4 Ways to Get Ahead: Advice from Top Execs

Whether you're on the lowest rung of the career ladder or somewhere in the middle, you probably would like to advance professionally.  To help you do so, we've culled the internet to find the best advice that top executives have to offer about getting ahead.  Read on to learn 4 surefire ways you can become more successful:

  1. Show Initiative.  Rather than turning down tasks (“That's not my job!”), be proactive about seeking out new work responsibilities that will aid your career development.  Tom Laundy, business advisory director at William Buck explains, “In the vast majority of cases, initiative is rewarded as it shows an ability to act independently to achieve goals, which can take some pressure off others, making your contribution more valuable.”

  2. Plan.  A great career doesn't just happen, it takes a plan.  First, you need to determine where you want to go, then you have to develop the skills that it will take to get you there.  As T. Boone Pickens, CEO of BP Capital, puts it, “A fool with a plan can outsmart a genius any day.”

  3. Follow Your Passion.  It's a lot easier to display initiative when you're in a job that you feel enthusiastic about.  Warren Buffet—CEO of Berkshire Hathaway and a man who certainly knows a lot about success—encourages people to do what they love and adds, “The truth is, so few people really jump on their jobs, [that if you do so] you really will stand out more than you think.  You will get noticed if you really go for it.”

  4. Believe in Yourself.  Business leader and billionaire Mark Cuban wasn't always the affluent man he is today.  In fact, at one point in his life he tended bar and subsisted on mustard and ketchup sandwiches!  However, he never gave up on himself—instead, he just worked harder.  As Cuban puts it, “If you are willing to fight through [challenges] via effort and brain power, anything is possible.”

Working With Databases - Introduction

In this new series, we're going to learn about the entire process of working with databases—how to create a conceptual model, generate the SQL schema, connect to our database from Visual Studio, write triggers and stored procedures, and finally, how to use our database via a C# application.  We'll cover some new things, such as the basics of SQL, and some simple C# code which should be relatively easy to understand for anyone with basic knowledge of Java or C++.  We will also work with some new tools like MySQL Workbench.

However, before we start making our database, we need to say a couple of words about databases in general, like why and when we use them and what DBMS and SQL refer to.  Generally, a database is a collection of information that is organized so that it can easily be accessed, managed, and updated.  Databases can be categorized in many different ways, based on their content, purpose, method of internal organization.

A database management system (DBMS) is a computer software application that interacts with the user, other applications, and the database itself to capture and analyze data.  A general-purpose DBMS is designed to allow the definition, creation, querying, update, and administration of databases.  We will be using the MySQL DBMS, but some other well-known DBMSs include Microsoft SQL Server, Oracle, MongoDB, etc.  Going forward, we'll show you how MySQL makes it relatively easy to handle our database.

You've probably heard of SQL many times, but maybe you didn't know exactly what it is.  SQL - Structured Query Language - is a special-purpose programming language designed for managing data held in a relational database management system (RDBMS) like the one we'll be using.  SQL is a powerful, declarative language based on relational algebra, and it's used to retrieve, insert, update and delete data from the database, write various queries, and create views, triggers, stored procedures, etc.  As our series continues, we'll explain the basic syntax and concepts of SQL.

In one of the first steps of our series, we'll create a conceptual (entity-relationship) model from which we'll generate the SQL schema of the database.  Please note that a professional might skip this step and write the schema immediately, but for us, the conceptual model is very important because it is a visual, intuitive representation of our database.

It's very important to design your database cleverly from the beginning.  Also, note that the word used here was "cleverly," not "correctly," since there are many different ways to design a database which stores the same data.  A cleverly modeled database is one which allows the user or administrator to easily acquire data through queries.  This is not always a simple task; it's sometimes even considered an art, which is why database professionals are highly respected in the IT field.

The largest part of this series will be dedicated to SQL—performing database operations and writing more complicated queries and structures, like triggers and stored procedures.  This can be done using Visual Studio or MySQL Workbench.  MySQL workbench, unlike Visual Studio, is a specialized tool for working with MySQL databases.

