My First MVP Summit

I’m a little later than normal getting this blog post written as I caught the Black Death coming home from Seattle.  Ok it was really the flu but probably fairly close in misery involved.  This year was the first I was able to partake in the MVP Summit.  I had heard a lot of stories from my MVP friends and was out of my mind excited!  I had a little heart attack when I was finding out the timing of the Summit.  I had a trip to Cancun planned with the husband for February very early on and thought was going to overlap with Summit.  It didn’t but the trips were back to back though.  So the week before MVP Summit, I spent lounging in the sun drinking fruity cocktails, I know a super sad story.  So I left Cancun Sunday and traveled directly to Seattle.  By the time I got there it was midnight Indiana time so I was exhausted.  Got to the hotel in Bellevue and rested up for the next day.

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I wake up bright and early since I’m still on Cancun (CST) time.  I am able to catch up a bit more with my wonderful roommate, Audrey Hammonds.  Then head down for breakfast and then get registered.  I was so excited to see they gave us jackets!  I always get excited at events to get something other than a men’s small polo.  They are really nice jackets, thank you Microsoft!  From there I head over to the first session.  This is where I go quiet.  There are strict NDA restrictions in place and you won’t see a peep from me on them.  I will say that this was some of the best and exciting technical content I have ever had witness to see.  It also helped me to solve the mystery as to the speed/depth people have content available after a release.  It was also an honor to be a part of a group that had the privilege to give input and ask questions of the teams working on these products.

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It was bound to happen. Little venture over to Bush Garden with Jason and Colin.

That just leaves the parties then.  Every night was a welcome or appreciation party of some sort.  I couldn’t help but to think about the costs that were involved in putting together such shindigs, let alone the work of dedicated folks to put it all together.  The appreciation was not lost on me and felt throughout the MVP Summit.  It seemed the theme of all the nights were eat, drink, be merry, and network.  I am amazed at how many great people I meet at every single event.  And of course, I got to be with some of the greatest people again, my SQL Family!  I only get to see some once or twice a year so it was a great SQL family reunion.  I had an absolute blast!  The last night for me was at the appreciation party at CenturyLink Field.  It was a very impressive affair!  I wish I would have not gotten such an early flight but had been gone so long from my kids.

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One of the displays at the appreciation party at CenturyLink Field. MVPs represent!

Thank you everyone who put effort into the MVP Summit!  It was a wonderful experience that I will never forget!  Thank you Seattle/Bellevue for having many great local beers.  And thank you to all my MVP friends who continue to share with me their knowledge, drive, passion, and friendship.

PASS Summit 2012 – Final Days Recap

Final day of Summit 2012 

This is the day it starts to get a bit sad.  Folks start heading back home so those I-probably-won’t-see-you-for-a-year-hugs start happening.  I get up and go grab some lighter fare at La Panier with Colin (blog|twitter) and Josh (blog|twitter).  After that head back and catch the PASS Board Q&A session.  Was glad I caught that after someone mentioned it to me.  It wasn’t on the schedule but it should have…a lot of great discussion!  The most interesting topic I thought was the BA Conference coming up in Chicago.  People asked if it was the path/direction for the Summit to split audiences.  They said that wasn’t the intent and it was more to reach out to a different audience and pull them into the community.  I was relieved to hear that.

How many members you think are on Twitter now?

How many members you think are on Twitter now?

From there I head to the Birds of a Feather lunch.  I helped represent a SQL Family table with the help of Colin.  I really love the conversations I had all week at those big round tables in the lunch room.  These are probably my favorite times at the conference.  I think we did well explaining how great it is to get involved in the community.

***

From there I go catch Wes Brown’s (blog|twitter) session “How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love My SAN”.  Wes is a super great guy and has just the best metaphors.  That and he is the SAN man.  I really enjoyed his session especially since how many times I have had the “oh it’s striped against all the disk and it lives in a magical wonderland” conversation.

The SAN man, Wes Brown

The SAN man, Wes Brown

After that was my family time session.  The 3 hour time difference made it hard to catch them at a good time.  It’s their bedtime by the time the last session is over.  So I have a video chat with them then catch up and get a jump on some of the goodbyes that start flowing.  After that I went over to catch Tim Ford’s (blog|twitter)  session.  I enjoy Tim’s sessions but this time I went more have expecting a train wreck.  I catch catching him the couple days before saying he was ripping up his whole session and kind of winging it on a different format.  He’s either full of it or works well on that just winging it nature.  The session was far from a train wreck.

