October 5, 2010
Forgive me readers, it has been too long. Seems the last time I sat down to write a blog post, it was to tell you about a SQL Saturday I attended, and now I am doing it again. Good thing I go to a lot of these things, you might never hear from me :)
Seriously, though, I have had a month of too busy and not enough learning. My job entails doing both Quality and Data work, and lately we have been having a lot of Quality problems, so I have been doing less Data work. Not none, but just maintenance stuff, nothing to write here about.
I am very excited to tell you about this past SQL Saturday, though, if you’ve a mind to listen. It was so exciting for a couple of reasons. One, because I go to so many of these things, I get to see people more, people I highly respect and admire, and this trip was no exception. Two, I was a speaker at this particular event, and this time (as opposed to my session in Tampa in January) it actually went well!
This event was held in Columbia, SC, put on by the Midlands PASS Chapter headed up by K. Brian Kelly (Blog | Twitter), whom I met for the first time in Nashville at #sqlsat51. They did a really good job up front with planning, had a great venue at the Midlands Technical College, and a wonderful restaurant for the speaker dinner, a place called Grecian Island, which served both Greek and Italian food.
Another reason this was to be a great trip was that I was to have a riding buddy for the trip. Tim Radney (Blog | Twitter) got up with me on Twitter asking if I was going, suggesting we could ride together. Tim is a fellow member of the Columbus, GA PASS Chapter where I am also a member, and, as I had to pass through Columbus on the way, it would be perfect to pick him up and ride with him. Unfortunately, in the days leading up to the weekend, he took ill, and so I made the trip solo. Fortunately, as the day got older, Tim felt better and got himself to Columbia, so he didn’t miss out on the SQL Goodness.
I arrived early to the Speaker Dinner; I got to meet up with Brian at first, then others started to arrive – Andy Warren (Blog | Twitter) , Godfather of SQL Saturdays; Julie Smith (Blog | Twitter), one of the first people I ever met at a SQL Saturday, who came to present her Cool Tricks to Pull from your SSIS Hat (who also brought her Mom, who became the group’s Mom for the weekend J); Aaron Nelson (Blog | Twitter), *THE* PowerShell Guru, and one of my partner volunteers with the Application Development Virtual Chapter; Andy Leonard (Blog | Twitter) himself; Ed Wilson (Blog | Twitter), Microsoft’s Scripting Guy, who brought his Scripting wife, who is a lovely lady; Eric Humphrey (Blog | Twitter), another of my partner volunteers at AppDev_VC; Jessica Moss (Blog | Twitter), Business Intelligence Queen, Stuart Ainsworth (Blog | Twitter), who gave me impetus to start out speaking; Geoff Hiten (Blog | Twitter), from whom I first learned about Bad SQL and how to fix it, and of course Jose Chinchilla (Blog | Twitter), newly named President of the Tampa BI User Group. Wow, I have made some incredible friends along the journey, and it feels so good to have these high caliper people walk into a room, see me and say “Hi, David!” If I hadn’t mentioned it lately, the SQL Community Rocks!
During the afternoon, Tim Radney was driving up to us, and he got to the restaurant in time for me to have the privilege of introducing him to several of the SQL Community’s Rock Stars. I was very happy to be able to do so!
I did meet others that night, but I am notoriously bad with names, and need to meet folks more than once to be able to remember them, so if I met you this weekend and didn’t mention you, I am sorry, and please reintroduce yourself in the comments!
In the morning, I shared breakfast at the hotel with Stuart, and then drove the few minutes to the event site. Did I mention great planning? I was at one of the recommended hotels, which put me no more than a mile or so from the facility, so easy-peasy getting there! Registration was a very calm affair, people behind the tables having it pulled together very well, an envelope for every registered attendee, those for speakers with a double asterisk on them – each filled with sponsor raffle tickets preprinted with name and contact info, and enough eval forms for every session one might attend.
