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T-SQL Tuesday #57 – SQL Family and Tripping the Light Fantastique

T-SQL Tuesday #57

Jeffrey Verheul (b|t) is hosting this month’s T-SQL Tuesday blog party.  (Hey Jeff, what’s up?)  If you are not familiar with T-SQL Tuesday, well it was started by Adam Machanic (b|t) five years ago and invites a different blogger to host a topic and various bloggers choose to participate when the subject so moves them. This month’s topic is regarding SQL Family and Community.  I have blogged numerous times about SQL Family and if you never experienced the awesomeness that is SQL Family in person, find me and I will give you a #SQLHug and show you just how awesome of a phenomenon this truly is.

Personally, I have been gainfully employed in the IT field for almost twenty years and have been hacking (yes that is the correct term not the one bastardized by the media and laymen) since the Christmas of 1982 when I got a Timex Sinclair 1000.  During this lifetime, I have never experienced the phenomenon that is SQL Family, ever.  Let the weight of that statement sink in for a moment.  In other words, having met all sorts of IT professionals over the years at many conferences, user groups and meetings, no one community has struck me dumbfounded and with wonderment like that of the SQL Community.  It is unparalleled in my opinion.

(Ed please get to the point and stop skipping the light fandango)

In The Beginning

Several years ago, I was severely burnt out.  I had started back to college to possibly change careers. (yeah it was that bad)  I hated what I did for a living.  I cannot stress how much I hated what I was doing for a living.  At that point, my good friend and fellow DBA Brent Kraus (t) invited me to a user group meeting with the Tampa SQL User Group.  “Free pizza,” he said and we could meet a couple of guys and get a better job.  I said how do you know and he said “hey Jorge Segarra (b|t) sat in that same chair and got out of dodge and now he is a SQL rock star now making it rain with groupies to boot.”  The story may not have gone exactly that way, but hey it’s called dramatic license for a reason.  If the day Buddy Holly died was the day that the music died, then this was the day that the music was reborn like a phoenix rising out of the ashes that was my career. (This story is getting good…even I want to pay attention now and trust me I was bored with it up until this section)

The meeting was horrible, there was a speaker on a speaker phone.  I do not remember who it was or what he spoke about but it was pretty bad mainly because of bad phone connection and a language barrier.  I met a few people and I remember thinking “this blows!”  Then Pam Shaw (b|t) gave me a free book for a being a first time attendee.  Remember, I had a bad attitude about my career so this reflection had nothing to do with Pam or her user group.  I remember on the drive home thinking hey free pizza and a free book (and don’t forget the SQL tchotchkes), maybe I will go back next month.

SQL Saturday

Enter Brent again…as he said hey they do this crazy, free training thing and you get to meet a lot of SQL people and we are sure to find a better job there.  So we ride over one Saturday morning to Orlando.  I liken this to the moment I heard my first Beatles record.  I was hooked, an addiction was formed.  I met so many people and I could name drop all day but there is one key figure that I met that day….Karla Landrum (b|t).  She was welcoming and passionate about the community.  Karla is definitely the mother of this SQL family.  Actually she is more of a foster-mother, she takes in the strays feeds them some good food, acclimates them to the environment and then challenges them to succeed.  Like any good Mom, she doesn’t take no for an answer.  Within a year from that moment she had talked (coerced, dragged me kicking and screaming, or tricked?  You pick!) me into speaking for the first time.  I had a supreme fear of public speaking.  How did she talk me into this?  I wanted to run like Forrest, but I didn’t even drove through a flash flood that day to not let her down.

During that year, I became active in the user group, became a SQL community promoter on twitter, and attended a few SQL Saturdays.  Suddenly I didn’t hate my career as much, oh do not get me wrong the job I had sucked but I was not ready to jump ship on my career just yet.  What happened to Brent?  Oh yeah, he got a better SQL DBA job.  Mission accomplished.

