SQLSaturday 211 Chicago – Finally A SQLSaturday Fix

Hard to believe but this was my first SQLSaturday of the year! Lately I have done a decent amount of user group presentations which are great, but there’s something special about a SQLSaturday.  Chicago’s was right after the PASS BA Conference so became an extension of some really great SQL goodness. I left straight from the last session to head over to Addison to get to the speaker dinner.  The dinner was at La Hacienda so caught up with friends over margaritas and good food.  We got a really nice, unique speaker gift: a solar powered phone charger.  The tree hugging hippie in me loves that!  Thank you again organizers!


Morning comes and I get to the venue at the DeVry campus just a hair before the first sessions start.  I head over to the speaker room and chat for just a few minutes.  Just then an attendee comes in to let us know that they had no speaker show up!  Ross LoForte and Ted Krueger (blog|twitter) rush over to the room to save the day.  Luke Jian (blog|twitter) and myself quickly follow to assist them.  It turned into a really good discussion with the attendees over different aspects of being a DBA.  The session evals were all very good so it worked out and very nice of everyone to jump in and assist.

Ted and Ross stepping in for a surprise spontaneous discussion on being a DBA.

Ted and Ross stepping in for a surprise spontaneous discussion on being a DBA.

From there I head to Erin Stellato’s (blog|twitter) session “Making the Leap from Profiler to Extended Events”.  She is such a stellar speaker and this was a fantastic topic.  I was a bit jealous of the topic that I didn’t think of it since it is a super common issue.  Extended events is one of those features that are great but just is taking the masses a long time to come around to using.  She did a good job showing it’s not such a beast anymore and some great things from Jonathan Keyhayias (blog|twitter) to make it even more helpful like his script to take a trace and convert to extended events.  Bravo Erin!

Erin showing folks there's nothing to be afraid of with extended events.

Erin showing folks there’s nothing to be afraid of with extended events.

After that I caught some lunch with a unicorn!

Who doesn't love lunch with a unicorn.

Lunch with a unicorn is supposed to be magical…not disturbing right?

Next I caught Josh Fennessy’s (blog|twitter) “Demystifying BISM and Tabular Mode SSAS” session.  I was caught off guard right away when he started as he said he had no slides.  Say what now?!  He did full session just talking and writing things out on the whiteboard.  I was really surprised and impressed at how well it worked too.  He had some of the best interaction with the audience I have seen maybe ever.  I feel like I would flounder like a fish doing something like that unless I practiced it like a fiend.  You rebel you, Mr. Fennessy!

Slides?! Josh don't need no stinking slides!

Slides?! Josh don’t need no stinking slides!

For the next session I head to Neil Hambly’s (blog|twitter), “SQL Server 2012 Memory Management”.  I am always surprised at how little presentations there are on memory within SQL Server, at least that I have seen.  He did a good job though there were some quirks in demos.  I knew talking to him earlier he had laptop issues plague him.  Still was a great amount of info given and majority of demos went fine.

Neil going over memory management in SQL Server 2012.

Neil going over memory management in SQL Server 2012.

And last session of the day was when Ted and I gave our session on consulting.  It is always fun to do this one!  I was especially excited after hearing from someone who saw it in Minnesota a few months ago.  He immediately went from our session to a consulting booth who had sponsored the event and began talking to them.  They ended up hiring him and he’s enjoying the change.  How cool is that?!  Someone’s life was made better by a session I gave…there will never be better feedback than that!  Session went really well and we had a lot of interaction.  Always great too when other consultants come and participate.  Thank you Allan Hirt (blog|twitter) and Rick Krueger (blog|twitter) for adding the perspective and experiences of a independent consultant!  And thanks again Ted!


Thank you to the SQLSaturday Chicago team for having me as a speaker again and putting on a fantastic event!  Thanks also to my friends and SQLfamily for just being splendiferously (make sure I get credit for that new word) wonderful!

No Pity Party This Time! Selected for PASS Business Analytics Conference!

Got the best email ever!  I got accepted to speak at the PASS Business Analytics Conference!  I keep reading the email making sure I read it right.  There it is though, says “selected” right next to my submission!  It’s the first time I’ve been selected to speak at one of the big conferences!  And not for lack of trying and submitting to several over the years.  I became very accustomed to the Twitter woe is me pity parties.  No pity party required this time!


