SQLSaturday Indy 2014 – Return of the Jedi

My first SQLSaturday organizer experience blog was called “SQLSaturday Indy Episode 2: A New Hope“.  The next year I just couldn’t resist and did “SQLSaturday 242 – The Empire Strikes Back“.  I have to finish out the trilogy thus the reason for the blog post name.  I’m sorry if you were lured here in hopes that there were gals in metal bikinis or Ewoks at SQLSaturday Indy.  Sadly there was nothing Star Wars related at all but I did Game of Thrones geek out with the room names.  To tie the title in though, I am getting better at this SQLSaturday organizer role so if you want to call me a jedi, I won’t be mad at ya.

***

I was again at the helm leading the organization of SQLSaturday Indianapolis.  It was my second year fully leading the effort.  It definitely was a little different this year, going in with last year’s experience under my belt.  I was a little more calm knowing how the whole process worked and didn’t have that fear of what I didn’t know constantly getting to me.  I also made sure to keep really good notes including some of the various communications sent out.  That was helpful as I didn’t have to start from scratch on many of them.  Most importantly I also knew early on to pull in some help.  I have a saint of a mother in law, Pam/Mamaw, who last year helped me as well.  What I didn’t tell folks though was that I called her in a panic Friday morning before the event last year.  She offered (or I begged, I can’t remember) to help again this year.  She helped with so many of the logistics of prepping the many materials and various other things.  There are many things take a decent amount of time that I underestimated last year.  They aren’t difficult but are tedious/time consuming.

Saint Pam/Mamaw

Saint Pam/Mamaw

Here’s a list of such things for any new organizers:

1. Stuffing of bags/packets for attendees

2. Preparing the gift bags for speakers

3. Printing the schedules

4. Cutting speaker session evals

5. Cutting event session evals

6. Cutting SpeedPASSes for speakers and preparing lanyards

 

The Recap

Friday I take off work so Pam and I start bright and early.  She had the good idea to wait to get drinks that morning so we only have to unload them the one time at the venue.  We do that and then get those and all the various paraphernalia to Indiana Wesleyan.  We get done and have some lunch while I go through my many lists of to do items.  I was a little uneasy at how smooth it was going compared to last year.  I even had time to head home for a bit and get ready for the speaker dinner.  Last year I was so rushed I had to buy a shirt on the way to the speaker dinner as I sweat through the first one.  Classy egh?

 

We had the speaker dinner at a local restaurant called Oobatz.  I had been working with the owner, Kirk, who was absolutely great!  As great as he was I had only visited once and had drinks.  Having not ate there made me a little nervous, you know me…want to take good care of my sql peeps!  I had NOTHING to worry about though.  The food was great and the service was excellent.  I highly recommend that spot, especially if you have a large party.  Tell Kirk I sent ya.  Having 29 beers on tap doesn’t hurt either though I mostly pushed my favorite local brew, Triton Railsplitter, on everyone at the party.

Speaker dinner at Oobatz

Speaker dinner at Oobatz

So Saturday starts bright and early.  My husband, Rod, and daughter, Ashlyn, came with me again this year to help.  I was working out some last minute schedule changes (thank you Kathi (Twitter|blog) again for taking another session super late in the game).  Due to that I was a little later than I wanted to getting out the door.  Rod was so great and talked me off the ledge while on the way there.  I was a bit on edge when I was trapped in the car.  I really love it that SQLSaturday Indy has become a family affair.  It just means the world to me that my family can be a part of it.  They may feel like SQLSaturday hijacks our life a bit but they don’t let on at all and I love them even more for it!  Us in the community understand SQLfamily and we know why we do these crazy things.  My family jumps in and helps not seeing that side at all.  They do it without question, just because they love me and are awesome people.  That’s family, right there!  Thank you all again from the bottom of my heart!

Family.

Family.

