One of the most clichéd blogging tricks is to declare something popular as dead. These click bait, desperate posts are popular among click-focused bloggers, but not for me. Yet here I am, writing an “is dead” post. Today, this is about sharing my responses on-going social media posts. They go something like this:
OP: No one loves my data models any more.
Responses: Data modeling is dead. Or…data models aren’t agile. Or…data models died with the waterfalls. Or…only I know how to do data models and all of you are doing it wrong, which is why they just look dead.
I bet I’ve read that sort of conversation at least a hundred times, first on mailing lists, then on forums, now on social media. It has been an ongoing battle for modelers since data models and dirt were discovered…invented…developed.
I think our issues around the love for data modeling, and logical data models specifically, is that we try to make these different types of models be different tasks. They aren’t. In fact, there are many types, many goals, and many points of view about data modeling. So as good modelers, we should first seek to understand what everyone in the discussion means by that term. And what do you know, even this fact is contentious. More on that in another post.
I do logical data modeling when I’m physical modeling. I don’t draw a whole lot of attention to it – it’s just how modeling is done on my projects.
Data Modeling is Dead Discussion
One current example of this discussion is taking place right now over on LinkedIn. Abhilash Gandhi posted:
During one of my project, when I raised some red flags for not having Logical Data Model, I was bombarded with comments – “Why do we need LDM”? “Are you kidding”? “What a waste of time!". The project was Data Warehouse with number of subject areas; possibility of number of data marts.
I have put myself into trouble by trying to enforce best practices for Data Modeling, Data Definitions, Naming Standards, etc. My question, am I asking or trying to do what may be obsolete or not necessary? Appreciate your comments.
There are responses that primarily back up the original poster’s feelings of being unneeded on modern development projects. Then I added another view point:
I’ll play Devil’s advocate here and say that we Data Architects have also lost touch with the primary way the products of our data modeling efforts will be used. There are indeed all kinds of uses, but producing physical models is the next step in most. And we have lost the physical skills to work on the physical side. Because we let this happen, we also have failed to make physical models useful for teams who need them.
We just keep telling the builders how much they should love our logical models, but have failed to make the results of logical modeling useful to them.
I’ve talked about this in many of my presentations, webinars (sorry about the autoplay, it’s a sin, I know) and data modeling blog posts. It’s difficult to keep up with what’s happening in the modern data platform world. So most of us just haven’t. It’s not that we need to be DBAs or developers. We should, though, have a literacy level of the features and approaches to implementing our data models for production use. Why? I addressed that as well. Below is an edited version of my response:
We Don’t All Have to Love Logical Data Modeling
First of all, the majority of IT professionals do not need to love an LDM. They don’t even need to need them. The focus of the LDM is the business steward/owner (and if i had my way, the customer, too). But we’ve screwed up how we think of data models as artefacts that are "something done on an IT project". Sure, that’s how almost all funding gets done for modeling, and it’s broken. But it’s also the fact of life for the relatively immature world of data modeling.
We literally beat developers and project managers with our logical data modeling, then ask them “why don’t you want us to produce data models?” We use extortion to get our beautiful logical data models done, then sit back an wonder why everyone sits at another lunch table.
I don’t waste time or resources trying to get devs, DBAs or network admins to love the LDMs. When was the last time you loved the enterprise-wide AD architecture? The network topology? The data centre blueprints and HVAC diagrams?
Data Models form the infrastructure of the data architecture, as do conceptual models and all the models made that would fill the upper rows of the Zachman Framework. We don’t force the HVAC guys to wait to plan out their systems until a single IT application project comes along to fund that work. We do it when we need a full plan for a data centre. Or a network. Or a security framework.
But here we are, trying to whip together an application with no models. So we tell everyone to stop everything while we build an LDM. That’s what’s killing us. Yes, we need to do it. But we don’t have to do it in a complete waterfall method. I tell people I’m doing a data model. then I work on both an LDM and the PDM at the same time. The LDM I use to drive data requirements from business owners, the PDM to start to make it actually work in the target infrastructure. Yes, I LDM more at first, but I’m still doing both at the same time. Yes, the PDM looks an awful lot like the LDM at first.
