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Get to know a database integrator / Ask Me Anything!

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Alan Hylands from Simple Analytical is doing a great series about people working in many corners of the "data" field. Analysts, programmers, managers, scientists, and more -- if you haven't read it yet, you should! There's a new interview every week.

I'm still mind-boggled to be in the series, and honored.

You can read my story on Alan's blog to learn more about:

  • how a humanities major ended up programming databases to talk to each other
  • what that job looks like as a typical day at the office

Then if you have any questions, come on back and Ask Me Anything! 😜

Thanks again, Alan, and can't wait to read your upcoming interviews.

Top comments (8)

helenanders26 profile image
Helen Anderson

Thank you for sharing Katie and thank you for such a fantastic series Alan I look forward to this every week.

I love that you are so passionate about what you do and are making such great resources to help others who are #Adminelopers in the SFDC world. I've been really enjoying the JSON and XML series and have been sharing the posts around the office.

I think you are the only one in the series to make a point of mentioning exercise. It's so true that going for a swim or a walk helps us to decompress and take some pressure off the body.

You mention you would like to stick to being an individual contributor rather than heading down the management path. Do you have a role you are aspiring to or a set of technical skills you are learning to keep the momentum going?

katiekodes profile image
Katie • Edited

You mention you would like to stick to being an individual contributor rather than heading down the management path. Do you have a role you are aspiring to or a set of technical skills you are learning to keep the momentum going?

Here's the environment in which I learned to program on the job:

  • Lone wolf "computer woman" / "keeper of sacred mysteries" embedded among business users
  • No one cared if "production" systems went down over a weekend, as long as we had it back up and recovered by Tuesday
  • Failures were highly recoverable, because most systems were "convenience portals" on top of underlying other portals
  • Only a handful of people cared about the systems

I knew that eventually, my ability to make a career out of being a "developer" was going to hit a wall without team-coding experience and "OMG hair on fire" production-coding experience.

I thought about leaving my current employer to go build apps in the private sector or something as a junior developer, alongside people straight out of CS degrees and bootcamps.

Luckily, I was able to be "adopted" at my current workplace by an integrations team that had some of the types of work I was learning to gain experience with:

  • Multiple people sharing a codebase
  • Systems that thousands of people can be impacted by downtime from if they're not fixed the moment they break
  • Systems where a fix can involve the hassle of coordinating US/India time zones

I've just begun an adventure into a good 3 years of sharing call, coding according to styles that match other people's code, figuring out how to be an efficient problem solver in a short timeframe so I don't lose too much of a holiday to a downed system, etc.

Luckily, that "holiday" thing doesn't happen too often, but it occasionally has and definitely could again.

I may have had a chance to level up my Salesforce experience instead. (I didn't inquire, but the Salesforce team could always use help, so I presume it would have been okay to ask to join?) Although I would have experienced an increase in "production hair on fire" and "team development" there, the level would have been slightly lower than on the team I just joined.

I chose the "junior developer surrounded by seniors" opportunity because I thought it would be harder to find again without a pay cut than a re-immersion deep into the world of Salesforce would be.

alanhylands profile image
Alan Hylands

Great point about exercise Helen. That's going in as a question for future interviews. (Running a fitness studio you might think I would have thought of that one already...)

alanhylands profile image
Alan Hylands • Edited

Don't miss this one folks. Katie goes into a TON of detail on her backstory, what she does and how she does it. Take full advantage of her AMA.

My favourite quote from the interview is:

"Integration work is pretty “MacGyver”-ey. You access data with the tools your company invested in, and you cobble solutions together as effectively and efficiently as they allow."

Two sentences that sum up so much of my own technical career over the past (coughs...indecipherable mumble) number of years.

Thanks again for taking part Katie - another great addition to the series.

rukykf profile image
Kofi Oghenerukevwe H.

Hello, I have a question about databases. Specifically, I'm working with PHP and MySQL. I just got my site hosted on a VPS, and I used one vCPU core on the VPS because I'm scared I don't have my code setup properly to utilize more than one CPU. In the code, I retrieve some numbers, let's call these numbers X from my database, I do some manipulations on these numbers and then I store those numbers back into the database. PHP isn't built for multi-threading, as far as I know, so each PHP request gets handled by one CPU core. I'm concerned that if were to have more than one CPU core on the VPS, there would be multiple PHP processes retrieving and manipulating X from the database and I'm not sure if the integrity of the numbers X would be maintained. Like, each process would retrieve X, add one to it and store it back in the database. With multiple cores, I imagine that if each CPU core retrieved X and added one to it, and then stored it back, I'd have an inaccurate value of X at the end of the day. Please let me know how to go about handling these types of situations, I've heard of a queueing system but I've never used that before.

katiekodes profile image

Great question!

Unfortunately, I'm still a bit of a "code newbie" in many ways, so I don't have an answer to that particular technical problem. 😳

I think you're on the right track, though, with your train of thought.

I also think that this question is easily explicit enough for StackOverflow. Maybe a bit more whitespace and breaking into paragraphs, but I'd upvote the question over there and answer it if I knew the answer! 😆

andy profile image
Andy Zhao (he/him)

First time I've heard of that role! What does a database integrator do?

katiekodes profile image
Katie • Edited

That's an "explain it to the CEO" phrase I made up to describe my job.

On paper, I'm a "developer," but I think "getting data from point A to point B upon request" sums up a lot of my day-to-day life!

Sometimes I do it with SQL or PL/SQL or Salesforce Apex+SOQL.

Sometimes I do it with fancy or not-so-fancy ETL tools.

Sometimes I click a bunch of "delete" buttons over and over again.

Sometimes I do the "transform" step of "extract, transform, load" (ETL) processes in Excel or with a script on my hard drive.

"Integrations" & "integrator" sounded like the right word to put it all together. :)