Where was I?  Ah so I was like 5 minutes late and I arrive and my volunteers and Pam are already at work getting drinks in coolers and registration setup.  I love my people.  Ok, enough love fest.  It’s a bit crazy getting setup and going and ready for the masses.  We can’t get in the venue until 7:00 and folks are set to show up at 7:30 so it’s a total mad dash.  We move like a finely tuned machine.  Katie, Aaron, and their boys (another family affair) help with checking folks in with others.  Brandon was awesome setting up coolers and other vital logistics.  Ashlyn and Mamaw/Pam are getting the sponsors all set.  I’m at the SpeedPASS printing table of shame and doing the directing.  Things are crazy but it went about as well as it could have.  I had more help than tasks and stuff got DONE!  I can’t give enough props to the team that helped!  You are all amazing and wonderful and all things great!

My wonderful, fabulous volunteers

My wonderful, fabulous volunteers

The day winds down a bit and able catch our breath.  The next craziness to make it through is lunch.  It went well I think but just takes time to feed the masses.  We had some good sessions going and think the word got out better than last year to disperse to other rooms.  Day moves on really well from there.  The last hurdle then comes with the raffles.  We had such great prizes from sponsors.  And not to toot my own horn but I thought prizes were good from the SQLSaturday group too.  We took the printer idea a little further this year and bought more items we needed for the day and raffled them off.  So we raffled off a printer (only used for printing SpeedPASSes and other items used that day), a couple nice monitors (Twitter feed/sponsor slides that never got setup in chaos), and a Keurig we had setup in the speaker ready room.  I just love the use and raffle approach on prizes.

This is what the thought "there's no way I pronounced that right" looks like

This is what the thought “there’s no way I pronounced that right” looks like

Aww there's a happy winner!

Aww there’s a happy winner!

We get cleaned up and out of the venue pretty quickly and then some of us head over to Scotty’s Brewhouse for some food and de-stressing.  Next is the after party.  I had setup for karaoke to start early for us at Tilly’s Pub and Grill.  Oh those crazy kids, how they love the #sqlkaraoke.  A really nice end to a great event, full of great family, great sqlfamily, great speakers, great volunteers, great sponsors.  It was all just…great!  I am really proud to be a part of bringing SQLSaturday to Indianapolis.

David and Wendy doing up some karaoke.

David and Wendy doing up some karaoke.

Frank doing his interpretation of Janet Jackson's "Nasty". Yes it IS as good as you're thinking!

Frank doing his interpretation of Janet Jackson’s “Nasty”. Yes it IS as good as you’re thinking!

Lessons learned this year:

1.  Don’t print the schedule until you are done messing with it.  I try to send in at least one my attendee communications to registered attendees to have them use schedule builder on the site.  It helps to get an indication of how popular sessions could be and can adjust those to have larger rooms.  Every year I think I know what folks want to see, but normally I have several sessions that surprise me and I’m WAY off.  I let my knowledge of the speakers cloud my judgment time and time again.  It works better getting some indication from outside parties.  I wish there was a way to get info from Guidebook but until then Schedule Builder works.  So the problem was that I printed the schedule before doing this check/room switch.  Wasn’t major issue but had to print them again and the tree hugging hippie in me cried a bit at the wasted paper/trees.

2.  A new thing I learned this year was that a SpeedPASS for a vendor will print even if they didn’t pay.  We had a sponsor sign up for 2 levels of sponsorship.  They paid one of them naturally.  I didn’t remove the unused sponsor entry assuming that it was harmless.  It wasn’t until very late that noticed they had 2 SpeedPASS raffle tickets.  I left them with 2 as didn’t want to have some folks with 2 chances at a prize, and some with one.  Figured more fair that all had 2 chances.  Not a very common scenario no doubt, but a tidbit for my fellow organizers.

3.  Make sure in the communications to attendees to have them print AND cut out their tickets.  We had many well intentioned folks who listened to my many emails pleading to print their SpeedPASSes but did not cut the raffle tickets.  So these folks were hung up cutting out tickets.  Also make sure to let them know the process for raffle tickets at the events.  We had some at the end of the day not knowing what to do with the tickets.

