Kickin’ it up a notch…

A couple of weeks back, my wife and I had the occasion to attend a really cool event in the Northern Atlanta suburbs.  One of the city’s least appreciated features is the truly ‘world class’ symphony we have, right here in the capital of the New South.  The Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, or ASO as those in the know call it, hosted a special event at their summer home, the Verizon Wireless Amphitheater.  They  showed one of the greatest American films ever produced, Casablanca, with a unique twist: the orchestra played the film’s soundtrack. 

Rick's Cafe AmericainNow, as a fan of Casablanca, I always enjoy seeing the film.  In my opinion, it’s Humphrey Bogart at the height of his powers, defining the American anti-hero long before it became the fashionable thing to do (see Easy Rider, circa 1969).  Casablanca is filled with passion, with emotions constantly smoldering under the surface, threatening to erupt at any time.  But as moving as the film is, the real power supplied that evening came from the ASO themselves.  You cannot imagine the sheer force of impact that nearly 100 musicians generate, playing together in perfect time, synched to the moving visuals of film.  It is almost as though you, the viewer, have jumped directly into the movie yourself.

The incredible power generated by the symphony’s players flows from several sources.  First of all, each of the performers is a highly trained, experienced professional who is in the top one tenth of one percent for their instruments.  They are organized by outstanding conductors who are broadly known within classical music circles, coaxing exceptional performance from each player.  The symphony also invests significant time in practice, working closely together to ensure all runs smoothly during the performance.  Simply put, the ASO is a high performance team, working together to produce beautiful music capable of bringing a tear to your eye.

The key aspect of the symphony experience I mentioned earlier is that all of the performers are world class.  By finding outstanding professionals to work with, you will receive an incremental increase in overall output on an individual basis.  Coordinating the team of professionals with an experienced PM (or SCRUM master) increases the team’s performance, much like the conductor leads the symphony.   You also receive even greater benefits when you ‘practice’ a dynamic, flexible delivery methodology (like Agile, SCRUM, or various flavors of these lightweight approaches).  You can truly achieve speed to market results that outstrip the discreet increase in cost per team member.

So, let’s jump to today’s business environment, in particular IT and system implementation.  The entire industry is looking for the Holy Grail of implementation strategies:  simultaneously better, faster and cheaper results.  Anyone who has ever considered the ‘Triple Constraint’ of Implementations (Quality, Cost, Duration) knows that you can typically achieve two of the three by accepting a proportionate decrease in the third.  However, I believe that considering a fourth component will also yield better results: personal performance.

I often hear people say that development is a commodity, and that they can’t afford the real ‘top shelf talent’ in most cases.  I will admit that higher performing professionals usually have a higher average hourly rate than the typical ‘middle of the road’ resource.  However, if you focus strictly on the cost component with considering the benefit, you see the trees but miss the forest. 

The key metric to consider is the total cost of implementation.  Your high performance team, leveraging a lightweight methodology, will produce better quality code and deliver a usable code-base faster than an ‘average team’ using a more traditional, waterfall-type approach.  The Business Sponsor will have working code deployed to the field faster, reducing your total cost to market while creating a higher ROI and shorter payback cycle.

Sound too good to be true?  It’s not.  And if you think the music the symphony creates is sweet, that is nothing compared to the sounds your executive sponsor will make when they find out how much they are saving.  And you can play that again and again, Sam…

About the Author: 

Willard Woodrow, Senior Project Manager and BI Champion at Genuine Parts, has 15+ years of information technology experience in the utilities, retail, recruiting, telecom, and insurance verticals. His professional expertise includes business consulting, system implementation, project management, application operations, and client relationship management. Follow Willard on Twittter @willardwoodrow.

Posted in: 
PM-Agile

SQL 101 - The WHERE clause

SQL 101 - The WHERE clause

See only what you want to see.

After you learn how to get data out of a table with the SELECT command, you’ll soon ask the question, how do I limit the number of results I get back. Well, If you don’t ask the question, your DBA will. I don’t think he or she would like it if you only ever used SELECT without learning the WHERE clause. Adding this clause to your query will let you limit the number of rows the server will return. You’ll be able to identify certain characteristics the results will have in common.

Let’s go back to our copy of AdventureWorks.

This time, we’re going to look at contacts stored in our database. We’re going to use the Person.Contact table. We’re going to look for contacts with the last name Lowder.

SELECT
FirstName, LastName
FROM Person.Contact
WHERE
LastName = 'Lowder'

output

  FirstName  LastName
--------- --------
Shannon Lowder

The WHERE clause will let you limit the number of rows based on any column in the table you’re querying. Rather than showing every first and last name in the table, this query only returns the first and last names for contacts who have the last name lowder. Currently in my database, I only have one record. My record. If there had been any other Lowder in this table, say my parents, or sister, those records would have been returned by this query.

For now, you’ll only be able to limit your results based on the values in the columns. You have many comparison operators you can use. In my above example you saw the equals operator. Let’s show you a few more

Comparison Operators

  • =
  • >, >=
  • <, <=
  • <>, !=
  • LIKE
  • IN (…)
  • BETWEEN

The first four should look familiar if you’ve been through a few math classes, but the last three are specific to SQL. Let’s walk through how to use these.