The opening remarks were held in a large enough auditorium to hold everyone, during which we learned that all the speakers would be given Prize Tickets to give out during their sessions to those they felt deserving, something that would ease raffle pressure at the end of the day. Sponsors were setup in an area right at the bottom of the stairs to the majority of the classrooms, and incidentally, the way to the lunchroom, so you couldn’t help but stop and chat with some of the nice folks that were there. Someone else mentioned in their wrap up that there should have been more onsite presences, and I agree, I think there were only four actual vendors present.
I started my day with Jessica Moss, and I can’t imagine a better way to start the day! She did her presentation Make Reporting Services Work for You, a very good slightly higher level than intro into what can be done in Reporting Services, using some of the higher level things like adding custom code and expressions into a report. As it turned out, I was on a BI track this day, aside from my session.
Next I joined Wayne Snyder (Blog | Twitter) in his Information Visualization – Making great Charts. I started out my journey in SQL Server making charts and graphs, etc. in my day to day work as a Quality Technician, graduating to creating Digital Dashboards, which I learned about by reading Steven Few. This session was all about how the eye and brain sees elements of visualization, and how to use those ideas to develop best practices. Very good timing for this session, as I have been tasked with making a new set of dashboards for our production facility.
I took the next hour off from joining any session, as I wanted to spend some time networking, and of course I was the only attendee to do so, so I spent time in the speaker room talking with some of the other speakers (and getting Andy Leonard to autograph my copy of Deep Dives! :) There were some very interesting discussions going on about how different shops work, and Project Manager expectations vs. reality. It was so high level I mostly listened, though.
Then it was lunch time, during which Stuart Ainsworth demonstrated a new RedGate product, SQL Source control. Looks very promising and Stuart did a great job of letting us know its best uses.
After lunch it was my session. We had trouble with the projector, enough so that it took three guys helping me before we finally got it going, and I was almost ten minutes into my time. I had a really cool video I wanted to play to go along with my mascot Kermit, but we were late enough that I just launched into my talk. I spoke about “driving around” SSMS, and how to do things with the mouse or the keyboard. I was lucky enough to get permission from Brad McGehee to use part of his “Brad’s Sure DBA Checklist.” I used the ten points in the “Day to Day” portion of the list, showing how to do each of the things with the mouse and with scripts. Thanks so much, Brad!
I’ll be honest here, I only had three people in my session, but I will be even more honest in saying that each of them learned something from me, and that, my friends, gives this learner a brightly glowing feeling! To be able to give back to the community has been a big goal of mine. I didn’t do so well in my first foray into speaking back in January, but I think I found the right session for me to present at this point in my learning and career that I can use to give back successfully.
After my timeslot, I then went to see Julie giving her SSIS presentation. I had actually seen her do this topic before, but boy, has she improved it! Not that it was bad last year, not at all, but it’s much better this year than I remember. Maybe I had no idea what she was talking about before, and I understand it now, or maybe she made changes to it, I don’t know, I just know it was rocking good! She tells things you won’t find anywhere, saving much pain in the learning process. Thanks, Julie!
The last session I attended was also a BI session, John Welch’s (Blog | Twitter) Processing Flat Files with SSIS. John is a very good presenter, covering all sorts of details that can sneak up and bite you if you’re trying to do this type of activity. This was also good timing, as I am starting to get into doing things like this at work, also. (Just between me and you, though, he’s not nearly as pretty as Jessica or Julie :)
At the end of the day, the SQL Saturday staff had the closing ceremony, thanking everyone for attending, volunteering, speaking and sponsoring, and then held the sponsor raffle, giving away software licenses, MSDN Subscription, training time with a local training company, cameras, etc.
All I can say in the end was I had a really good time, I think I have found the beginning of my speaker groove, and I can’t thank Brian and his cohorts enough for such a great event! If you’d like to experience it, albeit second-hand, you can find speakers’ PowerPoint decks and demo scripts at http://www.sqlsaturday.com/48/schedule.aspx.
I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again and again, the SQL Community Rocks!