ve always loved California just for the wide-open roads, surf, I love being around the water and beaches. There are earthquakes, yeah, but nothing can be perfect.

DW: But Texas has tornados.

BO: Oh, it does. Huge thunderstorms and lots of guns, so yes. [laughs]

KN: Do you plan to expand your company? And which direction if so?

BO: Yeah, about 2–3 years ago, I guess about two years ago now, when I bought out Jeremiah and Kendra, my two business partners, we were all on exactly the same page that we wanted to grow the consulting side of it. We wanted to get to like 10 or 15 consultants. So I started trying to grow it, and it’s really hard, because there’s a huge gap between having, say, 5 consultants and having 10 or 15 consultants. You need a human resources person, you need a whole sales staff, you need offices, there’s all these things you need. And it’s financially risky. I got a little ways into it and went: “You know what, no, I’m not doing this, this isn’t for me, I’m happy where I’m at with the consulting”. But we do plan to grow on the software side. There’s a bunch of things that I think would make DBAs’ jobs a lot easier if they had them. So one of the first things we brought out was paste the plan, where you can paste in an execution plan, and you can share it with friends, post on Stack Overflow to get help, cause there just wasn’t a good place to go see execution plans. I think there’s a lot of room like that for online tools for DBAs. We had a lot of thick client tools but there’s not a lot of tools to make it easier for us to collaborate together online. But that’s definitely where I wanna grow. I’m a huge fan of online stuff.

DW: And this stuff is easy because you just have to use it. You don’t have to install anything, you just have to use it and that’s all.

BO: You don’t have to troubleshoot on some of these computers, yeah. I’ve been a developer of apps before and debugging is horrible! Debugging is awful. People do crazy stuff with their computers. People run on old versions of Windows, people are behind crazy firewalls, people run it old tiny monitors or huge monitors. Debugging that stuff just absolutely sucks, whereas if I can have it centrally, it’s like a Software as a Service, it’s way easier, much easier.

KN: And this is the way the entire world is moving, we’re going to services. So I would ask another question, what would you say to people who wanted to start to be like you? Because you know, people, most of them, are here in Wrocław just to meet you…

BO: No! [laughs]

DW: That’s right! To meet you, to attend your session, attend your workshop. And most of them would like to be like you. “I’d like to be Brent Ozar”.

KN: Currently you have a lot of idols [fans].

BO: Start drinking. Drink a lot. [laughs]

DW: Apart from this. That’s not the message we’d like to share with them in the first place. [laughs]

BO: The biggest thing is start a blog, just start writing down. And it’s so intimidating, because feel like you can’t share things, like it’s already been written somewhere else. Everything has already been written, that’s what books online is for. Everything is already in books online. But it’s how you bring your own personality to it. People don’t wanna read books online. Books online is deadly boring. How can you talk about what you do, because it took you months or years to figure out whatever it is you’re working on today. If you can share that, there’s hundreds of people or thousands of people behind you. I always think any IT industry is like a pyramid. There’s very few people at the top, with incredible skills, Paul White, Paul Randal, Kimberly Tripp, Kendra Little, there’s all these people who have unbelievable skills at the top, and we all wanna be like them. We all think: “Oh, I should write something that they would wanna read. They don’t wanna read my stuff! That’s not where they get what they are. Paul White is running a debugger to learn what he learns”. You wanna think about the masses of people who are under you in terms of levels. There’s always more, no matter how junior you think you are. Even if you’ve only been working with SQL Server for a year, there’s someone who has never worked with SQL Server and they just got handed their first set of queries to go build. So just blog about whatever it is you tackled today, start sharing that online, and it’ll seem like no-one’s reading in the beginning. I write blog posts that no-one leaves comments on today, that’s just the way it works. But over time, it snowballs together, more people find you via Google, and then when you’ve written enough stuff, then it helps you get up to start to present about that. When you start seeing comments from people saying “Thank you, that helped me”, then you realise you could stand up and present about it too. Every time you’re sitting in a conference, just like SQLDay here, you think: “I must be different than the people up on the stage, I’m not good enough to be up there” and all of us on the stage feel the same way! “Why am I here?” You go into a speaker room and you’re surrounded by these people that you’re like: “Oh, that person knows more than I do, that person knows more than I do”. At this conference I see Greg Low, Greg was one of the instructors in the MCM programme. He knows so much it’s unbelievable and he’s the most humble and down-to-earth guy you’ll ever meet. So it doesn’t matter how far you get in the community. There’s always gonna be people you look up to. Don’t look up in the pyramid, look back at all the people who need your help, and that’s what it’s about is how can you share that and put your personality in it, so the people start to know you and relate to you. Don’t write generic white papers, cause no-one bonds with white papers. They bond with you.

DW: No-one wants to read it. So the idea is you should help others.

KN: Share the knowledge.

DW: And not want to impress the likes of Paul Randal, because it could be very hard.

