Support your local artists

A little while ago, a friend of mine from high school sent me a message (along with a link) saying that his band was scheduled to perform a gig pretty much in my own backyard. I added his gig date to my calendar, and I will make the effort to attend.

I have to admit that I really haven’t done enough to go out and attend local concerts and gigs, unless it’s one in which I’m actually performing, and that’s a shame on my part. As a part-time musician myself, I can say firsthand that local musicians (and all artists — not just musicians) take their craft seriously, and they put a lot of time, effort, and soul into what they do. As such, these artists deserve to be recognized for their efforts, whether it’s by purchasing their art, sampling their wares, or attending their concerts and gigs.

Often, whenever my wife and I have an evening free, I’ll often ask her, “you want to do anything tonight?” Most of the time, that involves doing something for dinner. As a sports fan, I’ll sometimes look to see if one of the local teams is playing, and if I’m up for it, I’ll look into getting tickets. But as a musician, I don’t often look for any live music performances that interest me.

Whenever I’m performing, I’ll announce that I have a performance coming up — nearly always on Facebook, but sometimes also on Twitter and here on my ‘blog. I would hope that (at least) my friends would come out to support me and what I do. And whenever my friends tell me they’re performing somewhere, it’s only fair that I reciprocate. Part of it is “professional” courtesy, but mostly, my attendance sends a message that “I support what you do!”

As I get older, I’ve noticed that I’m somewhat less inclined to go out. I used to hit some jazz clubs when I was younger (I love listening to live jazz, among other things), but events like that have lessened as I’ve gotten older. Mostly, after a week of working or free days doing things around the house, by the time a Friday or Saturday evening rolls around, I’m “too tired to go out and do anything.” And that’s a cop-out on my end.

Some people won’t go to a concert unless it’s a big name. Hey, even I’ll admit that whenever my favorite band comes to town, I have to attend. That’s okay. But there’s also likely a number of local artists who also deserve your attention, and a lot of them happen to be pretty good! Not only that, but chances are the price of admission is likely to be a lot less than a ticket to see your favorite nationally-known artist.

Think of it this way — if you like to travel, you’ll likely buy souvenirs that are unique to that area. Sometimes, the wares are pieces of art that are indigenous to wherever you’re visiting. In doing so, you’re supporting lesser-known local artists. So why not do the same in your own hometown?

So whenever I ask my wife (or any friends) if they’re interested in doing something, I’ll make sure I check the local arts calendar to see who’s performing or exhibiting. It makes for good, inexpensive local entertainment, not to mention that you’ll be supporting your local artists, you’ll get a taste of your own local culture, and you’ll likely have a great time in doing so!

(P.S. I put my friend’s gig date in my calendar, and I’ll try to bring some friends along with me!)

#PASSDataCommunitySummit 2021 — the debrief

PASS Data Community Summit 2021 is in the books (the last day was Friday). It was fun, educational, and tiring (as many conferences are). And now that I’ve had the weekend to recover (I think!), I can write up my impressions of the conference.

This year, the conference was entirely virtual — and free! This enabled many people who likely could not attend previous conferences to attend this year, and I believe it was reflected this year; although I don’t know the exact attendance numbers, I believe there were thousands more attendees this year. This morning, I checked my speaker’s portal, and at last count, 124 people had viewed my session. I should note that that figure includes people who watched my session replay, as well as those who attended live, so that number could go up. Speaking of which, if you registered for the Summit, you can continue to watch most session replays for another six months. (I’m not entirely sure what happens after six months; presumably, you won’t be able to see them on the Summit page, but there’s a possibility that they might be viewable on PASS’s YouTube site. And if you happen to check it out, my own Summit intro video is even on the site!)

The committee who organized this year’s Summit did a fantastic job of putting together a successful event! Here are some of my takeaways from this year’s Summit.

