More than once, twice or thrice in my work place I have had situations where management wanted something and I insisted that it was either not possible or too difficult to invest energy in. There were other times where I or a colleague in the same team insisted that a particular problem was not within the scope of my team. More than once or twice we would later find new ways of delivering what management wanted or in the case of incidents found that the root cause was actually traceable to our area.
Attitude is a very critical component of problem solving in any discipline. We must search ourselves and ask whether we really want to solve a problem or we simple don’t want to be found culpable. Some work environments contribute to an attitude which says “It’s not my problem so why bother?” but whether the cause is a flawed workplace culture or otherwise, we can solve more problems if we are more open, and more willing to try harder, learn more and work as a team.
Having the right attitude tends to open up our minds and help us think outside the box. Thinking more broadly produces new ideas. A defensive posture blocks our minds and the minds of those we are defending ourselves against. When everybody is playing “defensive midfielder”, nobody really attacks the problem to the point of delivering a solutions. We should also be aware that there is a world of difference between explaining why we think the problem is not ours and real, productive brainstorming with other teams. When we focus on explaining why the problem is not ours, we are leveraging on what we already know and forget that there are many things we do not yet know.
Let me conclude by recalling a story from my previous workplace. We had a certain issue with licensing on BMC Remedy AR System which indicated that the MAC Address on a blade servers Network Interface Card had changed. A number of “IT Professionals” laughed me to scorn when I sent emails indicating that the server’s MAC Address had changed because “everybody knows that MAC Addresses don’t change. After thorough investigation it turned out that when certain options are setup, pulling a blade out of its slot and pushing it back in actually changes the MAC address. We had to go all the way to the OEM to learn this. And it took someone with an open mind to go that far and teach us all something new.
Please forgive the excessive jargon in the last paragraph. It’s just buttressing the thought earlier communicated. Have an open mind when given new tasks or when you need to solve new problems. You are likely to solve the problem faster and learn something new in the course of it.
I killed an ant today at the back of my house today while getting some water in cans. It was a large ant and it could have hurt me if I let it. This means I can argue that I killed the ant in self-defense! I killed the ant because I could. I am bigger, I was wearing footwear and the ant was different from me. The ant could not have called for help or called the police or brought out a gun. I could, so I did. And I have a valid excuse.
A few weeks ago in Ghana, certain unscrupulous Nigerians kidnapped young ladies and apparently wanted to use them in ritual murder. I am not sure whether those girls have been found as at the time of this writing. The case is so serious that the Nigerian High Commission in Ghana is involved and other innocent Nigerians may be paying for this crime in some parts of Ghana. Some Nigerians in Nigeria have become quite concerned about their relatives in Ghana this period because of rumours that Nigerians are being asked to leave Ghana or being attacked.
Over the weekend during the Nigerian Elections, certain unscrupulous fellows sympathetic to a certain political party in Lagos were nabbed in Okota, Lagos trying to snatch ballot boxes. Reports have it that one person was killed or seriously hurt. The response from the Odua People’s Congress, a well-known Pro-Yoruba group is that there will be retaliatory attacks on the Igbos who killed their brother.
The last two incidents I cited are similar to my killing of the ant in certain ways. One side or the other, a killing was executed because one party thought they had the power to kill and the reason to kill. The third common factor is the key issue in this post – difference. Nigerians are different from Ghanaians, Yorubas are different from Igbos, blacks are different from whites, Hutus are different from Tutsis, Moslems are different from Christians and so forth. Depending on the level of granularity we decide to descend to, we will always find that we are different from each other in one way or the other.
We are justifying our intent to kill one another on the basis of our differences but I think while doing that we ignore our real problems. Is the problem with kidnapping in Ghana cause by the presence of Nigerians or by the presence of kidnappers? Is the killing of an OPC member in Lagos cause by Igbos or by those who want to flaw elections? Are xenophobic attacks the solution to South Africa’s employment problems?
We can always make up excuses for our inherent hatred for our fellow man but that doesn’t really solve our problems. We need to sit back and really contemplate who the enemy really and what the solutions to our problems really are. If we do not do this, particularly in Africa, we will pass our problems over to our children and teach them the same hate we practice.
A few years ago I worked under a very meticulous and committed boss who taught me a number of important things about how to take work seriously. He told me a story once about the impact of a simple ATM to real life. I will repeat the story here but I will extend the thought for the purposes of this article. A fellow we shall call Kwaku rushes his wife to a hospital somewhere in Africa on a Sunday evening and the nurses refuse to attend to her emergency until he makes a deposit of let’s say GHS250.00 (about fifty dollars). The woman is dying and after arguing with the nurses, the callously insist that he must pay something before his wife can be given a bed. They point to him an ATM machine about four blocks from the hospital and he rushes out to try the ATM paying he still has enough money in his account. The ATM delays for several minutes when he enters his PIN and finally responds with the familiar message “Your Financial Institution is currently unavailable“. He gasps and looks around while pulling out his ATM card.
