Audrey Hammonds

Audrey Hammonds SQL Servershadow

Audrey Hammonds

Data Head Stats:
  • Where are you from, and what kind of company do you work for?
  • I grew up in a little town called Santa Fe, TX, which is situated right between Houston and Galveston. Very rural…think Footloose (the Kevin Bacon version, not the new one). I currently live in the Atlanta area, and work for a company called ista North America as a database developer. We provide energy transaction and management services. Basically, for energy marketers in deregulated markets, we provide all of the backend billing, invoicing, and submetering services.
  • SQL Server 2012 is finally here, in all its still-brand-new glory. What about it has you most excited? Anything about it that makes you a little…wary?
  • The things about SQL Server 2012 that most interest me are the new window functions that are going to be available, contained databases, and FileTable. These interest me because they have potential to have surprising real-world applications. The coolest thing about new features is seeing how people end up using them. Oh, and AlwaysOn. I’m not a DBA, but this sounds cool, if a bit hyperbolic. “AlwaysOn? You mean the database will always be on? Who needs backups when the database is AlwaysOn?” (note: Dear MSFT Marketing Dept., I’m kidding! It’s a good name.–Audrey)
    I’m a bit wary of the new licensing model. Going from processor-based to core-based licensing will be an adjustment for decision-makers out there. I hope that people aren’t scared off by real or perceived cost. SQL Server is a bargain when you consider that we’ve got an enterprise-ready database platform and all of these ancillary tools out of the box, but we’re a bit spoiled by historical pricing. And while I’m interested to see what becomes of contained databases, I’m a little concerned about that “partial” caveat they’ve thrown in. What will that mean in the real world? Is a partially contained database useful? I don’t know yet.
  • What’s decorating your office and/or desk right now? Photographs? Drawings your kids made? Crazy database models via LEGOs?
  • Over the years, I’ve come to believe that work shouldn’t be an extension of my home. So, I really don’t have any decorations at work. In fact, I could probably clear out completely with five minutes and an empty backpack. (Hopefully I never need to!) Plus, we work in a completely open environment—no cubicles or offices. Decorating opportunities are limited. As for my home office, I have drawings by my kids, a disco ball, a Mason jar full of wheat pennies that my grandmother was convinced would be worth a fortune someday, way too many technical books, a jar of buttons that I bought at a flea market when I was about 7, and a Napoleon Dynamite talking figurine. You know, in case I ever need to hear a “Gosh!” while I’m home alone working…
  • You’re a seasoned SQL Saturday organizer. How do you think the concept of SQL Saturday has evolved? How can it be expanded, for both sponsors and attendees?
  • I think that SQL Saturday has matured beyond just “a day of training”, and organizers are looking at this stable, well-known platform and saying, “Okay, this is still working; what else can we do with this?” That’s cool. Here in Atlanta, we always have a few goals. We want to reach an expanded audience, including absolute beginners, business-centric users, and highly experienced data professionals who never thought that SQL Saturday had anything to offer them. We want to go beyond the same 300 people in our community who will always show up for an event like ours, and find the people who might not know of us or think that they can’t gain from spending a Saturday with us. We want to do this while continuing to honor our core audience who has been with us from the beginning. It’s not an easy task, and we’re still trying to figure it out.
    As for sponsors, I think many software vendors within our discipline have realized that SQL Saturday is a great opportunity to reach a very dedicated group of people. I’d like to see more sponsorship coming from service providers, training companies, and recruiters. I think they’re missing out. Selfishly, we want to see as many sponsors in the room as possible, because sponsorship is what allows us to keep SQL Saturday free while continuing to improve quality year over year.
  • Not that long ago, you wrote a series of blog posts on data modeling, in conjunction with SQL University. What do you think more beginning devs/DBAs _should_ know about data modeling but don’t? What do they need to remember?
  • Ah, I could go on for hours about this topic. But, in the interest of not boring your readers to death, I’ll give my top three beliefs about data modeling:
    • Data modeling is part science, part art. You can learn the science part from a textbook, and you should. There is no substitute for understanding the math and science behind data modeling when you’re trying to become better. However, it’s also an artistic process. Use common sense, be creative, and talk to people. There is no such thing as a person who was great at data modeling the first time they tried. It takes practice.
    • Don’t skimp on the design process. Our need as problem solvers to have tangible things on the screen and code in source control means that sometimes we jump right past thinking and into doing. I say it all the time: Data modeling is 90% thinking and 10% doing. It’s okay to remove your hands from the keyboard and mouse and just sit and think about your model for a while. (Just keep your eyes open; you don’t want your manager to think you’re napping.)
    • You will get it wrong occasionally. It’s okay.That’s what refactoring is for. Just be willing to see your mistakes and get in there and fix them. There is no such thing as a perfect data model; just keep trying to make yours better.
  • What’s the geekiest thing you’ve ever done? (Or at least will admit to!)
  • Oh, sure…leave this one till the end. I looked so cool up to this point. Okay, I’ll admit my geekiest thing: I’m a huge Wheel of Time fan. It’s an epic fantasy series that was started by Robert Jordan, and following his death is being finished by another writer, Brandon Sanderson. It’s going to be a 14-book series, and the final book is due out this fall. I’ve been reading this series since I was 21. (For those counting at home, that’s 15 years!) A few things I’ve done (or am doing) related to this minor obsession:
    1. I have re-read the entire series for the release of Books 10, 11, 12, and 13. I’m currently re-reading the series now in preparation for the release of the final book sometime later this year. I’m on Book 2 right now.
    2. I owned 274 of 300 first edition cards for the Wheel of Time Collectible Card Game, which was made by a company that went out of business in 2002. I recently spent way too much money on eBay because I found a dealer who had 22 of the 26 cards I needed to complete the set. Is the set worth anything? Not really. Do I play the game? Nope. I just want all the cards. I need four more.
    3. I once sat in a community center for over two hours to meet Brandon Sanderson and Robert Jordan’s widow, Harriet McDougal, who was also his editor. I was fine with talking to Brandon Sanderson, who I’m a huge fan of as well. But talking to Harriet…I was starstruck.
    4. All of my pets are named for characters in the Wheel of Time world. Right now, we have three cats: Bela, Elmindreda (Min), and Aviendha. (Bela is a darkfriend.)

    And if you don’t mind… I’d love to throw a question to your readers: WHO KILLED ASMODEAN? Really. I need to know. It’s been bugging me for 12 years.

Data Heads

Data Heads
There are a lot of us lean, mean, data-analyzing machines out there in the real and virtual worlds, and it’s easy for interesting colleagues to get lost in the shuffle. With that in mind, we’ve launched Data Heads, a series of profiles of some of the most intriguing database professionals out there.