I attended my very first SQL Saturday in April, 2010, when I traveled down to New York City for SQL Saturday #39. I’ve attended several more since then. I’ve lost track of how many I’ve attended, but they’ve always been a fun experience while learning things about SQL Server, and a great way to spend a day. Who needs to spend Saturday at the beach, the pool, or the ballpark, when you can spend it learning about technology?
It was on that New Y0rk City trip when I first met Dan Bowlin. Together, along with a third person, Joe Barth, we co-founded CASSUG (Capital Area SQL Server User Group), the Albany-area SQL user group. Since then, the group has grown considerably. I am not sure how many people are affiliated with the group, but roughly twenty people regularly attend our monthly meetings, and I know that there are many more who are members of the group. Our group has hosted its own SQL Saturdays — we will be hosting our third one this coming Saturday.
I’m not exactly sure when it was, but after attending a few more of these conferences, I knew that I wanted to contribute in some way, shape, or form. The question was, how? I am by no means an expert on SQL Server. Most SQL Saturday attendees are people who know a lot more about SQL Server than I do. So it was highly unlikely that I could develop a SQL Server-related topic that would be of interest to these database professionals.
As it turned out, SQL Saturday sessions talk about more than just SQL Server. While SQL Server is definitely the dominant topic at these daylong conferences, SQL Saturday also includes several topic tracks, as well as resources, that may be of interest to developers, general technologists, job seekers, and non-database professionals.
It was at one of our local user group meetings where an idea occurred to me. I’m not sure what sparked the idea, but I realized that there was a need for technologists to communicate their ideas and knowledge to people who didn’t understand technology — and I had enough experience doing exactly that to be able to lead such a session. I started jotting down some ideas. By the end of the meeting, I had enough material to create my own presentation.
When our user group adjourned for the evening, I ran my idea past some of my friends and colleagues. I asked them whether or not they thought my idea would make a viable SQL Saturday presentation topic. Every single one of them, to a person, answered yes. All of them told me that they thought it would make an excellent presentation topic.
So, I worked on my PowerPoint presentation slides and submitted my presentation to our next SQL Saturday. I figured that my hometown conference would be a good place to start. I submitted my presentation under the professional/personal development track. In order to prepare, I asked if I could present it at one of our user group meetings (which I did). It went very well, and I received some very positive feedback. It ended up being a good warm-up for my SQL Saturday presentation, which also went very well. Since then, I’ve made some tweaks which have resulted in a better presentation.
That was just a little over a year ago. This coming Saturday, I’ll be speaking at my fifth SQL Saturday, having spoken at other events around the Northeast United States. And I intend to do plenty more.
I wrote earlier about how user groups can be beneficial to your career and even your social life. If you’re interested in becoming a presenter, a user group is a good place to start.
So if you have an idea you want to present and some expertise you want to share, put a presentation together, try it out, and submit it. You can never tell where it might lead.