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!

Reflection

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I recently read a blog post from someone about the beginning of her marriage and how they couldn’t be happier. The beginning of their relationship sounded so familiar. I believe they were in the “honeymoon phase” of their relationship at the time. I have fond memories of this time and miss it since having multiple children and our lives have gotten so busy. From what I have read, this is the phase of a relationship that usually lasts from 6 months to 2 years. We have all been in that phase of a relationship and it is amazing. I am not saying everyone’s relationships are doomed after this phase. I am basically just wanting to reflect back on that phase in my life since I am now past the 6 year mark of my relationship with my wife, Meghan. So I’m going to turn back time and reminisce a little.

Let’s start from the beginning. I was and still am quite a shy person. So I didn’t go actively looking for a relationship in high school or college. I always thought someone would stumble into my path and I could just focus on school. So needless to say, I didn’t have a long term relationship in high school or college. I will admit I did go on a few dates with a few lovely people but I was either overbearing or too afraid to fully commit to a relationship. I feel like those short relationships were put in my path to help prepare me for experiences later on in my life.

When I got out of college, I got a big boy job and moved in to an apartment with a good friend of mine. I still remember the details of the true beginning. The electricity (and a/c) in my apartment had went out so I was staying in a hotel for a night on July 2, 2011. I decided to try a new dating website (remember I am a shy person) called OKcupid while I was sitting in the hotel room. I made a profile and messaged a few matches. Well, Meghan was one of those matches. One of her friends had put her up to trying OKcupid a week before that. I had previously watched a documentary called The Business of Being Born. And I had seen on Meghan’s profile that she wanted to be a Doula, which is someone who helps with childbirth. So we hit it off talking about her aspirations in that field. Then once again since I am the shy person that I am, SHE asked if we could talk on the phone instead of the website. Then eventually we decided to go on a date and meet in person, after a mutual friend confirmed I was not a creep.

Our first date was on August 2, 2011. I picked her up at her house and got to meet her family who seemed a little anxious about her going on a date with someone she met online. She was beautiful and way out of my “league”. We went to go see Captain America and had dinner at Red Lobster at the Mall of Louisiana. I thanked the Lord for giving me the opportunity to meet her and I even prayed a blessing before we ate. I apparently made quite an impression. We both had a great time and we knew something special would happen between us. It was the best night of my life. I couldn’t even make it back home before I asked if we could go on a another date.

We went on many dates and it was all so romantic and perfect. I got to meet her daughter, Brynlee who had just turned 1. We spent all of our spare time together just like anyone would in their honeymoon phase. Due to my previous experiences, I was scared that I was being overbearing. She reassured me that this was not the case multiple times. We couldn’t get enough of each other. I remember picking out a ring and asking her parent’s permission while Meghan was at school one night. They were quick to say yes, but they did have some reservations shortly after. They wanted me to assure them Meghan would finish school. She is finally doing that this year actually! I am not sure what pushed me to the next step, but I remember the date.

On October 24, 2011, I proposed to Meghan at TownCentre in Baton Rouge. It was just a normal weekday after she got done with her classes for the night. I already had the ring and I just couldn’t wait any longer to pop the question. She said yes and the excitement and planning commenced. The next couple months moved very fast. We started looking at houses and locations for the wedding. We wanted a beach wedding even to the point where we had put a deposit down on a catering venue. But beach weddings come with exclusivity and we had trouble wanting to leave anyone out. So we decided to just have an extremely small wedding at our church.

We tied the knot on Monday, January 2, 2012 with our parents, grandparents and siblings. We then celebrated at Texas Roadhouse. We then went to Natchez for our short honeymoon. We moved into our house on January 20 of that same year. These were simpler times with just one child. We started learning things like getting used to living with each other and budgeting. I don’t know that a couple ever stops learning how to live with each other. We are still figuring things out six years later.

I don’t know exactly how long our honeymoon phase lasted, but many life events have happened since then. Bradley was born on September 4, 2012. Emily was born on July 21, 2014. Kenleigh was born on May 4, 2016. As you can tell, we had quite a pattern going but we have had enough so that pattern won’t be repeating anymore.

Marriage with little children has been difficult, but recalling the memories of how we started keeps me going. This post is long, but it is mainly for me to go back and reflect.

Microsoft Product Woes

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I recently started rolling out some computers that came preloaded with Windows 10 Professional and Office 2016 Home & Business OEM. We rolled them out earlier this month and about a week ago all 4 of them lost the ability to use their Microsoft Office Applications. I don’t know if it was an Microsoft Office update or some other issue. I tried the Quick Repair and Online Repair and both failed. I tried uninstalling Microsoft Office and running all the clean-up utilities and still I was unable to reinstall Microsoft Office 2016. I was able to get a copy of Microsoft Office 2013 to install, but that doesn’t solve the issue. I worked with Dell and Microsoft for at least 8 hours each and none of them were able to resolve the issue either. Both companies ended the conversation with recommending a fresh Windows 10 install. That wasn’t going to work for us.

So we bought a few licenses of Office 365 Premium but even that would not install. We discovered that if we uninstalled our Kaspersky Endpoint Security that we could get Office 365 to install. Then we could reinstall Kaspersky. We were never able to get Microsoft Office 2016 Home & Business OEM to install. So hopefully Dell can refund us for those licenses. My coworker is contacting Kaspersky support to try to figure out what could be causing the Endpoint Security to not allow Office to install. I just wanted to share this in case someone else comes across this same “Perfect Storm” of software products and its associated woes

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