Tim Ford for the last session of Summit

Tim Ford for the last session of Summit

After lingering around after the last session to say more goodbyes and catch the finale of the PASS TV, head to grab some sushi.  Went over to Japonessa with Jessica Moss (blog|twitter), Denny Cherry (blog|twitter), his wife Kris (twitter),  Colin , and Josh.  From there we head to the last night of Bush Garden.  Folks never really wanted to leave so stayed out late enough to require another late meal at 13 Coins.

Final Day in Seattle

I went down to the Daily Grill and grab some blueberry pancakes with a huge group.  We kept having pull tables together sessions.  I sit down and we all start having a really great discussion on what we loved and what could have stood some improvements at the Summit.  Luckily Scott Stauffer (blog|twitter) had his tablet so took a lot of notes.  Yeah no pressure on that blog post Scott 🙂  After this I then have to get to the train to the airport.  The wonderful and delightfully deranged Rob Volk (blog|twitter) walked me to the train.

***

So then I’m on the train and heading out and have that very movie moment thinking back on the week.  Thinking over all the great people and great times.  I’m not sure what song should be playing on that movie moment soundtrack but there’s definitely one of those slowish I’ll miss you type songs playing.  It almost aggravates me how sappy I have to get when I talk about these community events.  So the Summit is just like that to a power of 10 so it’s extra sappy.  So I can’t help it so warning for those squimish to sap.  It was such a wonderful week at Summit.  I feel truly blessed that I have found such a wonderful community of people.  I met so many new people this week that afraid it will get harder leaving each year.  Even so there is no doubt…wouldn’t miss it for the world.

PASS Summit 2012 – Day 4 Recap

Traumatized the previous day by missing a meal, skipped the keynote for a good breakfast with my roomie Julie (blog|twitter), Colin (blog|twitter), and Josh (blog|twitter). After a decent amount of food and giggling we head over to community zone for a few.  Then I went over to Mark Broadbent’s (blog|twitter) session “READPAST & Furious: Transactions, Locking, and Isolation”.  I was really glad I went, he did a really great job.  I was really enjoying him talking about how implicit transactions are “evil muthas” but had to leave a bit early to get over to help setup for the WIT Luncheon.  On my way out I finally crossed paths with Jimmy May (blog|twitter)!  It is next to impossible to find one person at Summit but finally caught him.

Mr. Broadbent doing a great session.

Mr. Broadbent doing a great session.

Me and The Jimmy May

Me and the man, Mr. Jimmy May

I’ve been involved for a little while in WIT so was really looking forward to the Luncheon.  I go and assist in setting up the tables but things were in fairly decent order so it wasn’t too frantic or difficult.  Grab some food and get prepped to watch the discussion.  This year was the 10th anniversary for the WIT Luncheon so the topic was “Women in Technology: Where Have We Been and Where Are We Going?”.  It was really great to hear how it has grown over the years.  The panelists were Stefanie Higgins, Kevin Kline (blog|twitter), Kendra Little (blog|twitter), Denise McInerney (twitter), and Jen Stirrup (blog|twitter).  Wendy Pastrick (blog|twitter) was the moderator.  It was really great discussion and the panelists did a great job.  I thought some of the live questions were a bit redundant though…seemed a few of the where just the same “how do we get more women in technology” vague question.  I was really glad Wendy caught a great one via Twitter of “what do you do to silence the critics of WIT initiatives?”.  Wow too much goes through my head on that one so will have to save for a future blog post.  I absolutely loved Kendra’s response of “Haters gonna hate”.  I did have one complaint of the Luncheon in that they should have wrapped it up at least 10 minutes before they did.  It didn’t end until the next set of sessions were set to start.  I tried to get into two sessions after it but they were full by the time I got there.  So I roamed and chatted for another session which was completely fine.