So I get this email and start to have a moment that felt a bit like one of those teenager movies.  I’ve been the awkward girl who’s likeable enough but always gets the response from the guys or PASS in this example, “It’s not you, it’s me”.  After much swooning and many SQLSaturdays, my time finally has come.  Jake Ryan, I mean PASS, picked me up in the Porshe and we had our moment where we sat on the table with a birthday cake between us.  Ok it’s a little bit of a stretch from a John Hughes movie but was what came to mind when I got that email.  I got accepted to speak at PASS BA Conference!  I’m so excited and so glad I finally get the chance to speak at one of these conferences.

PASS_BAC_I'm Speaking_Banner

Kalamazoo SQLSaturday – SQL Goodness Michigan Style

Looking over to my right I can see the tops of clouds while I’m working on this blog post.  I’m actually on my way to SQLSaturday Minnesota right now so no better time than to reflect back on Kalamazoo last weekend.  I drove up on Friday and gave myself plenty of time to make it to town which was nice.  Even stopped off in Fort Wayne to get one of them fancy presentation mice all the cool kids have and grabbed some lunch.  I get to the hotel and they had to redirect me to a different hotel.  Some nut job tampered with the sprinkler system and flooded half of the newly renovated hotel causing over $100,000 in damage.  They sent me like 2 minutes down the road to a nice hotel and were super helpful so really was a non-issue in my book.  I then spent some time with my re-vamped demo before heading over to the speaker dinner.  Ran into Norm Kelm (blog|twitter) and we rode over together to Tim Ford’s (blog|twitter) house.  I have been to other speaker dinners/after parties at folks houses before but am always just floored by how gracious those folks are for hosting.  Tim and his wife Amy, were super great hosts.  There was fantastic food and a great beer selection (super important to this admitted beer snob).  They had this really good spicy chicken and apparently fire roasted veggies for the homemade salsa.  Really good stuff!  Then got to hangout with my SQL Family a bit which was great!  Chatted up everyone who was in earshot, played a really terrible game of pool, and picked up my favorite speaker gift, ever!  They gave out these really great light jackets.  Not that I haven’t appreciated all the polos and shirts, but being a gal I typically don’t wear them after the event.  This is the first one I will actually wear again.  Nicely done organizers on the jackets!


Event day comes and my session is just before lunch.  I get a workout in and head over to the venue.  Oh what a venue it was!  This place was just a gorgeous facility!  They had it at the Kalamazoo Valley Community College.  The layout was nice as well.  Rooms were a bit spread out but wasn’t excessive at all.  I get setup for my PowerPivot session and had a great turnout.  I added a new piece to my demo which went well but I wish I was a little more comfortable with that new portion. I don’t think it showed as I got all 4s and 5s and had some folks stay and discuss PowerPivot more.  So then with my session done it was time for the WIT panel at lunch.  For a change I didn’t stuff my face during the discussion and waited till after to eat.  I’m a liar though if I say I wasn’t worried that I was going to get some food…this girl’s gotta eat!  We had really great informal discussion.  It was moderated by Shelly Noll (twitter) and the panel was myself, Wendy Pastrick (blog|twitter), Colleen Morrow (blog|twitter), and Tamera Clark (blog|twitter).  We talked about things like getting what you deserve in pay and touched some on glass ceiling issues.  I liked the term that came up of “voting with your feet” meaning that if you aren’t treated how you want or paid what you want, walk away.


After that I grab a couple tacos to go (hooray food!) and head over to Juan Soto’s (blog|twitter) session “Wish you could live the glamorous consulting life?”. I had never seen him speak before and am a consultant so was curious to hear a different aspect of it.  He gave a lot of great information and tips for folks who are considering making that jump.  Covered some of the considerations such as working from home.  You have to be geared to do that and can’t have a lot of distractions in your home.  He also had some good information on websites and Google ads.

Juan’s session on consulting

From there I went to Garrett Edmondson’s (blog) session “Scaling SQL Server to Hundreds of Terabytes”.  I wasn’t familiar with him as well and was intrigued by the topic.  He did a good job and is very knowledgeable on data warehouses.  He also is one of the rare folks also getting to work with PDW and talked about that a bit.

Garrett’s session on data warehouses

For the last session of the day I went to go see Tamera like a camera Clark give session on creating your first SSRS report.  I’ve known her from Twitter for quite awhile so was excited to see her present.  She had some small hiccups with her datasets but she recovered well and did a good job.  She’s a fabulous gal and her personality shines through which is great.

