Seems the SQLStarter track is the only thing that brings me out of blog hiatus anymore. I keep meaning to blog but my life is triage and blogging just tends to fall off the vitals list. One day I’ll get back into gear. But today my friends I wanted to get the word out again for something I’m passionate, SQLStarter. If you’re inclined you can go back and read the posts from the past they are here.
I still truly feel that these career paths are a great way to change lives. One day I’m hoping someone will come up and say “I attended a session day that changed my life”. I’m passionate enough that I’m willing to yearly share embarrassing pictures from my days of questionable judgment (older posts reference).
And what do I ask in return for this good laugh? I am looking for speakers to fill the spots. If you’re interested in helping, can hit me up on Twitter/email/carrier pigeon. And for everyone else, helping to get the word out would be great! There’s an info page setup at site here and you can RT messages on #SQLStarter hashtag.
Have you ever had an idea for something and it completely haunts you? Something that pops in your brain all the time and keeps you up at night? Something where it feels like the universe NEEDS you to do it? I have had this idea brewing for a long time and I now have some key pieces in place to finally get it out there so it can stop haunting me.
First a little history to understand a portion of the inspiration behind this. Back in middle school and early high school, I hung out with a group who got into a LOT of trouble. There are some situations I look back on where my future was sitting on the edge of a knife. If I had zigged many days, instead of zagging, my life could be completely different. I have a lot of friends who didn’t finish high school and went down paths that are hard to reverse, living paycheck to paycheck. My home town of Anderson, IN and hell my family is completely full of people I’d like to help get on a different path.
So with those folks in the back of my mind, I also see the greatness of the SQL community and the WEALTH of resources out there for free. I also hear over and over that we don’t have enough people to fill these data related jobs. I know that recruiters hit me up all the time. So if I can reach someone out there who is ready to go down a different path and is motivated to put in the work, we can change some lives!
Now SQLSaturdays are already reaching people and changing lives. They changed my life, without a doubt. But I know I have met beginners at those who are intimidated and scared when they attend. Can you imagine going into a SQL internals class when you are brand new to the scene? Hell they may give up right then and say screw it, this stuff is way over my head. So at SQLSaturday Indy I’m going to setup a total beginner track. I’ll be giving the first session of the day where it will be an easy intro into the different data related career paths you can take. Then the rest of the sessions in that track will dig a bit deeper into each one. These sessions will explain high level concepts and the kinds of work you would be doing. And of course, giving details of where they can find more information after they figure out which avenue intrigues them.
This is where I need your help SQLFamily! I need people to assist with these area focused sessions. Will need 5-6 sessions to fill out the rest of the track. These are the ones I’m thinking now but am open to suggestion (beggers can’t be choosers).
I also want to start a way to help keep in touch and connect with these people as they go out into the world after SQLSaturday Indy. Seeing how well Twitter and some hashtags work, I’m starting another one called #SQLStarter. We can use it to help answer questions, and point these beginners to new resources. I also would like to start making recruiters aware of it as well so they can post jobs appropriate for beginners.
So there…the idea is out there and hopefully the universe will stop haunting me to do this. Hoping this is the spark and the beginning of something spreads to other SQLSaturdays/User Groups/whatever. And as kumbaya froo froo as it sounds, feels great to put some good out into the world!
On the flight home now from the SQLSaturday in Denver. I was excited for this one! I had never been to Denver before, through it but never to it. That and there’s some wonderful #SQLFamily out there. I lucked out though, I had this SQLSaturday on my radar but didn’t know for sure when the cutoff for submissions was to end. I just happened to catch it and submit on the final day of submissions. Not sure if there were any tweet reminders for that but I didn’t catch any. Anyway I got accepted to speak and do the new tabular session (yay more practice for Summit!).
I am not a hardcore road warrior like some, but I travel a decent bit. I don’t know if I have ever got a direct flight anywhere. I found one to Denver from Indy and was a good deal but it was with Frontier. Flight was at 6:00am but for direct I was willing to sacrifice. I have never flown on Frontier before and holy cow! They charge $30 for carry on luggage! Other various odd weird charges too. Just a little warning if you haven’t flown with them, check the crazy fees first. So I get to Denver very early and catch up with my co-worker Meagan Longoria (Twitter | blog) who was speaking too. Working for a remote company, it’s a nice treat to be able to work with folks in person for a change.