Kwaku rushes over to a Mobile Money operator by the road side attempts to withdraw the GHS100 had left on his phone. Maybe the nurses would listen to him if he had part of the money. The Mobile Money Operator looks away and insists that she had closed for the day. He begs her stating he had an emergency at the hospital and she replies “Please, don’t make your problem my problem! I have closed! Go to the ATM over there!“. She hurriedly closes her kiosk and Kwaku sights the second ATM belonging to another bank. He tries the ATM but is disappointed with another message: “… temporarily unavailable to dispense cash”. He calls al taxi who takes him to another ATM about five hundred meters from the hospital and returns with the money but by that time his wife is no longer breathing. AT the sight of GH250.00, the nurses rush his wife to a free bed and begin trying to attend to her. She is confirmed dead twelve hours later.
Who should be blamed for the death of Kwaku’s wife? There are many responses which the various players in this story can give to this question:
Nurses: “This is hospital policy. We cannot attend to anyone without assurance that the person can pay. Do you want me to lose my job?”
Server Admin: “I have worked all week and you also want me to be bothered that the Core Banking System is down on a Sunday evening? Please we will look at it tomorrow. Today is Sabbath!”
Mobile Money Operator: “How is that my problem? Am I the only Mobile Money Operate in Accra? Let him use the ATM na”
ATM Custodian: “How many people live in that area by the way? How can they be exhausting the money in the ATM every few hours? Please I am tired! Let them come back tomorrow? What are they buying this evening. Don’t they rest?”
This reminds me of another example given my Dr. Mensa Otabil regarding the building of a cathedral. Three masons are asked the same question: “What are you doing?”. One answers, “I am laying bricks!” another, “I am building a wall” and the third, “We are building a cathedral. It will seat 10000 worshippers. The structure is designed to last one hundred years”. You see all three were masons but one had much deeper understanding of what the team was doing and what his role was. That understanding did not come from his pay cheese, it must have come more from his attitude. And I can tell you, one way or the order, attitudes can change pay cheques but pay cheques are not guaranteed to change attitudes. You know it’s easy to turn this on another person but take a step back and think like a customer waiting thirty minutes on the queue at a bank because the system was slow. You start yelling at the teller forgetting you just advised your brother who works at the Tech Company that supports that same bank that he needed to slow down and not work so hard!
How do you understand your role at work? Do you understand the full impact of your day job, whether you work for yourself or for a large company? Do you understand how your skills affect the lives of others? Are you just earning a living or are you actually making a contribution to life? It’s simply a way of thinking. I hope you can embrace it.
She sat down, half-sliming and taking a sip of a cup of smoothie she had just picked up from the counter. From the corner of his eyes Kevin noticed the attendant at the counter staring at them. He must have thought to himself, “Are they married? Are they ‘committing sin’?” Just then Mr. Koku walked in, staggering. The way he walked one feared for him that he would suddenly fall apart. “He must be ill or something …” Amanda thought to herself. Kevin didn’t see him until he turned around from the counter. He was both shocked and upset. How could he intrude so rudely? Did he need money all the time? Kevin received money in six digits every month so he had no way on understanding that Ten Cedis every week was very difficult to live on particularly when someone was on drugs!
“How may we help you, Sir?” he snapped, giving Mr. Kokou a very hostile stare, straight in the eye. The old man was not a bit perturbed. He let out a little forced cough and softly responded in a cracked voice:
“I am so sorry to disturb you Sir…” He dipped his right hand in his breast pocket and out came a doctor’s prescription for some lung infection. “…I have to by some medicine… you see I used to smoke a lot before so it affected my lungs and created all sort of diseases in my tracheal system. I don’t have anyone to help me… please just Twenty Cedis to buy my medicine…”
Kevin’s first instinct was to ask what had happened to his extended family. How was it possible that he did not have anyone at all to help him? On second thoughts, he felt there was no need inciting another long story about the old man’s life. He needed to spend time with Amanda who was just smiling at the old man. He handed him a Fifty Cedi note and Mr. Kokou thanked him profusely.
“That must be the second time this week you are giving someone something to dismiss them rather than out of Christian compassion!” Amanda said, sipping her smoothie carefully,
“Unless of course you have other beneficiaries…”
Kevin stared at her. She always seemed to get him thinking more seriously about his spirituality.
