Browsing articles in "WIT"

What Does #SQLFamily Mean to Me? #mememonday

Nov 7, 2011   //   by Karen Lopez   //   Blog, Data, Data Modeling, Database, Fun, Professional Development, WIT  //  1 Comment

Microsoft This is Community Slide

This month’s Meme Monday assignment by Tom LaRock (@sqlrockstar | blog) is to write about the SQL Server community (#SQLFamily) and what it means to us. I’ve been blogging and Tweeting about my experiences as part of this community for a while and I sometimes get questions from those outside the SQL Server world about why I keep putting "SQL" in front of everything. It’s hard for me to explain because most of the time I don’t really mean SQL Server, but the SQL Server community people who have done so much for others and me.  There have been some amazing posts so far in this meme Monday. I’d love to see 100 blog posts about this topic.  Tell us what the #SQLFamily means to you.  If you don’t have a blog, this would be a great time to start one or you can send me your thoughts and I’ll guest blog them here.  Yes, there is still plenty of time.

I blogged recently about #SQLRun, a group of family members who ran the Portland Marathon, Half Marathon and 10k and raised a cloud of money for charities. This reminded me of one of my favourite quotes:

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.

Margaret Mead

The SQL Server community isn’t just about having people offer up spare rooms, parking spots, or sofas for when I travel, helping each other out, or agreeing to sign a legal document for each other. The strength in our community is that we are working together to make the world a better place, often about data and databases, but sometimes about helping people get back to work or helping out with serious real-life problems. We don’t always agree on some of the things we are each trying to change (nulls aren’t evil, really), but we fight them out on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn, then head to an after party, hangout, or SQLSaturday to show support for each other when it is needed.

I’ve seen many instances of #SQLFamily changing the world:

  • Like many IT organizations, PASS has a Women in IT chapter and program. I’m hoping the work we do there is making a difference in society, even if it causes only one person to go home and talk to their daughter about taking more math and science classes in school.
  • I’ve seen ad hoc groups of #SQLFamily people get together to volunteer locally, to collect supplies for the less advantaged and to raise money for charities. Not huge things, but something that makes a difference. I hope to see more that at future PASS events.
  • I have discussions and debates with other family members about balancing data quality with system performance, but that’s what the world needs. We need passionate people to figure out together the right balance.
  • I’m always happy to see people muster up a series of job interviews for SQL Family members who are looking for a new project.
  • I love the discussions about how to manage work-life balance, especially since this is a problem that impacts women staying in IT jobs.
  • I’m thrilled when I see personal offerings of encouragement, even when we don’t know what else to do.  In my #SQLRUN blog post I wrote about our Scream Team of real-life and virtual encouragers. There is a lesson there (and another blog post to come).
  • Thousands of community members spend time blogging wonderful information about what they know.  This sort of giving is something I don’t see as much of in other communities. Sadly, this is especially true in the data management professional community.

So many people blog on a regular basis, hoping to influence others to think harder about providing better data to the world. That touches me, even if it’s a post about data models, indexes, keys, normalization or virtualization. When someone takes the time to put their thoughts down in writing so that others can benefit, I see the power of this community. My tagline is "Love Your Data" because I want to influence the IT community to think beyond code and table structures. However, I need to be influenced just as much about the operational side of databases so that data can be available and reliably accessed. Having said that, some of the greatest lessons I’ve learned came from people in the community talking about collaboration, professional development, human dynamics and other "softer" subjects. All of this because virtually everyone in the community wants to make everyone else successful. That’s amazing stuff.

That’s when I realized we in the #SQLFamily aren’t just about databases. We are passionate about changing the world for the better.

That’s what #SQLFamily means to me.

17 Women in Technology You Should be Following on Twitter

Aug 9, 2011   //   by Karen Lopez   //   Blog, Social Networking, WIT  //  No Comments

Information Management Magazine published a list of 17 females on Twitter to follow, drawn primarily from the data and information sector…and I’m one of them.  A great group to be part of.  Note that 3 of us are part of the DAMA International Board.


Are You Sitting at the Table: Why We Have Too Few Women Leaders

Aug 3, 2011   //   by Karen Lopez   //   Blog, Professional Development, Speaking, WIT  //  No Comments

Sheryl Sandberg is the COO of Facebook.  I first saw Sheryl talk on a Women in IT (WIT) panel that happened during the recent Facebook Townhall.  Steve Jones (blog | Twitter) sent me this link as he knows I have a passion for WIT topics and discussions. I found myself nodding with agreement to what Ms. Sandberg addresses in this 15 minute video.  In one of the points, she shares stories of women who don’t "sit at the table".  I noticed behaviour throughout my career.  You’ve all been to large meetings where there weren’t enough seats at the conference table, so some people have to sit along the wall or at the back of the room.  In most cases, women will choose to sit away from the table in one of the "wallflower" seats.  I’m not sure why this happens.  I suspect it’s how we were raised to be nice, take the burnt cookie, choose the least comfortable chair, or otherwise put someone else’s needs ahead of our own.  There’s nothing wrong with giving up your seat for someone who needs it more than you do, but we ladies need to stop deferring our power to others because we aren’t thinking like the men are. 

