Upcoming speaking engagements (as of 8/22/2019)

Given this morning’s news, I figured it was as good a time as any to update my upcoming speaking calendar.

I am confirmed to be speaking at the following upcoming events:

So far, these are all I have on the docket.

Unfortunately, as much as I would like to go, I am unable to attend either Boston or Washington, DC this year because of schedule conflicts.

I did see save-the-dates for Philadelphia (May 2, 2020) and Virginia Beach (June 13, 2020), but those sites are not yet active (and may not be for a while).

I previously saw a save-the-date for Boston BI for March 28, but it is no longer on the calendar. And although it won’t be scheduled (or even discussed) for a while, Albany will likely be at the end of July next year.

So those are my latest speaking schedule updates. Stay tuned for more updates as they become available!

Advertisements

#SQLSaturday NYC — I’m speaking, I’m speaking, I’m speaking! #SQLSat912

Image result for manhattan skyline

The schedule for SQL Saturday #912 in New York City (Saturday, October 5) was released this morning, and I’m on it — not once, not twice, but three times!

I am scheduled to do the following three (!!!) presentations:

Looking at this schedule brings up a myriad of thoughts for me.

  • I don’t ever remember doing three presentations in a single day at any single event in my life. So I’m venturing into uncharted territory here!
  • Without fail, I absolutely love any SQL Saturday I attend! Also without fail, I am nearly always wiped out at the end of each one. I can only imagine how tired I’m going to be at the end of this one. At least I can sleep on the train ride home!
  • I purposely scheduled a late train home that night after the event so that I can get a decent dinner down in the City. I figure a couple of drinks during dinner might be in order that night!
  • My brother, who lives in Queens, has his birthday a few days before the event. I’m hoping to make it a birthday dinner for him that night!
  • To his credit, Thomas Grohser, who is one of the co-organizers for the event, emailed me asking if I was okay with doing three presentations. I sent him back a two-word reply: “challenge accepted!”
  • I was very happy to see that, as we requested, Matt Cushing and I have our networking sessions (titled Networking 101 and Networking 102, respectively) scheduled back-to-back! Go check out Matt’s session; it’s a good one!
  • If there’s any downside to doing three presentations, it’s that I likely won’t be able to attend other presentations that interest me. I do intend to attend Matt’s session (I need to keep my streak going, after all), and I’ll need to check the schedule to see what other sessions I want to attend (if I can).
  • Of all the SQL Saturdays I’ve ever attended, I’ve attended New York City the most often. For several years, including the first one I ever attended, I only attended NYC SQL Saturday. So for me, being chosen to selected to speak for NYC is special to me.
  • When I spoke here last year, I had an opportunity to get breakfast at Ellen’s Stardust Diner. It was right next to my hotel and right on my way to the Microsoft office (where SQL Saturday NYC is held). I managed to get there early enough to beat the tourist crowd. This year, I am once again staying in a nearby hotel (only a block away from where I stayed last year). I’m hoping to get there for breakfast again. Yes, I know it’s a tourist trap, but the singing wait staff is something else! You need to check it out at least once!

I can probably keep writing more thoughts, but at this point, work beckons! In any case, if you’re interested in attending NYC SQL Saturday on October 5, go to their web site and register for the event!

And come see me present — three times!

Mentoring — another way to pay it forward

This morning, I received my annual email from Syracuse University‘s College of Engineering and Computer Science regarding their mentoring program. I have participated in this for the last couple of years, and I have enjoyed it each time. As I’ve written before, paying it forward is a passion of mine, and I always look forward to this opportunity whenever it comes around. When I saw the email, I couldn’t fill the response form out fast enough.

The university suggests a job shadow program, where a student follows you around the workplace for a day during the university’s winter break. For me, a job shadow is unlikely, since I work in a data-secure office (I doubt that a student would really want to watch me sit at a desk all day long, anyway). In lieu of that, I’ve taken students out to dinner for the past couple of years. It gives me an opportunity to converse and network with students in a relaxed atmosphere. I always enjoy these opportunities; not only do I get a chance to share my experience and wisdom (to my friends reading this: don’t laugh!), I also get an opportunity to learn about what is happening at my alma mater through the students’ perspective, not to mention that hearing about students’ experiences is fascinating.

In addition to the job shadow, the department also implemented a new mentoring program this year. The program provides an opportunity for students to interact with alumni who occupy professional positions. It allows for a number of possible activities, including networking, job shadows, mock interviews, resume reviews, and so on.