WIT Luncheon

WIT Luncheon

I ended up finding a quiet corner and had a video chat with the family.  Was having so much fun seeing my family that ended up running over into the next session.  After that roamed and chatted more until the last session which I caught the BI Power Hour session by the group of Matt Masson (blog|twitter), Chuck Heinzelman (twitter), Matthew Roche, Patrick LeBlanc (blog|twitter), Peter Myers, and Sean Boon (blog|twitter).  I had never attended one but had a few folks mention it to me and oh so glad they did.  I have never in my life attended a technical session that laughed so much in.  I had tears streaming down my face from laughing so hard!  Also imagine is one of those that just isn’t the same on the DVD as it was in person.  It was a really fun session guys, great job!

The hilarious BI Power Hour

The hilarious BI Power Hour

After sessions were done, Julie and I grabbed a bus to head over to the Community Appreciation party at the EMP Museum.  It was a bit of a change up as they normally have this party at Gameworks.  I LOVED the change!  This place was great!  They had live band karaoke going which a lot of folks seemed to enjoy.  I wasn’t digging the karaoke area.  At the risk of sounding like a grumpy old geezer, it was too loud and crowded.  I didn’t yell at any of the young kids for their loud rock and roll but did avoid it other than in passing.  I took in the sites of the museum though and was a bit like a little kid.  They had some sci fi areas with some Star Wars paraphanelia which made me just damn giddy.  There was also a great area with horror movie exhibits.  I thought I was going to lose my mind when I saw they had a zombie suit from Michael Jackson’s Thriller video.  There were also plenty of quiet areas for chatting so was really great…big thumbs up PASS on that party!

Me giddy at some Star Wars stuff at EMP community appreciation party

Me giddy at some Star Wars stuff at EMP community appreciation party

My daughter's little traveling buddy and Thriller costume. How cool is that?!

My daughter’s little traveling buddy and Thriller costume. How cool is that?!

PASS Summit 2012 – Day 3 Recap

Wake up bright and early on the first day of the Summit, well ok it wasn’t super bright and early but early enough to try to make breakfast and still catch keynote.  My wonderful roommate, Julie Smith (blog|twitter),and I head over to try to grab a quick bite to eat before the keynote starts.  We had about 10 minutes but they shut down breakfast and the doors were locked…or so we thought.  We hadn’t gotten the lay of the land yet and assumed food was in the same place as last year, it wasn’t.  Doh moment #1.  Very much bummed about missing a meal we head to the keynote.  There were a few technical nuggets such as the next step in the road with in-memory solution Hekaton and the SQL 2012 sp1 update release.  The bright spot speaker wise was Amir Netz.  He did a good job again this year with entertaining demos and upbeat, enjoyable style.  Later there was the mention of “having a BI moment” which a Twitter did catch and run with as it very well should have.

The crowd ready for the keynote

After the keynote I was anxious to wander around and get my bearings on where things were laid out so I roamed for the first session slot.  Found the vendor area and the hub for the rest of the week, the Community Zone.  I then helped pass out maps for the chapter lunch which was entertaining.  Folks must have thought I was trying to sell them something as I had trouble with people taking free maps.  I only had to strong arm a few folks and after that went in to help represent my IndyPASS chapter.  I had some really great conversation with folks from my local area.  Many at the table were Indy locals who don’t come to meetings so was a good chance to run new ideas to pull new members by a perfect target audience.  Thank you guys for your feedback at my table that day! I also got a chance to encourage some of them there to start speaking technically after he mentioned a really exciting project one of them was doing implementing AlwaysOn.

***

Then I head over to catch a Lightning Talk session.  This one was done by Brent Ozar (blog|twitter), Amy Lewis (twitter), Mark Broadbent (blog|twitter), Rob Volk (blog|twitter), Robert Davis (blog|twitter).  Was a good thing I got there when I did…it was PACKED!  Dear PASS folks in charge of room selection, please put Lightning talks in a larger room next year.  I always try to go to those as they just aren’t the same on the DVD and better to see live.  Can’t see Brent Ozar dressed up like Bob Dylan on the DVD for sure.  I wonder how many folks are going to be super confused when watching that one on DVD now that I think about it?  “Who is this quasi southern accent raspy voice dude? Where is Brent O?”  Everyone did a good job in that session.  Mark Broadbent had some technical difficulties with the projectors but he handled it well and it kind of added to the fun of it.