Kathi looks to be having fun in her session

Kathi looks to be having fun in her session

4.  I was trying to do a New Speaker buddy system that Nic Cain (Twitter|blog) referenced here.  I had good intentions but didn’t have the best organization with that portion.  Next year I will make sure to try to formalize that a bit more.  Speakers also make sure that you READ the communications organizers send.  I had many new speakers that I didn’t find out about that were first time speakers until the speaker dinner or even later.

5.  I knew in past and from experiences at other SQLSaturdays to try to have food set out to allow for at least 2 lines.  I would always hate to see tables lined up against the wall with food as it forces only one line.  We had the table where you could do that.  If you can set food to allow more (i.e. same food 2 tables, allowing 4 lines).  We didn’t have major issues but the faster you can feed that many people, the better. Looking back now I think we could have managed to setup more lines.

6.  Make sure to put in communications that the schedule has changed or is subject to.  It is just bound to happen, it’s just part of it.

I'll let you guys caption this one of Steve.

I’ll let you guys caption this one of Steve.

7.  Make sure to touch base with your sponsors at the event on how they want to handle raffle tickets.  Some sponsors will take tickets with them and scan them.  Others may want them mailed to them.  Others accidentally leave them.  And some just don’t care to keep them at all.  I plan to put some info on that to sponsors in communications next year.

8.  Never rely only on email communications alone.  Folks don’t read email.  Sure many do, but many also don’t.

Good times getting learn on at SQLSaturday Indy

Good times getting learn on at SQLSaturday Indy

9.  Get someone else to do opening/closing remarks.  I have just come to terms that I am not good at it.  I can chat folks up informally or in a session but when it comes to remarks stuff, I am just damn terrible.  I am frazzled and just worried about getting ‘er done.  I need like a host of the Grammy’s type person to do it up right next year.

10.  Check for duplicate speakers before making any orders.  There are some in the system as similar but different names.  I know I had some with multiple sessions and seems they were in twice.

SQLSaturday 256 – Kalamazoo

Last weekend was SQLSaturday Kalamazoo.  This lovely little SQLSaturday has worked it’s way onto my regular yearly list.  It’s a short little drive from me in Indy and the people involved are wonderful!  Didn’t need more reasons but is also now home base for my company, BlueGranite.  Stormy weather ended up delaying my departure up there on Friday.  Trick or treating was postponed on Thursday to Friday for the first time that I can remember.  My kids are 8 and 5 so there is no way I was going to miss trick or treating so I missed the speaker dinner.  It was at a brewery that I’ve never been to so was sad to miss it.  I had a good time running around the neighborhood with Wolverine and a ninja though.  So we get to Kalamazoo around 11:00 pm.  My husband, Rod, went with me again in further efforts to get him hooked on SQLFamily (insert evil mwa-haha laugh).

Thank you sponsors!

Thank you sponsors!

Gareth helping out at the PASS booth

Gareth helping out at the PASS booth

Get up and get a quick workout before heading over to the venue.  My session wasn’t until after lunch which is a pretty nice slot to have, late enough to get settled and time to run through demos but not super late.  I am normally distracted with my own session until it’s over so stinks a bit as I don’t normally attend sessions before mine.  They had an amazing lineup so was a little bummed to miss so many great presentations.  It gave me time to chat with many of the folks from BlueGranite though.  We had 4 speakers represented and then Josh (twitter|blog) and Amy (twitter) organizing!  We were also a sponsor so got to meet Mike Depoian (linkedin), VP of sales as he assisted at our booth.  Being a completely remote company, was a great opportunity to put faces to Lync avatars.

Ok demo, you are working now. Please work later!

Ok demo, you are working now. Please work later!