Stop Yelling at the Clouds
The real risks we take is sounding like old men yelling at the clouds when we insist on working and talking like it is 1980 all over again. I do iterative data modeling. I’m agile. I know it’s more work for me. I’d love to have the luxury of spending six months embedded with the end users coming up with a perfect and lovely logical data model. But that’s not the project I’ve been assigned to. It’s not the team I’m on. To work against the team is a demand that no data modeling be done and that database and data integration be done by non-data professionals. You can stand on your side of the cubicle wall, screaming about how LDMs are more important, or you can work with the data-driving modeling skills you have to make it work.
When I’m modeling, I’m working with the business team drawing out more clarity of their business rules and requirements. I am on #TeamData and #TeamBusiness. When the business sees you representing their interests, often to a hostile third party implementer, they will move mountains for you. This is the secret to getting CDMs, LDMs, and PDMs done on modern development projects. Just do them as part of your toolkit. I would prefer to data model completely separately from everyone else. I don’t see that happening on most projects.
The #TeamData Sweet Spot
My sweet spot is to get to the point where the DBAs, Devs, QA analysts and Project Managers are saying "hey, do you have those database printouts ready to go with DDL we just delivered? And do you have the user ones, as well?" I don’t care what they call them. I just want them to call them. At that point, I know I’m also on #TeamIT.
The key to getting people to at least appreciate logical data models is to just do them as part of whatever modeling effort you are working on. Don’t say “stop”. Just model on. Demonstrate, don’t tell your teams where the business requirements are written down, where they live. Then demonstrate how that leads to beautiful physical models as well.
Logical Data Modeling isn’t dead. But we modelers need to stop treating it like it’s a weapon. Long Live Logical!
A couple of months ago I talked about Project Parabola – It’s Reorg Season. The project is basically concluded, and not surprisingly, resulted in a small number of layoffs. In a really sad situation an employee walked over to my cube and asked if I had a plastic bag or a box—at first I thought he was joking, but then quickly realized he wasn’t joking. I have to say: watching this was really painful, and frankly, his manager should had a box ready for all of his stuff. That was particularly crappy.
As part of Project Parabola, a small number of employees were let go—they got a basic severance package of a week of salary for each year they worked for the company, along with their vacation pay. Additionally, they get the use of an outplacement service, (I’ll talk more about this later). So how can you prepare for a layoff?
- Always be looking—never stop looking for jobs. Your company doesn’t care about you (seriously no box?) so why should you be loyal to them? I’m not implying you should job hop—but talk to
human traffickersrecruiters (I love the good ones, I really do), and see what’s going on. By all means, if you see something that looks interesting to you, wrangle your way into an interview for it.
- Keep your resume/CVs up to date and tailor them to the specific job description you are applying for. Notice that I have used plural forms there? Yes, it’s fine to have resumes tailored to specific types of jobs. In fact, it’s a good thing.
- Network with others NOW, not when you need a job. By networking, I don’t mean handing out business cards. I mean building relationships with people. You don’t have be BFFs, but you do need to know people well enough to ask them for a favour, later.
- Join user groups and participate in them. Attend some meetings. Most user group meetings are free. Take advantage of that. My mantra is NetworkToGetWork. Remember that.
- Participate in social media, even if you can do it only on a limited basis. Your reach is so much larger there. Still do local, in-person networking, but don’t ignore the virtual opportunities.
- Update LinkedIn—make sure your skills and profile are up to date. Don’t wait to do this when you need it. Do it now. In fact, in my presentations on Career Management for Data Professionals, I tell people to set a reminder to update their profile monthly. Not only does this keep your profile up to date, it notifies people in your network that something has changed. That gets your name in front of them on a regular basis. Regular updates also have the benefit of not signalling your boss that you might be looking for a job.
- Help people now, not when you need help. In addition to building a network you should have a reputation of helping others. I don’t mean just offering to help, but spending time to give others advice, write a helpful blog post, answer an email or to give someone a ride to a SQL Saturday or DAMA event. Note: I may have had assistance in writing this post. Thank you, anonymous helper. If you ever need a job, you are on my list of people to help.