Brent Ozar as Bob Dylan for Lightning Talk

From there I went to the Steve Jones (blog|twitter) and Andy Warren (blog|twitter) session on “The Mentoring Experiment”.  I love the mentoring aspect of my job so was intrigued by the topic.  Very interesting session on their experiences with the mentoring matchup program they started for SQL professionals.  A lot of tough hurdles in the process, such as match up process being handled manually by matching or random.  I gave my opinion that I don’t feel it really matters in that the match ups could be totally random.  I think mentoring is kind of like the friendship process in general.  I have varying degrees of friends and that process is a matter of chemistry that I don’t know could be formulated or worked out without interaction with the mentor/mentee.  I think if 2 people are paired up in a situation where folks want to be a part of the process, they will themselves make it as much a success as the relationship/chemistry will allow.  I always feel that there is something to learn from everyone and their experiences so no matter what good will come of the match.  Great job Andy/Steve!  That is really a great thing you guys are doing.

Steve and Andy discussing “The Mentoring Experiment”

Last session of the day I catch Jen Stirrup’s (blog|twitter) session on Mobile Business Intelligence Now.  I had never seen a session from Jen in person so was very excited to catch her.  I know she probably gets tired of folks talking about her accent but I just can’t help it.  SQL Server Reporting Services just never sounded so lovely as it does from her!  Very interesting information on how the eyes perceive information and using that to make your reports more clean/impactful.  Also had a lot of information on considerations for mobile screens.  Very good job Jen!

The just lovely Jen Stirrup

From there head for a bit to the Exhibitor reception for just a little bit.  Ran into a lot of folks and chatted up anyone who didn’t run fast enough.  They only had appetizers there so was necessary to move on to go get more sustenance.  Went over with Julie and Rob and joined in with Mark Broadbent’s group for dinner at the Tap House.  After carbo-loading on some crab mac n cheese we head over to Pragmatic Works karaoke party for a bit.  It was too crowded for my taste so I bailed to find a different scene.  Later I find out there was a roof top area that would have been more up my alley but didn’t hear about it until after already gone.  Found my way over to Pike Brewery and caught up with folks at the SQL Sentry party which was fantastic and continued to meet wonderful SQL people.  Peer pressure was high to continue on after that but I held strong out of exhaustion and called it a night after that.

Wait what?! MVP?! Me?! Seriously?! Get out of town!!

Sitting at my desk in between meetings on Monday, September 17, 2012 and I get an email from Simon Tien of the Microsoft MVP program.  My heart skips a beat immediately and starting checking calendar and thinking to myself “it’s not October 1”.  I had gotten super great fantastic splendid email earlier from Simon telling me I had been nominated for the MVP award.  So that email created much screaming and happy dancing including a generous dose of the cabbage patch.  That nomination email said that I would know on October 1 so that was the reason I was doing a mental check of the date.  I read on and can’t believe my eyes…they wanted my address so they could send me my MVP award!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

So after the closest thing I have ever come to that dramatic beauty pageant winning moment I sit there teary eyed re-reading the email over and over again to make sure I’m not reading something wrong.  I was completely shocked!  I knew I was headed down a path that could possibly put those lovely letters behind my name, not going to lie about that, but didn’t feel like I was up to that level yet.  And I had cornered many MVPs and discussed the possibilities and different aspects to the MVP process.  I just felt like I had a little further to go to get there.  I still don’t think I have come to terms with it really that I am actually a Microsoft MVP.  I think it will still take some time to sink in for sure.

***

Thinking back over the last couple years it’s pretty amazing.  Finding the SQL community and SQLSaturdays really changed me and the path of my career.  I would have never thought my path would have taken me here.  It’s just incredible to think that at the same time I find the part of my job that gets me hot in the belly passionate would also be the one to grant me a huge honor like the MVP.  I am constantly floored by the passion and good nature that goes on in the SQL community.  Seeing some of the differences with say the community or lack of for other unnamed database platforms *cough Oracle*, I feel really lucky I found my way here.  And the people I have met along the way who have helped encourage me and push me farther, I can never thank enough.  I have met so many of the most wonderful people who have become great friends and continue to meet great people with every event.