Finally, after we've learned to manipulate our database with SQL, we'll make a small application using C# which will allow users to work with the database via a graphic interface.  In real life situations, users are typically given certain privileges, meaning that not everyone can insert, modify, or delete sensitive data.  Database security measures are performed at every level of the database—when creating the schema, writing the triggers, and in the application itself.  We'll cover this topic and more in the following articles, so stay tuned and keep visiting our blog to read the latest posts!


5 Tips for Hiring a Freelancer

Today it's becoming more and more common to outsource various projects to freelancers.  While the process can seem overwhelming if you've never done it before, it actually can be fairly simple.  Read on to learn our tips for selecting a great freelancer:

  1. Determine the End Result.  Before even visiting a freelancer website, you should know exactly what your desired end result is.  Begin by answering questions like:  What deliverables do I need?  When do I need them by?  Which skills will the freelancer need to have?  Once you can answer these questions, you'll be ready to post your job on a freelancing website.

  2. Select a Freelancing Site.  There are plenty of websites out there that connect employers with freelancers.  To get you started, we recommend you check out Upwork, Authentic Jobs, and Gun.io.  Upwork offers contractors for marketing, writing, IT development, admin work, and everything in between, whereas Authentic Jobs and Gun.io are more focused on IT development/design contractors.

  3. Write the Job Description.  It's tempting to just write a line or two, but we suggest that you write a detailed job description instead.  For instance, rather than saying, “Create copy for my website,” you probably want to be more specific: “Write 200-300 words per page in a whimsical style for 5 new web site pages.  The writing should be similar in tone to the XYZ website.”  Not only will this ensure the likelihood that you'll get more accurate bids, but it will also minimize the number of unqualified people who submit proposals.

  4. Review Portfolios.  Don't just assume that a contractor can do the work based on his proposal. Instead, ask to see samples of previous work and review professional feedback before extending a job offer.

  5. Assign Milestones.  For shorter jobs, you're only going to have 1 milestone.  However, if you have a more complex job, assign milestones for each part of the project.  This will allow you to create clear guidelines as to which deliverables are expected and when they are due.  This type of clarification at the onset will increase the likelihood of your project's success!  

Thought For The Day

“I believe that men are here to grow themselves into the best good that they can be - at least, this is what I want to do.”

John Coltrane


Want to Create your Dream Life? Here's How...

Does your life need an overhaul?  If so, read on to learn the steps you can take to create your dream life.  It's easier than you think!

  1. Determine What Your Dream Life Looks Like.  To get started with this process, you're going to want to begin with an inventory.  Think about the following 4 areas of your life: your home, your relationships, your career, and your body.  Then, begin imagining what your life would look like in these 4 areas if there were no limits on your ability to create what you wanted.

  2. Establish Your Goals.  Once you've determined what you'd like your future life to look like, write down goals for each category of your life.  For example, you might say, “I'd like to lose 20 pounds in 6 months.” (hint: it would be even more powerful if your goal read, “I intend to lose 20 pounds in 6 months.”)  Once you've established your goals, read them daily so they remain at the forefront of your mind.

  3. Consider Which Steps You Need to Take to Achieve Your Goals.  There are certain action steps you're going to need to take to create your dream life.  For instance, if one of your goals is weight loss, you might decide that keeping a food journal, exercising 5 times a week, and limiting yourself to just 1 beer at happy hour will help you get there.  Identify the steps that you need to take to achieve your goals and then, incorporate them into your daily habits.

  4. Associate with Like-Minded People.  Have you ever heard the phrase, “You're the average of the 3 people you spend the most time with”?  Choose to spend time with like-minded people who are similarly goal-oriented and will be supportive as you reach for your dreams.

  5. Believe in Yourself.  When you start trying to change your life, you'll often run into roadblocks along the way.  No matter what occurs, keep telling yourself that you can do this!  As Henry Ford once said, “Whether you think you can, or you think you can't—you're right.”  There are plenty of inspirational role models out there who achieved great success in spite of the obstacles they faced along the way.  Just remember that like them, you are more than capable of overcoming anything with a confident mindset.