- Read up on negotiation methods. Don’t wait until you need those skills. Get them now. Practice them. You’ll need them even during a layoff. In fact, you should know what to do when you get a lay off notice a head of time. Your rights and obligations vary by jurisdiction, but generally you don’t have to sign or agree to anything right then and there, even if they tell you that you do.
- Have two month’s salary in savings—severance and unemployment will help, but having a nice cushion is very good. I know this one is really difficult. But having a cushion allows you and your family to choose better options.
One other thing to remember—you are going to lose all computer access. This means your files and contacts will be gone. Make sure you keep copies of your contacts and any scripts or tools that you would like to retain, at least the ones you are allowed to take with you. Be sure you keep your personal files and contacts separate from your corporates ones.
The Good News
Depending on what your data source is the unemployment rate for database professionals is between 1-3%. The US Government defines full employment at 3%, so that means it won’t take you very long to find a new job. The one thing I recommend highly is leveraging the outplacement services you’ll get as part of your severance package. Those folks are professionals and can help you write a really good resume. Aside from that some other things you should do are:
- Leverage your network. Let folks in your user group and personal network know that you are looking for a new gig (I’m assuming you are in a user group if you are reading this—if you aren’t, you should be). The best jobs frequently never make it to a formal posting. This is where all that user grouping, social media
workfun, blogging, and generally being a great resource to others is going to pay off, in a big way.
- Update LinkedIn. Yes, I said above to do this regularly. You still need to do that. But right now you need to let that network know you are looking for a job. Do not under any circumstances change your title to Unemployed or something weak like that. Change your title to the type of job you are looking for (and are qualified for). This is the time to leverage your networks, so your networking profiles need to reflect the fact that you are looking for a new project.
- Take the downtime to rest, exercise and learn new skills. Is there a new database feature you’ve been wanting to play with, but couldn’t implement at your old job? Now is the time to learn it.
More Advice on Job Hunting and Layoffs
I’ve blogged about this topic before; you might find these posts helpful, too:
Do you have a blog post with career advice? If you leave a comment here on my blog, you can choose that post to share it, too. Share the love.
My Lessons on Layoffs
I’ve been around a while (I’m not old; I’m experienced), and I know a lot of this stuff, but “Do you have a bag” was still a surprise to me. There weren’t many rumours of layoffs out of Parabola, so even though the total number was small, it was more eye opening. The number one thing I learned yesterday though, was to bring a bag, a plastic trash bag, and keep it in my desk, because MassiveMegaGlobalMegaCorpTM probably doesn’t care enough about you to give you a box to put your belongings in.
This afternoon I’m presenting at the Professional Association for SQL Server (PASS) Professional Development virtual chapter. My topic today is about how to ensure that you are doing the right things now to support job and project search efforts when you need them. Join me at 1PM EDT
A workshop on issues and ideas that today’s data professionals can do to build their careers and networking skills with other data management professionals.
Workshop topics will include:
• Demonstrating your expertise
• Building a portfolio of your success stories
• Getting others to sell your skills and business value
• Building & extending your data management skill set
• 10 Steps to highlighting you and your work
Bring your thoughts, ideas, and experiences.
As a virtual presentation, I’ll be relying heavily on Q&A from the audience, as well as input from Twitter to ensure that this is the most interactive it can be. Please join us as we talk about how we as a profession can best ensure that we are all working and our projects have the right resources to be successful.
The hashtag to use during this talk is #PASSProfDev
A recording of the presentation should be available on 24 Sept 2011 at http://prof-dev.sqlpass.org/ .
We had great interaction for a Live Meeting. Great job, everyone.
As I blogged last week, I participated in a webcast on social networking for data management professionals. That webcast was recorded and is now available for viewing.
Handouts of the slides I presented on the cost, benefits and risks of social networking are also available.
If you are reading my blog and on any of these social networks, I’d love to friend/follow/link to you. My contact information for those services are in the handouts. If you do send me a request, please mention that you are a blog reader, attended an event I presented at, or where we met.