“You do know he still smokes, right? Probably Indian Hemp!”
Amanda laughed aloud. She could not believe the depth of his naivety.
“The dark lips, bloodshot eyes, desperately agitating for small amounts of cash… he is what you call a junky. Does that make you regret giving him money?”
“Of course!” Kevin snapped, visibly upset.
Amanda laughed again, practically reeling. “You don’t want your money used for unholy purposes? Anyway, I think you just weren’t paying attention the last two encounters you’ve had with him. You might have noticed if not for a certain tall dark lady you were thinking about”
“Naughty you! And I suppose you know the name of that lady, huh?”
Amanda rolled her eyes and pursed her lips. Kevin watched her, strongly attracted to her sassiness. Her boldness in saying her mind. Her brain that matched her beauty.
“On a more serious note, Kevin, I think most people in our churches these days are simply too much into their own selves. I am avoiding using the word selfish but that is just what it is. When I was young, we were Catholics and a lot of emphasis was placed on helping the poor and less privileged. Why should the fact that a junky comes to church to beg for money bother you? Who did Jesus die for?”
Culled from Osimiri & Other Stories
I recently listened in passing to a commentary about leadership that struck me. While not just referring to those in leadership positions, the speaker stated that real leaders have a habit of listening to those they are leading. Listening is a valuable character trait of natural leaders. Change is inevitable in government whatever the reasons for such changes could be. We should expect changes and often when such changes come from leadership, it is indeed possible that they are necessary considering the fact that leaders see a much bigger picture than followers or at least they are expected to see a much bigger picture.
In recent years there have been a few changes in our beloved Nigeria that people generally question. Late last year there was a whole lot of clamour about the fuel subsidy removal up until the bold announcement on its implementation in early January 2012. The reaction to the announcement was as expected generally not favourable. In Lagos state in particular there was also the long debate about toll gates built along Lekki-Epe express. Interest groups protests were met with counter-protests, alleged arrests and finally, the toll gates now stand declaring victory for the state government on the matter.
Recently there has also been talk of introduction of new naira denominations that could make it easier to handle cash in banks (as well as in drug cartels, armed robbery gangs, smuggling gangs and so on). A lot of people are of the opinion that this could lead to inflation and further devaluation of our currency. The possible introduction of ‘coins of large value’ also brings in a certain degree of complexity to the situation.
While one side or the other may never be completely correct since the full effects of some of these decisions only unfold in the long run, what we want to point out here is the fact that leadership in Nigeria has to show very clearly that the opinions of the people, the masses not just the elite, matter in government’s decisions. Without that, the average citizen’s sense of belonging and commitment to the development of Nigeria will keep tunnelling downwards. Each person needs to know that his opinion matters.
Listening to people who have a different viewpoint, people who are not sitting in the same aloof-from-reality towers as you are often helps you review your thoughts as a leader if you are sincere about sustainable development. We do appreciate the depth of experience and intellectual prowess exhibited by the young, dynamic and adept officials in government but I do think that we still need to move from ruling to leading in our practice of governance. Listening is key to leading.
This post was originally published in September, 2012
Intimacy is an intrusion into your lonely lifestyle, a bold invasion of your privacy often with your consent. It just happens to be a very pleasant invasion … most of the time. Intimacy happens when you cross paths with another species of being and find that your numerous plugs fit into their numerous sockets… at least most of them. Intimacy happens when you open up your sockets and extend you plugs to exchange soul by giving and receiving.
Intimacy is an invasion. There are no more gates with this significant other. There are no more barriers. There is so much discomfort in tearing down these barriers and when they are down… they are down. The army raids your inward parts and nothing is hidden anymore. Whatever was in the dark is completely exposed. The fragile emotions, the unseemly habits, the lousy flaws covered in cosmetics in public places. Everything is exposed!
Intimacy is an intrusion. At the beginning it is unpleasant to give in. But when the bombardment becomes unbearable, the walls begin to fall. They crack at first, it hurts yet is thrilling. Why does the thrill hurt so much? Because stone walls are crumbling under heavy fire. The women of the city are on rampage. There is chaos in the inward parts. The boundaries are no longer relevant.
Intimacy is an invasion. Looting is lawful because everything is shared. Nothing is private anymore when two become one. The concept of private property has no meaning in this realm. The other one becomes a disturbance that you cannot live without, a massive cedar tree growing in the centre of your bedroom. Things get missing, personal effects are moved, and permissions are granted without being requested. Everything is shared.
