Speakers Are Normal People

This is a great post by Steve Jones. I have made a lot of great friends through my association with SQL Saturday and PASS. I can tell you firsthand that #SQLFamily is real!

Voice of the DBA

The #SQLFamily is amazing, at least I think it is. Like many families, it’s welcoming, supportive, and comforting. It’s also maddening, frustrating, and exacerbating at times. Like most families, or at least the ones I know, it’s not perfect, but it’s what we have and at the end of the day, most of us get along with each other.

It’s also an open group of people. In general, we welcome people with open arms and smiles. Those of us that are more visible or prominent are willing to listen to, help, and support anyone. I was overjoyed during the recent PASS Data Community Summit, where I had the chance to see so many people that I haven’t seen in person in 2-3 years. I met many other interesting people for the first time and enjoyed the experience.

Not everyone feels the same way. I loved seeing Kimberly Tripp and Paul…

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Support your local public library

I remember when I was a kid, Tuesday was my favorite day of the week. That was because that was library day. One of my parents would take me and my siblings to the local public library where we would check out books and magazines, take them home to read, and bring them back next week to do it over again. Back in those days, you were only allowed to keep books for a week (unless, of course, you renewed them).

Now that I’m much older, I still enjoy going to the library, although I don’t go as much as I used to (usually, time commitments keep me from going as much as I’d like). Nevertheless, I have a library card, and I enjoy going whenever I have the chance.

I was thinking about this earlier this evening while I was researching meeting venues. There are plenty of them that charge an arm and a leg, but why do that if a local library has meeting facilities? (I was also considering firehouses — which usually has meeting space — as well, but that’s another post for another time.)

The library is a great place. Not only can you check out books, you can also check out music, do some research (this was especially true in the days before the internet), attend talks and other events, and maybe even meet people. It’s a great public resource, and it’s free (assuming you don’t have to pay any overdue fees)! If a person doesn’t have access to a computer or the internet, (s)he can usually book computer time at a library.

I really think the public library is an underutilized resource these days, especially with the advent of electronic and online resources. Even when I’m giving my presentations, one resource that I nearly always cite is to “go check out your local library.” It’s a neat place to hang out, and there’s always something to be said about wandering around stacks of books. Even in this day and age of the internet and online resources, your local public library is still relevant.

New old presentations

As I mentioned earlier, I have a few speaking gigs coming up, including one in Hartford, CT in March. I’m actually doing two presentations for Hartford: my job hunt presentation (which seems to be one of my best sellers; I’ve done this presentation several times, and I will also be doing it for STC Summit), and my presentation on technical writing. So, I downloaded the WE Local PowerPoint templates from their speaker’s resource page so that I could apply them to my presentations.

I haven’t yet applied it to my job search presentation. To be honest, I’m not terribly worried about it. It’s mainly a matter of transferring my material to the new template, so it shouldn’t be a big deal.

The tech writing one, however, was another story. When I looked at my slides, I realized just how much it needed to be overhauled. It wasn’t very well organized, it was out of date, and I’ve grown considerably in my profession since I last gave that presentation (the last time I presented it was in New York in 2019). The presentation badly needed to be rewritten. So I spent my entire afternoon this past Sunday putting it into the WE Local template.

When I was finished, what I had was practically (though not exactly) a brand-new presentation. It is better organized, more clear, and I included points that I did not address before I restructured it. I think the new (old?) presentation is much better than it was. Not only am I looking forward to giving it in a couple of months, I’m also looking forward to submitting it to more events.

Likewise, I also plan to revamp my presentation about — well — presenting. I’ve only given this presentation once, and quite frankly, not only is it not very good, it’s also narrowly focused, and like my old tech writing presentation, it’s also not very well organized. Although I haven’t started yet, I essentially plan to pull a This Old House on it, completely tearing it down, and rebuilding it. I already have an idea in the back of my head as to how I’m going to do it, and I’ve already rebranded it (in fact, I even submitted it to SQL Saturday NYC in May).

I’ve been trying to come up with new presentation ideas. I’ve mentioned to people that I’ve reached the point where I’m starting to recycle submissions to PASS Summit and other conferences. I might still work on some new ones (stay tuned). But in the meantime, it’s worth my time to take some of my older presentations and give them new life.

The zen of the New Year

Why do we celebrate the New Year? All it is, after all, is a turn of a calendar, when December rolls into January. January 1 isn’t much different than December 31. So what’s the big deal?

As I write this, it’s January 3, three days into 2023. I’m glad 2022 is behind me, as it was a very trying year (as I mentioned earlier), and I’m looking forward to what 2023 has in store. I already have two speaking engagements lined up, and I’m sure I’ll have more fairly soon. I’m getting ready to go back to work (even as I write this, I’m getting ready to head into the office), and I feel like it’s a fresh start.