  • I have a new favorite online meeting app! Check out Spatial Chat! The PASS Community Zone made use of this technology (and I was told that Redgate uses this application in their office environment as well). Many of us have gotten fatigued by the same-old, same-old Zoom, Google Meet, and other similar applications. Spatial Chat, however, is a game-changer. It simulates the experience of actually being in a room — for example, the closer you are to someone’s avatar, the better you can hear that person — just like standing adjacent (or at a distance) from an actual person. It allows creating separate virtual rooms and customized backgrounds (many people “sat” in “chairs” that made up the background; it also provided a guide for areas within a room where people could congregate).

    I was amazed at the tool’s ability to host a large number of people within simulated virtual rooms without any noticeable degradation in video or audio.

    I even set up my own Spatial Chat using the free version of the app (the free version allows you to create up to three rooms and up to 50 meeting participants). I intend to use this application whenever I have a need to hold an online meeting, or even if I want to hold a “virtual party.” If you’re interested in checking this tool out, go to Spatial Chat’s website, use the free version, invite a few people to join you in a meeting, and take it for a spin!

    Of course, I would much prefer an in-person conference, but this tool made me miss the experience of an in-person event a little less!
  • There were many chances to network! Networking is a big part of any conference. Spatial Chat, along with my presentation, allowed me opportunities to do so (and Spatial Chat made it even easier). My LinkedIn contact list definitely got bigger over the course of this conference!
  • Missed a presentation you wanted to see? Not to worry! You can probably watch it later! I didn’t make it to as many presentations I would’ve liked. That said, it wasn’t too much of an issue. Registered participants can go back to watch whatever sessions they want for up to six months. (I’m not sure what happens after six months; I’m hoping to be able to continue watching them on PASS’s YouTube site, but we’ll see what happens.) There are a number of sessions that interested me, and I intend to go back to check them out later.

    That said, I couldn’t go back to rewatch all the sessions (more on that below).
  • I had a great audience for my presentation! My job hunt presentation is, in my opinion, one of my better presentations, and I feel like it went well — definitely much better than my first two times speaking at Summit. (I guess the third time’s a charm.) I had a number of good (and even interesting) questions, which told me that my audience was engaged and interested.

Of course, like any event, the Summit wasn’t perfect (no event ever is). Here are a few things that I think would’ve made Summit 2021 even better.

  • Spatial Chat should’ve had a room (or two) for the Exhibitor Hall. This was one thing that I found disappointing. As is the case for other large conferences, PASS Data Community Summit had pages for exhibitors and vendors. But in order to get to them, you had to go back to the attendee dashboard and click the links for the Expo Hall. To me, that took away from the experience; it made for additional links to open, and it was another step you had to take.

    In an actual in-person conference, you have to physically walk to the exhibitor hall. Spatial Chat has the ability to simulate that experience, and I was very surprised that a room wasn’t set aside for the vendor exhibition, where people could’ve easily attended and walked in from the Community Zone. I thought this would’ve been a natural setup for exhibitors, and I was very surprised that it was not set up this way.
  • The Community Zone wasn’t “open all night” (or even “open late”). I will confess that I became somewhat addicted to Spatial Chat; it gave me the opportunity to reconnect with #SQLFamily friends whom I don’t often have the opportunity to see. The trouble was that it shut down every night at 6:30 pm EST. In their defense, PASS organizers said they had to do so for legal reasons, ostensibly to ensure that the conference code-of-conduct was enforced. But there were attendees from all over the world and in different time zones, and I’m sure they could’ve gotten more volunteers to stay online so the code-of-conduct rule could be satisfied.

    Speaking of time zones…
  • PASS Data Community Summit was a great event to attend — if you were on the East Coast of the US. In this respect, I was lucky, because I am on the East Coast of the US. The Summit schedule was very conducive for anyone in the Eastern time zone. But if you were in other time zones — especially in other geographic regions such as Europe or Asia, it wasn’t as convenient. I remember talking to at least one person located in Australia, and he mentioned that it was 5 am where he was located. It was nearly impossible for those people to attend many sessions, many of which took place while they were asleep. It also prevented people from interacting with other attendees. Networking, after all, is a major part of conferences.
  • Most sessions are replayable — but not all. I mentioned above that I can go back and rewatch most of the conference sessions that I missed. Most, but not all. There were several Q&A sessions that I found interesting, but unlike other presentations, the Q&A sessions can not be replayed. I realize that you can’t interact with a recorded Q&A session, but in many cases, the discussions that did take place were good dialogue, and I would’ve liked to go back to them, or even check out sessions that I missed.
  • I would’ve liked a better way to engage with my audience. Anyone who’s seen my presentations know that I like to get my audience involved. I like doing interactive presentations. I feel that they keep my audience engaged and interested. When my session was scheduled, it was scheduled as a pre-recorded session (i.e. I recorded my session in advance, my presentation was uploaded, and people would see my recorded session).