And you’ll be wrong. [laughs]

DW: I expect it’s hard for everybody but it’s especially hard for people who’d like to start. So it’s not possible to impress a guru like Paul, like you or other people. And the other thing I think people are scared is that “what if I wrote a blog and somebody would hate it”.

BO: Ha, ha, yes!

KN: Hate across the whole world.

BO: Delete bad comments. My recipe for that is, go to any YouTube video, go to a music video that you really love, or scenes from a movie that you really love, and start reading the comments. And people hate everything! You’re stupid, you’re ugly, you don’t know what you’re doing, you should’ve done that differently. You just can’t let that bother you. Everyone will always be a critic. And the other thing people are often scared of is “I’m gonna say something that’s wrong”. Well, of course you will! We all make mistakes! And then you just learn from that. You can edit your post! A lot of times in our posts you’ll see “Update” at the end, “here’s some things that I learned later that changed how this works”. Nobody’s perfect, you just start getting on that bicycle and moving forward, you’ll crash a few times, but then next thing you now, you’re having a good time.

KN: Sometimes you think that for some people, hate is their hobby. [laughs]

BO: Yes! They sit in their mother’s basement and downvote everything. Yeah, it’s amazing how there’s a lot of negativity out there, you just can’t let that bother you.

KN: Let’s do another question at the end of our chat. How often do you fly to Europe?

BO: I try to get at least once a year. I try to go to a different European country every year, just cause I’m so lucky now to have this community thing and get to be able to speak about something that I love, and write it off as a tax expense. That’s wonderful. So if I could get over more often, I probably would. But I go once a year for work, and then I try to come over once a year with my wife. So like next is Germany in January. She adores the band a-ha, and they’re doing a new tour, so we’re going over to see them in Germany in January.

KN: Ok, this is your first time in Poland?

BO: Yes!

KN: How do you like it?

BO: I mean the food is great. I had not thought about how good Polish food is! Like I love gnocchi, I love pierogis, I’m sure I’m mispronouncing all of that.

KN: Very good, like Wrocław. [laughs]

BO: Wrocław! I worked on that, so proud of that! But the food I was really surprised by. I hadn’t thought about how much I like Polish food before! And the scenery is… this is what Americans imagine when they think of Europe. When they think of Europe, they think of an old, beautiful city, lots of trees, buildings that are a mix of a thousand years old and beautiful brand new architecture, you know, like the whole mix. Cobblestone streets that wind around, it’s just fantastic! I had heard from Aaron Bertrand and Grant Fritchey when they came over last year, they were like: “You have to come over here”. And I went: “Alright, let’s go see what it is”. And it’s beautiful, and we were talking a couple nights ago at the speaker dinner about how friendly everyone is here. The people were shocked by, they would just go and ask, I forgot which speaker it was that said he just ran into a policeman and he’s like: “Hey, can you tell me where whatever is?” The policeman starts bringing over other people, they navigate him to exactly where it is. You try this in America and they’re like: “Get out your phone, shut up, go off”. You’re on your own. [laughs] But yeah, it’s been beautiful, very nice.

KN: Ok, Brent, thank you very much for this. It was a great pleasure. Thank you very much.

BO: Oh, thank you! Thanks for organising the conference. You guys are doing a great job, it’s really well put together and the attendees are clearly having a great time, so nice job!

DW: That’s also because of you, great speakers.

KN: Yes, exactly! [laughs]

BO: Oh, my pleasure! Thank you, guys.

DW: Thank you.


Useful links:

Brent Ozar’s company: Brent Ozar Unlimited
Brent Ozar’s Twitters: Private | Company

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About author

Kamil Nowinski
Kamil Nowinski 200 posts

Blogger, speaker. Data Platform MVP, MCSE. Senior Data Engineer & data geek. Member of Data Community Poland, co-organizer of SQLDay, Happy husband & father.

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  1. agcieplak
    July 06, 10:26 Reply

    Good job, Kamil 🙂 Congrats on your new blog!

  2. Buckley
    July 10, 13:01 Reply

    I’ve looked with Android podcast Addict which in turns searches iTunes. It’s not there yet? Curious about your content guys ?

    • Kamil Nowinski
      July 10, 18:07 Reply

      You can listen to the podcast on the post page or on linked Spreaker portal. I’m working on publishing it on iTunes and hopefully it will be soon available. Stay tuned.

  3. James
    July 10, 14:40 Reply

    Great job! I really look forward to more podcast. Your first guest Brent is amazing and awesome.

    • Kamil Nowinski
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      Thanks James. We are planned one podcast a month. Next one will be in mid of August. And yes, Brent is an amazing man, speaker, influencer and SQL Server geek!

  4. MIPA
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    “Irenko jajecznicę bo nie mam ani grama!” 😀
    But seriously, this is good and interesting! GW!

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      Thanks Michal. Yeah, the background sounds were pretty dominated and disturbing sometimes.

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