CA is organizing a community building, social networking program for data management professionals. Why Be Normal plays on the normalization theme by awarding virtual badges to those who engage in CA ERwin Data Modeler –related online communities.
So far I’ve attained Second Normal Form (2NF) by ensuring that I have accounts on the CA user communities, attended a webcast (I’ve even presented a couple), answered some questions on their ERwin discussion forum, and provided my Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn posts where I’ve posted about CA ERwin Data Modeler.
You may know from my previous posts that I’m a huge fan of social networking for all the benefits it has given me. I know that the data management community is still a bit cautious about what these things are all about, but I see them as valuable as the e-mail based online communities that I’ve been a big fan of for more than a decade.
To kick off the Why Be Normal promotion, I’ll be speaking on a panel at the Ohio Enterprise Modeling User Group on 1 December 2010 about social networking for the ERwin community. While the OEMUG meeting is an all day event, there will be a one hour webcast at 11 AM ET about the Why Be Normal program. You can join us to learn about the prizes and badges.
Join us on December 1 at 11:00 a.m. Eastern for this informative webcast hosted by Tom Bilcze, Modeling Global User Communities, President with panelists: Karen Lopez, InfoAdvisors, Sr. Project Manager and Principal Consultant; Donna Burbank, CA Technologies, CA ERwin Modeling, Product Marketing and Rob Rachlin, CA Technologies, Principal, Customer Programs.
In this webcast, panelists discuss social networking from an ERwin data professional perspective. Facebook, InfoAdvisors, LinkedIn, Twitter, My CA, ERwin.com, and data-centric tool social networks offer many options for you to join a virtual data community. If you are new to social networking, a seasoned tweeter, or just want to use social networking more efficiently, this webcast is ideal for you.
I’d love it if you would join us on 1 December to talk about how we can leverage these social networking platforms for the ERwin user community.
One of the issues I struggle with in getting people to understand why I tweet is demonstrating the value of engaging with others to people who haven’t engaged on Twitter. Yes, it’s a Catch-22.
I have read that the majority of the people who sign up for Twitter (and other social networks) create an account, post something like “I have an account”, the sit back and wait for all the magic to come their way. But these networks don’t work that way. The benefits I’ve realized don’t happen because I broadcast a message but because I’ve had very brief conversations with smart people like you from all over the world.
Yes, I do tend to post some personal items like the pictures of odd or funny things I’ve seen in my day, but for the most part I’m on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn for professional reasons. Sure, I appreciate the parking space that Noel and Tamara donated to me, the collection of postal packages that Yanni and John provided and a nice spot to sleep this week at Erin’s place, but those came because I had already engaged with these people prior to asking for help.
Located between snippets of fun are my DB2, SQL Server, WordPress and a myriad of other technical questions and answers I received from the Twitterverse. Sometimes from existing contacts and sometimes from strangers.
Before the network of networks I could have done my best to interpret vague documentation, called the tool vendor, called one person who I think worked with these technologies, or found a forum and posted my question. I still do those, but 9 times out of 10 an answer comes back from a social network long before these other resources had time to respond.
My ability to reach out to ask if anyone is using feature X of product Z, to ask for opinions of the best way to accomplish Y or if anyone knows the best place to get a dead car fixed(Chicago, 2010) has helped my clients and me respond faster, with better answers than ever before.
What have you told not-yet-ready-for-prime-time people about why they should be blogging, Tweeting, posting to Facebook, etc. for their professional lives? What would be the best way to demonstrate the resources available to them?
I’m working on a presentation…actually adding to a current one… about how effective use of social networking can help you in your career or life in general. In fairness, I’m also looking for any downsides to those things, too.
By social networking I mean Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Plaxo, blogging, bulletin boards, web forums, mailing lists or other online networking / communications areas.
If you would like to share (anonymously or not) a brief story you can leave it in the comments or e-mail them to me at email@example.com .
Please let me know if you’d prefer your story to be anonymous.
If you have gained anything / lost something from social networking, I want to hear about it.
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