***

I remember at the dinner after one of my first technical presentations I sat with Jimmy May (blog|twitter), Kevin Kline (blog|twitter), and Brad McGehee (blog|twitter) and was still very unsure this technical speaking stuff was for me.  I remember saying “why would anyone want to listen to me when they have guys like you out there?”.  Everyone was so encouraging and supportive, especially Jimmy.  A bit of karma that he would be the one who later on would nominate me for the MVP.  Thank you so Jimmy!  Thank you for nomination and helping put me on this wonderful path.  I take every chance I can to pay this forward and trying to motivate anyone who will listen.  Also thank you to everyone who has helped motivate me, inspire me, and push me to be better technically, professionally, and just as a human being.  Thank you to a community of wonderful people where I have found so many great friends!  And of course, thank you to Microsoft for this huge honor!

You Betcha SQLSaturday Minnesota Was Great!

Make sure to read the title in a Minnesota accent if you haven’t already.
***

I wonder how many blog posts are written in airports? Add another one to the list.  Sitting here waiting on my flight and thinking about what a great time I had at the Minneapolis SQLSaturday.  I flew in on Friday and got to the hotel with no issues.  Relax for a bit and get Kalamazoo blog post done and head over to the speaker dinner at Don Pablos.  This beer gal does on a rare occasion enjoy a margarita so had one and chatted with some excellent people.  They gave us our speaker shirts and a nice suprise, a super soft throw with SQLSaturday embroidered on it.  They are very nice!  Thank you so much organizers!

***

Then comes the day of the event.  I ride over with Ted Krueger (blog|twitter) and the whole family.  The little Kruegers were cracking me up the whole way.  They had the event at the University of Minnesota.  The site was really nice and it was a gorgeous day out.  The venue was split between 2 buildings so was a little sunshine break in between sessions.  I find my room and get ready for the shared session with Ted, Consulting – The Good, The Bad, The Ugly.  Was really fun doing this session again and under better circumstances than the first time.  It was a last minute creation for SQLSaturday Indianapolis due to a speaker who had to miss the event.  We had time to actually prepare so it felt more fluid this go round.  We had a really nice turnout and fantastic interaction with the audience which is always key to making it great.  We ended up being dead on the money timing wise too which was good.

***

Then I head over to catch Lara Rubbelke’s (blog|twitter) session, Big Data.  She had some internet connectivity issues but was prepared with a slideshow with screenshots.  I was super impressed with the way she handled it.  I know very little about Hadoop so learned a lot in her session.  She has a wonderful presence that brings to mind like a term that not sure is a real thing but will make up one…technical grace.

Lara talking Big Data

I had to leave a few minutes early to get over to prepare for the WIT panel discussion.  That went well but am kicking myself a bit for that one.  I have been on the panel plenty but I had never been in the role of moderator and I think it showed.  The discussion was really good though. We talked about work life balance or as Microsoft terms it “work life integration”.  I had just fantastic ladies who agreed to be on the panel: Jes Borland (blog|twitter), Amanda Bates (twitter), and Lara Rubbelke.  The audience participation and comments were great! There was one comment from a participant that really stuck with me “Work is not who I am”.  She said she wasn’t willing to let her work be the sole definition of who she was as a person.  I think I need to keep some more of that in my mind when I determine my own balance in my life.  My kids always come first but I feel sometimes outside of them I teeter on the edge of being driven and driving myself too hard.  Thank you to the panel and audience again!

PASS WIT lunch discussion

Then after wandering around unable to find the room for a bit I finally find Ted’s session on merge replication.  I brought the rest of my lunch with me as didn’t have a chance to eat much during the WIT discussion.  So felt like giant jerk disrupting the session trying to open my bag of chips and then even better when my phone starts vibrating during it.  Ted’s of course good at giving me grief and I totally deserved it.  So from then on I catch great info on merge replication and watch his son heckle him a bit during his session.

Ted talking about merge replication

From there I go watch Joe Sack’s (blog|twitter) presentation on “Resolving Cardinality Estimation Issues”.  I definitely knew of Joe but had never seen him speak.  I am so glad I did, he’s definitely one to go on the super human smart, intellectual crush list.  He gave a lot of exceptional information.  There was a great moment when he was discussing correlated column statistics when someone in the audience said “Oh crap!” when realized that auto statistics are only on single columns.  VERY good session!

Joe Sack session on cardinality estimation issues

Then was super excited to catch Robert Davis (blog|twitter) give session on corruption.  I really had been looking forward to meeting him in person.  I knew him by his reputation and on Twitter.  He gave a lot of wonderful information in his session and went through some corruption scenarios and resolution to them.  He’s also one of those many folks I have met that have me just floored by the amount they know of SQL Server.  They are called MCMs for a reason.

