Keith McDonald is a great example of a developer taking his area of expertise - DB2 - and finding a creative way to share it. Get to know Keith in the interview below and add him to your colleagues on his My developerWorks profile. You can also follow him on his blog and Twitter.
Tell me about yourself and what you're currently working on...
I am a software developer at IBM Canada and have been so since 1997, when I was an intern. I was born and raised in Glace Bay, Nova Scotia, but I've been living in Toronto for the past thirteen years. I care about good design (both internal and external) and the transformation of research into real products that make customer's lives easier. I believe in keeping up with the state of the art in my field and applying what I learn from doing so.
I have worked on DB2 for Linux, UNIX, and Windows since version 5. I have spent the last ten years developing workload management technology for DB2, starting with Query Patroller in DB2 version 8.1 followed by Workload Manager in DB2 9.5. I am currently working on some of the next generation workload management technologies for use with a future release of DB2 for LUW.
Describe a normal day for you.
Lately, a typical day consists mostly of writing and testing code for a future release of DB2, participating in team Scrum meetings, answering emails, taking in education sessions on new technologies like ISAS and DB2 pureScale, and writing specifications for new features. Every day after work, I will typically spend four or five hours studying some aspect of db2top (the interactive snapshot monitoring tool that comes free with every copy of DB2 for LUW, even the free Express-C edition) and writing a blog post about it. It usually takes two nights to craft a single post and I publish a new post three times a week. Eventually, I will have covered every feature and will start blogging about a new topic.
What's your favorite aspect of your work?
My favorite aspect of my work is the group of people with whom I get to work. They are not only extremely smart and professional, but also free of the arrogance that sometimes comes with such intelligence. People at work share what they know and communication is open and honest. At work, I know I can ask questions and get answers that help me solve problems more quickly than I ever could trying to do everything on my own.
Do you have any advice you'd share with students or new IT professionals who are just starting out?
Work-life balance is extremely important, especially if you enjoy your job so much that you could happily spend all your time doing it. Make time for your health and have a hobby that gets you out of the house regularly. Find a way to share what you learn in your job with your fellow employees and perhaps a broader audience if the information is not proprietary. Find a way to get in contact with the users of the products you make and listen to them. Do not let your skills stagnate.
How are you using social networking today? How is it changing the way you live your personal or professional life?
I have had an awareness of social networking technologies for a while now (I used to get blank stares years ago when I would talk about Twitter), but I was not really a participant until recently. At first, like many people who complained about not wanting to hear about the minutiae of other people's lives, I didn't see the full potential of social networking. I liked using Facebook to catch up with people I hadn't seen in years and I liked reading tweets from the small set of people I followed, but I contributed very little to the conversation myself. My view changed when I started posting to Twitter last month. All of a sudden I was having conversations with complete strangers who shared an interest in the technologies I write about. I finally figured out that to get the most out of social networking, the conversation has to go both ways - you get out of it what you put into it.
As a blogger you focus on DB2. Can you share what inspired you to start blogging?
I had wanted to start a blog for a while, but could not think of a topic I could blog regularly about. When I started using db2top, I noticed that it had dozens of "hidden" features and only a few pages of documentation. I knew it was a popular product among DB2 for LUW users, but I couldn't imagine that such users were getting the full value out of it given its limited documentation. I personally don't like to read mountains of documentation at one time, but I figured a regularly-occurring blog post explaining one feature at a time might be able to sustain someone's interest and get more people to realize just how useful and powerful this little tool is. According to a recent blog post by Susan Visser, the free ebook Getting Started With DB2 Express-C has been downloaded over 83,000 times. Every one of those DB2 Express-C users has a powerful monitoring tool at their fingertips but I imagine many are not aware of it or at least not aware of all that it can do and I hope to change that.
Do you have any bloggers you look up to in particular?
I have always liked the writing that Joel Spolsky does in his blog Joel on Software. His original essays from ten years ago when I first started reading his blog made me rethink everything I knew about developing software. Unfortunately, he quit blogging not too long ago, but his old material is still relevant today.
What are some of your favorite websites/feeds/twitter accounts to follow?
How do you use developerWorks?
I read a lot of technical content and find out about much of it through Google searches or on social news aggregators like Hacker News. Much of the time, the content originates on developerWorks. Now that I have a developerWorks blog, I find myself on the site more often, discovering new technical articles directly. I am still learning the new social networking aspects of My developerWorks.
Star Wars or Star Trek?
Being a child of the 80's with an obsession with space and technology, I will always associate Star Wars with fond memories of my childhood. I was not exposed to Star Trek in any significant way until the mid-90's when I was in university and the first movie with the ST:TNG cast came out. It has become a tradition for me and the friends I made at university to see every new Star Trek movie together even though we no longer live in the same cities or even the same provinces. So I can't really choose one over the other because I treasure them both.