Speaking

That first time was horrible, I scripted the whole thing and barely looked up from my trembling body.  They gave me an award for the funniest presentation.  These people are nuts, I do not think they saw the same presentation that I did.  Afterward, several people told me how awesome it was and that they were happy to see me presenting.  Wait?!?! What?!?!?  It was horrible.  These people are my brothers and sisters in the SQL Family.  They were loving and encouraging when I needed it.  I am sure that they knew it was horrible but they had been there too.  I am not going to call them out but I do try to pay it forward with every new speaker that I meet or see or even here about.  I want to be that same awesome brother that tells you about dating and girls and how to…wait I digress, sorry.

It was at this point that I wanted to speak again, and again.  All the world’s a stage and I wanted to get better, to be as good as they were, to teach and give back.  I was learning SQL Server like never before because I was teaching it to others.  I was now in love with my career again.  Not the obligatory kiss your grandmother love, but the super smart, nerdy librarian looking girl who likes you because you aced Calculus passion making out in the reference section next to the map rack.  Yeah you know what I am talking about.

SQL PASS

All everyone talked about once you get inside the SQL Family is the SQL PASS Summit in Seattle.  Like any good addict, I had to try this drug.  Have you ever had that moment when you said to yourself “wow these nerds are my people, they get me!”  That first year was my moment.  Like any good Amway presentation, I wanted what they were selling.  I met so many people…authors, bloggers, crazy people (yeah I bet two or three names came to your mind when I said that and yes that is who I was talking about), DBAs, developers, and rock stars of the SQL community.  They all had one thing in common:  SQL Family.  At no point did I ever feel not welcome or like an outsider even with my First Timer badge on.  If there was a funny story that they all knew someone was more than willing to bring me up to speed on how that one guy did that one thing that one time and it was epic.  Yeah you know who you are and what you did that one time.  Dude!

At that first Summit, I met several DBAs from Atlanta.  I kept running into them everywhere I went around Seattle.  They invited me to sit with them at the Chapter Lunch.  I was home.  These people were my people.  One problem though…I lived in Tampa. (This is a foreshadowing moment, keep that in mind here)

Atlanta

In 2013, I decided that in order to take my career to the next level, I needed to move to Atlanta where the DBA jobs were flowing like wine and after 42 years in Florida a change of scenery would be good.  Most people think leaving Florida was a Paradise Lost, but being a tourist is the greatest part of Florida at this point in my life as I grew up on the sunshine, beaches, and Disney.  Been there, done that, and got the t-shirt.  However, I felt at home with the Atlanta group and they had become really, really good friends over the last couple of years.  You see I was 42 years old with hundreds of friends or as I like to call them wonderful acquaintances.  You know the kind, the ones that will go to a birthday party for a mutual friend and be happy to see you and hand you a beer from the cooler.  But if you need someone to help you move, all of these friends that you have seem to be busy.  My life was full of these friends.  I had a couple of really good friends, do not get me wrong especially if you are one of them are you thinking to yourself what the hell dude!

However, with the SQL Family, those friendships always seem to be so much stronger.  This was the impetus for me moving to Atlanta.  Those friends there seemed to be the kind of friends that would help you move (and they did come 2014).  Did you remember the foreshadowing moment?  Good, you were paying attention.  After moving to Atlanta, I began traveling across the country spreading my wings speaking in Nashville, Las Vegas, Louisville and I will hit Birmingham, Orlando (where it all began) and possibly Charleston before the year is done.  All of that is on my own dime.  Why?  SQL Family.  I love visiting different family members and spending time with them and sharing my love of SQL Server and SQLKaraoke with them.  I look forward to breaking bread and sharing a pint with them sharing stories and dancing like a mad man.  The social aspect of SQL Family is unparalleled as well.

I am now a Data Services Consultant, working for a dear friend from the SQL Family.  She brought me on board here where there are about a hundred brilliant consultants including several other SQL Family members.  I love my career, and I love my SQL Family and now I love my job.  Thanks, Julie (b|t).

So after reading this and if you have met me in person, have you figured out which family member I am?  I am that crazy uncle that everyone has who sings everywhere and is so much fun to be around (at least in my opinion lol).