LIKE

LIKE allows you to do partial matching. There are going to be times where you know only part of the value you’re searching for. Let’s say you know you have a contact whose last name starts with a “s”, but you can’t remember the rest. You can do that look up by using the LIKE operator and a wild card.

SELECT
FirstName, LastName
FROM Person.Contact
WHERE
LastName LIKE 's%'

output

  FirstName  LastName
--------- --------
Margaret Smith
Deanna Sabella
Lane Sacksteder
Peter Saddow
What a Joker!

Wild...like the Joker

There are other records, but I stopped after the 4th, you get the idea. If not… Run this query for yourself.

I mentioned a wild card. If you’ve worked in DOS, you may remember DIR *.txt. The * is the wild card in dos. In Microsoft SQL, the wild card is %. We wanted to see everything where the last name started with “s” and had anything after that.

The LIKE operator can do some pretty advanced things. If you are familiar with regular expressions, you should know that the LIKE comparator works with regular expressions. I really need to cover this in a blog post.

IN

Let’s say you had a list of records you were looking for. For example, you want to find people with a last name of Smith, Jones, or Adams. Pretty common names, right? If you wanted to do this kind of look up you will want to use the IN (…) comparator, you can then list the values you want returned.

SELECT
FirstName, LastName
FROM Person.Contact
WHERE
LastName IN ('Smith','Jones','Adams')

output

  FirstName  LastName
--------- --------
Frances Adams
Margaret Smith
Carla Adams
Jay Adams
Robert Jones

I’ve truncated the results here. But feel free to run this query yourself to see the full results.

When you use the IN clause, you’re not going to have the same flexibility you have with LIKE. So don’t be too disappointed when you switch from LIKE to IN. They both have their uses. Learning when yo use each… that’s the key.

BETWEEN

When you want to search for items that occur in a range of values, you’ll use BETWEEN. I use this a lot when doing date based searches. Such as who was paid BETWEEN ’1/1/2005′ AND ’12/31/2005′. I also use it for value ranges like, show me all the products that have a list price between $2,500 and $5,000.

SELECT
Name, ListPrice
FROM Production.Product
WHERE
ListPrice BETWEEN 2500 and 5000

output

Name                ListPrice
----------------    ---------
Road-150 Red, 62 3578.27
Road-150 Red, 44 3578.27
Road-150 Red, 48 3578.27

Play around with the WHERE clause a bit. If you have any questions, please, feel free to comment below! I’m here to help you grow stronger in the ways of The Force, err… SQL.

About the Author: 

Look no further for expertise in: Business Analysis to gather the business requirements for the database; Database Architecting to design the logical design of the database; Database Development to actually build the objects needed by the business logic; finally, Database Administration to keep the database running in top form, and making sure there is a disaster recovery plan. Connect with Shannon Lowder.

Posted in: 
Development

Leadership? Maybe When I Grow Up.

In July my 15-year old son and I went on a Northern Tier Boy Scout wilderness canoeing trip in Atikokan, Ontario. Our crew consisted of five boys and three adult leaders. It was a great time, very challenging, with many adventures along the way. For the first time since I can remember we were also “ off the grid” totally for ten days, miles from civilization, with no connection to iIPods, iPhones, iPads and other electronic devices.

Lessons in LeadershipWith outside assistance several days away, crew teamwork was essential, not only for mutual survival, but also for efficiency.  Everyone had to pitch in and carry their weight (sometimes literally as in the case of portaging an aluminum canoe for up to a mile) As ours is a boy-led troop, the scouts assigned a crew leader, who made all the daily work assignments like who would cook, gather water, build the fire, set up tents, make on the spot decisions and deal with other issues that came up unexpectedly. The adults could “advise” but the scouts themselves had to ultimately decide.  Now keep in mind that all these 14 and 15 year olds are peers in every way in school, sports, etc. – but here in wilderness they had to follow the hierarchy that was set up.  It was no easy thing, for example for my own son, to defer and take orders from one of his best friends, with no room for push back, or even utter the ubiquitous teenage boy insult (“You are such a loser”).

It was a new world, this one of structure, respect, obedience for peer leaders.  Being a leader in a Boy Scout troop is like being a leader anywhere else. Every leader deals with two major things- the job to do and the group. On our trip the jobs were easy, they were clear cut and easy to define --- We needed to paddle this far, not tip over the canoe, purify the water, camp here, cook the food, etc.

Managing the group was more difficult for the crew leader, as he had to incur the wrath (or distaste) of his fellow scouts several times a day. Really just because he was telling them what to do. We could tell he was struggling with it, and finally some of the simmering issues boiled over into a confrontation that left several with hurt feelings. It was a no-win situation, he had to perform his duties as a crew leader, and in doing so he almost without doubt was going to alienate his friends. Midway through our journey we relieved the boy,) from some of his leadership duties and the rest of the trip went smoothly. The scouts had no problem taking orders from the adults, as that was more normal for them. 