    After my experience with last year’s Summit, I found that I had an aversion to pre-recorded sessions. Since my last in-person SQL Saturday, I’ve spoken at many virtual conferences, and have never had a problem with any of them. I know that there’s a concern with problems during a live session, but personally, it’s never happened to me. This is not to say that I’ll never have a problem (hey, it happens!), but I feel comfortable enough with my session that I would much prefer to do it live. I think every session slot should’ve had an option of live or pre-recorded, not just a select few (in fact, I thought at first that that was how it was done, but that turned out to not be the case).

    Additionally, when I did my presentation, I had no direct interaction with my audience. I presented via Zoom while the audience viewed it on another platform, and while my audience could see (and hear) my presentation, there was no direct way for us to interact. People would post questions to a chat, and the session moderator would relay those questions to me. As I said, I prefer interactive sessions. Fortunately, this particular presentation didn’t require a lot of audience interaction, but if I did do one, it likely would’ve been problematic.

Looking at what I just wrote, I realize that I wrote more about issues than what I liked. This is not to take away from this year’s Summit experience. Overall, I thought Summit was very well done, and I’m very glad that I had a chance to participate. A lot of hard work went into putting together the 2021 PASS Data Community Summit. Many kudos to the people who organized Summit this year!

PASS Data Community Summit 2021 exceeded my expectations! I hope that I am able to attend next year’s Summit, which will be a hybrid event. If the 2022 Summit goes as well as the 2021 virtual Summit, it will be a great event!

#PASSDataCommunitySummit, day 1 #SQLFamily

PASS Data Community Summit is here!

I spent my morning getting my online profile and schedules set up, and trying to figure out how this online portal thing works! I’m also working on building my schedule. There are several sessions that interest me, but I need to pick and choose, since some of them conflict.

I also need to make sure that my own session is on the schedule! I don’t want to miss my own presentation!

I’m multitasking as I go through this. I did not take time off from work for the virtual conference (I did block out time to do my own presentation), and I will likely have the Summit sessions on in the background as I work.

I will be floating around the various online community rooms, so if you see me online, feel free to chat me up! I’ve already spoken with Andy Levy and Grant Fritchey this morning, and Steve Jones posted that he would be in the SQL Saturday room, so I will make it a point to visit him as well!

It’s not too late to register, if you want to attend! Just use the above link!

See you around the Summit!

#PASSDataCommunitySummit is here! (And I’m speaking!)

It’s here! PASS Data Community Summit starts today!

This is my third straight year speaking at PASS Data Community Summit (or its equivalent), and I look forward to this event each year! This is an event that has become near and dear to my heart, and I try to attend whenever I have the opportunity.

Today and tomorrow (Nov. 8-9) are the pre-con sessions. Unlike the Wed-Fri conference sessions, there is a fee for attending pre-cons. And while I, personally, am not attending the pre-con sessions, I can tell you that they are led by many world-class speakers. Check out their schedule, and if you see any sessions that interest you, they are well worth your time (and your money) to attend!

The rest of the conference (Nov. 10-12) is free to attend this year! There are a number of great sessions presented by many wonderful speakers! Again, if you see any sessions that interest you, I encourage you to check them out!

And, of course, I need to include a plug for myself! As I mentioned, this is the third straight year that I am speaking for this event. My session is titled: “I lost my job! Now what?!? A survival guide for the unemployed.” If you are out of work (or even if you’re looking for employment), this session offers tips on how to survive a jobless situation. I am scheduled to speak on Thursday at 9:30 am EST. Hope to see you there!