Intimacy is liberation when two become one; that is how we are designed. Intimacy is a relief because that is what we long for. Intimacy is a pedestal which we all reach for so long as we have the capacity to feel. Intimacy is a challenge we find fulfilling to surmount. Intimacy is a trap we would gladly walk into over and over again because we would rather be bound by love than be lost in loneliness.
Intimacy is a seed that can grow for a lifetime. Intimacy is a weed that can become beautiful when nurtured or else entangled to the point of choking itself when left untendered. Intimacy is an experience so sacred and priceless, so profound and engaging, so complex and intricate that it can only be shared with one other at any point in time during a lifetime.
Intimacy is a treasure often so hard to find and so easy to lose that we must depend on neither logic nor appearance to grasp its deepest meaning. A concept so deep that we must spend a lifetime discovering is infinite layers and facets. It is a maze so intricate that we must pay attention to the tiniest detail to preserve it in its finest form. Intimacy … we could go on and on forever and we will.
This article was originally published in July 2012
I met a forty-something year old man on my way from work yesterday. I was just a few blocks from my office. He greeted and I responded as nicely as I could, I mean, this is Ghana not Nigeria isn’t it? Well he then asked me where I was going. What?!!! Excuse, me? As in? You know! But why? I repeated his question, adding a second question mark in my tone so he would know I was actually asking “Why are you asking where I am going?” He then mentioned that I work at my workplace and I acknowledged and asked whether he worked there too but he said he just sees me around. Oooopsss! This is a security issue.
After a few seconds I kept moving and I began to recall that he looked quite like a certain man I had given one cedi a week or two previously. Ouch! I began wondering whether I had exposed myself. Well, he had asked for small money for water and I took pity wondering what would make a full grown man lie down on a pavement and ask for water from passers-by. Suspicious!
A few thoughts on this: this able-bodied man recognizes me, knows where I work and wanted to know where I was going. He also knew I was capable of sparing one cedi for a stranger at least. Hmmm. He may have even been trying to find out when I close from work. Of course, he would have failed woefully at that one. He would need several algebraic equations, (simultaneous at that) to find out.
The short experiences raises questions about how a little help offered can seem to backfire so hard that rather than entertaining angels in our attempt to help, some people end up encountering demon-like entities. There are stories of those who got hypnotized and kidnapped in their attempt to respond to someone asking for directions; swindled by those they lent money to, or pick-pocketed while trying to stop a fight! . Sad experience for such people.
Well, I guess we all have to act wisely in our dealings so we don’t expose ourselves to demon-like strangers not forgetting that ‘angels’ are still out there who really need help. Sure, we cannot let these impostors rob us of the joy of meeting angels, can we?
This post was originally published in November 2012
This article outlines five native SQL Server capabilities you can use to enhance your efficiency as a DBA. It was originally published on SQL Server Central
As organisations seek more cost efficient ways to manage their environments, the demand on IT to deliver and manage shops on a tighter budget is increasing. The typical IT person must think not just about what must be done but how it must be done not only with the least administrative effort but with the least financial cost.
Administrative effort indirectly contributes to financial cost when such factors such as time spent on performing tasks and resources employed in performing such administrative tasks are considered. In this article I have outlined a few areas where DBAs working in moderately sized environments can capitalise on to manage their environments more efficiently and more cost effectively.
1. Use Windows Authentication
SQL Server provides two main authentication modes: mixed mode and Windows Authenticaton. In mixed mode authentication, logins can be created within SQL Server. SQL Server does the authentication and the user must provide both a username and a password when connecting to the instance. Windows logins can also be used.
Windows Authentication mode allows SQL Server to trust a credentials that have already been authenticated by Windows. This credential could be a local OS account or an Active Directory domain account. Typically when using Windows Authentication in a connection string you specify –T (for trust) or the option ‘Integrated Security=true’ (see https://www.connectionstrings.com/ for more details on this). Some developers are typically averse to taking the trouble to use Windows Authentication probably because it appears more straightforward to simply specify a username and password in the connection string.
Windows Authentication has the following advantages:
Much More Secure – Windows Authentication is more secure because a series of encrypted messages are used in the authentication process. When using Windows Authentication mode, SQL Server supports Kerberos through the Windows Security Support Provider Interface (SSPI). It is also worth noting that when you do use SQL Server Logins, passwords are transmitted across the network exposing them to sniffing.
Easier to Manage – In an environment where users every now and then request a password reset or lock their accounts, using Windows Authentication takes the load of trivial tasks such as unlocking account and resetting passwords off the DBA.
Easier for Compliance – Many industry standards such as PCI-DSS demand basic practices such as password expiry, password complexity specifications and so on. Although this can be enabled on SQL Logins with the CHECK_POLICY=ON option, this is done per login. Using Windows Authentication ensures compliance requirements are handled by Windows not SQL Server which is much more efficient.