Tamera’s going over SSRS

The wrap up went on for a good long time because they had tons of sponsors.  I gave Josh Fennessy (blog|twitter) tons of grief because of this which was really due to the fact I had a big case of sponsor envy going on leading up to the event.  So after that then we went downtown to the Beer Exchange for the after party.  This was a great place with an interesting concept.  They do the beer prices like a stock market that go up and down based on demand.  Was a happening spot so they had to break us up into 3 groups of 10.  I was in the right spot at the bar and got into one of the first groups.  We are sitting and eating having a great time.  I had great beer and the best macaroni and cheese I ever had.  A bit later I go downstairs to find that some of the others still hadn’t gotten a table yet and were still waiting!  I then begin to feel like a giant jerk and move our table out quickly.  One of the folks still waiting was Tim and Amy Ford and their kids which totally helped drive the guilt knife in a bit deeper.

Prize giveaways galore!

We then end up going back to Tim/Amy’s house after that as well.  Another reason to feel like a giant jerk…yeah umm you haven’t eaten yet but can we all crash your place again?  Luckily they are super nice like that and we all had a ball.  Jason (blog|twitter) and Sarah Strate (blog|twitter) brought a game called “Cards Against Humanity” that was just flippin hilarious!  It was kind of like a super crude and wonderfully inappropriate version of grown up Mad Libs and was fantastic!  I may have to buy a copy of that myself.


So yeah it was another really great SQLSaturday event and I had a ball hanging out with my SQL Family!  Thanks to Josh Fennessy who did a fantastic job being the lead organizer.  You held it together even with the venue issues and everything (almost became the first SQLSaturday to be held in a field).  Thanks to all the other organizers and volunteers!  Huge thanks and big props to Tim and Amy Ford!  Thank you for letting this crazy bunch of SQL people invade your home not once but twice!  Tim you make sure to buy Amy something expensive for putting up with all of us yahoos! 🙂

Ewww Wee – Double Dose of SQLSaturday Yumminess

Well I had plenty of time to reflect on the SQLSaturday Indy and now I am back in the saddle but on the stressful side of the fence, the speaker side.  I will be doing back to back SQLSaturdays starting this weekend in Kalamazoo for #sqlsat160!  I am really looking forward to this one! I will be presenting on PowerPivot 2012 and BISM there.  It’s a really great lineup of speakers and word on the street is there will be tacos!  Who would miss that?  Go register for that one here!


If you can’t make it to that one perhaps I can persuade you into coming to Minnesota for #sqlsat149?  I’m not sure what kind of bribes were cashed in to get the schedule they have but I’ll take it!  They have a phenomenal schedule lined up and I will be part of it doing “Consulting – The Good, The Bad, The Ugly” again with Ted Kruger.  It was such a fun session, can’t wait to do that one again.  Go check out that event here.  Going to be a bit hectic back to back SQLSaturdays but really can’t wait!

SQLSaturday Indy Episode 2: “A New Hope”

Yes total cheese but after someone mentioned that title to me I couldn’t resist.  It’s very fitting though.  This was Indy’s second SQLSaturday and man it made a new Hope out of me!  I have been lucky enough to be part of a lot of SQLSaturdays but this one was my first in the role of organizer.  It was a very eye opening experience and I have so much more respect for anyone dedicated/crazy enough to do it.

SQLSaturday Eve

We were lucky enough to get Allen White to come to SQLSaturday and do a precon session.  We hosted it at PTI which was nice.  It gave us all a chance in the office to get giddy as school girls that Allen was coming to our home base.  I was a little worried though when I talked to him in Philly when he only 2 registered attendees.  I had nothing to worry about as he ended up selling out with even more folks trying to get into it.  It went really well and he did a fantastic job like he always does.  As I was in Allen’s session though I started catching tweets about the time zone difference tripping folks up (facepalm).  I didn’t even think to warn folks that Indianapolis was in the Eastern time zone.  Indiana has these weird lines for timezones and it’s super close to Chicago but we’re on different zones.  Ooops!

Allen and a full day of PowerShell…what could be better?

So right after his precon I pack up and head over to Western Bowl on the west side for the speaker dinner.  On my way I picked up a nice bottle of scotch for our main organizer, Caroline Bailey.  She deserved that and then some!  Shortly after I get there and the speakers start to show up.  We just had pizzas for dinner and then some bowling fun.  I hadn’t bowled forever and am really terrible at it but had a ball.  I felt pretty decent with the speaker dinner.  It seemed like everyone was having a good time.

Speakers bowling it up!