I have always found this program to be a great experience. If you’re looking for a way to give something back to your professional community, consider being a mentor to those who have less experience than you do, whether it’s through a school program, your workplace, a professional user group, or whatever such opportunity presents itself. You might find it to be a rewarding experience.

This weekend: SQL Saturday, Providence, RI #sqlsat892

This weekend, I will be traveling out to Providence, RI for SQL Saturday #892! It will take place this Saturday, August 24, at New England Institute of Technology in East Greenwich, RI.

I will be doing my (still-relatively) brand-new presentation about ‘blogging! This is my third time speaking at Providence SQL Saturday, and my first time since December, 2017!

Come on out, check out my presentation (as well as a bunch of other good ones), do some networking, and have fun! See you on Saturday!

Where do I best fit in?

I play the piano for Sunday morning church services.  One particular day earlier this year, the choir director and his family were out, and the choir was shorthanded that day.  The cantor was also not there that morning.  We desperately needed someone to step up, and no one was willing to do it.

This is not to disparage the choir, which is made up of wonderful people; that is not the point.  Rather, it got me thinking: what is my role?

Most of the time, my primary role in this group is as accompanist.  However, I’m also the most musically accomplished person in the group, and as a member of a number of ensembles, I’m also probably the most experienced ensemble musician.  Often, when the choir director is not there, leadership duties often falls to me.  The director has, in the past, asked me to lead rehearsals when he is not there.  So I can probably say that my secondary role is backup choir director.

I regularly think about this when I play in the symphonic band as well.  Where do I fit in?  This is not an existential or philosophical question; rather, it serves a purpose: what is my part supposed to be, and how am I supposed to perform it so that it best serves what is required in the piece?  Band is a team sport, and each member has a role to play so that the group functions as a single unit.

The professional workplace environment is no different.  In any organization, all employees are pieces to a larger puzzle.  Each person serves a purpose (and sometimes, multiple purposes).

During my podcast recording a while back, one of the questions I was asked was, “what’s the best piece of professional advice you’ve gotten?”  My answer was something like, “play to your strengths.”  I’ll admit that, since the recording, I’ve come up with several other answers that I wish I’d given, but it’s that particular answer that I want to discuss in this article.

Let me start with an analogy (as the Yankee fan that I am, I’ll go with another baseball — and more specifically — a Yankees team analogy).  Brett Gardner (outfielder) is known for his baserunning, speed, defense, and gritty play.  Aaron Judge (another outfielder) and Gary Sanchez (catcher) are known for their power hitting and penchant for driving in runs.  DJ LeMahieu (infielder) has a penchant for hitting, getting on base, and playing solid defense.  Likewise, each relief pitcher has his strengths that are used for specific situations.  Each ballplayer on a team has a role to play.  Aaron Boone (manager) utilizes each player as to what they’re capable of doing and when to best make use of their strengths depending on each situation.

Everyone has their strengths and capabilities that add value to an organization.  For me, personally, those strengths include technical communication, writing, and design.  To a smaller extent, I am also capable of database work, object-oriented development, analysis, and design.  But my professional strengths are what enable me to come through in the clutch.  And if they are properly nurtured, they can help improve my other (often, lesser) skills as well.

I remember reading a Wall Street Journal interview with Dilbert creator Scott Adams (it was back in the early 1990s; unfortunately, I have not been able to find a link to the article) in which he said (and I’m paraphrasing here), “the best way to be valuable is to learn as much as you can about as many different things as you can.”

A while back, I did a self-assessment of my own skill set, and I made an effort to be honest with myself. While I’ve worked in technology my entire professional career, I discovered that my true strengths weren’t so much in application development — the career path I had been pursuing the entire time — but rather in technical writing and communication.

When I came to that realization, my focus changed. I started moving away from hardcore technical topics and toward subjects geared toward my strengths — technical writing, layout, design, UX/UI, communication, and so on.

This focus manifested itself in my SQL Saturday presentations and my ‘blog articles. While I have enough of a background to maintain a presence within the technical world, my focus is on soft topics that aren’t necessarily technology-related, but are of interest to technical professionals, anyway. Even now, when I do SQL Saturday presentations, I use this analogy to introduce myself: when it comes to my relationship with PASS and SQL Server, “I’m the professor at MIT who teaches English Lit.” This mindset has carried me all the way to a speaking gig at PASS Summit.

