SQLSaturday Chicago 2012 – Fan-tabulous Event Again!

Continuing with super amped up excitement from the Free-Con, moved on to SQLSaturday Chicago festivities.  I have been really looking forward to this one.  I had a blast last year and it really solidified my addiction and love for SQLSaturdays.  So we head from the Free-Con event downtown to the speaker dinner.  It was held at Dave & Busters.  It was a good location and the space allowed for movement which was nice for chatting with everyone.  They also had pool tables and duck pin bowling too which was fun.  Food was good too so definitely a win for the organizers on the speaker dinner.  I left a bit early so I could spend some time going through demos and slides.  Word on the street was that there was a unicorn pool party later on but I’ll put missing that event into the win column as well 🙂
Then Saturday rolls around.  Get a workout in, grab a coffee and bagel, then head over to DeVry.  It was the wrong DeVry campus of course but someone points me to the right place and I make it in plenty of time.  I skipped first session to get prepared for my presentation in the speaker room.  My session was the second of the day which was a pretty good slot.  I like getting the morning sessions so I can get presentation out of the way then relax and enjoy sessions for the rest.  Then show time arrives.  I had a really good crowd (probably around 35 people).  I was in the same time slot as Mr. Ozar which is always disheartening but I was doing a B.I. topic so bit different audience than his.  My presentation went pretty good.  I always sweat the small stuff but just part of my nature.  And I always want to make sure I am constantly improving so just part of the process.  I had some great B.I folks in the room too which was very helpful.  I would not consider myself a B.I person really but want to learn portions of it better.  I was very lacking on my SSIS so I picked up this session topic as a challenge to myself to learn.  I don’t think there is any better way to dig deep and learn something than to prepare a presentation on the topic.  So it helped to have some very heavy SSIS folks in the room to assist with questions.  Thanks Bill Fellows (blog|twitter) and Norm Kelm (blog|twitter).  I got some good constructive speaker feedback in the end that I am definitely going to incorporate into this session next time.
Right after my presentation was the WIT panel lunch discussion.  I always love these and was very happy to sit on the panel when Wendy (blog|twitter) asked.  Wendy moderated and I sat with Erin Stellato (blog|twitter) and Shelly Noll (blog|twitter) on the panel.  As always we had a lot of great back and forth with everyone.  There were a few topics that popped up such as competitive team members and technical vs management (very much something I struggle with).  One of the main topics of the session were if you have to be assertive to be heard.  We also talked about aggressive vs assertive.  Great discussion as always.  I apologize for making folks watch me eat during this, my fear of missing a meal trumped fear of looking like a yahoo.

View of crowd from WIT panel

Then I got to sit in on Tim Ford’s (blog|twitter) session “The Periodic Table of Dynamic Management Objects”.  I wasn’t sure if I had ever seen Tim present and was very glad checked out this one.  You could tell he put a lot of time and effort into this session.  Had a great visualization (actual period table laying out and grouping of the DMOs).  A lot of great information and he has a great presentation style.  Definitely can tell not his first rodeo and he is swell and that shows through for sure.

Tim Ford getting his DMO on!

Next up was Argenis Fernandez (blog|twitter) and his “Troubleshooting SQL Server with SysInternals Tools” presentation.  Argenis is a super great guy and a new MCM so was very interested to see his presentation style.  It was a very good presentation and I took away a lot.  I wasn’t familiar very much at all with the SysInternals tools he used.  I have to admit I was a bit freaked out with folks trying to do some of these things he showed but still good info.  For example he showed how he got into a locked out system where you lost sa password.

Argenis doing the damn thing on some SysInternals

Last session of the day was Erin Stelleto’s (blog|twitter) “DBCC Commands: The Quick and the Dangerous”.  This was I think my favorite presentation of the day.  She is super great and had a lot of great information on DBCC commands.  She showed some very helpful DBCC commands such as DBCC SQLPERF(logspace) but also a lot of focus on integrity checks and corruption.  She went through a few examples of corruption and what you can do to fix it.  I think that’s super helpful to have some practice runs with corruption for new DBAs.  I envision that session helping quite a few DBAs in those corruption-sky-is-falling situations.

Erin doing a great DBCC session

Then hoping to up my karma points I take my dear friend Argenis to the airport to head back to Seattle.  Then haul it back for my favorite part, the aftermath!  They had the afterparty at the Hampton Inn in one of the convention rooms.  They brought in a KJ for the phenomenon called SQL Karaoke.  They had food brought in for folks from Famous Daves which was super nice.  I didn’t have to worry about making a meal out of appetizers and I didn’t have to worry about driving or finding a designated driver.  Could sit back and relax and visit with everyone.  I got to meet some folks from Twitter such as the very popular SQLCheesecake (aka Dustin Mueller) (twitter).  I am still an innocent bystander in the way of karaoke.  No one should have to hear me sing but I’ll be damned if they don’t keep trying to get me to do it.  They failed again but they are a persistent bunch so maybe one of these days I’ll cave.  Jason brought out the disturbing and supposedly foul smelling unicorn mask (I took everyone’s word for it on the funk…I wasn’t that curious).  Mark Villiancourt (blog|twitter) kills me at SQL Karaoke.  An honorable mention for his Gilbert Godfrey doing Cyndi Lauper’s “True Colors” but of course my favorite is his “Star Wars Cantina” to the tune of “Copa Cabana”.  Jason Strate (blog|twitter) also did some songs in his so wrong it’s right kind of way.  Then there were some who were super ambitious and went out dancing.  I hung back with several others and stayed in the lobby just chatting.  I felt bad hijacking Rob Farley (blog|twitter) into talking so late that he was damn near dilirious.  There were a group of us that I think stayed up till 2:00 just chatting.  It was so great!  I so love having the opportunity to hear the stories of everyone and soak up any and all advice they give.

Disturbing isn’t it?

Another fantastic experience at SQLSaturday Chicago!  All you guys who organized this did just a fantastic job!  It seemed to go really smoothly but I know that is because you guys made it appear that way.  I hope I can take some of that into ours coming up in Indy.  Thanks for having me again!

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.


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?


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.


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!

SQLSaturday Chicago!!!

Time is flying by and it’s getting really close to SQLSaturday Chicago (#sqlsat119).  If you are anywhere remotely close on May 19 you do not want to miss this one!  Go here and register.  I got much love for this particular SQLSaturday.  This one really solidified my love for these events.  It was the second SQLSaturday that I had presented at ever after my first one in Nashville.  I had such a great time and met so many great folks.  I ate up every minute of it…all of them till 4:00AM in fact.  Everyone continued to encourage me and welcome me into this lovely, wonderful sqlfamily…I was just blown away!  So go…go now and sign up!  There’s even a session from Eddie Wuerch (blog|twitter) titled “Join Us! Getting Started as a Technical Speaker”.  Go and catch the bug like I did then make sure to come speak at my hometown SQLSaturday in July in Indianapolis (#sqlsat126).  Shameless…I know 🙂