August 30, 2010
Thoughts on #sqlsat51
I made the trip up to Nashville to attend SQL Saturday #51 last weekend (August 21), and I am so glad I did! I’ve written, and read, ‘reviews’ of SQL Saturdays before, detailing things like how registration worked, whether there were enough signs pointing the way, how foot traffic flowed, etc. These are good, and probably helpful to people putting on SQL Saturdays, but one thing I learned this time was that you blog for yourself, and hope others are interested. Consequently, I will be blogging not about the mechanics of this SQL Saturday, but how I experienced it, and what I took away from it.
First, though, I’d like to say that I drove up Friday morning, and stayed at a hotel in Franklin, TN. This was about 20 miles from the event, but I justified staying that far away because I drove over six hours to get there, another 20 minutes the next morning wouldn’t kill me, and I found a hotel with an indoor pool and a decent breakfast for under a hundred dollars. Franklin, I found out, has a really neat downtown area, has a great Italian restaurant, and has a Woodcraft store in town! Nearby is a place called Arrington Vineyards, a local winery. They have a tasting, some incredible Riesling, and jazz on the lawn. Nice relaxing afternoon and evening after the long drive.
For this SQL Saturday I wanted to take a little different tack than I usually do, based on the schedule and speakers. SQL Saturdays are known for their excellent technical content, and I usually fill my day with technical learning. To be sure, I attended several excellent sessions with some highly technical content, but my focus for this one was ‘professionalism’ for lack of a better word. I also wanted to make sure I was taking care of the ‘Connect’ part of ‘Connect, Share and Learn,’ touching base with SQL folks I have met over the last year, and meeting as many new folks as would be practical.
I don’t think I can write these next lines and convey the enthusiasm I actually felt, so you’ll have to use your imagination. These are in the order they happened. I met Thomas LaRock (Blog | Twitter)! I met Andy Leonard! (Blog | Twitter) I met Joe Webb (Blog | Twitter)! I met Douglas McDowell (Twitter)! I met Jeremiah Peschka (Blog | Twitter)! I met Glenn Berry (Blog | Twitter)! I met Kendra Little (Blog | Twitter)! I met Brian Kelly (Blog | Twitter)! I’m going to be accused of name dropping! Sorry, but being able to meet these stars of the SQL world just blew me away! Not to mention all the folks I met that are like me, ordinary people who are stars in their own lives, but not well known outside their own circles. And it was awesome to see people I only see at these events, but interact with on Twitter. I think one of the highlights of the day was when I was walking down the hall and Jessica Moss (Blog | Twitter) (whom I met in Charlotte) smiled and waved and said “Hi, David!” I about fell over when that happened! I was recognized by someone I greatly admire! I tell you what, the SQL Community Rocks!
Now to get into the sessions themselves. One of the best things about SQL Saturday is the number of sessions. One of the hardest things about SQL Saturday is the number of sessions! How do you choose? This time around I chose to focus on the sessions and speakers that covered Professional Development, and in time slots that didn’t offer the subject, get into technical sessions covering things I feel I need or am ready to learn.
First up was Andy Warren’s (Blog | Twitter) Building a Professional Development Plan. I never realized how important having such a plan would be. Andy went over covering how much time do you want to spend on your development, how much money you want to or can spend, and, most importantly because you are probably working on your development outside your normal working hours, how much of your personal life are you willing to give up. Throughout, he emphasized keeping records – what you’ve gotten accomplished, how much time and money was spent. This, I found, was a recurring theme. Write. Take notes. Keep records. These things come in handy. Planning your development, actually writing out your plan, makes your goals concrete and accessible, and keeping good records allows you to see if you are accomplishing what you set out to do.
I then went to see Douglas McDowell’s Realizing ROI for Business Intelligence Projects. While this was geared more toward a business ensuring ROI on a given project, there were a lot of good ideas for individual professional development, and realizing ROI on any project. I had been taking notes on Evernote all morning, and for this session, the only note I took was “Get this slide deck!” It’s available on the SQL Saturday site.
Following this I attended Fundamentals of SQL Server Internals, presented by Jeremiah Peschka. This was one of those sessions I felt I was ready to learn. Internals in SQL Server is a huge subject, a fact confirmed by Jeremiah. His style was great, though, as he explained concepts to a packed room in an easy manner, pointing out how the various parts of a query get handled by different parts of the Query Engine. His slides are also available on the SQL Saturday site.
After lunch was another Professional Development type session, this one put on by Jeremiah Peschka. Here he reiterated Andy’s points of making plans and keeping records. He illustrated by pointing out that when review time comes around, if you have been keeping records all along, you can easily show what value you have added to your employer’s business. This emphasis on record keeping must mean something… J
I’m going to admit that I went to Kendra Little’s Take the Awesomeness Home: the Data Collector more to meet Kendra than to learn about the Data Collector. She was someone I followed on Twitter and wanted to meet. Her talk on the Data Collector was very informative, though, and it pointed out to me a couple of things I didn’t know about it. One was that it is not intended to gather data on the server it is on, and secondly, it’s true it can’t be removed easily. I only have one server in my environment, so there is no sense in me having it, but I can only disable it. Ah, well, at least I learned how to use it if I get into an environment where I can.
The last session of the day was Thomas LaRock’s What Are You Waiting For query tuning session. As far as technical sessions went, this one was the one from which I could take the most immediate usefulness back to my server. Using DMAIC (Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve and Control) from the Six Sigma world, you go through your queries, defining what’s right and wrong, measure the results, analyze for improvements, make controlled changes, then hit the cycle again. His presenting style was both funny and informative, and his generosity was tempered with tough love J
Overall I had a great time, and learned a great deal. SQL Saturdays are hands down the best training deals out there for SQL Server, with so much given by volunteers, and so much received by attendees. My next SQL Saturday I have submitted a session for, in an attempt to give some back.
Thanks so much, speakers, volunteers, sponsors and PASS!