There are also opportunities for networking as well! You can speak with vendors, speakers, and other attendees. I encourage you to check out things like the Community Zone and the Expo Lounge.

It isn’t too late to register for this year’s free online PASS Data Community Summit! Just use the link to register and attend this great conference!

See you at Summit!

A few tips for #networking

Last month, I got an email from my alma mater about a new networking forum that they developed (if you’re a Syracuse University engineering or computer science alumnus or student, check it out). I signed up for it, and I’ve been fairly active on it, posting about some of my own activities and dispensing my thoughts to students asking alumni about career advice.

I have a presentation that I do about networking, and it’s one of my more popular presentations. Indeed, networking is likely one of the most critical business skills to develop in today’s environment, even if you’re not looking for a job.

With that, I wanted to write a few tips for people who are looking to get better at networking.

Learn how to break the ice

Initiating contact is probably one of the most difficult of aspects of networking. But it is not impossible, even if you’re introverted. It might require you stepping out of your comfort zone. However, it doesn’t mean you need to go through great pains or effort to do so. It could be as simple as saying “hi” or smiling at someone. It could involve asking a question. It could be a discussion about your current event. There are a number of different ways to break the ice.

One of those ways to break the ice is…

Your clothes can be a conversation piece

I wear my heart on my sleeve — literally. I commonly wear clothing that’s representative of my sports teams, my alma mater, my fraternity, organizations that are close or important to me, and so on. When I attended PASS Summit in Seattle, a number of people stopped me and told me they were from such-and-such town, or identified themselves as fellow fraternity brothers, or even said “how about those (name of favorite team)?” This all came about because of what I was wearing. Even one of my friends once posted on my Facebook, “Ray is always reppin’!”

If you’re attending an event, be cognizant of what you wear; it can be enough to break the ice.

Any time you interact with someone is a networking opportunity

If you’re looking to interact with people with similar interests, attending events — user group meetings, conferences, etc. — is the most obvious place to do so. But what about places that are not so obvious? Examples include your book club, your gym, your church group, your extracurricular activities, your workplace, and so on.

I’ve had conversations with people in my CrossFit gym and discovered that they work in similar industries to mine. I’ve even gotten them involved in events such as my local user group and PASS Summit.

Bottom line: any time you interact with other people is an opportunity to network.

It doesn’t even have to be in-person. Keep in mind that…

Online networking is still networking

Do you have, say, 100+ friends to whom your connected over Facebook (or your favorite social media of choice)?

Guess what? That’s a network!

I once spoke with a friend about networking, and I suggested tapping into her Facebook feed. It never even occurred to her to use Facebook for that purpose. I said, “why not? You have a bunch of friends with whom you’re connected. They might have leads or information that might be helpful to you professionally. Tap into that!”

I once landed a job through one of my Facebook friends. I posted that my previous employer had let me go, and I was seeking new employment. One of my friends direct-messaged me, saying “I might have something for you. Let’s talk.” We got the ball rolling, and sure enough, I ended up working for my friend!

If you have an established online social network, don’t be afraid to tap into that. Your online network doesn’t have to be strictly social; you can use it for professional purposes as well.

You don’t have to be friends to be networked

Ideally, you’d want to be friends with your networking contacts. The stronger the relationship between you and your contacts, the stronger your network will be.

That said, you don’t have to be buddies with your networking contacts. Being acquainted is just fine. I’ve connected to a number of people whom I probably wouldn’t know if I bumped into them on the street. All that matters is that you’ve established some kind of relationship with the other person.

Speaking of relationships…

“Connected” does NOT mean “networked”

I once had this happen to me after a weekend where I spoke at a SQL Saturday. I won’t rehash the details here; go ahead and read my article.

In my honest opinion, in order to have a network, you need to have some kind of relationship. Networking is a two-way street, where each side can assist the other. It doesn’t have to be anything big; it can be as simple as “so-and-so is looking for a job, and I’m forwarding his/her post as to what (s)he wants,” or even “I saw you’re looking for help with such-and-such; maybe this will help.” To me, “I think you’re cool and I want to connect with you” is NOT a good reason to network. Hey, I like Derek Jeter, but just because I’m following him doesn’t mean he’s part of my network.

