SQL Saturday

Why You Should Attend SQL Saturday 97

Free Training

Part of the mission statement of SQL Saturday (read the full statement here) is to provide a day of free training to SQL Server Professionals and those new to SQL Server an event that combines training and networking as well as find and grow new speakers (see Calling All Local Speakers) that means you!

Take a look at all the sessions submitted. The tracks are not finalized yet but so far we have sessions submitted for DBAs, Developers, BI professionals, dotNet, and an Advanced. As you can see there is something for everyone.

Cool People To Meet

For me networking is one of the best parts of any SQL Saturday event. You can catch up with old friends and meet new ones. I especially like meeting the people I have chatted with on twitter and not met in person. That’s part of what makes the SQL community so strong and always growing. You can have conversations (all be it short ones) on twitter and when you actually meet them it’s almost as if you have known them for years.

The Weather Is Fine Wish You Were

I am sure you have seen something in the news about how hot it has been and the serious drought conditions down here in Texas recently. Yes it’s true; we have many days during the summer over 100 degrees and have not had measurable rain in several months.  However, our fall weather is usually very, very nice.

The normal high temperatures for October are in the low 80s and the normal low temperatures are in the upper 50s. Our average monthly rainfall is below 4 inches. That is not too shabby when compared to other areas of the country or world for the month of October. This year will be no different it is going to be a beautiful weekend to be in Austin.

Things To Do

After getting your learn on during the day, and after you have hung out at the Networking Social post event party you can stroll along 6th street. Checkout the clubs the people and maybe, just maybe run into the world famous Leslie (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leslie_Cochran).

Austin is known as the Live Music Capital of the World! Every weekend for sure and just about every week night you can find live music to your liking in Austin. Whatever you decide to do Austin has the nightlife to support it.

Vendors

Vendors are a big part of any of the SQL Saturday events and ours is no different. They support the events financially and with people. Please make it a point to visit the vendors, talk with them, and check what they have to offer, get a free pen or a splat ball, and if they are giving something away, throw your name in hat for a drawing at the end of the day. Who knows you may win something and get more than just free knowledge. I was at an event in the spring where one of the attendees won several things in a row. That could be you this time.

Final Thoughts

When you look at the wide range of session topics submitted. The speakers on the list, then networking possibilities, not to mention it is FREE, there is bound to be something for every level of experience.

If you haven’t noticed by now, I am really excited to be a part of CACTUSS and that we can give a little back to the community by SQL Saturday 97. If you are attending, find me and say hi. I’ll be the one grinning from ear to ear.

Cheers!

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Calling all Local Speakers!

One of the core reasons SQL Saturday was started is to “Find, grow, and feature local speakers” (read more About SQLSaturday here). I know you have thought about speaking. You may not know it yet but somewhere in the back of your mind you have. Trust me, you have.

(Waving hand in Jedi mind trick motion) Submit a session to SQL Saturday97 today.

Join the Ranks

I have given three presentations now. I survived all of them and you will too. Looking back, the first one was shaky, the second one was better and the last one, while not perfect (are they ever?) was the best yet. Why was it the best? Because like other things you do, the more you do them, the better you get. The better you get, the more you do them. Speaking is no different.

Another thing that helps is feedback positive and negative. Most of it the feedback was positive, even after the first one. Don’t get me wrong I have received negative or constructive (that mostly came from me) feedback too. But you also won’t grow or know what to improve on it you don’t get some negative at times. Remember that too when you are attending a session. Feedback is crucial to speakers.

How To Start Speaking

First pick a subject. This was hard for me too and still is at times. What I have presented on in the past was related to things I am doing at work or want to learn to do. Don’t worry if someone “famous” has already presented. There are people out there who have not heard about them or seen their presentation. There are many, many websites with information on “How to give presentations”. Here is just one to get you started. ToastMaster.org

Here is also a simple formula to follow that will assure you give effective presentations.

Tell Them What You Will Be Presenting
Present
Tell Them What You Presented

Follow that and you are well on your way.

Speaking Is Addictive

Let me warn you now. After you give a good presentation you will know it. You can just feel it, even if you made some mistakes. The feeling you get after hearing the applause and knowing you did a good job is what makes you want more. The more you present, the better you will get and the more you will want to present.

Final Thoughts

As you can see, SQLSaturday events were originally designed to promote and grow new speakers. After all we don’t grow on trees. There is tons of support out there to help you get started, but no one can present for you. If you remember the simple formula; Tell Them What You Will Present, Present, Tell Them What You Presented, you have a great foundation. We all started somewhere, even the famous speakers. Now is your time.