Mi familia está loca! (For Jorge)

 

P.S. Did you get the title reference and all the tie-ins?  Tripping the light fantastic means to dance about with the music and being in the SQL Family makes me want to sing and dance every day.  Milton (tie-in) and Shakespeare (tie-in) spoke of such phenomenon and Paul McCartney of the Beatles (tie-in) had an album entitled Tripping the Live Fantastic.  Tarantino (our greatest living director) used the line as I did in “Inglorious Basterds” for the final tie-in.  Those were chosen because of my love of those things and my ability to wax poetic about my passions.  Long Live the SQL Family!  Oh, I almost forgot the “skipping the light fandango” tie-in (glad I proofread this before submitting it) but that’s a line from “A Whiter Shade of Pale” by Procul Harum.  So now you have my passion for poetry, movies, music and SQL Server, all that in one blog post for the low, low price of $19.95…but wait, there’s more….stay tuned next time.

A Month, Really?

Wow, I just realized this morning that an entire month has passed since I last blogged.  Surprisingly, much has happened yet I could barely find time to blog.  That isn’t necessarily true, but it sounds better than I’ve been lazy for the last 30 days.

So let’s do a rundown real quick of the last month.  I spoke at the very first SQL Saturday in beautiful Cocoa Beach, Florida and had an amazing time catching up with old friends and meeting new ones.  I completed my dizzying full-time college schedule with resounding success in my first semester back to the glorious University of Florida in pursuit of a Business Administration degree. Last but not least, Rob Volk (b | t) and I were selected to present our Lightning Talk for the PASS Summit in Charlotte, North Carolina.  That is an extremely humbling and terribly exciting feeling.  Our session, titled “DBAs in Toyland: Here’s Another Fine Mess You’ve Gotten Me Into!” is going to be a lot of fun to present as Rob and I are thoroughly enjoying the process of putting it together.  Enjoy!

 

PASS_2013_SpeakingButton_250x250

Personal Development Plan for 2013

After yesterday’s review of 2012, it is time to set the bar a little higher for 2013.  Let’s soar to new heights!

Community

  1. I will post daily during the work week to this blog in order to give back to the SQL community.  Last year I had planned to blog 365 days of the year, but there were many days when the content was subpar because I was on vacation, holiday, or simply having fun with my family.  I think this year if I limit it to the days that I am actually working on SQL Server then the content should stay consistent.
  2. I will spend time daily helping people on twitter, SQL blogs, and various SQL-related websites such as SQL Server Central.  This was hard to do last year but it is still a noble goal and thus should be listed.
  3. I am setting a goal of 600 followers on Twitter which would increase my existing followers 33%.
  4. I will attend at least ten of the twelve Tampa Bay SQL Server User Group meetings.
  5. I will attend three to five other User group meetings, such as the Tampa BI group, Orlando’s MagicPASS, or the Tampa VMUG.
  6. I will attend at least one other event that interfaces with SQL Server such as the Orlando IT Pro Camp.

SQL Conferences & Training Events

  1. I will attend at least one formal Microsoft SQL training course this year.
  2. I will attend every SQL Saturday offered in the Orlando, Tampa, and Jacksonville areas.  I would also like to attend some others, if possible, within driving distance.
  3. I will volunteer to help with at least one SQL Saturday this year.
  4. I will attend the SQL PASS Summit in Charlotte.
  5. I will submit to at least two different SQL Saturday events in addition to SQL PASS.  Hopefully, I will get the opportunity to present somewhere in 2013.

Health

  1. I will be in better physical shape in time for Summit 2013.
  2. I will lose 100 pounds by the end of the year.

Five Year Goals

  1. I will continue to take at least one to two classes a semester online in order to complete my degree in Business Administration from the University of Florida.  All those Engineering and Computer Science classes I took 20 years ago are not relevant today and I would like  to possibly return to consulting in five or ten years and that degree would be more beneficial in that long-term goal.
  2. I would like to become a Microsoft Certified Master within five years.

Random Summit Picture Gallery

Summit 2012: Lessons Learned

Now that I have been home a day, I thought it would be good to review some of the lessons I learned this week from attending my first SQL PASS Summit.