That’s what it’s all about. Any issues you dealt with in the past year is now in the rearview mirror, and you’re starting with a fresh slate, sure as you go to bed at night and wake up refreshed the next day. A new year might not, on reflection, seem like a “new year,” but at the same time, it’s a reawakening from a busy period of time.

So as most of us return to work on this third day of 2023, let’s make it better than last year!

January Monthly CASSUG Meeting — @CASSUG_Albany #SQLUserGroup #Networking

Greetings, data enthusiasts, and welcome to 2023!

Our January meeting is scheduled for Monday, January 9, at 5:30 pm! We will meet in person at Datto, 33 Tech Valley Drive, East Greenbush, NY.

For more information and to RSVP, go to our Meetup event page at https://www.meetup.com/capital-area-sql-server-user-group/events/290677447/

Our meeting schedule is usually as follows:

  • 5:30 PM: Food, soft drinks, and networking
  • 6:15 PM: Chapter news and announcements
  • 6:30 PM: Presentation

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

Thanks to Datto for sponsoring our event!

Our guest speaker for the month is Taiob Ali!

Topic: What the heck is a checkpoint, and why should I care?
An 8K page is the fundamental unit of data storage in SQL Server. SQL Server performs every data modification operation in memory (buffer pool) for performance reasons and does not immediately write it back to disk.

This is where checkpoint comes into play. The Database Engine periodically issues a checkpoint on each database. A checkpoint writes the current in-memory modified pages (known as dirty pages) and transaction log information from memory to disk. It also records this information in the transaction log.

This session will explain why you should care and know about the checkpoint process and the different checkpoints that SQL Server does. I will show you exactly what happens during a checkpoint, how you can influence the interval of checkpoints, and changes made with checkpoint settings in SQL 2014 and SQL 2016+.

Taiob Ali

Taiob Ali, Microsoft Data Platform MVP, is an accomplished technical leader with a proven record of success. During his last 17 years, he has worked with the Microsoft Data Platform and MongoDB, both on-premises and cloud. His experience includes all three major business sectors: finance, e-commerce, and healthcare.

Taiob is currently working at “GMO LLC” as a Database Solutions Manager, focusing on cloud migration, automation, improving, and streamlining operational workflow. He is a regular speaker at local and virtual chapters, Data Saturdays, and Azure conferences. He is a board member of the New England SQL Server User Group, founder of ‘Database Professionals Virtual Meetup Group’, and organizer of Boston SQL Saturday.

Upcoming speaking engagements (as of 12/27/2022) #SQLSaturday #WELocal #SWELocal #STCSummit

With only four days left in 2022, I don’t have any more speaking engagements in 2022. I do, however, have a couple lined up for 2023! Besides, it’s been a while since I posted one of these updates…

I am confirmed to speak at the following events.

  • March 3-4, 2023, Hartford, CT: WE Local Conference: I will be speaking at a conference hosted by the Society of Women Engineers in early March. This will be my second time speaking at this conference; I also spoke at this same conference in Buffalo last year. For this conference, I will be giving not one but two presentations: “Tech Writing for Techies,” an introduction to technical writing to technical people who don’t get tech writing, and “I lost my job! Now what?!?,” my presentation about the job hunt and surviving an unemployment situation.

    My job hunt presentation seems to be pretty popular, because I will be giving this same presentation at…
  • May 16, 2023, Atlanta, GA: STC Summit: This is a large national conference that takes place May 14-17. I am scheduled to speak on the 16th! I am especially excited about this conference, because I have been involved with STC for a little while, I’ve been wanting to get more involved with them, and speaking at STC Summit has been on my bucket list. I can now check that off my list! I’m also excited because Atlanta is a brand-new city for me. I have never been to Atlanta (other than changing planes at the airport, which doesn’t count)!

There are also a couple of SQL Saturdays to which I intend to submit. As of right now, neither of them is open yet for submissions, but I plan to submit to them once they’re open.

  • May 6, 2023, New York, NY: SQL Saturday #1048, NYC: I pretty much attend NYC SQL Saturday every year (in fact, NYC was the first SQL Saturday I ever attended, way back in 2010), so I will likely be there, regardless of whether or not any of my presentations are selected.
  • October 14, 2023, Burlington, MA: SQL Saturday Boston: The site for this event isn’t up yet; right now, it’s only a “save-the-date” on the SQL Saturday website. Nevertheless, I’ve attended Boston SQL Saturday a number of times, and I’ve become close with the folks out in Boston, so I will definitely submit when this one opens. That said, October is a long way away, so I’m hoping I don’t have any conflicts with that date!

So that’s what I have on my presentation calendar for next year. Hopefully, I’ll see you at an event near you!