Easier for Access Management – When you need to manage a variety of departments who access SQL Server directly it will pay to handle access to the SQL Instance as follows:
- Create Windows Security Groups in Active Directory for each Department
- Grant the Windows Security Group Access to the SQL Instance
- Grant the Windows Groups the required privileges (through roles) on SQL Server
- When a new staff joins a particular depart, add him/her to the group on AD
- When a staff leaves the department remove him from the group on AD
- When a staff leave the organisation, remove him from ALL groups on AD
I think the above approach or any variant is much easier than handling individual principals at SQL Server level. In addition, it can help pass Access Management to a non-DBA function entirely who will not need to access SQL Server frequently to do their job.
2. Use Central Management Servers
Central Management Servers (available since SQL Server 2008) allow you to designate an instance as a management server and subsequently add the connection information for other instances as Registered Servers to that instance. You can group Registered servers as you like and run queries on them as groups.
One good example of the usefulness of this utility is documenting your instances (assuming you are not using more advanced methods). You can run one simple query on your Registered Server Group and get output across instances as shown in Fig 2.
Fig 3 also shows how Central Management Servers can be used to perform adhoc maintenance tasks across instances. In Fig 4 we create an account across multiple instance and grant a role to this login within each database of each of the instances we loop through. You will find this useful if you, for example, want to create an account for monitoring or auditing purposes when using third party tools that must connect to the instance.
It is worth noting that when working in an environment where your database servers are behind firewalls, you should ensure that port 1433 (or any other port you have configured your instances to listen on) is open between the Central Management Server and the Registered Servers. The credentials you use to connect from the Central Management Server should have the required accesses on the Registered Servers.
3. Use a Quorum Share Server
In my experience building SQL Server failover clusters, I have always been more inclined to use Node and Disk Majority Quorum configuration simply because that is what I am used to. With the advent of AlwaysOn Availability Groups, we find that quorum configuration options are limited to Node Majority and Node and Fileshare majority.
When configuring AlwaysOn Availability Groups, It will be useful to designate a single low-spec server as your ‘Quorum Share Server’. Create a number of shares on this server and grant permissions on the share to each clusters you install in your environment. You can manage and safeguard this single server from unintended reboots. You can take control of it as the DBA rather than for example depending on a share sitting on a Domain Controller.
4. Take Backups to a Share
For those who do not use or cannot afford enterprise backup solutions, one would often notice DBAs taking backups to a disk on the same server where the SQL instance is sitting. This is to say the least, RISKY. That means risky in UPPER case. It is even more risky if you are not using a SAN.
When in this situation, it would be a good idea to setup a share on a File Share server and grant permissions to the share to the SQL Server Service accounts across your enterprise. When configuring your backup jobs, simply use the share as your backup location. Below is a sample script:
-- Listing 1: Backup ALl Databases to a Share Excluding TempDB and Model
exec sp_MSforeachdb @command1='
DECLARE @backup sysname
IF ''?'' NOT IN ("tempdb","model")
BACKUP DATABASE ? TO DISK = @backup WITH INIT , NOUNLOAD ,
NAME = N''?'', NOSKIP , NOFORMAT'
-- Listing 2: Backup ALL Databases to a Share Excluding TempDB and Model if there has Been No Backup in the Last 24 Hours
exec sp_msforeachdb @command1='
DECLARE @backup sysname
DECLARE @db sysname
SET @backup=N''\10.1.119.45\POST_BKP\'' + DB_NAME() + ''_'' + convert(nvarchar,getdate(),112)+N''.bak''
SET @db = DB_NAME()
IF NOT EXISTS (
select bus.database_name, bus.backup_start_date, bus.backup_finish_date,
(((DATEPART(HH,bus.backup_finish_date))- (DATEPART(HH,bus.backup_start_date)))3600) + (((DATEPART(MI,bus.backup_finish_date)) - (DATEPART(MI,bus.backup_start_date)))60) +
(((DATEPART(SS,bus.backup_finish_date)) - DATEPART(SS,bus.backup_start_date))) [backup_time (secs)], bus.backup_size,
from msdb..backupset bus
join msdb..backupmediafamily bmf on bus.media_set_id=bmf.media_set_id
where bus.backup_start_date >= (getdate() - 1)
IF ''?'' NOT IN ("tempdb")
BACKUP DATABASE ? TO DISK = @backup
WITH INIT , NOUNLOAD ,
NAME = N''?_Backup'', NOSKIP , STATS = 10, NOFORMAT