Amy at the BlueGranite booth

Amy at the BlueGranite booth

My session came after a nice taco bar lunch.  I am so jealous of those who have venues that allow outside caterers.  I just love the taco setup for a big group like that and is nice change of pace.  So nice and stuffed in a super hot room….zzzz!  No it turned out well even though I was a little nervous with this one as I hadn’t done it for several months.  I was more worried that I was on a new laptop.  I had only had the new machine for a few days and had installed the latest bits for everything I could.  Little nerve wracking but it gave me an opportunity to get folks info on some new performance counters for SQL Server 2014 which was great.  Everything seemed to go well and I got wonderful feedback.  Thank you for everyone who came to my session and especially those who gave feedback!

Talking about performance counters or describing a cheeseburger.

Talking about performance counters or describing a cheeseburger?

Then gave big sigh and decompressed a bit.  Ended up only in the last session of the day for Michael Swart’s (twitter|blog) session “5 Easy Pieces”.  I love hearing of people’s experiences, soaking up others wisdom.  He is another one of those lovely polite Canadians and had some great stories to tell.  I especially loved the one on indexed views.  He had a situation where the difference of edition to standard threw off performance in relation to an indexed view.  He had to use WITH (NOEXPAND) to resolve it.  Great session Michael!  I enjoyed it very much.

Michael sharing lessons learned

Michael sharing lessons learned

After giveaways most of the speakers went over to The Mix.  I was a little nervous as it was a bit of a young pup bar on college campus but it turned out really fun.  Josh and team had setup a KJ to perform, yes karaoke.  The KJ was a good one and won me over with a rendition of Run DMC’s “Tricky”.  I think I am going to go with the angle that I didn’t karaoke that night.  I don’t think that which may be construed as me doing karaoke counts.  Can I keep my record?  After The Mix we head back to one of the hotels for hanging out and some Cards Against Humanity.

An experts panel session

An experts panel session

The end to a really great weekend was made even better due to the graciousness of those fine Ford folks.  Tim (twitter|blog) and Amy hosted a really nice brunch for everyone at their house.  Thank you both so much for that!  It really ended the weekend perfectly!  The event was flawless from my point of view and got a nicely timed post Summit SQLFamily fix!  Oh and we got great jackets!  I didn’t think they could top the nice jackets from last year but they did!  Check those pictures…they look great!  Thanks for having me up to speak and for the super nice jacket!  Josh, you guys did a great job!  Congrats on a wonderful SQLSaturday!  Also thank you to my hubby Rod for taking all the great pictures.  If you want to see the full set of them they are uploaded to link below.

Prize giveaways at the end of SQLSaturday Kalamazoo

Prize giveaways at the end of SQLSaturday Kalamazoo

http://www.flickr.com/photos/hope_foley/sets/72157637308193364/.

PASS Summit 2013 – Part 2

Wednesday

It may have been the nerves at work again but it seemed as soon I opened my eyes I was wide awake.  I got up in time to catch a super quick breakfast and get to the opening keynote.  It was a fairly tame and without incident keynote.  Watching Twitter it seemed the only large flair up was when “ask” was used as a noun.  The demos were good but I missed seeing Amir Netz (twitter).  I just love his demos!  After the keynote I spent the rest of the day chatting with folks and preparing for my session in the afternoon.  Had some great conversations at the chapter lunch.  For those unfamiliar with this, they have maps and tables setup for the local user groups so you can find groups in your area.  I met several people in Indiana that are a bit too far south to make it to IndyPASS.  There is some interest in potentially setting up a new user group in Bloomington.  If there are any others interested in this please let me know.  I would love to help this effort but need to make sure I have enough dedicated people to lead the group.