Happy holidays, winding down 2022, and what’s in store next

As I write this, it’s the day after Christmas, 2022. Hopefully, those of you who are reading this had a wonderful holiday season. I hope you had a great Christmas, Hannukah, Kwanzaa, Festivus, or whatever your holiday celebration of choice is! For me, personally, Santa didn’t leave me much, but honestly, the older I get, the less important tangible Christmas gifts get. I got to spend quality time with my wife and my (now-13-year-old — !!!) niece, and that was the best Christmas present I could’ve asked for.

Now that 2022 is almost over, a lot of people spend time reflecting upon the past year, and trying to figure out what the new year will bring. I am no different, and I have to say that it has been a very eventful 2022.

I won’t get too much into it, as I try to avoid writing about things that are too personal in my very public ‘blog, but I will mention that 2022 was a very trying year. I had to deal with family issues this past August, which included one parent’s death and the other parent facing twilight years of life. (As I write this, the latter is still an issue and is ongoing.) Around the same time, we also dealt with the deaths of one of our beloved pets and a couple of friends of mine from college. To say that this made 2022 a very trying year is probably an understatement. All I could think about is a quote from the fourth Indiana Jones movie: “We seem to have reached the age where life stops giving us things and starts taking them away.” Professionally, I lost a job, got another one, and nearly lost the second one (disclosure: I managed to pull myself out, and am still employed there as I write this). I will not get into any details about the second one, except to say that I discovered something very personal about myself, and although it wasn’t directly related to the other personal issues that I just wrote about, those issues did nothing to help my situation.

What I will mention is that my personal issue was the fodder behind the article I wrote about taking care of yourself.

But enough about the crap that I had to deal with in 2022. Let’s talk about the good things that happened.

I did experience a lot of good things this year. Let’s start with my speaking schedule. Although things are still picking up after the pandemic, I did make it to speak at four in-person events this year, including a new one that had nothing to do with PASS, and my fourth consecutive time speaking at PASS Data Community Summit (or its equivalent).

I still shake my head that I’ve spoken at four straight PASS Summits. I don’t consider myself a SQL expert; as I often say, although I do have SQL experience, my knowledge of SQL falls under the category of “knows enough to be dangerous.” But I’ve been picked to speak there four times, so I must be doing something right!

I think the sentiment of speaking at events like these was best summed up by this tweet from a first-time speaker during PASS Summit.

Not all my 2022 successes were professional. I got to play several gigs with my rock band. I spent some time accompanying a local musical. My alma mater’s football team went 7-5 and is heading to a bowl game. And I got to attend countless events that allowed me to connect (or, in some cases, reconnect) with friends and family. While I did deal with a lot of issues in 2022, I’m happy to say that I’m definitely on the upswing.

That brings me to what’s next moving forward. I’ve received word that I’ve been invited to speak at two more events: another WE Local conference, and at STC Summit! I’m especially excited about the latter, because I’ve been a member of STC for a little while, and speaking at STC Summit has been a bucket list item for me. I also saw save-the-date entries for SQL Saturday as well (including one in NYC that my friend, Thomas Grohser told me about when I was in Seattle last month), so there will likely be more opportunities for me to speak as well. There are also numerous opportunities that are crossing my path. I won’t write about them all now, partially because none of them are in stone, but mostly because there are a lot of them, and I don’t remember them all! So I have a lot to look forward to in 2023 and beyond.

So, that pretty much sums up my reflections. I hope to be doing more as my issues are farther in my rearview mirror, and my upswing continues! Stay tuned for my exploits in 2023, and I hope all of you are on a similar track!

Speaking at #WELocal, Hartford, CT, March 3-4 @SWETalk #SWELocal

Today, I received word that I had not one, but two presentations accepted for the WE Local conference in Hartford, CT in March! This will be my second time speaking for this conference; I spoke at the WE Local Conference in Buffalo last year.

I would’ve been happy if just one submission was accepted, but for this conference, they selected two!

I’ll be doing my presentation about the job hunt titled: “I lost my job! Now what?!?” about surviving an unemployment situation. This is the same presentation that I’ll be doing at STC Summit in Atlanta in May.

I’ll also be doing my session about technical writing, titled: “Tech Writing for Techies: A Primer.” This presentation is intended to raise awareness of technical writing — which I’ve often referred to as “the Rodney Dangerfield of technical professions” — to a technical audience.

This should be a fun conference! It’s the second time I’ve presented for the Society of Women Engineers. It’s an opportunity to bring my sessions to new audiences, new professions (engineers, rather than data people), and a new town (although I’m no stranger to Hartford, CT, this is my first time speaking there). I’m very much looking forward to this event!

See you next March in Connecticut!

Speaking at another Summit! @stc_summit #STCSummit

The weekend before I left for PASS Summit, I received an exciting piece of news!

