SQLSaturday, Uncategorized

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.

***

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.

PASS Summit, Uncategorized

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, Uncategorized, WIT

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?!
Uncategorized

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.

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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.