  1. This week is a marathon, pace yourself.  Enjoy all of the activities but get plenty of rest all week so you will be able to finish the week out.’
  2. Carrying a laptop and a bunch of crap in your backpack all week was not necessary.  Unless you are on call, use an ipad for notes or even your phone.  This added weight will wear you down quickly.
  3. Carrying a power strip was not as necessary as I thought it would be since I didn’t see very many power outlets and since I wasn’t using my laptop.  The only thing that needed charging was my phone.  The ipad holds a great charge all day long.
  4. Buy an extended battery case for your cell phone as I saw many people with them, what a great idea.
  5. Never pass up an opportunity to introduce yourself to someone who you want to meet, I did that a few times this week because they looked busy.  I did not get another chance to meet those people again.
  6. Walk, walk and keep walking.  I had no idea the amount of walking involved this week.  I usually walk about a mile three times a week, but next year I will need to be in much better shape to handle the rigors of walking everywhere all of the time.  I endured it this year but it was not easy.
  7. Be prepared to stand in hot rooms for long periods of time.  Being DBAs, we are usually sitting for most of the day.  Many of the activities here at Summit, were standing room only for hours at a time in rooms that apparently had the heat on even though it was only maybe 55 degrees outside making most of these rooms like saunas for me.
  8. Never pass up an opportunity to hang out and network with someone when it presents itself.
  9. Buy the session DVDs so that you can watch them after the conference.
  10. Most importantly, if you want to do #SQLKaraoke, put your song in early!  I put my name in every night and did not get called once.  What a bummer.

Don’t let this detour you from coming, these are just things I now know and will be better prepared for next year in order to attend the greatest event of the they year, see you then.

The Summit is Over

All good things must come to an end and the 2012 Summit is now officially over for me while I sit in the Atlanta airport waiting on my flight to Tampa. I just said goodbye to my last two friends who joined me on the flight to Atlanta and a new guy I met sitting next to me from Nashville.

The greatest thing I took away from the Summit experience really is the friendships that simply cannot be described here on this blog or at least not and do it justice. Until you’ve experienced the family reunion type atmosphere, you cannot truly understand what makes it so special. If I have any control over it, I do not plan to ever miss another Summit. This is a bold statement, but it is one goal I would like to truly strive for, it is that important to me and my career.

Honestly, I met at least a hundred people personally this week, many of which I knew on twitter beforehand. However, others were people sitting at my table or passing by and who joined in. We are all now connected and I have a great network of SQL Friends now that is strongly built by the bonds of this week and all that we did together. I am already looking for a hotel for next year. See you all in Charlotte!

Summit: The Final Day

Today is the final day of the PASS Summit 2012.  There are still a few great sessions that I want to see today, but I am sad that the conference is coming to an end.  However, yesterday I began looking for a hotel room for next year’s conference in Charlotte so that I can see all of my new friends again.

Last night was the Customer Appreciation Party at the EMP museum which was a fabulous venue for the rockaraoke event.  I also spent some time a group of SQL peeps from South Africa, Holland, Germany, and a Scottish-Australian.  We all had one thing in common:  a love of SQL.  This conference is simply amazing, come join in me in Charlotte next year.  Enjoy!

 

Summit Women In Technology Luncheon

Today I was honored to attend and blog live from the tenth annual Women In Technology Luncheon at the SQL PASS Summit 2012.   This is my first Women in Technology luncheon at any level.  I have attended several SQL Saturdays but there has not been a WIT event at any of those events.

There was a phenomenal turnout and many people, men and women alike, are sporting the #SQLKilts in honor of the event.  Wendy Pastrick hosted the event and the panel included Kevin Kline, Denise McInerney, Kendra Little, Stefanie Higgins, and Jen Stirrup, the PASSion Award winner for 2012.  Wendy noted that the room was setup for 720 people and from my perspective it appears that the room is close to full, I found out afterwards that their were 695 attendees from the count.

The luncheon was streamed live via PASS TV and on twitter with the #PASSWIT hashtag  and was sponsored by SQL Sentry.  The recording is available here.