I learned that I have been selected to speak at the 2023 STC Summit in Atlanta, GA! STC Summit takes place May 14-17, 2023!

I am excited about this event for a number of reasons. First, it’s my first Summit experience unrelated to PASS. Second, it’s for STC, which is an organization with which I’ve been involved, off and on, for a number of years, and is actually more closely related to what I do. Third, I’ve been trying to become more involved with STC, which includes speaking at events, Fourth, I have never been to Atlanta (other than changing planes at the airport, which doesn’t count), so I will be experiencing a new city. And finally, it’s an opportunity to network with a new group of people, specifically a group of peers who are more closely related to my profession!

The presentation they selected is my session about job-hunting and unemployment, titled: “I lost my job! Now what?!?” In spite of the relatively pessimistic topic, this is actually (I think) one of my better presentations, and I’ve used it to (hopefully) help many people out as they seek new employment.

I’ve been wanting to get more involved with STC for a while, and getting an opportunity to speak at STC Summit has been a bucket list item for me, so this is a pretty big deal for me! I’m excited about the prospect of presenting to a new audience and to network with a group of my peers!

We’ll see you in Atlanta next May!

#PASSDataCommunitySummit — the last days, and the journey home

Well, on Friday evening, I watched workers take down booths and banners from the Seattle Convention Center, as PASS Data Community Summit 2022 came to an end. The circus had ended, and the tents were coming down.

I flew home Saturday afternoon/evening/night, so I’ve actually been home for a few days (I needed to recover from my trip, and life happens — what can I tell you?), so I’m writing this a few days later than I’d like. Nevertheless, it was fun and exciting, and since I’ve written about the first couple of days of Summit, it’s only fair that I wind it up!

Let me tell you about what happened since I last wrote. I mentioned that I was going to sit in on Kris Gruttemeyer‘s session about being on-call and work-life balance. Quite honestly, I thought his session was the best one that I saw all week. He focused on on-call personnel — as he put it, “being on call sucks. How do we make it suck less?” But in my opinion, his session was for more than people who were on-call. It applied to anyone to has been stressed about their job situation — which means a lot of us, myself included. I think his session is one that can benefit all of us — even those of you who are not technical — so when recordings of the sessions become available, I’ll make sure that I link to it.

I also moderated a session as well. This year’s Summit was actually a hybrid event — that is, it was both online and in-person. A number of sessions were not only being presented live, they were also live-streamed as well, and they required moderators to coordinate questions with the speaker. (Sessions that were not live-streamed did not require a moderator.) So I got to field questions from both online and the live audience, and I also passed along time warnings (per the speaker’s request) as to how much longer he had to speak. It was an interesting experience, and if you ever want to experience a presentation from another angle, it’s one I suggest that people do at least once!

I mentioned two other presentations from the day before. I attended Eugene Meidinger‘s session on dealing with depression. You could tell that this was a deeply personal presentation for Eugene, and I appreciate him presenting it. There is a stigma attached to mental health, yet it’s something that we all have to deal with. I’m of the opinion that all of us should have a mental health primary care provider with whom we should meet regularly, but that’s another conversation for another time.

I also sat in on a session on how to speak to developers. As a technical writer, it was something that immediately caught my eye, but it wasn’t really what I expected. A lot of his talk showed SQL code and explained, “this is what developers expect” or something to that effect. I was hoping to hear more about techniques when DBAs communicate with developers, but that wasn’t what I got, and I’ll admit that I was a little disappointed with the presentation.

My favorite part of Summit is reconnecting with #SQLFamily! I started speaking at SQL Saturday in 2015, and since then, I’ve met a lot of awesome people, many of whom have become some of my closest friends! I even made a few new friends while I was there. When I left, I had a few new contacts on LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook that I didn’t previously have! The highlights of the last day included getting together for drinks after the event, and having dinner with a large group of people at the Crab Pot! A good time was had by all!

I also forgot to mention a special moment on Thursday night. My cousin and her husband live in Seattle as well, and I made it a point to get together with them. We went for dinner at a place by Salmon Bay. I haven’t seen them in years, and it was great to reconnect with them as well.

I flew home on Saturday afternoon, and arrived back in Albany some time after midnight. After five days, four nights, and an awesome Summit, I was home again.

They said the numbers were down this year; where the 2019 Summit had something like five-thousand attendees, this year’s event had about fifteen-hundred in-person. (I have no idea how many people signed in online.) But in spite of the lower numbers, there was a feeling there that you don’t — and can’t — get from an online event. There’s something about being able to shake someone’s hand, give someone a hug, or having dinner or drinks with friends in-person that just doesn’t happen when you’re online.

I love attending events such as SQL and Data Saturday, but there’s something special about PASS Summit. I already can’t wait to go to the next one!