Journey of a DB2’s Got Talent Winner
I’ve been encouraged by a few to tell my story. How I was encouraged into DB2’s Got Talent 2014, what it was like, decisions I made on the fly, any advice, and what I learned from my experience. To tell you how I won, I have to go back and tell you of the friendship I have developed with Ember and what seemed to be a harmless conversation in January of this year.
Starting in 2012-2013 Ember and I started mentoring and encouraging each other after learning we had complimentary technical skillsets. Where she was deep with knowledge, I was shallow. The breadth of experience I had overshadowed hers. As a result, we started pushing and helping each other.
This lead to a conversation in January. Ember had been gently encouraging me to apply for DB2’s Got Talent, offering support in trying my first developerWorks article, and was pushing me to apply as an IBM Champion. Frankly, I thought she was nuts. I believed I had no where near the experience or knowledge needed. However, after enough gentle encouragement and general harassment I wrote down some goals I thought may be slightly impossible.
My goal was to accomplish all this while working full time, being a husband and dad of three, and in my first term as head of my fraternal organization (Knights of Columbus). After discussing things with my wife, realizing I may have to drink myself silly to numb the pain, and coming to terms that I may be crazy – I started my 3 month journey. Oh, did I mention during the same time I would be preparing for a presentation at the 2014 IDUG Technical Conference in Arizona?
My first developerWorks article, was published on March 28th, coinciding with my last DB2 Night Show “DB2’s Got Talent” competition. It was 3 months of intense writing, editing, and submission. This article could not have been done without the help of Ember, Ian Bjorhovde, and Susan Visser. Their guidance and technical insight during the process of writing my first article was invaluable. It only took a fifth of scotch to get through the writing and publishing process with their help. Honestly, I am not sure if I am more proud of publishing my article or graduating with a four year degree from the University of Florida. It places somewhere above graduating UF and a little below having my first child.
I documented my journey some. You may have seen some of my tweets.
This is what you look like when you send in your final draft for publishing.
As I was walking through the publishing process I was simultaneously working through DB2’s Got Talent 2014 for the “DB2 Night Show”. I grossly underestimated the effort for DB2’s Got Talent. Having confidence in my speaking ability and noting the short 4 minute presentations, I thought this would be minimal effort. I was totally, ridiculously, hilariously wrong.
It was the competition, they were so skilled that I had to step up my game. Some of these people like Prasad Pande, Saurabh Agrawal, Ken Schaffer, Mariana Sanchez, Ian Bjorhovde and a few others were serious competitors with deep and broad skill sets. This caused me to do more research, install DB2 v10 and build a test database to work out various scenarios, pick up new presentation tools, find better graphics, polish my speaking, and stretch every bit of my ability.
I never accounted for the time spent networking and asking for votes. I never realized the length I would go to get them either. I bought doughnuts for the Atlanta office twice, emailed my company of 400, wrote a blog after each presentation to draw in people to vote, talked to fraternity brothers, provided dessert to my wife’s company, worked twitter, linked-in, Facebook, talked to family, neighbors, and every technical contact. My contacts started working their networks. I had people I didn’t even know watching and voting. When I saw I pulled in over 900 votes during the final episode I was flabbergasted.
While networking, I learned you couldn’t nag or pester. It was about helping others as well. Developing a relationship. Making voting fun and repaying the favor if I could. I also had to get creative in my advertising. My tweets, for example.
Want to know a secret? I never expected to win DB2’s Got Talent. I honestly thought I was going to be out gunned. My goal was to survive just long enough not to be eliminated early, learn from my experience, get my name out in the DB2 community, and help others with my presentation.
Each of my topics came from a challenge at work and I wanted to ease the learning curve of another by showing what I learned. A secondary goal was to improve the chances of having my IBM Champion application accepted. I realized I may be too much of a freshman to be accepted this year but being a DB2’s Got Talent contestant would help my chances the following year if I was rejected.
I think I was successful because of some advice I took to heart from my father when I was graduating college and job hunting.
Dad, the recruiters keep asking where in the country I want to live if I accept a job.
Son, you go wherever the hell they tell you to go. You have zero skillset. You spent four years in college to get a piece of paper that shows you have the capacity to learn. Go where they tell you to go, shut up and work, pay attention, and improve … and on second thought, don’t go to Louisiana. Just trust me on that one. Too damn hot.
[I said it was good advice, I never said my Dad was an eloquent speaker.]
Those that did well in the competition did exactly that. They worked hard and took constructive criticism. Why did I choose Prezi for one presentation over Powerpoint? Because a judge had mentioned it was cutting edge when another presenter used it. Why did I cover column masking in my second presentation? Because the judges kept getting excited over v10 features. The humor in my presentation? Because I was complimented on its use multiple times. You bet I was looking at Ember’s write-ups on DB2Commerce to see where I was weak and what others did well. I learned and I adjusted.
I think one thing that separated me from the rest of the competitors was my simplicity. My presentations were rarely over 6-8 slides long and rarely branched out from a single feature or topic. I mixed high level concepts with snippets of code that were from experience applied as opposed to examples from a book. I also discovered I have a knack for humor. When applied appropriately to a presentation, it engages the audience. They start to remember you.
When you can get your Dutch judge (Klaas Brant)
to start using the word “Shiznit” in a sentence regularly …
You are doing well.