Great pic that Melissa got of us BlueGranite ladies

Great pic that Melissa got of us BlueGranite ladies

GO TIME!  Then comes time for my presentation and my room is very well filled.  I am always worried I will be presenting to an empty room but elevated a bit at Summit, especially when I know Bob Ward’s (twitter) is on at the same time.  It was true what others kept reminding me, different audiences want different things and a 500 level session isn’t for everyone.  I get started and think I did pretty well at hiding my nervousness.  I remember at BA Con I could feel/hear the nerves in my voice.  I didn’t notice that in this time.  It’s one of my favorite sessions with absolutely my favorite demo dataset, a database of microbreweries!  I know I can always tell when someone is passionate about the topic they are presenting, I hope that came through with my attendees.  I felt it went pretty well and had several stay and chat and ask questions after my session.  I had some very positive feedback afterward which some comments were just so good it just about floored me.  It felt so good to be done and it go well!  Could just feel the weight come off my shoulders.

Picture Rob Kerr captured of people staying for questions after my session

Picture Rob Kerr captured of people staying for questions after my session

After floating around on cloud 9 for a bit, went to the Exhibitor Reception.  This is where they get folks in to talk with sponsors with the enticement of free food and drinks.  I made several rounds to make a meal out of the appetizer stations but little easier with hearty items like shrimp and grits.  Ended up leaving fairly early to head to Prohibition to get a table for the Pragmatic Works karaoke party.  Oh the SQL people and their karaoke!  It was a really nice party and some very memorable displays like Colin (twitter|blog) and Patrick (twitter|blog) yearly performance of “Forgot About Dre” and chicken appearances from Jorge/SQLChicken (twitter|blog).  From there went to SQLSentry’s party at the Ale House.  It also was a very great party and was honored to be invited.  The highlight was meeting and talking with Paul White (twitter|blog).  I was shocked at how nice, humble, and gracious he was in person.

Patrick and Colin and the tradition of "Forgot About Dre"

Patrick and Colin and the tradition of “Forgot About Dre”

Who doesn't love that chicken?!

Who doesn’t love that chicken?!

Thursday

I again surprised myself by waking up in time to catch some breakfast, I mean bread before keynote.  My list of complaints is small from this year’s Summit, but breakfast this year was disappointing (I know, I know…I like food).  Every day was the same very bread laden meal.  The only other options to pastries/bagels was oatmeal or yogurt.  I know logistics of feeding that many people is tricky but would have been nice for some other options like there has been in previous years.  The keynote was Dr. David DeWitt which is always a great one.  I was super distracted during it though since was planning to try to take a certification test.  They had half price certification testing going on at Summit.  Knowing the keynote was going to get deep I ended up leaving early to go try to take 70-465.  I was planning on doing the normal course and starting at 70-461 and go on up from there.  I’m not sure what possessed me to take this particular test.  I had been solely focused on my presentation so went in completely cold, and came out with….a better understanding what I will get into next time.  Can’t win them all and I felt better keeping focus on presentation and getting my win there.

***

I made it back just in time to make it to the WIT luncheon.  I am involved with the PASS WIT VC program so would have been very upset to miss it.  The panel consisted of Erin Stellato (twitter|blog), Rob Farley (twitter|blog), Cindy Gross (twitter|blog), Kevin Kline (twitter|blog), and Gail Shaw (twitter|blog).  There was good conversation there but it ended up being initially very lop sided in who was speaking.  That worked out better in the second half.  And honestly it seemed to be missing some of the fire in belly moments that drove me to be involved in WIT.  Erin ended up saving me from missing out totally on that with her exchange with a member of the audience.  A woman mentioned a comment being made to her that she had all the traits stacked against her success in IT in that she was an athlete, foreign, and a woman.  Erin’s response was that she should have responded with “How am I not going to succeed?”.  Thank you Erin for that highlight of WIT luncheon in my opinion!

The WIT Luncheon

The WIT Luncheon

From there I was excited to finally go to my first technical session.  I took too long to get to a session over PDW and was denied entry as it was full.  Doh!  The next session I decided to head over for morale support to Colin’s session on policy based management.  He was a first time Summit speaker and was very nervous as well.  I hated seeing when I got there that he was having some technical issues with the projector.  It was something I had run into before too where you couldn’t see on the laptop and only on the projector.  It’s a workable situation but makes it VERY difficult during demos.  They ended up getting him a second monitor and it worked out fine.  He handled it much better than I would.  My face started to flush a bit with speaker sympathy symptoms.  Was a great session and I learned about EPM Framework from Lara Rubbelke’s (twitter|blog) team that extends capability of policy based management to SQL Servers across environment that is available on Codeplex.