The Big Day

I get up extra early to get a quick workout in before heading over to the venue.  I had to navigate there like the pilgrims did as my phone decided to take a morning off from allowing me to get internet access.  I had to call my husband and ask him how to get to University of Indianapolis.  I get there and I was not prepared for the pandemonium.  Everything is going ok but with all the registrations going on with that many people in general, tends to give you the chaos vibes.  I try to get my bearings and then I begin to hear about issues with the hotel.  We had storms on Friday and apparently that caused the hotel not to have elevator service and hot water! Lovely no?!  I also hear how quality of it was not great.  My shoulders droop and I begin a long day of just feeling terrible, mostly about this.  The hot water and elevators were an act of god but quality of the hotel was on us.  I wanted to take care of all my speakers in my hometown and I felt like a giant failure.  Tried to swallow that issue and get through the rest of the day.  We then hear about issues with WiFi.  I begin trying to hunt down some IT folks to figure out what is going on without much luck.  We had some successes but WiFi was pretty much a no go and I learned to live with it.  From there I then hear about how someone is having issues with projector…of course they are!  I really begin to feel a bit defeated but carried on to the first session of the day.


I grab my stack of feedback sheets and head down to assist in Julie Smith’s (blog|twitter) “Data Quality Services – Finally!” session.  Just what I needed to help get my mind off all the issues, Julie’s great sense of humor and really great info.  This works for a bit and I am distracted wondering what type of a hat a data steward should have, because with a name like that you really must have a hat.  Then her session is over and she did a great job and I start collecting feedback.  I realize after that when I take the feedback up to the front area for prize drawing that I didn’t exactly tell hardly anyone to put their name on the sheet and it didn’t have a place for it.  Lovely…organizer reality comes crashing back to me.

Julie dropping knowledge on DQS

I then skip next session and try to get my bearings and figure out who needs help.  I probably was in the way more than I helped but that’s ok.  I talk with some of the speakers and do a lot of apologizing for hotel.  They were all pretty nice about it and tried not to make me feel bad, it didn’t work but was nice of them regardless.  I then catch up with my husband and daughter who came to help me out.  My hubby was going to take pictures of the event and my daughter was there so I could show her what mommy does when I’m out of town.


Ok then on to Shaun Watt’s (twitter) “PowerShell and PerfMon…Come on!” session.  We decided awhile back to make sure first time speakers had a friendly face in the audience to assist if they needed it.  I was that friendly face for his session.  This was his first SQLSaturday and had only given this session just the prior week for practice to the local user group.  I was glad to do this as was around the day of Christina Leo’s (blog|twitter) experience on her first time session. Nicholas Cain’s (blog|twitter) blog post on it stuck with me and took his suggestion.  Shaun did a great job on his session so didn’t need me but I felt better being there.  He does really well for being new to technical speaking.

Shaun doing his second live presentation ever!

Then on to the WIT lunch panel.  I always love going to these and honored when asked to sit in on the panels.  My sales partner in crime, Kandy Vicini, was the moderator.  On the panel I sat with Wendy Pastrick (blog|twitter), Eddie Wuerch (blog|twitter), Julie Smith, and my daughter sat with me.  She is severely shy so knew she wouldn’t speak but it was nice having her with me.  She is my own little WIT ideas in action and I at least exposed her to a technical world.  Everything went well and Kandy did a great job other than the failure of mispronouncing and not knowing who Roger Waters is of Pink Floyd.  She came armed with statistics and everything! I was very impressed with the job she did as moderator (and no not still sucking up after Atlanta incident).  The discussion turned more into one on community than women but that was OK.  It was still great conversation and a lot of information was shared with audience.

We all look amused except for Eddie.

Up next was Brent Dragoo’s (twitter) session, “Database Crime Scene Investigation”.  I was sooo looking forward to this as it was his first time doing a technical presentation.  I met and talked with him at last year’s PASS Summit and started putting that bug in his ear ever since then to speak.  He is one who is very passionate about the SQL community, well spoken, and technically savvy so I knew he would be great.  And he was and I was able to say I paid a little bit of that good karma forward for those who help nudge me along down this wonderful community path.  Even though he was an unknown speaker, his topic packed the room!  He did a good job and the symbolism he used was really great.

Brent and his first presentation ever!

Next I caught my bearings and chatted with Ted Krueger (blog|twitter) a bit on our session that was up last session of the day.  We had a speaker who unfortunately had a car wreck and was unable to make it to SQLSaturday.  I found this out on Thursday.  I had been toying with the idea of doing a professional development session for awhile on consulting.  Ted, who is inhuman for the amount of time he gives to helping folks in the community, agreed to help me with a last minute panel discussion.  So we quickly whipped up “Consulting – The Good, The Bad, The Ugly”.  For being such a rushed effort, I thought the discussion was really good and we got good feedback.  I can’t wait to do that one again and refine it a bit.  I really had a blast during that one!  We also pulled in Josh Fennessy (blog|twitter) to the session and Aarow Lowe (blog|twitter) provided a lot of great feedback as well.  Big props to Ted!  You are da man!  And thank you Josh and Aaron too!