After work we head to the speaker dinner at Citron Bistro. The restaurant was nice and was graciously sponsored by Carlos Bossy (Twitter | blog) from Quanta Intelligence. The food was PHENOMENAL! It moved in to my top spot of speaker dinners. They had sit down menu with great choices and I went with lamb shanks. Holy moly! So good! Well done there organizers! Thank you Carlos! Very much appreciated that meal! And to top that off we got possibly my favorite speaker jacket ever as well.
My session on Saturday was in the next to last slot so I had intended to sleep in having such an early flight. So of course my eyes pop open at 5:15AM. Not having any excuses I get a workout in and some review on my slides/demos. Then head to the venue. It was an interesting site. I thought we were lost when we pulled into the parking lot. It was in a typical strip mall. After going inside was able to see it was very much a conference space and pretty nice. It was a bit tight in the through ways but worked out well. There wasn’t a speaker room but we found some space to congregate and worked it out.
Wish I could have attended more of the morning sessions but I’m always distracted by my own prep. I did sit in on some of Mike Fal’s (Twitter | blog) session as it was in my room prior to mine. He’s got a great speaking style and a definite enthusiasm for PowerShell.
So I get setup and start my session. I had a terrible issue with the projector. It would flash from time to time during my session. It also caused my slides to sometimes become about 3 inches wide. I have had issues with projectors in the past but this was a new one for me. Other than that it went well and demos worked for the most part. I only got 3 (of 17 attendees) to turn in feedback sheets which was a bit of a bummer but that’s the breaks.
After my session I sit in on David Klee’s (Twitter | blog) session. Man oh man it was a fantastic session! If you ever have a chance to see him speak, DO IT! His knowledge on virtualization is astounding. Coming from the SQL side of things, so much I never knew from the virtualization side. Really glad to see that session and learned so much! And he’s great speaker and just about the most likeable guy ever. Great job David!
After that wrapped up the day with a lot of great prizes. Then they had a little after party in the same venue which was different but nice. They had drinks and appetizers. After that we went to a place called Tavern Lowry which was good. We were able to get a large table in an area on the patio on a gorgeous night. The poor waitress that had to deal with all of us! Restaurant had a nice beer selection. By the way Denver, I think Titan IPA was my favorite that I tried while out there.
After that we went to “Family Karaoke”. I was a little nervous when we pulled up as it had all blacked out windows and didn’t look, well like a place that should have “family” in the name. Going in, it was fine. It was a Korean karaoke place that had private rooms. We got one of the larger rooms. It was like few years ago in Indy, they have all these super odd Korean videos that play while you sing. Hilariously bizarre! And I even kinda/sorta sang, well just the chorus while Keith Tate (Twitter | blog) did Tupac on “Changes”.
Thanks so much organizers for having me out and doing a really great job on your event! I had a great time seeing old friends and making new ones. I hope I can work it out to come back some time!
Home now from SQLSaturday Louisville and wanted to get a blog post going while those SQLfamily good vibes are still fresh. It’s kind of a sad fact but this is the first time I have ever been to a SQLSaturday in Louisville. Being that I only live 2 hours away, it’s a bit tragic! It seemed like every year I had a commitment or it was held on my kids birthdays. Poor Mala (Twitter | blog) was probably thinking I would never make it but low and behold, it worked out this year!
So I head down around lunch on Friday to get to the speaker dinner. The ride down was fine except I still swear the Google navigation lady hates me. She took me through the boonies to get to 65 for some reason. After finally getting there via the scenic route, I hadn’t given this session for a bit so spent some time telling the hotel walls about spatial data. After that I head over to the speaker dinner with David (Twitter|blog) and Wendy (Twitter|blog). The speaker dinner was at Boombozz pizza. The food was excellent! The room was a bit small but it worked out fine. They gave us these too (pic above) for speaker gifts! Love when can incorporate some hometown flair into speaker gifts. Wish Indy had more than race cars to work with on that note.