(Waving hand in Jedi mind trick motion) Submit a session to SQL Saturday97 today.

Cheers!

It’s all about perspective

I have only attended two SQLSaturdays and both were in Dallas. The first was May 2010 (my post from last year) and the second a few weeks ago on April 2. I have to say, when comparing the two, this year’s event was hands down 10 times better.

Let me clarify a few things first. When I attended the event last year I was just starting to get into the community. With following so many SQL people, and having conversations here and there on Twitter, I had not met anyone in person yet. So, volunteering allowed me the opportunity I was looking for. To meet many great people within the SQL community.

This year was different. I knew the location, and area of the event. I knew some of the cool people from the NTSSUG and I had volunteered the previous year. So even though I was excited, it was a different kind of excitement.

I was able to leave early enough to take a leisurely drive and arrive mid-afternoon on Friday in Dallas. This also enabled me to show up to the event setup meeting and lend a hand with whatever needed to be done to get ready for the next day. There were minor things like hanging a few signs and some other small things. Once we were finished I was invited to the speaker get together. I was not expecting that, but graciously accepted the invite.

Once I arrived I recognized a few people so began to mingle, after all, that’s what we were there for, no? I was able to meet the likes of Jessica Moss ( twitter | blog ), she was really cool, but not as tall as she looks on twitter 🙂 . David Smithley ( twitter | blog ), I did not realize he was a Texas boy too. I was able to talked at length with David Stein ( twitter | blog ), he is one funny and crazy (in a good way) SOB. If you get a chance, look up his posts on his hiking adventure in the Las Vegas area. I also talked with the one and only Wes Brown ( twitter | blog ) he is one cool guy (working the brownie points here).  I had been planning on attending the special “live” viewing of infamous MidnightDBA’s ( twitter | blog ), (Jen and Sean McCown) show but it was getting late and I was getting tired so I just went back to my room.

The next day the event was nothing short awesome. I arrived early enough to grab some coffee and mingle a bit. When getting coffee I ran into Andy Warren ( twitter | blog ), I mentioned to him I had seen him the night before but did not get a chance to introduce myself or talk. He then said, “I see you on Twitter from time to time.” That shocked me for a minute. Someone of Andy’s reputation and stature and he recognized my name. Well, my Twitter handle, not really my name, but they are getting to be synonymous. After a few minutes I checked my watch and politely excused myself since I was going to be late to the first presentation I was supposed to help with.

I had been assigned as the room attendant for Wes Brown‘s presentation on Solid State Storage Deep Dive. I have heard Wes talk about Solid State drives several times (he is the leader of the CACTUSS group) but this was a new one. Next on my assignment was room attendant for Adam Saxton’s ( twitter | blog ) presentation on Getting Started with Reporting Services, this was a basic class and well received. He also mentioned a few cool things coming out with the next release of Reporting Services (Denali) that should be really cool to use (read his blog for more information).

Then I kind of stumbled into Andy Warren’s presentation on Building a Professional Development Plan. I can look back now and say that presentation had the biggest impact on me (more about that in a future post) that weekend. Over the years I had been doing some of the things he spoke about but never put them down in writing. As a result I have now.

After lunch I attended Jessica Moss’s presentation, Introducing Microsoft’s EDIM Products. After some technical issues that were cleared up  or made worse) by the likes of Steve Jones ( twitter | blog ) and David Stein, Jessica got under way. She mentioned a few features in Denali’s Integration Service that are going to be really cool to use. Then there was Sean McCown’s ( twitter | blog ) presentation, How to curse in an interview. Sean’s presentations are always entertaining and informative.

Then the next big event was the end of day raffle. As usual at these types of events there were some really cool prizes. Congrats to all that one something. Even those who “never win anything!” Congrats to Eric Humphrey ( twitter | blog ).

At the after event Networking Social I was able to talk with some new SQL friends like Adam Saxton , really nice guy. Even though I was assigned to assist with his room during his presentation we did not have time to talk. So I took advantage of the opportunity then. I was able to talk with Andy Warren again too (by now it seems I like I was stalking him). He had some really enlightening things to say about SQLSaturdays, the vision, how it was started and where he hopes to see things in the future. I was able to talk more with Jessica Moss, and found out she resides and grew up in Virginia not far from where I lived for about 15 years.