Colin presenting like a boss while tech guy works out issues.

Colin presenting like a boss while tech guy works out issues.

Next I made sure to get to the BI Power Hour session.  I caught it last year and was one I definitely didn’t want to miss.  When I’m figuring out sessions at Summit I always try to think about which sessions will lack full impact on recordings.  This is very high in that category.  They aren’t moving mountains admittedly with technical content but have a damn good time with the BI tools and is just fun.  Did learn that Power Pivot was “just so metal that it caused the split in the name” from Matthew Roche (twitter|blog).  Also Matt Masson (twitter|blog) showed how he impressed his kids with business intelligence and how vast his knowledge is of My Little Pony.

The wonder that is the BI Power Hour

The wonder that is the BI Power Hour

After catching up with my youngins back home I made it over to the Nascar Hall of Fame for the Community Appreciation Party.  This party was good but I am little biased to the party last year at the EMP.  I’m not exactly a Nascar fan so the material around at the hall of fame wasn’t getting the oohs and ahhs but that’s just a personal preference thing.  Only complaint that I had was the space was a bit smaller so was cramped in some areas.

A view of the masses at the Community Appreciation Party

A view of the masses at the Community Appreciation Party

SQLSaturday 242 – The Empire Strikes Back

SQLSaturday 242 wasn’t attacked by AT-ATs, I just couldn’t resist the chance to use that title.  Last year I cheesily went with “A New Hope” for my blog post title for all the lessons learned and how changed I was from the process.  It’s not that often you have an opportunity for a Star Wars reference AND a shameless previous blog post plug wrapped into one so I had to do it – please forgive me.  Besides it works if you consider I did feel a little like I was frozen in carbonite the day after SQLSaturday 242.  Alright now that I’ve got the Star Wars-ness out of my system, and I’ve had some time to recover it’s about time I got my blog post out from my experiences being the lead organizer of SQLSaturday 242.

***

This year was much different than the last couple years. Those past years I was very involved and helped in organizing but had the wonderful Caroline leading the the way.  This year I had to step out on my own and lead. Oye, I should have thanked Caroline more profusely in the past years!  There was just so much she did that I  wasn’t even aware. God bless ya Caroline! I was excited to do it though. I was anxious to right some wrongs that bothered me since last year (again see blog) and help pay forward to the SQL community some of the goodness that SQLSaturdays have brought to me over the years.

***

When I started planning this year I was determined to find a new venue. The place we had been the past years was a great venue, just located in an area where it is scarce to find good hotels for my speakers. Since the hotel was the main thing sticking in my craw from last year, hell or high water was going to rectify it this year. And I found a great place in a great location with Indiana Wesleyan on the northside. They were great to work with and good hotels were plentiful. We didn’t even have any act of god storms or issues in the hotel.  Demon exorcised – halleujah!

Registration team rockin it!

Registration team rockin it!

Honestly too it is great relief that I REALLY TRULY know the full ins and outs of what this event takes to happen. There were so many unknowns I had going into this event having not sat in the lead spot that it drove me completely nuts. I would keep myself up at night just sitting and making list after list to try to think of everything I needed to do.  I wanted with my hometown SQLSaturday more than anything to take care of my people: my speakers, my sponsors, my volunteers, my attendees. I want them all to just feel like we were taking care of them.

Have you thanked a sponsor today?

Have you thanked a sponsor today?

