I So Got My FreeCon!

Ok before I get into what a fan-friggin-tastic event this was I have to tell everyone about the office drama that lead up to it.  I come back from SQLSaturday Atlanta on Monday and start attending to a very neglected inbox.  I find an odd email from a Brent Ozar (might have heard of him).  It was a second email to an invitation only event called FreeCon! Yeah I know! So I get super happy and doing little office chair dances while I keep reading it over and over to make sure I wasn’t reading something wrong.  Then it dawns on me it was sent on Friday which was beginning of my neglect due to SQLSaturday festivities.  My heart sinks south into my stomach and an audible “Oh no” is heard in the office.  The crying/cussing that followed pulled the whole office into my woes.  I immediately respond and start to pray my seat wasn’t gone since I didn’t get a response back yet.  Then after a couple hours of fretting I get a response back that I was in time! Hooray I get to go to FreeCon!

So this is crazy right! I was super excited to be going to this event after seeing who was coming to this one and also past attendees.  See what I mean with the list?

  1. Argenis Fernandez (Blog@DBArgenis)
  2. Bill Lescher (@BLescher)
  3. Bob Pusateri (Blog@SQLBob)
  4. Christina Leo (Blog@ChristinaLeo)
  5. Eric Harrison (LinkedIn)
  6. Garima Sharma (LinkedIn)
  7. Hope Foley (Blog@Hope_Foley)
  8. Jason Fay (Blog@JFay_DBA)
  9. John Mazzolini (LinkedIn@JMazzolini)
  10. Josh Fennessy (Blog@JoshuaFennessy)
  11. Louis Fritz (LinkedIn)
  12. Norman Kelm (Blog@NormanKelm)
  13. Ramin Surya (LinkedIn@RSurya)
  14. Scott Ellis (LinkedIn)
  15. Tim Ford (Blog@SQLAgentMan)
  16. Tim Radney (Blog@TRadney)
  17. Tom Norman (LinkedIn@tjnorman57)

Former Free-Con attendees include:

See?  So the day finally comes and despite my horrible driving I get myself, Argenis, and Tim in one piece to Catalyst Ranch in downtown Chicago.  We get there and you can’t tell from the outside what kind of place this is by no means.  Recheck the address and go inside.  We get out of the elevator and it’s the cutest place ever! It was this hippy artsy chic super cute venue.  I get some food and settle in with my tablet and ready to roll.


Looks only slightly like me. Just one of the many cute pieces of art at the venue.

One of the first topics was marketing methods in SQL community. We watched a Red Bull advertisement showing folks doing things they love to do with some Red Bull logos scattered throughout. There was never any in your face, “drink this” going on in the video. This draws parallels to what some of the vendors are doing now. The Idera Ace program was one of the examples. They are hitching their wagons to passionate, accomplished speakers in the community.

Tim Ford: You have charisma or expertise. Or you’re lucky and you have both.

Conversation then went on to discuss consulting a bit. How things change when you become the product. A lot of this portion spoke to me. I am a consultant and I don’t know that I could go back to a corporate role. There are a lot of reasons for this but one that has to be toward the top is:

Slide quote: I used to be afraid to build stuff because I’d compete with my employer. That all changes when I’m the product.

I think I probably go into a schpeel about this in each interview I do anymore. I like being the product. The better I get, the better product I am for the company to sell. It feels like a win win to me. How often does that happen in the working world?


More FreeCon-ites

We then moved into discussing some concepts from the book “Outliers: The Story Of Success” by Malcolm Gladwell. One of the main themes of that book is that you can master any skill if you put in 10,000 hours. I haven’t read the book myself but the concept is intriguing. Putting a hard number to what it takes to master something….makes me wonder how many hours I have in of SQL Server (not enough). This then lead to an exercise doing a timeline resume. You take yours skills and flip them to where you can see them and the years you have doing them. I plan to continue working on mine and expanding out the skills and details more. I’ll post up a view of it when I get it a bit more together. It was pretty interesting to see your skills and career laid out like this. Helps see what skills you are on the path to hitting 10,000.  Also helps to see what skills you have left behind, need to develop more, or just ditch all together. The ones to ditch lead to Lean methodology discussion. That focuses on getting rid of the waste so you can focus on your 10,000 goal skill.  This got me to thinking that I need to stop obsessing over conquering the inbox monster.  Of course I have to pay attention to it but I don’t think I can win and I’ve wasted a lot of time I could have spent for things like blogging.  Just slice my time better and focus a bit differently.


Check out these lovely people checking their electronic devices.

After that was about the time our gracious host had some wonderful Giordano’s pizza brought in for everyone. I, of course, tried to eat my weight in it. I LOVE Chicago style and this is some of the best. I fight through a pizza coma and we move on with discussion.  Next we talked about some ways to find your passions and let those drive you a bit. This then lead into building a product from your passion whether it’s presentations, blogs, white papers, training, etc. Then attempting to create your “least viable product” and ways to sell it, market it, and test success in how you market it. Brent seemed to have a product or example for everything which was nice.

Brent Ozar: Posters are like crack with DBAs

We then got into Tufte and how visuals can be great or horrible. They can quickly tell you so much when done well. Doing something graphic such as a poster or visual concept is something I had never really thought of doing but is an interesting one. I know I have a lot of posters on my wall selling a lot of vendor products.


We then went on to discuss items we can do to help make SQLSaturdays better.  A few of the examples brought up are below:

  1. In the minutes before your presentation, have folks introduce themselves to people near them.  Be prepared to squash all the lovely conversation at go time though.
  2. If the venue allows it, setup whiteboarding areas for discussions.
  3. Point everyone in session to the local user group.
  4. Encourage them to be on Twitter and use things such as #sqlhelp.

Toward the end of the day I kept waiting on the sales pitch but it never came. I was waiting to be sold a timeshare or Ginsu knives or something but it never happened. It was a fantastic day and I learned a lot. I’m still not convinced that I’m not going to get a mafia style favor asked of me one day but I can live with that. I got a lot of ideas stirring now and I did have a LOT of that pizza. Not sure it’s enough to have to bump off Fat Tony but will evaluate if that day comes 🙂

No Sicilian can ever refuse a request on his daughter’s wedding day.

Thank you Brent for being a gracious host and inviting me to this incredible event! I ate up every last minute of it and am honored to have been a part of it!


2 thoughts on “I So Got My FreeCon!

  1. HAHAHA, timeshare, heh. No, and I need to blog about that. The cost of me putting on the event is pretty similar to the cost of me attending a major conference like the PASS Summit or TechEd, and call me crazy, but I feel like I get just as much out of this in less time. I get to infect people with strange ideas, I get to have great relaxed conversations with smart people, I don’t feel rushed to make it to the next session, and I actually end up recharged instead of drained. I wouldn’t even think of selling stuff there because then it would turn up as work instead of fun, heh. I’m so glad you enjoyed it!

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