Robert Davis talking about corruption

I then head over to the closing ceremony which took a very long time due to the amount of top notch stuff from sponsors they were giving away.  Paul Timmerman (twitter) and folks did a fantastic job!  I’m sure it wasn’t as flawless as it appeared to me but I think that’s a excellent measure of a successful event.  Big props to you guys and all the volunteers.

Tons of great stuff to giveaway – thanks sponsors!

From there we then go to Elsie’s for dinner and karaoke.  They bought a ton of appetizers but after my lesson learned in Atlanta (see blog post) I order a yummy burger with a fried egg on it and enjoy some Bell’s Two Hearted Ales.  And of course we were in Jason (blog|twitter) and Sarah Strate (blog|twitter) country so the SQLkaraoke began shortly after that.  I am still holding strong on not singing but god bless them all, they keep trying.

***

I had a wonderful time with my SQLFamily as I always do.  Thank you all for just being so damn great!  So I am a bit sad to think that’s my last SQLSaturday until probably spring next year.  But there are some super exciting things coming like PASS Summit!  So excited for the mass invasion of SQL folks in Seattle in just a few weeks!

Scratching an Itch and Great Training!

About 3 years ago now I got a surprise promotion to manage the team of DBAs and developers at PTI.  I had never been in management before and hadn’t really aspired to go down that road so  was a bit of a shock when it happened.  In the middle of the shock and glow from ego boost I took on the challenge.  It took me few to get my footing but then started to find my stride managing.  Over time as my team grew it kept pulling me more and more away from being technical which started to put a LARGE ache in me.  Any time I would go to speak at a SQL event and find someone else in management, I would leech onto them and try to glean any wisdom/guidance on how they found their path and balance in the dual worlds.  I knew eventually something would have to change because I knew without a doubt I wanted to stay technical and keep doing the things out in the community like SQLSaturdays.  All the while though I am getting praise for the job I was doing managing the team.  I am a stubborn/internally competitive person and for a long time I worked my butt off trying to convince myself I was Wonder Woman and could do it all.  I totally still think I am Wonder Woman but am a little less delusional that I can do it all.  When I got to 12 direct reports, I finally came to my senses and promoted a couple of guys on my team under me to help manage.  Around that same time of the promotions, an opportunity to resurrect the training program at my company came along.  I grabbed it and held on like grim death!  It felt like to me like my technical life raft had arrived!  It was a very tight timeline to put together the material but I was in, big time in!  So I have been busting butt putting together this material with Kyle Neier and Arie Jones for a super great 2 day training course (link to info below).  The timeline was brutal but I had an absolute ball putting it together!  It was so much fun and it did a couple things at the same time.  The first thing was that it made me step back and let the guys I promoted spread their wings a bit more than I probably would have otherwise.  I wouldn’t say I’m a control freak but I will make sure the job is getting done.  The other and most lovely is that it scratched that technical itch that I’ve had for a long time!  Who knows if I will come to that full crossroad eventually that makes me choose to manage or stay technical but this helped delay it for a bit to see if I can find balance in both worlds.

***

If you are interested in the training we are doing.  You can find info on it here.

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/

SQLSaturday Philly – Another Great Event

Coming pretty quick off the heels of SQLSaturday Chicago, shifted my focus to Philly!  I was really pumped for this one.  There was a lot of folks I consider my SQLFamily presenting at this event, some I hadn’t seen since the Summit.  There were also a lot of people there I had never met before which was exciting too!  I also have one of my best friends, Amie, who lives just outside Philly so was going to be staying a day late and visit her while out there. So I pick up my trusty sales sidekick, Kandy, and we head east! We went out on Thursday night. We had a client meeting we tried to get going out there but it fell through so we had some time to relax before the festivities started. Thursday night we had chance to go to Flying Pig Saloon. Was a nice little place with a good beer menu. Then Friday during the day we put our uber tourist hats on and went to go get a cheesesteak from Pat’s. We also got our first taste of the lovely Philly traffic 🙂

***

After worries that traffic would make me late and some issues with Kandy’s iPhone navigation, I make it to the speaker dinner. It was at McKenzie Brewhouse. This was a great place for the event. It was great weather to be outside and they had us out on back patio. Food was good and the space was great for chatting with folks.