I also talked with the usual suspects Ryan Adams ( twitter | blog ), and Tim Mitchell ( twitter | blog ), Jeremy Marx ( twitter | blog ). It is just not possible to list everyone here I talked. Sorry if I did not mention your name. Hopefully, with a little luck and a lot of hard work we will host an event in Austin and get to see some of the new friends I made that day. (Stay tuned for details)

I am not sure you noticed, I didn’t until I was proofing this post. At first I referred to everyone “people”. At the end of the post, I referred to them as friends. Hopefully, they see me in the same light.

As you can see, from one event to another, from one year to the next, getting involved in the SQL community, it’s all about perspective.

Cheers!

What I gained from volunteering at SQLSat35

Wow! What an incredible weekend I (we) just had. I think I am still in a daze from meeting people, attending sessions and just hanging out with others from the SQL Server community.

This past weekend, for me, really started a few months ago when Northern Texas SQL Server User Group ( NTSSUG ) first posted they were holding a SQL Saturday ( #SQLSat35). I signed up almost immediately for the FREE all day training event. Then not long after I registered for SQLSat35 I heard Brad McGeHee ( twitter | blog ) was going to be speaking at NTSSUG May meeting. This just happened to be the Thursday before SQLSat35. Not wanting to miss this opportunity to hear Brad speak, I decided to leave work early (after getting Manager approval of course) on Thursday and stay for the event on Saturday.

The week before SQLSat35, Ryan Adams ( twitter ) posted a tweet about needing volunteers for the event. Naturally, I jumped at the request and said I would be in town for the NTSSUG meeting on Thursday and would be more than happy to help in any way I could. I wound up being a room monitor covering three different sessions.

I attended the NTSSUG meeting on Thursday and recognized several people I only knew through interacting with them on twitter, reading their blogs or watching some of their videos. I did not introduce myself to anyone except Ryan Adams and later Brad McGeeHee. Brad’s talk was on “Performance Analysis of Logs”, ( PAL ) and the free tool from Microsoft. After the meeting a request was made. There was a need for as many people as possible to help stuff the 500 bags with SWAG (stuff we all get) for the SQLSat35 event. Since I was in town on my own and planning on sleeping late anyway, I decided to help. Besides, it was only going to take an hour. (wink wink, nudge nudge).

As a volunteer for SQLSat35, we needed to arrive by 7:00 AM for a briefing on various administrative things that needed to happen. After arriving I saw Ryan running around giving instructions to people and talking with Sean McCown ( twitter | blog ) one of the dynamic duo that make up @MidnightDBA, so I introduced myself. He was mentioning to Ryan he needed help with bringing in the books and printers he brought for SWAG. Ryan and I assisted (more Ryan he had the dolly, I only had one box). After that, all the volunteers were briefed on the rooms A/V setup and giving a brief demo of how to setup and use the recording software the Speakers would use to record their sessions, if they chose too.

I had signed up to assist with three sessions the first started at 8:30. The session was titled, “A Lap Around SQL Azure”, and the speaker was Larry Clark ( twitter ). I went to the speaker room looking for Larry to see if he was going to record his session, and if he was he had the software needed. Larry and I then went to the room and setup the microphone and did a test recording to confirm everything was working correctly. After that, the only other thing I had to do was dim the lights and hand out session evaluation forms and sit back and take a lap with everyone else. I had heard and seen people talking about SQL Azure but did not go the extra mile to research it on my own. This session did all that for me. I now know the pros and cons of using SQL Azure and some things it offers and other things (currently) it does not. One thing I did not realize until later when I saw a tweet, was I was already following Larry. I think in the future, all PASS events should have name tags where you can write your real name but should write your twitter handle, that way we would recognize each other more.

The second session I was scheduled to help with as at 9:45. The session title, “An Introduction to Master Data Services” and the speaker was Bryan Smith. I was chatting with Bryan waiting on Larry Clark’s session to start because he was at the NTSSUG meeting on Thursday, so I was talking to him about the meeting.  Again I went into the room early to make sure Bryan had the software need to record his session if that was his desire. Luckily he was using the same software Larry used in the previous session and I was somewhat familiar but not 100%. I was even luckier when I went in search of additional technical I ran into Larry Clark coming into Bryan’s session. He helped me figure out how to get things setup the rest of the way. Thanks again Larry! After getting Larry’s help with the setup Bryan kicked off his session. It was another excellent session. Especially, since I knew even less about MDS than I did about SQL Azure. But listening and learning I came away with a great understanding of MDS and the potential uses.

