Thursday, April 28, 2011

Have You Heard? You Can Get a Mentor

Steve Jones and Andy Warren are at it again.  The founders of SQLServerCentral, SQLShare, and SQLSaturday have started a new program, The Mentoring Experiment, to try to match professionals (SQL Server only to start), with a more experienced professional as a mentor.  One of their goals is to learn more about what makes a mentoring relationship work so that they mentor others to become better mentors.

I can’t think of more qualified people to do something like this.  Both Steve and Andy have been mentors to many people in the SQL Server community, myself included, so they have experience and a real desire to see others grow.  I don’t know who Andy and Steve have selected to be the mentors, but I’m sure that they have selected people who have been successful, and have the desire and ability to see others succeed as well.

My recent reading has included several books on leadership and mentoring so I’m very interested in seeing how this experiment works.

If you are a SQL Server professional who would like to see your career grow I highly recommend visiting and applying.  You only have until April 30th to get your application in.  Were I not in the midst of a job search and move, I’d apply myself, but I can’t put the time in to be a proper mentee.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

PASS SQLRally–Thoughts from an Organizer


There have been lots of blog posts about PASS SQLRally (Bing Search), but there haven’t been a lot recently from the organizers.  As today (April 12th) is the last day for the discounted $299 price I thought it would be good to talk about why I think it is a good model for an event, what I’ve done for SQLRally, and why you should attend.

Why is the SQLRally model good?

Because it is a partnership between local user groups and PASS.  This is a plus because you have the large event experience of those at PASS HQ, but also fresh ideas and new perspectives from the local people.  Just like in any endeavor, you can get stuck in a rut on how you do things and bringing in some new people brings in new ideas that haven’t been considered.  This means that each SQLRally will have a unique identity provided by the local organizers, but you get the experience of those who have put on multiple events.

Because it is regional.  The PASS Summit is a great international conference, but it is large, expensive, and a long way to travel for many people.  This means that you can’t necessarily make it every year.  Because SQLRally is regional, it is less expensive, more intimate, and accessible.  It also means that you the networking available to you is with more people from your region, which means the contacts you make may be more useful to you than national or international contacts you make at a larger conference.  Both have value, but local contacts can help you on-site or, if you are looking, provide you with local opportunities.

It is about the community.  This is YOUR event.  You selected the sessions from pre-con’s to regular sessions, you go to evaluate the abstracts and select the sessions that would be most valuable to YOU.

What I’ve Done?

My main areas of contribution have been in sponsor plan development, event programming, and speaker communication. 

For the sponsor plan development, I got to work with Al Schuler and Craig Ellis and I think we did a great job since we sold out the sponsorships.  It was a great learning experience for me because I got some insight into how to market an event to sponsors and how to break out some thins apart from general sponsorship. 

Andy Warren and I developed the speaker selection process which consisted of breaking the submissions into categories within each track for voting purposes.  We spent a lot of time discussing how that should work and putting sessions into each category.  Our goal in categorizing the submissions within each track was to ensure variety in the sessions.  It’s really easy to pick all the performance tuning sessions as you know those will be popular, but that wouldn’t make a well-rounded event.  Once the sessions were voted on, I communicated the results to the presenters, selected the wild card & deep-dive sessions, and then put together the event schedule.

I’ve also been working on what I’m calling SQLRally Overdrive, which is 3 more laid-back sessions on Thursday evening from 5:45-7:00 pm.  These sessions will be designed to have more interaction between attendees and facilitate networking.

Why Should You Attend?

SQLRally brings much of the Summit experience to you.  We have a great mix of seasoned Summit presenters along with up and coming speakers who have a lot to offer.  With the more intimate setting it should be easier to make new connections and develop those relationships.  You’ll learn from people who are DOING the same job you are, and be able to take home practical solutions that you implement the Monday after the event.  Check out the ROI page for what you can take to your boss to convince him/her to allow you to go to SQLRally.

I hope to see you there!

Monday, April 4, 2011

SqlSaturday #71–Boston Recap: An Upscale Saturday

I had the pleasure of attending and presenting at SQLSaturday #71 – Boston on April 2nd.  Adam Machanic (Blog|Twitter), Mike Walsh (Blog|Twitter), Tom LaRock (Blog|Twitter), Grant Fritchey (Blog|Twitter) and crew did a great job putting on the event.  The event was held at the Babson College Executive Conference Center which is a great facility.  The rooms were large and, except for the large room, theatre-style so the all the attendees could see.  There was also an on-site pub for the after-party that made it easy for attendees to stay and network after the event.  I was surprised that more didn’t, but the crew that did was very lively.


