Boot Camp Survivor

   

It has been too long since my last blog post. It has been a busy few months for my family and I since we got back from Disney World in September. Meghan started her full-time job as a Paramedic for East Baton Rouge EMS in October. I completed a 5K in December and then we were all over the place for the holidays.
The most exciting new development was the Marriage Boot Camp that Meghan and I just attended this past week. It was an intense four-day experience in Dallas. We met some great people there and had a wonderful time. It was hard work, but we learned so much. They advertise it as equivalent to two years of counseling. We were taught communication skills and conflict resolution skills. It was not a make it or break it kind of thing for Meghan and I. We just wanted to get closer and work on our communication and how to meet each other’s needs. We spent years just being parents and started to get away from being intentional with things like date nights. We started being more like roommates instead of friends like when we started.
The boot camp was so much more than we could have imagined. We learned so much about our love languages and how dedicated we really were to each other. There is a Life Enrichment Boot Camp bundled in, so we got to learn a lot about ourselves and how to deal with has happened to us throughout our life. Are you angry at someone? Are you unable to forgive someone? What about yourself? Then one of these boot camps may be for you too! I saw some lives changed in powerful ways. There was a lot of crying, but it was a good thing. I saw people finally have a weight lifted off them from decades ago. I just cannot say enough good things about this Boot Camp. The craziest thing is the Boot Camp is staffed by super dedicated volunteers! If you want to learn more about the Boot Camps, go to http://www.marriagebootcamp.com or http://www.lifeenrichmentbootcamp.com.

Disney World Vacation

We just got back from a week long trip to Disney World! It was wonderful! The kids had a great time. Meghan and I had been planning the trip for almost a year and waited till we got almost to the airport to surprise the kids. We flew there because that car ride would have too much with the kids at this age (8, 6, 4 and 2). We went with Meghan’s parents and her grandparents. There were many days that we could barely walk anymore by the end of the day. But we were there for the kids so we fought through it. The kids got to meet many of the Disney characters and princesses multiple times. We spent two days in Magic Kingdom then one day in Epcot, Animal Kingdom, Hollywood Studios and Typhoon Lagoon. We had the most fun in Typhoon Lagoon because the lines were so short! Hollywood Studios and Epcot were a close second for all of us.

Here is a link to all of our pictures from the trip: Disney World Vacation Photo Link

Can I get a … leader?

I have been wanting to right another blog post for a couple months, but I just couldn’t think of how to start it. Finally I saw a quote on LinkedIn that gave me the kick start I needed…

“Managers light a fire under people. Leaders light a fire in people.”

I have seen variations of this quote a few times and every time I see it, I get excited! I love this attitude! I have worked for seven different businesses and many superiors up to this point in my life. There are not too many that have this mentality with their employees. I know it can be difficult to always be a leader when the “going gets tough” some days. There are some times when you are in crisis mode and all you can do is light “fires” under people.

Communication and planning play a big role. Checking in with your employees on the completion of a task should not be the only time you communicate with them. The jobs where I have been happiest have been where I have been in sync with my supervisor the most and been a part of their planning process. There are some jobs where you dread your boss wanting to talk with you because communication is so rare or it is basically just about your job performance . I have found when your supervisor has a long term plan for your department and when you get to have a part in it, you can really feel like you are a part of the team. The long term plan always puts you in proactive mode instead of reactive mode which is much less stressful, at least in the IT field!

Managing and Leading other people is not something I have an abundance of experience with, so these are just my observations plus a little Business Degree. My Bachelor Degree is in Management but book knowledge is nothing compared to real world experience in dealing with other people. What I can say is that I had the wonderful experience of leading an intern about two years ago at my previous job. He went on to become a great employee at that company and I truly value that time. I can’t wait to be able to mentor and lead another person again.

You don’t even have to be a manager or a boss to be a leader. You can be a leader with your coworkers by shining a bright light on their bleak day. I have had a few teachers that had great leadership qualities and pushed me out of my comfort zone. You can be the one positive voice in an array of negativity!

Migration Project

I recently went through a painful process of upgrading my website to use the newest version of PHP, version 7. Before I tell you about that, let me give you a little background on what PHP is and why I use PHP.

Have you ever heard of PHP? Have you at least heard of HTML? These are both programming languages that are used to build websites. HTML is more commonly known. These two languages can work together well to make a great system. HTML is a client side language and PHP is a server side language. That means when you go to a HTML web page, the file is retrieved by your web browser (Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome, Safari, Opera, etc.) and all of its contents are displayed to you. When you go to a PHP web page, the server that is hosting the file, like Facebook for example, interprets the file. Then the results are sent as HTML to your browser. PHP is great at communicating with a database and sending output to you. This allows the private database communication and credentials to stay on the server and only results be sent to your web browser as HTML.

When I was in college, I was in a project management class. My group was assigned a project of a organization out in the community. If I remember correctly, the organization wanted a way to track donations. Most people would think to use Microsoft Excel to track things like that. Well two problems with that, you can only access the Excel spreadsheet on one computer and only one person can access it at a time. So most of the other groups in the class, that had similar projects, decided to use Microsoft Access. Which is basically Excel on steroids. It turns the spreadsheet concept of Excel into a database management system, while still being pretty user friendly. It allows multiple people to access the database on multiple computers at the same time. That was not good enough for me. So the next step up was using a true database product and some way to communicate with it. Some example of database products are: Oracle, Microsoft SQL, and MySQL. The only one that is free is MySQL paired with PHP. I already had my own website at the time and the hosting company allows you to have MySQL databases. So I started building a tracking system for them using PHP and MySQL. The great thing about this is that it can be accessed anywhere, even outside of that organization’s office like in the field. They loved the system when we presented it to them! I am always curious if it ever got put into use. I decided I had uses of my own for a system like that.