Speaker dinner

I had the first session of the day. I definitely like having a morning slot. I can get my game face on and then relax the rest of the day. So we get to the venue bright and early. This SQLSaturday was actually held at a Microsoft building in Malvern. It was a beautiful facility and things were going just fine with registration. They had just an army of volunteers helping which must have made things easier on organizers. I always go find my room first and I get there and it was like a sauna. The building wasn’t geared toward weekend activity and they didn’t have air conditioning going at first. I am normally one to try to buck stereotypes but I am very much the typical freezing woman complaining about how cold it is. For me to be just melting hot in a room, normal folks must be on the verge of heat stroke. It got better after folks got air going but seemed the upstairs rooms stayed pretty toasty all day. Another slight drawback to the venue was that wifi was a no go 😦

***

So then session time comes. I had a great group in for my session. Lots of good discussion and people telling about how they are implementing PowerPivot in their shops. I had a slight hiccup in one of my demos but I got it worked out and was only a bump instead of a disaster. We ended up doing Birkram PowerPivot but it was fun and made me appreciate my audience even more than I normally do.

***

I then caught up for just a few minutes with the so fun Josef Richberg (blog|twitter). I was bummed I missed his session and he had to leave early to get back for son’s baseball game. He was in the zone with someone from his session going over SSIS so I then snuck into Karen Lopez’s (blog|twitter) session “Career Management for Data Professionals”. There was a lot of great info in this session. If you have a chance to catch it you should. Things such as keeping metrics on what you support but don’t break any rules or NDAs at the same time. One thing I am definitely going to start doing in interviews is ask “who do you follow?”. I think that is just a great simple question that can tell me a lot of who that person is as a DBA/Developer.

Karen laying knowledge on the folks.

Then came the WIT session. It was a bit different than most as it was in an actual session slot. I was always worried about those that are set like this as they go up against technical sessions. We had a small gathering for the session but it really was one of the best WIT discussions that I have ever been involved. Joshua Lynn was there and had a lot of great insight into motivating next generation into STEM fields, boys and girls.  He works with kids in competitive robot events. I also liked Erin Stellato’s (blog|twitter) “Lean Into It” mantra she shared that she uses with her kids when handling challenges.

WIT discussion

Then I was finally able to catch a session from Christina Leo (blog|twitter) and I mean FINALLY! It had become a recurring thing at all the SQLSaturday events we were at together that we always had same session time so never got to see each other present. We did have one session at the same time at this event but she luckily had 2 sessions. So I caught her session on server side traces. She is such a warm person and it shows in her presentation style I think. She also is a perfectionist and that shows as well.

The lovely Christina Leo

Next up I had a title catch my eye and went to see John Sterrett’s (blog|twitter) session “Performance Tuning for Pirates”. Not being from east coast and also not a baseball fan I totally didn’t even consider that his reference was for the Pittsburgh Pirates. So I expected more “Arrghs” and eyepatches but didn’t receive any. It was a really good session though and there was a lot of good references to tools to assist folks such as PAL tool on Codeplex.

John Sterrett’s session – See no eyepatch.

The last session of the day I went to Adam Belebczuk’s (blog|twitter) session on Service Broker. I started following Adam on Twitter and knew he was fairly new to speaking. I was intrigued to see his style and skeelz. He didn’t disappoint and was a really good session. Very engaging with the audience and you could tell he knew the subject very well.

Great new speaker Adam Belebczuk

Then on to the after party which was hosted by Joey D’Antoni (blog|twitter) at his own house! I know right?! He and his lovely wife, Kelly, hosted a wonderful party at their house for the speakers. They were just superb hosts! I had a ball with everyone as I normally do. Then I had a bit of an odd event happen. My friend Amie I mentioned earlier, she came and hung out for a bit at the after party. She is a friend I have known since college but like most of my friends and family, they only know my career as that I do “computer stuff”. It was an odd crossing of the streams but I survived and was kind of cool to have her see that side of my world.

The after party host by Joey and Kelly D’Antoni

Thank you guys in Philly for throwing a really great event! Thanks for having me! Thank you to my SQLFamily for just continuing to show me how friggin amazing a set of people can be!

Look at great crowd! Thanks Philly!