I did not have to cover any more sessions until 3:30. So I attended “Deadlock detection, troubleshooting and Prevention, by Trevor Barkhouse ( twitter | blog ). Wow! What an great session! Trevor was able to show examples and talk about deadlock issues in an easy to understand, no nonsense way. Even though I knew about them, Trevor was able to spark some of the brain cells in the back not being used. I was not able to talk with Trevor but would have liked to pick his brain on a few items. I was not following him before but I am now.

Next was lunch. The lunch as I tweeted on Saturday was very, very good. I had the chicken salad on croissant, very yummy. What made the lunch and was an excellent surprise was well as choice by the powers that be was a ranch dressing with bacon. That’s right. Makes you hungry don’t it? What was really cool about lunch was the  MidnightDBA’s ( twitter | blog ) did a live recording of their always entertaining videos while we were all watching. It was like going to Hollywood and watching them make “The Tonight Show”. Well, O.K. maybe it wasn’t  quite like that but it was close.

The 1:00 PM session I attended was “Beginning Powershell”, with Sean McCown ( twitter | blog ). I have watched almost (or maybe all) the videos Sean has done on Powershell and (I did not tell him this when we talked) is really how I started to use Powershell. I had seen/read articles and blogs about its use but just did not take the dive until I watched one to two the Sean’s videos and BAM! All things were instantly clear. Well, not all things, but he is very entertaining and has a great way of teaching and passing along information. In his session, Sean was his usual entertaining and funny, giving away SWAG to anyone that laughed at his “stupid jokes” (his quote, not mine) or for the best “That’s what she said” saying. If you ever get a chance to attend a session by Sean, I highly recommend attending, even if you already know the material. You may just get some good SWAG by heckling.

The next session I attended was at 2:15 PM and titled “Understanding Storage Systems and SQL Server” the speaker was Wes Brown ( twitter | blog ). Wes is the head of the Capital Area Central Texas Users of SQL Server ( CACTUSS ). Storage is one area I am concentrating more time and effort on. Anyway, I learned a great deal and looking forward to seeing the slide deck. I was able to briefly talk with Wes (basically introduced myself and asked if he was going to be around later to talk). I had planned on talking with Wes at length about being more active in CACTUSS and asking what I could help do within the group.

The last session of the day was scheduled for 3:30. This was also my last session I was to assist with and it just happened to be “Managing SSIS with Powershell”, by Sean McCown ( twitter | blog ). Just like I mentioned earlier, Sean has a way of making learning entertaining. It is rarely boring, it may be flat at times as this session started but that could easily be attributed to the ice cream everyone had or was currently eating. About 30 minutes into the session he got back on his game and finished strong.

After the vendor’s gave away all their prizes SQLSat35 was officially in the record books and as a volunteer my duties were complete. The only thing left to do was attend the after event P-A-R-T-Y!

It wasn’t really a party as much as it was an after event mixer. We mostly sat at tables and talked and visited with others. I met a few more people, one guy, from San Antonio, sorry I completely forgot your name was very informative and nice to talk with. I also met Kristen Ferrier. She had two sessions (I did not attend either one) but seemed pleased with the overall reaction of the crowd and very much liked the event. I also met Drew Minkin, very nice guy, he had a few sessions one in particular was Intro to Data Mining, he also picked a second session for someone else that did not make it to SQLSat35. Way to go Drew, taking one for the team!

All in all, the weekend (starting on Thursday evening) was one of the best weekends I have had in a long time. I met a bunch of people I knew or interacted with on twitter or through their training videos or blogs. I also have to add that if I had attended the event just as an attendee I might not have met all those that I did. Even though in the SQL server community is welcoming in nature it is still somewhat intimidating trying to talk with people you look up to for one reason or another.

It is hard to summarize what I gained from volunteering and attending SQLSat35 but I’ll do my best. I gained a new appreciation for the people that plan these events. I gained an appreciation for those that speak at these events and realized some of them get nervous just like I do. I learned that others in the community have as much passion and conviction as I do at bettering themselves and others. I learned that giving a little bit of your time can reap benefits far beyond any SWAG given away. And I learned that just attending one of these events only starts a fire that must be feed and feed often to keep the fire burning. Oh, yeah I got a really cool shirt too!

Congratulations to NTSSUG on the success of the first of many (hopefully) SQL Saturday events.

Cheers!