Networking and job search

I’ve been looking for a different job, one with more potential to learn and actually dealing with database administration instead of just pulling reports.

But I haven’t conducted a real job search in a long time.

I’m on LinkedIn, but I’ve never been very good at networking.

And I have a problem with confidence.

In November, I attended an event cosponsored by Women Veterans Connect and Swords to Plowshares in San Francisco.

Over the years, I’ve said that I missed the military, but until I was surrounded by other female veterans, I didn’t realize how much. It was a great day, a great environment. I had a lot of fun and met a lot of people. I was able to connect to some of them on LinkedIn.

One of the women, Melissa Washington, is the expert networker I’ve never been – and we were on the same West Pac in 1993/94. We didn’t know each other then, but the coincidence is so cool. (Melissa has also written a book Get Back to Work)

Anyway, Melissa realized that several of us drove out to San Francisco from the Sacramento Valley area and asked us if we wanted to start a local Women Veterans Networking group. Heck yeah! We had our first meeting a couple of weeks ago. It was a lot of fun! And I think I made some connections that will turn out to be valuable in multiple ways.

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When it comes to updating my résumé and selling myself, I’ve got trouble. I suppose a lot of people do. I’ve been reading job descriptions and sample résumés and getting discouraged.

Almost all of them have multiple programming languages (R, Python, C++, etc) in addition to SQL skills and experience listed. I can learn programming languages, but it’s hard to figure out what to concentrate my limited study time on. What direction do I go? I was starting to panic that maybe I’ll be stuck in this job forever because I can’t get up the courage to go anywhere else because of my hesitation to learn programming.

A friend mentioned she was taking a couple of courses on Coursera. I looked into it and there’s a data science sequence from Johns Hopkins that will work for me. It’s a lot cheaper than any grad degree or certificate program I’ve looked at. I’ve signed up to start on Monday.

I’m still working on the SQL Server certifications as well.

Last night, I found CodeSchool and did a very brief intro to programming in R. I was immediately pretty comfortable with it, as it’s based on Linear Algebra (scalar vectors, matrices, etc). Maybe it won’t be that difficult to get up to speed on what I need to know.

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Finally getting started – studying for Microsoft 70-461

The last couple of months, I’ve kind of drifted, lost sight of my goals.

I wanted to start playing with SQL Server 2008 at work, but I end up always working in Access instead. I’m also pulled in a lot of different directions as I do desktop and network support as well as reporting and still a little bit of clerical work.

The blessing and the curse of working for a small company is that you get to do a lot of different things. On the one hand, it means you’re always busy and always learning. On the other, it’s hard to concentrate on just one task.

Anyway, I studied for and took the MTA: Operating System Fundamentals test instead of studying for a SQL test. I thought, “I’ll get better at this part of my current job before I move on to the next phase of the SQL learning.”

I finally took (and passed) that test last week. I realized while studying for it that I did NOT want to go into the desktop support and/or network engineer stuff. I really do want to play with data.

Refocusing on that, I also realized that it would probably be better to go with the 2012 SQL Server stuff than the 2008, even though a lot of companies are still running on 2008, and even though the company I currently contract with uses 2008.

On Microsoft’s Virtual Academy, there’s a lot of training material for 2012, and none for 2008. That was a very influential factor in my decision. I don’t think you can use the MVA alone to pass the exams, but it is a very helpful supplement.

I’ve purchased the Training Kit and the Joes 2 Pros Volume 1 to get me started.

It took me a bit to get SQL Server 2012 installed [insert long boring story about needing to install Service Pack 1 on my Win 7 laptop before I could get started. . .] but tonight I got it all up and running.

Because of some things that have happened at work lately, I’ve been questioning whether I really want to go in this direction or not. Yeah, I’ve got the math degree and it seems like a good fit with database stuff, but can I actually do the work? [The old impostor syndrome rearing its ugly head].

There are days when I figure out something complicated and I think, “YEAH, this is it!” and there are times when I mess up on something simple and think, “Who the hell am I fooling? Myself mostly.”

Tonight, I started reading the Training Kit and Chapter 1, Lesson 1 is about mathematical relations, set theory and predicate logic. I was having flashbacks to Modern/Abstract Algebra classes and felt like it’s validation of what I’m doing. Yes, this is the right direction now.

I finally feel like I’m on my way.

Learning

I feel a little like I’m drowning because I don’t have exactly the right background for what I’m trying to become. I looked into going for a Master’s degree in computer science. I don’t have the right classes to get accepted into the program at the school I graduated from.

I looked at getting a second Bachelor’s, but the local university is not accepting applications for second bachelor’s or non-degree-seeking students.

So, I decided that I should work on some certifications – I know how to think logically, but I don’t know all the fiddly little bits about SQL or even database structures. Since I don’t know where to start, I’m going to start with Microsoft certifications.

I know that there is debate about whether or not certifications are worth anything, but the best argument I’ve seen is that it can give you a focus for your individual study.

The first one I’m taking is MTA: Database Fundamentals. I know the MTA isn’t that valuable (or valuable at all in the job market), but I thought I should start with basics.

I bought the Official Study Guide. I’ve been watching the videos on Microsoft Virtual Academy.

I found some other videos on YouTube.

I bought a practice test at MeasureUp.

The test is concentrated on SQL Server and I’m working more with Access, so I’ve set up a lab environment on my home computer to work with it.