See…this session was a riot!

Ok so then on to the awards ceremony.  That was a bit chaotic as well but worked out.  Kyle did well presenting closing remarks.  Eddie also stepped in as well to fill some time and provided a lot of comic relief.  Somehow he became the guy who you had to take a picture with when you won a prize.  By this time I started to become distracted with visions of much needed beers in my future.  One thing that I noticed though was that we did not have to re-call any names during the huge amount of prize drawings!  I thought that was really great and says a lot for the Indy tech community.  Either they are dedicated enough to learning to stay all day or really, really wanted that LANTech iPad.


Then on to the after party.  We were worried about funds so planned a very casual gathering for folks at the hotel restaurant.  The appetizers were good but being there in the blegh hotel just felt like salt in my wounds.  I had some good conversation with folks and many kept trying to build me back up.  Many times in the past when I have talked to organizers, they are very apologetic and I’m often confused wondering why.  I completely know how they feel now!  I kept saying “I’m sorry” over and over and folks looked at me funny and how great it was from their perspective.  They don’t feel the full weight of every little thing that went wrong.  We then moved on to a Mexican restaurant for some REAL food.  (See I learned my lesson from SQLSaturday Atlanta – never try to make a meal out of appetizers when drinking).  I think I pulled a muscle laughing so hard at dinner and mas cerveza helped me out of my down in the dumps demeanor a bit.  Some even more brave souls trekked onward to the lovely karaoke dive bar where we did have some SQL Karaoke.  My record of not singing is still intact but they put in a good effort to try to convince me again.


I had a great time with everyone who made it.  And again I am sorry for the bumps but as you can see I learned my lesson.  <in my best Scarlett O’Hara> And as god as my witness, speaker hotel will not be janky ever again!


Below are some more lessons learned as my first go as a SQLSaturday organizer:


1. The internet is a damn liar!  Well except for this blog post of course, but I will NEVER EVER EVER trust only website photos for quality of hotel.  Always have manual inspection of hotel or only use ones people have stayed in before.

2. Always have a run through of sessions with the room proctors prior to the first session.  We didn’t have the process down for until after first session. At least have a quick huddle up with everyone to let them know of the process.  The absolute worst thing happened here due to this, at least one speaker I know didn’t get feedback.  Feedback to a speaker is like gold and should be treated that way.

3. Start early to get sponsors.  It is great that there are more and more SQLSaturdays for the community but organizers have to work harder and harder for sponsor dollars.

4. Talk to surrounding SQL Server community areas when you are deciding on dates.  Louisville’s SQLSaturday was the weekend prior to ours.  While it may have worked out for some speakers traveling, overall think we should have spaced those out better.  Also along these lines make sure someone is either a better race car fan or uses that mythical internet to verify major races aren’t the same weekend! (more facepalm)

5.  Make sure to consider topic as well as speaker for the projected audience size.  We had some rooms that were larger than others.  We miscalculated on some of the session crowds, BIG TIME!  I apologize to those who were sardines in some sessions.  An idea I had, if you are unsure, ask speakers for feedback on audiences for presentations.  There’s no guarantee with that still but better than a shot in the dark.  Also another idea I have from this is to have room proctors to get counts for future reference.

6.  Force help more on obsessed organizers.  Caroline Bailey is on our marketing and event planning team at PTI.  She plans a damn good event and did so again with our SQLSaturday.  Us in the SQL community (myself and Kyle) totally took advantage of her willingness to help and skill at event planning.  Make sure you don’t let passionate souls bear the more weight than they should.

7.  Again make sure since Indiana is weird timezone wise to remind folks that Indy is Eastern timezone.

8.  Get with the venue folks many times in advanced to check on WiFi status.  Stress importance of WiFi for technical audience and threaten life if necessary!

9.  May have been nice to have headsets to communicate with organizers.  Or at least some way to communicate via cell phones instantly.  There were several times I shrugged my shoulders to questions when could have/should have fired it off to Caroline or other committee members.  Oh the goofiness I could create wearing a headset too!

10.  Make sure to have plan B, C, and D in place for speaker fill in for cancellations.  Cancellations seem to be inevitable and need to make sure to have your backup plans in place.  Thank you so much to Wendy and Joe for doing two sessions.  And big thanks to Ted again for helping out super last minute.

Thanks again to all the speakers, organizers, committee, and volunteers who made SQLSaturday Indy a success!  Check out more pictures of it at http://www.flickr.com/photos/hope_foley/sets/72157630877966720/