The decisions you make as a leader in the working world are always not so easy either. Sometimes it is hard to choose a path that others are willing to follow. And sometimes it is difficult to follow orders you don’t understand or agree with. But we learn to follow them anyway. Or have a very, very good reason not to.

Hopefully the leadership lessons learned will be ones with stick with the boys. I’m not so sure however. Without the structure of the rules and trip, in no time at all my son has reverted to his old ways. Last night he and a friend stayed up till the wee hours playing video games. The ensuing mess in the family room this morning resembled a battlefield, with banana peels, Sprite cans, cracker wrappers, and other food items strewn about the floor. Absent a leader to tell them to clean up, nothing happened…until next morning that is.

About the Author: 

Rick Sanders is Digital Content Strategist/Writer. He has broad experience in technology-related marketing, and writing for the tech-savvy crowd. Rick sees the explosion of social media as a great reason for revisiting the basics of effective communication.  He can be reached at rsand@bellsouth.net or on Linked In at www.linkedin.com/in/ricksand

Posted in: 
Fun

What I am, What I am Not

There are many things a recruiter can do for your job search, but there are also limits.

What I am: 

I am your advocate to my client companies.  I genuinely and actively want you to find a job that meets your professional and financial goals.  Both personal and professional motives play into this.  The personal component is that I find satisfaction in helping other people find a position that improves their situation. 

I Yam What I Yam!I’ll also go ahead and mention the dirty “C” word – commission.  I do have financial incentive to get you a job – I will do everything I can to get your resume in front of a hiring manager, push for interviews, prep you for interviews, and then seal the deal and get you an offer.  This does NOT mean that I have financial incentive to nickel and dime you out of a fair pay rate. 

“I have found no greater satisfaction than achieving success through honest dealing and strict
 adherence to the view that, for you to gain, those you deal with should gain as well."

Above is my favorite quote from Alan Greenspan.  It embodies everything I believe as a recruiter and as a professional.  A career is made through honest dealings and acting in the best interests of those your work with.  I create sustainable long-term success for myself and my company by treating you with respect and doing everything I can to get you what you need.  If a recruiter whittles you down to a low rate or misrepresents a job opportunity, you have no incentive to stay in that role.  I understand and appreciate that.  I have a vested interest in your success, and I will act as such.

What I am NOT:

I am not your personal job search representative, and this can sometimes be surprising to candidates.  When you contact me about a position, I will do my best to find as many jobs as possible that fit your background and professional aspirations.  Again, I genuinely want to find you a job.  However, the job market doesn’t always dictate that I will have an opportunity that is a match for you, whether that is due to rate, skills, or other mismatches.

I understand both as someone who has been on the job-seeker’s side, as well as in my role now recruiting, that this can be extremely disappointing and discouraging.  While every staffing company strives to have as many job opportunities available as possible, no one company has a corner on the entire market.  So the solution I can offer is this: don’t just rely on me to find your new opportunity.  Continue to work the job boards and your own network.  I would love to be the person who finds you your next role, but at the end of the day, I just want you to find the best role for your career moving forward.

Also, don’t be shy about following up with me again in a couple of weeks.  New jobs come in every day, but contact from you to let us know you’re still on the market and looking can help us to proactively identify those roles for you.

About the Author: 

Kathryn Smith is a Technology Recruiter at MATRIX Resources and has been recruiting for over a year. As an Economics graduate and prior Economic Research Analyst, she continues to follow the labor market and emerging technologies closely. Look for future blog posts about the recruiting process as well as labor market outlooks.

Posted in: 
Job Seeker

ReMIX South 2011 - "I can't wait for the next event"

This past weekend 400+ designers and developers gathered in Atlanta for the 2nd Annual #ReMIXSouth Event. Featuring break-out track sessions in: UX, Web, Mobile&Tablet, and Kinect, audiences had a chance to interact with fellow tech pros and learn from top-notch presenters alike. MATRIX was proud to help sponsor such a great event. We also want to give a big congratulations to Holly Reynolds who won our drawing for a $200 gift card.

MATRIX at ReMIXSouth 2011One of our friends and attendees, Michael Faber said:

"The ReMIX South Sessions were truly a blast. Being able to socialize and meet others in my field was great, but the highlight of my experience was the seminar hosted by Jenn Downs of Mail Chimp, it reminded me how much fun you truly can have in a User Interface environment. I can't wait for the next event."

Heather Perez, MATRIX Technology Recruiter, was one of our teammates that attended the event and said:

"I talked with a lot of developers and designers who were impressed with the speakers that presented and the sessions they were able to select from.  Many had a hard time deciding among them!"


Be sure to check out their Flickr page and the ReMIX South website for future events along with more information about this year's presenters.

About the Author: 

Adam Waid is the Director of Marketing at Mediacurrrent, an industry-leader in helping organizations architect custom Drupal websites. Adam is also a MATRIX Alumnus, where he worked closely with the Sales and Recruiting organizations to develop differentiation strategies, create content, and drive CRM and social media initiatives with a single goal in mind - build stronger, more meaningful relationships with our clients. Leveraging new technology, the latest social media trends, and a good mix of traditional marketing, Adam grows online communities.   Follow Adam on Twitter and Read his Social Media Blog.

Posted in: 
Development