I’ve heard that the most powerful seat in a room is one that faces the main entrance.  I almost never see my female co-workers take that seat.  Maybe they don’t know where the power seats are.  Maybe they don’t care to play the game.  Maybe they don’t feel they are worthy of it.  I can assure you that there are people in the room playing that game and they are keeping score.  It’s not just this one small behaviour, either.  We females spend too much time as wallflowers in all kinds of situations:  not submitting to speak at events and conferences, giving others credit for our own work, letting people in meetings shut down our comments.  I’ve seen all of them. 

In the Facebook Townhall, President Obama first spoke with Mark Zuckerberg, then after all that was done, a panel of women in tech discussed diversity and gender issues. What I found odd about this set up was that it almost sent the same message that Sheryl addresses in the above TED Talk: Sitting at the table. When I first read the agenda for the townhall, I was thrilled that the President of the United States was going to discuss a topic that was near and dear to my heart. Instead, the WIT panel was held as separate event on a different set. I was thrilled that such a high profile event covered the topic of gender issues in technology, though, and I look forward to future events where this issue can be addressed with the widest possible audiences.

Watch the video.  In 15 minutes Sheryl gives 3 pieces of advice that can benefit you in your career.  Keep asking yourself, "am I sitting at the table"? 

Keynote: Women in IT Management Networking Night Ryerson University

Mar 21, 2011   //   by Karen Lopez   //   Blog, Professional Development, Social Networking, Speaking, WIT  //  No Comments

WITM posterThis Wednesday I’m giving a short keynote at the Ryerson University‘s Women in IT Networking Night.  This event includes faculty, students, alumni and IT industry professionals.

Date: Wednesday, March 23, 2011
Time: 5:30 PM – 9:00 PM
Location: Cara Commons in the TRS [1-148]

Attire: Business Formal

The WITM group is made up primarily of people involved with the B.Comm Business Technology Management degree program.  In looking over the program, I can’t help but compare it to my undergraduate degree in Computer Information Systems (CPT) from Purdue.  In that program, about 35% of our curriculum was in technical areas.  We also took multiple accounting courses, business law, operational research, psychology, and 3 economics courses.  My specializations were in database and organizational psychology.

Look at this excerpt from the BTM program overview:

They study the core business disciplines, such as marketing, operations, accounting, finance, human resources, and law. They receive a solid grounding in the world of ICT in subjects such as systems analysis and design, Internet & web-based applications, ICT architecture and infrastructure, and privacy & security. In their senior years, students integrate the knowledge from these two foundations to learn how ICT can make a difference in every business studying strategic application of ICT, the role of ICT in business processes activities such as supply chain, sales and customer relations. They learn about project management and the integration of ICT into business.

Our companies need more of these sorts of graduates: people who understand technology and how it supports business.  Unfortunately, our profession has not yet fully embraced these applied computing programs.  As employers, we need to continue to demand more of these types of academic programs.

I’m excited about meeting other IT professionals in my local community, especially those focused on the collaboration of business and technology.  I’m also looking forward to hearing more about this program. 

If you are in the Toronto area and would like to network, you can register to attend at .

Karen’s Typical Day

Feb 17, 2011   //   by Karen Lopez   //   Blog, Data Modeling, Database, Social Networking, Speaking, Travel, WIT  //  1 Comment

I used this slide in my recent Webinar sponsored by Embarcadero Technologies.  It’s a collage of photos to represent how it seems I spend my time.



I’d love to see your typical day as you would represent it.  It doesn’t have to be a collage or even have photos.  Just blog your typical day in something other than paragraphs and link to the photo above or leave a link in the comments if you don’t see a track back in the comments automatically.  Include the hashtag #typicalday in the title.

Don’t blog?  This would be a great way to get started. 

I’ll write up a summary blog post of all the submissions, along with my usual witty observations.

Go! Show us what your days are like (or at least what they feel like).

You Can Be … a Data Diva

Dec 30, 2010   //   by Karen Lopez   //   Blog, Data, Fun, WIT  //  2 Comments

I have mixed feelings about the whole Barbie phenomenon.  I had a talking Barbie growing up and I loved her and her friend Stacey.  But I don’t remember much about the way she dressed…perhaps because my Grandmother sewed much of the clothes I had for her.  Maybe I was shielded from the party-girl outfits that were available. 

I recently found this as an online game at


This is to promote Mattel’s recent Computer Engineer Barbie product.  What I find interesting is that they’ve focused on the data aspects of computing.  Most likely this is done only for the alliteration, but I do like getting early to girls about the importance of data.

I’m hoping that my friend @datadeva sees this, too.