Have you ever tried to look up a transaction in your checking account or credit card from months ago on the bank website? You really can’t unless you know which statement to go look at and that is if they haven’t “archived” your old statements. So I decided to create a tracking system for my finances using the same concept as the college project. It may seem like double work, but I enter all of my checking and credit card transactions into my own little tracking system. I am able to categorize everything for research later on down the road and it makes me be accountable for everything I spend. For example, I can go look at how much I spent on Groceries or Dining Out or Gas.

I have been using my finance tracking system for about eight years now. I recently ran into an issue with my PHP version and my hosting environment. I use GoDaddy for website hosting and I found it was cheaper to purchase three years of hosting in a new product than to renew my old hosting product for one year. I built the original systems using PHP version 5. When I setup the new hosting environment, it recommended PHP version 7. In recent versions of PHP, they have deprecated (removed support for) certain commands that I used to communicate with the MySQL database. So I either had to run my website using an old version of PHP that is not getting security updates or update my PHP programming to use the new and more secure commands to communicate with the database.

Over the years, I started tracking my credit cards along with my checking account. So I would have to copy all the files from one folder to another and then go in and update a couple commands on all of the 20 or so files. When I decided to update my PHP commands to meet PHP 7 standards, I didn’t want to do it 5 times, once for each account’s folder. I redesigned it to where I only have one folder with the true PHP files and the other account’s folders just reference the commands in the other. It took a while to update all the PHP files to use the proper commands. I did it on my laptop so that I wouldn’t have to keep downloading and uploading changes to my website until I got it right. The files all have an “account” variable. So each folder just needs one unique file that tells the files which account to query. It will be great going forward. Adding new accounts will be easy and adding features will apply to all account sites at once!

I learned a lot from my college project and personal finance project. I was able to build upon it when I got into my career in IT. Database work is one of my favorite parts of my career. It is very fulfilling to figure out just the right way to get the data someone wants out of a database.

Cisco Certified

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I finally did it! I am now Cisco Certified! I passed my Cisco ICND1 exam last night which makes me a Cisco Certified Entry Network Technician (CCENT). Like I have said in previous posts, I have wanted a Cisco Networking Certification since I got into IT 11 years ago. I finally got serious about it last year. I read through the Cisco Press book, did the accompanying labs, watched countless videos and practiced what I learned on the Cisco Packet Tracer network simulator software. I believe the trick is to make sure you understand the topics instead of just memorizing everything. If I read over something that didn’t click, I would look it up or try to apply it in the network simulator to see it in action. With 4 kids and my wife in paramedic school, I just studied whenever I could get a little time here and there. Even with my many years of experience in the IT field it was still a difficult exam for me. I don’t get into network equipment everyday at my current job, so I don’t get as much hands on practice as some people do. I feel like it took me longer to prepare than most people, but I am just happy I made it! As the title implies, this is an entry level certification. I now plan to start working towards the ICND2 exam which would make me a Cisco Certified Network Associate.

Certifications: Update

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I just wanted to post a quick update. It has been a while since my last post. Things have come up that kept me from being able to practice for my certification exam. I finally took a couple practice tests and I got a passing grade on the one I took tonight! So I scheduled a certification exam for Saturday. I am so excited that I just had to make a blog post about. I will make a post regarding Saturday no matter how it goes and I hope and pray it will be a celebratory post!

Certifications

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Ever since I got into the IT field about 11 years ago, I have wanted to get a computer networking certification. In this field, certifications mean a lot. Having a college degree is almost expected now and a certification can assure a company that you truly know your stuff. The most well recognized networking certifications are attained from Cisco. They are the largest networking company in the World. They have many levels of certifications from entry all the way to expert architect. I just want to attain the entry level certification and prove to myself that I can do it. I have heard that some people get an itch once they pass their first level exam to keep moving up the ladder. In my opinion, you really have to work with network equipment hands on everyday to be able to or need to attain the professional and expert levels. You have to re-certify or attain a higher certification every three years to be able to keep your previously attained certifications current.

I have been working hard to get through the material for the first level certification, CCENT. CCENT stands for Cisco Certified Entry Networking Technician. It is the first step to the CCNA or Cisco Certified Network Associate certification. I have been reading the book off and on for the past year. It is hard to find time with four kids! I finally finished the book about a month ago and I have finished doing all the lab work that is available with the book. All that is left now is doing practice tests and scheduling the test. The practice test software recommends you set aside two hours to take the practice test and to get rid of all distractions just like in the testing center. My wife is in Paramedic school so it is difficult to get two hours to myself without the kids.

My brother, Jonathan has passed two CCNA exams. They are many versions of the certification, the most common being Network Routing and Switching. He has the Routing and Switching and has recently gotten the CCNA Wireless certification. I would love to get both of those, because Wireless has always been an aggravating part of my job. So I am hoping that certification can help me become better friends with Wireless Networking.

I truly hope that one day soon I will have a blog post about the fact that I passed my exam and got certified. Stay tuned!