Always have a way to continue the conversation

Let’s say you just met someone whom you either admire or can help you professionally. You talk for a while, end with “nice meeting you,” shake hands, and move on.

Did you create a networking contact? My answer is no.

In this scenario, you did not include a way to continue the conversation. In all likelihood, (s)he won’t even remember your name hours after you parted ways. That does nothing to build your network.

There are a number of ways you can do this. A couple of ways I’d recommend are…

Have business cards

I have my own business cards that I use for networking purposes. I used my own creativity in designing them so that they’d be eye-catching, a conversation piece, and a way for me to be remembered. Of course, they also include my contact info so that we can continue our conversation.

In a face-to-face encounter, I consider business cards to be one of the most important networking tools you can have. Why?

Consider this scenario: you’ve just finished a conversation and want to talk later. One of you says, “let me find a piece of paper to write down your email.” However, you have neither a pen or a piece of paper available. Neither of you wants to take the effort to enter the other’s contact info in your phones.

Hmmm. If only there was a way to easily exchange contact info.

Hey! Business cards!

Always have business cards available to distribute. You’ll instantly be able to provide your contact info and continue your conversation.

LinkedIn is your friend

In my honest opinion, if business cards are your most important networking tool, LinkedIn might come in second.

Professionals take LinkedIn seriously. I’ve even seen spaces for LinkedIn addresses on employment applications, which, to me, indicates that businesses take LinkedIn seriously.

A LinkedIn profile does a number of things. Like business cards, it provides a way to continue your conversation. It serves as your online resume. It provides an avenue for you to post about your accomplishments and thoughts. It is an important tool for professionals. In my opinion, if you’re serious about networking, you absolutely must have a LinkedIn account.


These are just a few ways in which you can hone your networking skills; there are many others that I haven’t even touched upon. (You can learn more if you attend my networking presentation! </plug>) We do not live in a vacuum, and no (wo)man is an island. These days, maintaining a strong network is vital for your professional health, and a way to ensure that you will be successful in your career.

November Monthly CASSUG Meeting

Our November meeting will again be online. NOTE: you MUST RSVP to this Meetup at https://www.meetup.com/Capital-Area-SQL-Server-User-Group/events/281817530/ to view the Zoom URL!

Our November speaker is Pamela Mooney!

Topic: Code Smells – How to Keep Your Code From Stinking

Maybe you’ve had some experience writing SQL, but no one’s ever told you what not to do. Or maybe you’re aware of some bad habits to avoid when writing SQL, but no one has ever shown you why a bad practice can hurt your query – or SQL Server. Perhaps you feel a little more confident with your TSQL, but don’t understand why your queries aren’t running as quickly as you would like.

Bad SQL coding practices are known in the SQL community as “code smells”. We will work with me through five common coding mistakes that can make performance stink. By the time we’re done, you’ll have a better idea of how to freshen up some problem queries.

About Pamela:

Pamela Mooney is a Senior Analyst with NISA Investment Advisors, LLC. he road to IT was a long and winding one for her, but she fell in love with SQL Server and knew that she wanted to be a DBA after her first database class in college. She was fortunate enough to be hired in as a junior DBA straight out of school, and never looked back. She is now a senior DBA who loves to mentor and teach – as well as to continue to learn. A one-time, part-time professional musician and songwriter, she has a medical background and am a passionate history nerd. In my spare time, she likes to hike, bike, read, go to the Ren Faire, write, and talk to you.

Our online meeting schedule is as follows:

  • 6:00: General chat, discussion, and announcements
  • 6:30: Presentation

We usually wrap up between 7:30 PM and 8:00 PM.

Please RSVP to this Meetup, then use the online event URL to join (note: you MUST RSVP for the URL to be visible). We will send out a meeting password as we get closer to the event.
Thanks to our sponsor, Datto, for making this event possible!