Love Your Data.  Get your kids to love their data, too.

Trolling the #24HoP

Dec 10, 2010   //   by Karen Lopez   //   Blog, Database, Speaking, WIT  //  10 Comments

I knew it would happen.  As I blogged previously, SQLPASS is hosting a 24 Hours of PASS event in March and is using this event to honour Women in IT (WIT) by having 24 sessions given solely by female data professionals.

Having worked on WIT committees, programs and events for more than two decades (I was a national spokesperson for WIT here in Canada for two years), I knew that someone (and there will be more) would eventually anonymously complain that this one event should not be run with only female speakers.  Trolls must post anonymously because they don’t want to contribute to the discussion; they just want to make a good thing look bad.  This is my letter to Anonymous (an infrastructure DBA).

Hi Anonymous –

You forgot to mention the creepier one that most anonymous trolls give:

"What about the lack of overweight, old, ugly, grumpy white guys in the Supermodel profession?"

It’s a classic.  It is the most common response I get in letters to the editor, live events and articles from anonymous posters.  If you are going to go for it, please go all the way. 

This witty questions does not contribute to the discussion of diversity in any profession because it makes a huge leap of logic: that there is some physical trait in females that should keep them out of the IT profession.  That is flat out wrong. 

By the way, there are people who are concerned about the lack of diversity in the nursing profession. I support all kinds of programs that want to address real issues of diversity in all professions. 

The reason society should be concerned about diversity isn’t about making the numbers somehow magically match demographics of the full population, it is that we should investigate the reasons why certain professions aren’t diverse as the full populations and make corrective action to ensure that silly obstacles aren’t there. The most successful WIT programs focus on ensuring that young women understand the opportunities available to them and remove roadblocks they might have to considering a career in IT.

Much research has shown that young women don’t consider IT (and other STEM) careers because they:

  1. Don’t even know what the career is about and therefore think it is all about grumpy evil-doing nerds working alone in a dark basement drinking Jolt Cola and typing all day. Think of the Wayne Knight character in Jurassic Park.
  2. Hear from grumpy people that women aren’t smart enough to work in IT.
  3. Don’t realize soon enough that they should have taken more math and science during their schooling and therefore can’t get in to certain programs of study, even though they have the aptitude to work in IT
  4. Think that Computer Science programs are the only career path into IT
  5. Read computer science program “marketing” materials, which most programs fail miserably at creating, and think “wow, what a boring technical wasteland”.
  6. Think that IT is only about programming…alone, in a dark basement, typing all day. GOTO point 1.

But let’s focus on one of the main reasons (I presume) why SQLPASS wants to hold an event featuring WIT.  The reasons that most women give for not submitting abstracts for speaking:

  1. Much more often than men, they don’t think that they are enough of an expert to give a presentation.
  2. Much more often than men, they think there are so many "celebrities" in the field that the shouldn’t even bother submitting.
  3. Much more likely than men they are more likely to feel that they are an "imposter" in the field and therefore shouldn’t even try to speak at an event.
  4. They have so many more outside-of-work responsibilities that traveling a ways to speak and attend a conference is a significant roadblock to participating.
  5. More often than men, they believe that they should be specifically invited to speak rather than just nominate themselves.
  6. They are more likely to worry about the catch-22 of doing anything new: you shouldn’t do it until you have more experience doing it.
  7. They think that no one will attend a session they give because they haven’t written a book (see point 4), they don’t travel the world giving presentations, or that someone else has already given a presentation on that topic.

I talk to many women who have wonderful thoughts, observations, scripts, data models, ideas, opinions, and other knowledge to share but won’t even consider submitting an abstract. Most of the time they give one or all of the reasons above.  Please ensure that you understand all those “more often” words in the above list.

The idea of featuring only females during 24 Hours of PASS isn’t going to solve all these problems, but it can go a long way to getting more women to present because it takes away some of the obstacles that many female IT professionals give as reasons to not even try.  With more women presenting at this one event, we will most likely have more women presenting at other events during the year.  You may not want that, but I want that if the reason women aren’t submitting is because they’ve never been encouraged enough to submit an abstract or to gain speaking experience.

Should SQLPASS bend to address those issues?  I think they should not have to do so, but often all it takes is a slight change in how women are recruited to make a real difference.  Personally, I’d like to figuratively whack all these women on the side of the head like Cher did on Nicolas Cage in Moonstruck: “Snap out of it”. Sometimes, though, helping people realize their potential is one of the most wonderful thing we can do for them.

Yes, I realize for the one event, some presenters will be excluded.  For this one event.  I would love to have a professional, insightful conversation about whether or not the one shift in a variable is acceptable, desirable, laughable, or even hurtful.  But we can’t have those conversations when one posts anonymously in short bursts of accusations.  It really doesn’t help the conversation at all.


I’d love to hear opinions on this, but in a way that advances the conversation.


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