Friday comes and I got at it early so I could get Bill Pearson setup and going for his precon since PTI was hosting it. We had some hiccups with the projector software but Bill, being the pro he always is worked through the rough patches and we worked it out. Then I begin setting up the attendee packet stuffing station.  As I looking the table of 1000 laps and a million sponsor flier papers, I started to get a bit panicked.  I then called in the calvary…my saint of a mother in law, Pam who agreed to help out.  Then when the blessed, wonderful Chris and Gigi Bell show up they help make fairly quick work of it. Alan Dykes also shows up and helps me with the monitor setup. I had attended SharePoint Saturday and they had monitors outside the rooms to display the current and upcoming sessions. I thought it looked slick so we worked that out but it wouldn’t have happened if Alan hadn’t had stepped in to help with it.

WIT panel - wish I was able to see this one :(

WIT panel – wish I was able to see this one 😦

Later that night comes the speaker dinner. We ended up doing bowling again this year which was fun. It’s not fancy but is a great way to get folks loose and chatting. I think it went well and seems like all had a good time. I got some cupcakes to help butter folks up too just in case.  I started to loosen up a bit and some of the weight begins coming off my shoulders since by that point, if it ain’t done it just wasn’t gonna happen.

Was great to make SQLSaturday a family affair

Was great to make SQLSaturday a family affair

Then comes Saturday and we are up at the crack of dawn to get the mad dash going to get things setup. We weren’t able to get in till 7:00 and we had registration starting at 7:30 so it didn’t leave much time for things to fall into place. The morning was just nuts, it’s just the way it goes even if things run like clockwork with an event with that many people. I had to get the computer and printer setup for the SpeedPASS printing area of shame. Never fails, you will just have folks who don’t print SpeedPASSes no matter how many pleas you send.  I bought a printer that we ended up raffling off at the end of the day which worked out really well. Just make sure if you stay up the night before getting the drivers and crap setup that you plug it in and do it in the same manner you intend to on go day. Damn thing installed drivers anyway since I plugged it in instead of using the wireless.  As the morning moves on we run into more bumps. This was my first year also to administer the site for the event. It turned out I didn’t have some of the sponsors selected to be in the SpeedPASSes so I had to hurry up and make some raffle tickets really quick and get them printed them for folks to fill out (was able to scan SpeedPASSes off of computer for these sponsors after the event to help rectify this wrong). While I was doing super fast design work, I didn’t have time to think over what I needed to say for opening remarks. I think I may have sounded like a stressed out Elmer Fudd yammering thank you and that was about it.  I meant to say more so folks were aware of little details.

Elmer Fudd in action

Elmer Fudd in action

The rest of the day moves on and things start to settle down from morning craziness. We had some more minor hiccups that had us bobbing and weaving but we came out of it without much damage. Lunch came and went and things went as smooth as I think lunch for 191 people can go and it didn’t take terribly long to get folks through the line. We didn’t have a large area for people to eat so we needed to have folks disperse into the various rooms. Something I think I could have gotten across again in opening comments. Rest of day goes well and we were very lucky to have great sponsorship so were able to get a lot of great prizes to give away. We were needed to get out of the venue fairly quickly so we tried to move through them at a quick clip.  Sometimes that portion can drag along if you let it.  I let out a large sigh of relief and it was over.  We cleaned up really quickly thanks to all the volunteers on deck.  We then get a good size group headed out to Scotty’s Brewhouse for a much needed beer and some food. I got a bit misty eyed when I got a good amount of applause when I arrived (I love my SQL peeps).  From there some found a Korean place that had private karaoke rooms so some brave souls headed over. We had a blast but it was a tad bit interesting/disturbing with the Korean dramas going on the screens while you (not me) sang. Who knew you could possibly add weirdness to SQLkaraoke but by god we did.

This was needed desperately at the end of the day!

This was needed desperately at the end of the day!