There is a piece of the game that I DID NOT like but was one of the first adjustments I had to make. Due to the nature of the game, you have to find another to support you because voting was not limited to those who attended the show or the overtly technical. This is where the TV show “Survivor” crosses “DB2’s Got Talent”. I noticed early that one pair seemed to be pooling votes. As a result, I sought out someone I respected and asked if we could leverage each others networks. Mariana was the first contestant that I approached. A smart person would have gunned for an established IBM Champion like Ian Bjorhovde. However, I chose Mariana for no reason other than she impressed the heck out of me. Based what I observed she seemed to be a mid-level DBA, earlier in her career, presenting with an unusual tool (Prezi), and in her second language. I had immediate respect for her because that took a lot of courage. Luckily she agreed to work with me and we went to the semi-finals as a team. Once she was eliminated, I approached someone who I knew and thought well of – Ken Schafer.
I admit, I was getting pressure from others to “fudge” the voting some. I was told more than once, “… but if all votes are for your and Mariana, she could theoretically come out 1-2 votes ahead from other voters. Can I vote for someone else”? This made me do a gut check more than once and hold to the agreement I had with my counterpart. If I played honorably, I could be eliminated. If I cheat a vote or two, I could do better. Honestly, I don’t think I could have lived with myself if I was dishonest and won because the win would have been tainted. So I put a lot of pressure on my network to vote for my counterpart specifically and not to stack votes (vote 50 times). I am very glad I did play cleanly. I didn’t realize I would be tempted by so many others not to.
As I said, I don’t like this part of the game or how I had to adjust. I know that future contestants will be reading this article to prepare for their upcoming DB2’s Got Talent competition and I want to show a strategy that worked for me.
A few final pieces of advice to future competitors. First, don’t read your slides. Use them to back your story or example as you speak. I very rarely read my slides verbatim. Second, there are too many benefits in rehearsing until you can speak comfortably without thinking. One example is how Ken Schaffer recovered from multiple distractions on his first presentation – he was paged and called from work during his four minutes. A more shocking example is what happened to me on my very last show on March 28th. Fifteen minutes before I go on, I find my developerWorks article was published after three months. I was riding high! Five minutes before I go on, I found out a dear friend of mine passed. I went from excited to crushed in a span of ten minutes and then went on to present. Luckily I had rehearsed enough that I went on auto-pilot and presented without issue.
So what about those of you reading this article who say – “I can’t” or “There is no way I could…”. Well, I am a good example. Listen to Susan Visser’s comments about me when I am announced as a winner (DB2 Night Show, Episode 132. Go to 1H 03M 35S) . She politely stated first draft of an article for DB2Commerce.com from two years ago pretty much stunk. Her revised draft had so many red marks that I didn’t even know where to start my corrections. Regardless, I had to stick myself out there first and then learn from others that knew better. My writing has improved because of the opportunity Ember has given and the support of others. My presentation skills would never have gotten off the ground if Pavel Sustr (IBM) never asked me “What do you think of a joint presentation”? Look at the first round of DB2’s Got Talent – there are at least two who have never so much as put a power point presentation together, but they tried. From that point, you fake it until you make it.
But in the end, it came down to help from a lot of you and votes from those who follow this blog. I owe you a great deal of gratitude and appreciate the help and support you have given me.
What about the IBM Champion application I mentioned at the top of the story? The third and final crazy idea. As I was writing my article and working on presentations I submitted my application and presented my case to be elevated to IBM Champion status. Chances of me being accepted are about 50% and I should find out by the end of April. If I was accepted I would be ecstatic, but realistically it may not happen and that is OK. I’ll learn from the experience and make my adjustments when I apply next year. It can’t hurt to try right? Look what happened to me so far.
Thank you for reading my story and for those competing in 2015 I wish you the best of luck.
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Reference: DB2 Got Talent replays and minute mark for my presentations.
- DB2’s Got Talent, Episode 132 “DB2 Got Talent Winners” – 59M 41S
- DB2’s Got Talent, Episode 131 “Grande Finale” – 1H 02M 47S
- DB2’s Got Talent, Episode 130 “Top 7 Finalists Compete” – 1H 04M 30S
- DB2’s Got Talent, Episode 129 “Top 9 Finalists Compete” – 1H 06M 25S
- DB2’s Got Talent, Episode 128 “Top 10 Finalists Compete” – 00H 38M 16S
- DB2’s Got Talent, Episode 125 “Contestant Search #2” – 00H 35M 20S
Michael Krafick is an occasional contributor to db2commerce.com. He has been a production support DBA for over 12 years in data warehousing and highly transactional OLTP environments. He was acknowledged as a top ten session speaker for “10 Minute Triage” at the 2012 IDUG Technical Conference. Michael also has extensive experience in setting up monitoring configurations for DB2 Databases as well as preparing for high availability failover, backup, and recovery. He can be reached at “Michael.Krafick (at) icloud (dot) com”. Linked-in Profile: http://www.linkedin.com/in/michaelkrafick. Twitter: mkrafick
Mike’s blog posts include:
10 Minute Triage: Assessing Problems Quickly (Part I)
10 Minute Triage: Assessing Problems Quickly (Part II)
Now, now you two play nice … DB2 and HACMP failover
Technical Conference – It’s a skill builder, not a trip to Vegas.
Why won’t you just die?! (Cleaning DB2 Process in Memory)
Attack of the Blob: Blobs in a Transaction Processing Environment
Automatic Storage Tablespaces (AST): Compare and Contrast to DMS
DB2 v10.1 Column Masking
Automatic Storage (AST) and DMS