T-SQL Tuesday #112 – The Cookie Jar

This month’s T-SQL Tuesday comes from Shane O’Neill (blog | twitter). He starts us off with this:

Dipping into the Cookie Jar is about when the going gets tough and you don’t think you can handle anymore, then you think back about your accomplishments and take some sustenance from them. You dip back into that cookie jar and use whatever energy that provides to keep going.

So tell me about a time when you had an accomplishment that can keep you going.

I. Love. Cookies.

I feel like this could describe my entire career. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve found myself staring looking at a new project, thinking “how on earth am I going to pull this off? This is nuts!”

I do exactly what Shane describes above – I just didn’t know there was a name for it. I have to remind myself “hey, you’ve said this same thing before, and it worked out. Breathe, slow down, and you will figure it out. You always do.”

For the really gnarly problems in the past, I’ve hidden away for a few days to just hammer away at code. So, what do I do when I get to the next one? I remind myself that if I do the same thing, I’ll get through.

Here’s the thing

In this business, you should never be doing the same thing over and over. Those are the things you automate so you can move on to more interesting problems.

There should be something coming along new every week. If there isn’t, make something new happen. If all you’re doing is things you’ve done before, things that you already know exactly how to do, you’re going to stagnate. You’re not going to learn. You’re not going to grow.

For me, it’s all about breaking the problem down in two ways:

  • Find parts that you know you know how to do
  • Find ways to experiment with the parts that you don’t know how to do

The first one is your cookie jar. Break that project down and tackle the stuff you have seen before. Maybe you’ve even got a time-tested script or checklist to get you through it.

On to the stuff that’s new. This is the exciting part! You won’t get it right on the first try. Everyone falls the first time. That’s how we learn. That stuff that’s old hat to you in the paragraph above? There was a time you didn’t know how to do that, either. And now look at you – you’ve mastered those parts.

An Example

Right, Shane wanted real examples, didn’t he? Time for me to go back to the well that is my 8000-database migration. Let’s break that down:

  • Upgrading from SQL Server 2008R2 to a newer version? High-level, I’ve done that before. Had a sysadmin doing most of the heavy lifting, but I was right there with him for most of it. 🍪
  • Oh, but wait! I worked on an upgrade from 2000 to 2008R2 before that. We kept the whole workflow document and checklists around from that so we built on that. 🍪
  • I migrated from 2008R2 to 2008R2 before using dbatools. That went pretty well. 🍪
  • When I did that previous migration, I successfully copied things in groups, I didn’t have to do it all at once. Just like the big migration to 2016. 🍪
  • As an organization, we’d previously moved our 2008R2 setup to new server hardware, with minimal issues. We learned from the breakage we had and documented those lessons. 🍪
  • When I stood up the new test 2016 instance, I copied everything but the databases from the 2008R2 test instance and that worked out OK. 🍪

So, what was I left with here for the big migration? I’ve been through version upgrades. I’ve been through scripted migrations. I’ve copied everything except databases from 2008R2 to 2016. We’ve changed hardware before. So many cookies!

The only part that I was really worried about was attaching the databases themselves. As a result, I was able to test that out a couple dozen times to make sure it would work properly. And no, I didn’t get it right on the first attempt – it took probably a dozen attempts before I got the attach script working properly. But I knew it would be OK, because I’d worked on plenty of other projects where the first attempts were unsuccessful as well.

Keep at it

You didn’t give up in the past, and you found success. So keep plugging away and you’ll keep succeeding.

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