Meeting Paul White (Blog|Twitter) – I’ve “known” Paul for awhile online through SQLServerCentral and Twitter, but this was my first opportunity to meet him in person.  I’m always excited to meet people in person, especially when they are among the best and brightest in the SQL Server community, which Paul is.  It was also great to hear that he was rightly awarded SQL Server MVP status in the latest round.  If you don’t read his blog you should. 

Food Service – In order to use the facility the event had to purchase food through the facility and it was the BEST food at any event I’ve attended.  There was fruit, drinks, muffins, etc… throughout the morning at several stations in the facility, and the event staff kept everything stocked.  It was actually so well-done I wasn’t sure it was for our event because I’ve never seen it done like that before.  The lunch buffet was unbelievable!  Tampa has a good lunch at their event, but it did not compare.  I can’t even mention all the items that were available, including the desserts.  There were even servers keeping you water or other drink filled and clearing your plates.  Even the Summit doesn’t serve a meal like this!  Then, to top it off cookies and fruit appeared at the snack stations in the afternoon!  Thank goodness I stayed on my feet throughout the day or I would have gained back half the weight I’ve lost! 

Seeing old friends and making new ones – There is never a time when getting together with old friends in the community is not a great time.  People like Andy Leonard (Blog|Twitter), Aaron Bertrand (Blog|Twitter), Karen Lopez (Blog|Twitter), Chris Skorlinksi and others that make every conversation a learning experience.  Then some new friends, many of whom I interact with online, like Mike Hilwig (Blog), Michael Coles (Blog|Twitter), Andrew Kelly (Blog|Twitter), Stefan Krzywicki (Blog), and Allen White (Blog|Twitter).  Each one of the folks I interacted with during the day made a full day of #sqlwinning.  I know I’m leaving out a bunch of people, but there are too many to include.

My Session

I presented my Introduction to Triggers session in the first slot and I had at least 15 people (that’s how many evals I got), which is about my normal crowd for this session.  Overall it went well, although I lost my train of thought a couple of times, and I was a little nervous having Paul White in my session.  Paul actually was a great help in the session as he asked some great questions that reminded me of some points that I need to make or emphasize.  I am guessing that is why he asked those questions because I’m pretty sure he knew the answers, and I’d be shocked if he didn’t.  There were a lot of good questions from the rest of group as well, especially when we talked about DDL triggers.  We actually spent more time on that part of the presentation than normal because of the questions.  It is always nice to get the evaluations right at the session, especially when they are good Winking smile.  I had 3 fours and 12 fives for the overall quality of the presentation which is always nice to see. Here a few comments:

“Great session – learned a lot!”

“Great Speaker.  Accessible and sincere”

“On the slides, yellow urls against a blue background are hard to read”

“Lively, engaging speaker”

“Test his code! Smile” – I did have a couple of oops’s

“Very good @ recovering from the “gotchas”.”

“A little extra on the real basics of what a trigger does and when it fires”

I’ll definitely be working the ones that involve doing something better, but very happy that everyone enjoyed and learned something from the session, including me!

Sessions I attended

I only attended 2 sessions, Paul White’s SQL Query Optimization: It’s Not Rocket Science session, and Karen Lopez’s session, Database Design Contentious Issues.

As I expected, Paul’s session was great and deep!  I know I’m not at his level in understanding the internals of SQL Server and he gave a great overview of how the query optimizer works, ways you can “play” with it, and ways you can “help” it.  The fact that you can help the optimizer by trying different ways to “declare” what you want to see which one brings out the best plan.  This session should be followed by Grant Fritchey’s session on query plans.

Karen’s session was very interesting as it was very interactive.  We talked about surrogate keys vs. natural keys, when to use varchar vs. char, and naming conventions.  Each of which is definitely a contentious issue, and we didn’t even talk about NULL’s!  The key thing I took from this session is that the “tools you use affect the decisions you make”.

Constructive Criticism’s

I’ve never attended a perfect event, so here are a couple things I’d suggest for next time:

  1. SQLSaturday signs on the way into the event location.  Once you got to the Babson campus it seemed like you had to drive through the whole place to find the event.  I was looking for SQLSaturday signs and there weren’t any.
  2. Include the speaker name on the schedule handed out at the event.  I know a lot of people want to know who is speaking as a the tie-breaker between sessions.

Other than those 2 things I don’t have any other things to change.  Check-in, which is often a problem, went smoothly, and the day seemed to flow very well.

Thanks for putting on a great event and I hope to be back next year!