Loving What You Do

Ever heard the following quote?

Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.

I can’t credit that because nobody knows who coined it. I always thought it was pie in the sky thinking, and tended to lean towards a work to live philosophy.

Don’t get me wrong, I find dimensional modeling, data warehousing, and many other BI tasks fascinating and rewarding. But it still feels like work. In particular, ETL development can become repetitious and boring after you’ve done it for years. It might surprise some that I seriously considered abandoning ETL development many years ago. I wanted to focus more on virtual OLAP models, and skip the physical data warehouse load entirely. Blasphemy! Luckily I found Biml and have steadily automated almost all of the tedium from my work.

Tim Costello and I – Pass Summit 2017

At a SQL Saturday event many years ago I ran into Tim Costello (Blog/Twitter) in the speaker room. He was hunched over his laptop actively working on something. I teased him by asking, “Hey, are you still writing your presentation?” He just laughed and kept messing with the computer. So, I sat near him so I could go my own PowerPoint presentation one last time.

I glanced over and Tim looked like he was playing a video game, lots of screen motion and color. He wasn’t, he was using Tableau. I asked him if he was fixing something for a client, but he wasn’t. He didn’t have a goal in mind, he simply loved playing with Tableau. Tim is someone who would do this stuff for free, and that inspires me.

Fast forward to two months ago. I had created a Biml framework which shreds most flat files and automatically stores the records into an Operational Data Store (ODS) for historical staging. In order to test all of the possible attribute variations, I needed to find or create many sample flat files representing each attribute value. For example, I needed to test delimited, fixed width, and ragged-right files. Files can be delimited with multiple characters, use various text qualifiers, have first row column names, etc. I could have created a SSIS package that exports a sample file and repeatedly edit it until all scenarios were covered. I started to do that and quickly realized how tedious and boring this would be.

Instead, I created a basic flat file export Biml framework that eventually became the basis for my latest blog series. Anyway, after several revisions it became a production level framework that will continue to provide value in many future projects. Why did I do this? Because, it was fun. It didn’t seem like work, I was “playing” with Biml, and was doing it for free.

Biml mastery is not easy, but it substitutes thought and effort for repetition and boredom. Now, I truly love what I do and can’t believe I get paid to work on puzzles every day.

So here’s to Tim, who’s on his own Biml journey. Thanks for the inspiration.

1 comment to Loving What You Do

  • I had to laugh – somebody had a tweet recently along the lines of, “Do what you love, and you’ll work continuously, nights and weekends, because you take it so personally and love it so much. You’ll work for less money than you’re worth, give your work away publicly for free, and feel terrible when someone criticizes your work that you love.” That hit a little too close to home, hahaha.

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