Stefanie Higgins, founder of the original WIT luncheon, began by discussing the lack of women in her college computer science program which continued later into a certification course that she attended where she was the only woman in the class.  The instructor ignored her throughout the week and later admitted after she passed the course that he ignored her and was intimidated by her presence in the class.  Stefanie stated that “I think we’ve come a long way, we have more to go though.”

Denise McInerney then discussed that back at her first Summit in 2002 there were only 1 or 2 women in each session and how WIT has women’s participation in the organization as well as SQL Saturday.  She stated that in 2011, the first year that the statistics were collected by PASS, the organization consisted of 15% women among attendees and speakers for SQL Saturdays.  She also stated that women leave technology careers twice as much as their counterparts.

Kevin Kline then discussed the SQL community and how the board grew the Summit into a friendly conference as opposed to bigger conferences like those sponsored by IBM and Oracle.  He also discussed his perspective in raising six daughters and their struggles with technology coming primarily from their friends and not as much from patriarchal structure of society, which has gotten better but still exists.

Jen Stirrup then spoke about the declining percentages of women in technology across Europe.  She also discussed their efforts to grow the WIT organization across Europe.  Although they have had low numbers of women attending the SQL Saturday WIT events, they are seeing many men attending and discussing the issues surrounding WIT and it is encouraging for the future.

Kendra Little, MCM and MVP, starting speaking at SQL Saturday events and she discussed how that changed her outlook as an “employee” and then she started connecting with people in her sessions and that led her realizing that she could be a mentor and a teacher.  She started to feel like she could be a consultant and own her own business whereas when she was an employee previously it had never occurred to her.  Now she encourages other women to start speaking and sharing.

It was at this point that the luncheon was turned over to the floor for questions and comments.  There were many insightful observations and questions from several audience members.  Many people wanted to find resources for their local area so that they could become affiliated with the WIT organization.  They were referred to wit.sqlpass.org, which has resources available for everyone if they are interested in starting their own WIT chapter or looking for more information in order to make their local groups more successful.  The wit@sqlpass.org e-mail address is also available.

Personally I would like to see more being done in my area with my user group as well as my local SQL Saturdays throughout the State of Florida.  Maybe the discussion will begin with this blog or sometime during the planning of our next SQL Saturday scheduled for March.  Enjoy!

Summit: The Third 24 Hours

The third 24 hours in Seattle were even better than the first two, if that is possible.  I attended Grant Fritchey’s pre-con on Query Performance Tuning yesterday and was blown away with knowledge.  I cannot wait to watch that on DVD to recap my learning.  I then attended the First Timer’s events followed by the Welcome Reception.  These were both great events with an excellent dinner and networking opportunities and I enjoyed them thoroughly.  In the evening I checked out the Tap House and realized that Seattle does not understand the concept of increased air conditioning when you have increasing amounts of people in a building.

Today began the real sessions kicked off by amazing keynote presentations.  I attended a few great sessions and spent a considerable amount of time speaking with vendors about my upcoming project to compare SQL tools.  This was a great chance to talk with the vendors and explain to them what I was looking for and how their tools could help me.  The networking opportunities today were immense and amazing.  Tonight is #SQLKaraoke, stay tuned tomorrow for the updates!

Summit: Second 24 Hours

The second 24 hours in Seattle were even better than the first, if that is possible.  I knew #SQLFamily was amazing, but never realized the level of amazing.  After Redgate’s SQL in the City event, I attended the Andy Warren (b|t) and Steve Jones’ (b|t) networking event at Gordon Biersch.  All I can say is wow, it exceeded my expectations considerably and then some.  I expected a bunch of awkward table conversations as introverts struggled to network.  There were so many conversations and people circling the rooms and introducing themselves stopping at each table.  I met so many people and several of my twitter friends.  The #SQLFamily was so welcoming at this event, thank you Andy and Steve.

From there, several people decided to move onto Bush Garden for the first round of #SQLKaraoke.  It also far exceeded my expectations, but the place was much smaller than I imagined, but I had a blast.  Jason and Sarah Strate were great hosts and now I cannot wait for the next time #SQLKaraoke night on Wednesday so I can sing.

Until next time, enjoy!

 

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