Over the course of time, and without even realizing that I was doing it, I’d established my brand. While my official title is still “developer,” this is more of a misnomer (although it can be argued, what am I developing?). I’ve become the technical writing and communications guy. And I’m okay with that.

As I get older and continue to advance in my career, I’ve come to terms with my role and where I best fit on the team. As long as I still play for and contribute to the team, I’m in a good place.

PASS Summit — Making the Most of PASS Summit 2019

Last week, the PASS Professional Development Virtual Group held a webinar about making the most of PASS Summit, led by two friends of mine, Paresh Motiwala and Grant Fritchey. Unfortunately, I missed the webinar when it aired, but they did record and post the webinar to YouTube. Paresh even gives me a shout-out during the presentation, at 6:30 in the recording! (Shameless plug: come check out my session!)

Although PASS Summit is a large conference based mainly (but not entirely) around data topics, it isn’t just about attending sessions. It’s also about networking, learning, and experience. During the hour-long webinar, Paresh and Grant provide tips on how to network, convincing your manager to let you attend (PASS even includes a letter that you can give your boss!), what to expect when you attend, whom you’ll meet, how to stretch your dollar (admittedly, PASS Summit is not cheap to attend), talking with vendors, and so on.

I’ll leave it to you check out the link and leave it to Paresh and Grant to compel you to attend PASS Summit. They do a great job with the webinar, and I encourage you to check it out. It is definitely worth the hour of your time. Watching the video makes me even more excited about attending! Maybe it might be enough to talk you into attending PASS Summit!

Hope to see you in Seattle in November!

PASS Summit — Getting the initial lay of the land

Now that the schedule for PASS Summit has been released, I can plan a little more. I now know that I will be speaking on Friday, November 8 (the last day of the conference) at 8 am. Mind you, that’s Pacific time. Hopefully, by that day, my body won’t be completely acclimated to the time change from the East Coast.

I also found out the room in which I will be speaking. I will be presenting in Room 400.

With that, I went to the Washington State Convention Center’s website and looked for a building map. I found a page that includes a virtual view of some (not all) of the areas within the building, as well as a downloadable map PDF (note: clicking this link automatically downloads the PDF to your drive). So if I’m reading the map correctly, it looks like my room is by the Skybridge Lobby, right around the corner from the elevators. Looks easy enough. One thing that was mildly disappointing for me is that the room appears to be smaller than I expected. From what I can gather, it doesn’t appear to be much larger than the lecture rooms at UAlbany (where our user group holds SQL Saturday). However, more people will be attending PASS Summit than SQL Saturday, so I’m hoping for more people in my room.

There are a number of fun activities around PASS Summit — it’s not just about attending sessions! As a first-time attendee, I signed up for the buddy program, which pairs first-timers with experienced attendees so that we don’t feel so lost! I understand that there are a number of other activities as well — including a morning SQL three mile run*, games nights, and karaoke nights. I’ll be paying attention to the activities page as we get closer to the date; it sounds like there’ll be a lot of fun stuff, and I don’t want to miss out!

(*Look, I may be a CrossFitter, but I still don’t enjoy running! My understanding is that it’s a “leisurely” morning run to get some exercise in; it’s not a race. We’ll see whether or not I decide to take part!)

I know that a number of friends will be attending; Matt Cushing, for one, told me that he would sign up to be a buddy for the buddy program. (I have mixed feeling about possibly getting assigned to him; on the one hand, at least I’d be paired with someone I know; on the other, there’s something to be said about making a new friend. After all, a major part about attending PASS Summit is networking!) I expect to see a number of friends whom I know from the SQL Saturday speaking circuit. Also, Ed Pollack, another friend and a colleague from my local user group, is also presenting. In any case, I should know enough people attending that I won’t feel totally alone!

One of the activities they do is something called Speaker Idol. If you just read that and thought “American Idol,” yes, it’s exactly what it is, only for SQL speakers. If you’re wondering how it might go, check out this YouTube link of last year’s winner! (Go ahead, check out the video! Trust me on this!)

And in case you’re wondering, no, I don’t intend to sign up for Speaker Idol (at least not this year)!

As I continue looking into preparing for this year’s upcoming PASS Summit, I find myself getting more excited about my trip out to Seattle in November. Less than three months to go!