The day of the event I had hoped to sleep in but eyes bolt open at 6:00am (I’m old). Head over early and get situated at the event. The venue was walking distance from the hotels which was very nice (jealous of that). It was held at an Indiana Wesleyan as well (Indy was too). It was a nice facility and the layout was good. I normally can’t concentrate in sessions prior to mine so I just prepped and chatted it up the morning. My session was right after lunch which is nice for the extra setup time. Lunch by the way was excellent! They had barbecue that was really good. I heard there was a bit of a line but I snuck in early with the sponsors so I only heard of the lines.
My session went pretty well. I had a good bit of time to chat before the session started so got to yuck it up with some of the folks. I don’t know if anyone could tell but I felt the nerves a bit in the beginning. I realized while down there I hadn’t done a SQLSaturday since Cleveland! In February! Kind of shocking! The nerves worked their way out after I got going so that was good.
After my presentation I stayed in the same room to catch Rob Verell’s (Twitter) session on replication. I hadn’t seen him speak yet and knowing how funny he is, had to go see one of his sessions. Very much enjoyed it! I always enjoy sessions that have humor with tech content. You have to be careful to balance it though and he did that.
Next up I went to see Daniel Glenn’s (Twitter|blog) session on SharePoint. He had jokingly pouted that he wouldn’t have much of a crowd because of the topic. SharePoint and DBAs do not exactly have lovey dovey vibes. So I agreed to go to his session, even though I planned to anyway as I hadn’t seen him speak either. He is an excellent speaker and did a great job. Was nice to see some of the stuff that drives DBAs nuts (like GUIDs in db names) can be avoided if the SharePoint person knows what they are doing.
Then it was prize raffle time. Louisville had a tweet wall in the location where the raffle was held. This was a big hit and all the speakers took advantage of being goofy on Twitter and the wall during the raffle. They also had someone speak who teaches tech to high school students. I have always thought it would be great to expose high school students to data careers via SQLSaturdays but I haven’t had any luck making any contacts in my area yet.
After the raffle folks congregate to head out to dinner at the hotel out on the patio. David Maxwell always has a guitar and plays for us while we relax a bit.
After that John Morehouse (Twitter|blog) leads us to potentially my favorite place for an afterparty, Ann Marie’s Bacon Bar. I mean there may not have ever been a place that contained all the components SQLfamily enjoy: local non-chain place, bacon, great food, nice beer selection AND karaoke! All these things in ONE PLACE! We all had a blast!
Had a really great time in Louisville! Thanks volunteers…you all really knocked it out of the park! Really a top notch event and glad the planets finally aligned for me to come down. Thanks so much for having me down to speak! Definitely one I will add to the “must do” list!
Well I have survived another round being the lead organizer of SQLSaturday Indy. And now that I’ve had a bit of time to decompress, wanted to get a post out to detail some of my lessons learned. I always can use some good karma so hopefully will help some brave/crazy organizer soul down the line.
So the first lesson I learned this year is that Karla still rocks! And she deserves kudos/prizes/cash for putting up with all us organizers for ALL the SQLSaturdays held round the world. She is the PASS representation/liaison for us to PASS and it’s team of resources. They had an update to the backend system that organizers use back in May. There were some challenges from that but she always is so fast in getting us the help we need. Thank you Karla!
The second lesson is to test/workout the process to lookup a SpeedPASS to print prior to the morning of your event. I was a good girl and did as I was told to download all the SpeedPASSes the night before to a USB. I copied to 2 USBs just in case. You can never count on wifi and I had trouble with it on the laptop I was using to print SpeedPASSes. I had to use my hotspot from my phone. Even though I was good and downloaded the SpeedPASSes, the names of the files do not contain the registered person’s name and they are pdfs. So the process I did to look them up was as follows:
1. I had to look up the person on the SQLSat admin site.
2. This then brought up the link to get to the pdf speedpass. I then right clicked and copied the link name.
3. Pasted the copied link into Notepad. This then would give you the guid-ish file name.
4. Copied the filename portion of the link.
5. Then pasted the filename into the search of the files on the USB to find the pdf for that person.
There may be a better way to do this…kind of hope so! Please let me know if there’s a better way.
Another thing I learned was that I need to have a plan for leftover food. I’m not sure what others do but I always feel I need to order the amount that folks paid for knowing it will be too much from dropoff. I didn’t have a plan for it and was just forcing it on volunteers to take home but maybe we can find a group that can put some good use to it.