Thank you so much to everyone who helped me with SQLSaturday 242! Thank you so much to my family, Rod, the kids, and my saint of a mother in law Pam. You put up with my distraction, picked up my slack, and even helped with the event.  I was so glad you all could be a part of one of these.  It means a lot that you got to see a little glimpse into these crazy SQLSaturday things you hear so much about and got to see this side of my life.  Thank you to Sally at PTI who helped me get so many things together and cut more paper than a human should!  Thank you to everyone at PTI for helping me, allowing me the time and resources to organize this event.  And thank you to Alan for your help all along the way and handling those damn monitors! And my registration crew: Gigi, Katie, Courtney, and Stephanie!  You ladies just killed it at registration and all through the day! I can’t thank you all enough!  Brandon Lukes thank you for your help!  Thank you Eddie for handling the precons.  And countless others who helped me, thank you! From every fiber of my being, thank you! It meant the world to me to have so many help make this event a success.

***

And since I am selfish and figure I need all the good SQLSaturday karma I can get, here are some recapped lessons and a few more thoughts on SQLSaturday 242 Indy.

1. Make sure you keep a good list of sponsors and the raffle prizes they intend to give away. You need to keep good track of the ones they are bringing themselves and those they give to you, the organizer. Then PRIOR to sending out word on the SpeedPASS check to make sure all who intend to give prizes are included in the SpeedPASS. The system will only auto print for silver and above sponsorship levels. Double check since bronze/swag sponsors sometimes have giveaway prizes but are not selected by default.  Make sure that you have good details on how attendees will need to claim prizes prior to the event.  Print out certificates if necessary just to help you keep track and have something easy to hand over to winner.

Great sponsors, great prizes

Great sponsors, great prizes

2.  Make sure if you intend to have speakers give away books to get them the details on what they need to do.  Sorry speakers.

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3.  Make sure to be prepared before the morning comes with different items that should be addressed during the opening comments and PRINT it out.  I had a OneNote list that I assumed would have time to review before it was time to speak.  Yeah that assumption was wrong.  Make sure to get information on logistics throughout the day such as plans for lunch.  Also make sure to give an overview of what SQLSaturday is and that it is a mix of experienced speakers as well an opportunity to encourage new speakers.  We had some comments to the effect that we should “vet speakers as some were inexperienced”.

***

4.  Make sure to check with businesses and city ordinances that it is ok to put up your SQLSaturday directional signs.  I had 5 signs of which I got back 1.  Maybe it was hoodlum Oracle teenagers or something but our signs went missing.  I love it when the signs are up when I go to a SQLSaturday.  Sorry to those who came later when they were gone.

***

5.  Get the session levels on the printed schedule.  We had some really nice clear envelopes for sponsor swag and the schedule.  On one side we had a nice color, printed schedule that was visible through the envelope that I think was very handy for attendees.  I did not have the session level on it though which would have been helpful.  Also would like next year to get colors for tracks on it as well.

***

6.  Make sure to have some committed help to stuff packets.  Just a few hands can make all the difference.

***

7.  Check very early on the catering situation of any potential venues.  Many venues will have exclusive contracts with caterers which means extra $$.  This can be a huge expense that your $10 charge for lunch won’t cover.  Also make sure you account for the cost of speakers and sponsors to eat.  Make sure you know how much money you may need to cover the costs before you sign up for the venue.  We didn’t have any issues with that but just could see that helping potential SQLSaturday organizers.

***

8.  If you need printers, monitors or other items during the day see if it makes sense to buy those items to raffle off at the end of the day for prizes.

***

9.  Make sure to have coffee setup for the entire day.  We had several folks wanting for coffee in the afternoon.

***

10.  Make sure you have some food items at breakfast that do not contain nuts.  We had coffee cakes but I didn’t realize they had nuts and didn’t even consider those with allergies.

Karla embarrassing me giving me props at the end of the day.

Karla embarrassing me giving me props at the end of the day.

So I survived organizing a SQLSaturday again and feel like I came out of this one with less battle wounds.  It was a lot of work but there really is a great feeling of accomplishment at the end of the day.  I helped bring some more SQL community to Indy and THAT is a great thing.

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!

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!

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.

image

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?

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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.

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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!