Next year I need to make sure to have some folks on the ready to clear/sweep the rooms after the final session is over. If you can imagine, speakers can get chatty at the end of the day *shock gasp*. I want to make sure everyone has chance at end of the day for the prizes so we try to wait till they’re all done. Also along those lines I also need to make sure to have someone ready to assist with prizes. Time REALLY stands still when you are trying to open raffle boxes with 200 people staring at you.
Another regret from this year is that we forgot to grab the camera when heading out very early in the morning to get to the venue. I had it on a checklist but those only help when you look at them. DOH! If anyone has any pictures would love to get them from you.
I want to thank again all my speakers who came to Indy! I hope we took good care of my sql peeps. They take away my Hoosier card if I don’t display that “Hoosier hospitality”. I want to thank my volunteers! You know who you are and you rock big time! I want to thank from the bottom of my heart, my family! You all got roped into this craziness that is SQLSaturday/SQLfamily and it’s all my fault! I am eternally grateful to you for all your help, support, and love! I get teary eyed thinking about how this event has become a family one. I hope the view you get into this event shows some of the goodness that drives my passion that takes me away from time to time.
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.
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
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.
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!
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Last weekend was SQLSaturday Chicago which was good timing I was getting antsy to get to another SQLSaturday since it has been quite awhile since the one in Cleveland. Chicago is one of my staple events. It’s a fantastic one, ran by some wonderful folks and very much in drivable range. I just looked back and I’ve been going every year since SQLSaturday #67 in 2011! Just amazing that we’re now in the 300s for SQLSaturdays.
I head up Friday after getting some work in the morning. I get there in time to get a run through of my presentation. I learned a speaking lesson in Cleveland that even though I’ve given a session several times, never get too comfortable. I didn’t do a run through prior in Cleveland and my timing was off somewhere and I lost 10 minutes. It wasn’t a huge deal to attendees I don’t think but it drove me nuts. I will always do a run through just before an event. It helps the nerves too. After giving a presentation to the walls of the hotel, head over to the speaker dinner. This was definitely a favorite as far as speaker dinners go. It was at a place called Schnitzel Platz and of course a German restaurant. They brought out a feast of sausages and schnitzel. It was wonderful!
Morning starts with breakfast with the lovely Strates, Jason (twitter|blog) & Sarah(twitter|blog) and Warner Chaves (twitter). Then headed over to the DeVry campus where the event was being held. My session wasn’t until noon so I had time to get situated and prepare. They were doing an interesting new schedule where they spread lunch over a couple sessions and let those get food as they wish. It seemed to work out for them. The logistics of feeding that many folks are always tricky.
My session was over spatial data again and it went really well. I had done some tweaking and with an engaged audience, it may have been my favorite with flow and timing. It also gave me a good story too. I had a…well an interesting fellow in my session that gave the following creepy feedback.
After my session I went to see my friend, Mark Vaillancourt’s (twitter|blog) “Danger: The Art and Science of Presenting”. I had wanted to see it for quite some time but never had the opportunity for one reason or the other. It was very good and not what I expected. I had been expecting a rah rah, you should all present and here’s why session. There was only a tiny bit of that and instead gave a lot of interesting points about speaking as compared to Emotional Intelligence. One thing that struck me was the notion that everyone attending your session is on your side or they wouldn’t be there. It’s often thought of in the reverse and that everyone is out to get you, or “eat you” as he says. Mark has the best sense of humor so his sessions are always entertaining.
Then I had to go see Meagan Longoria’s (twitter|blog) session “Choose Your Geospatial Adventure. I was shocked to see two sessions relating to spatial on the schedule. And even more so that it was by two ladies! Her session was a nice one coupled with mine. I delve into the spatial data type where she covered more the methods to visualize it. It was a good session and showed some examples that I hadn’t seen. It gave me some ideas for some things to try out later.
After the raffle we head back to the hotel for the after party. Chicago has a somewhat traditional after party at the hotel with karaoke. It’s nice to not have to worry about driving around. One of the most memorable was Frank Gill’s (twitter|blog) version of “Unbelievable”. He put a surprising death metal spin on it that was shocking/hilarious. Thanks again for another wonderful time Chicago! Organizers you did a fantastic job and really appreciate you allowing me to be a part of it again this year and for the past 3 years!