Upcoming speaking engagements (as of 7/12/2022) #PASSDataCommunitySummit #SQLSaturday #ProfessionalDevelopment #Networking #SQLFamily

As it turns out, I have a couple of confirmed upcoming speaking engagements! If you’re seeking employment or are looking to advance your career prospects, both of these presentations are for you.

  • Saturday, July 23 (a week from this Saturday as I write this): SQL Saturday #1027, New Jersey — This is the first (as far as I know) SQL Saturday being held in New Jersey, and my first live and in-person SQL Saturday since Rochester, just before the pandemic.

    I will be doing my presentation about surviving an unemployment situation titled, “I lost my job! Now what?!?” If you’re out of work, I’ll talk about coping with unemployment stress and emotions, the job hunt, and how to get through this tough time.

    I also talk about networking in this presentation. Speaking of which…

I also found out this week that there is a SQL Saturday scheduled for October 8 in Boston (well, actually, Burlington, MA). I’m on the fence as to whether or not to submit to it (mostly what’s making me hesitate is my busy schedule, but that said, that date is free on my calendar). I’m leaning towards submitting to it, but we’ll see how it goes.

So, that’s two confirmed speaking engagements, plus one that I might (okay, probably will) submit to. Now that things are opening back up, and virtual conferences aren’t necessarily the current norm, I’m looking forward to seeing people live and in-person again.

I will be speaking at #PASSDataCommunitySummit #PASSSummit #SQLFamily #Networking

I am pleased to announce that I have been selected to speak at the 2022 PASS Data Community Summit! This is the fourth straight year that I have been selected to speak at this event (or its equivalent)!

I am still in awe that I’ve been selected four straight years! To be selected once is an honor! To be selected four times puts you in elite company!

This year’s conference is hybrid; that is, it will be both in-person and online! Go to the link for additional details and to register! I will be making the trip to Seattle in November, so I need to make my travel arrangements!

This year, I will be presenting one of my favorite presentations: “Networking 101: Building professional relationships.” If you consider yourself socially awkward, have trouble with connecting with business professionals, don’t feel comfortable with breaking the ice, or just want to expand your network even further, then this presentation is for you! And PASS Data Community Summit is the perfect place to practice those skills!

I am very much looking forward to this event, and I’m looking forward to making the trip out to Seattle in November! Hope to see you there!

Hello, New Jersey — I’ll be there on July 23! #SQLSaturday #SQLSat1027 #Networking #SQLFamily

First, I’ll start with an apology to anyone who’s been looking for more ‘blog articles from me. My life’s been pretty hectic lately (in a good way!), and I haven’t had too many opportunities to sit down at my computer to write. But nevertheless, here I am.

That said, my first article in a while is a speaking engagement announcement! Next month, I will be speaking at my first live, in-person SQL Saturday since Feb. 29, 2020 — right before the pandemic!

I will be speaking at SQL Saturday New Jersey on July 23! It will be held at the Microsoft office in Iselin, NJ. Note: because of the small size of the venue, registration is limited to around 120 people, so if you’re interested in attending, make sure you register soon!

If you’re a job seeker, I will be doing my presentation about surviving an unemployment situation titled: “I lost my job! Now what?!?

After spending a couple of years speaking at virtual conferences, it’s nice to be able to get back on the road and attend in-person again (although I did speak at another in-person event earlier this year)!

See you next month!

May Monthly CASSUG Meeting, May 9

Greetings, data enthusiasts!

Our May meeting will be a hybrid event! We will meet in person at the Rensselaer Chamber of Commerce, 90 4th Street, Troy, and online (the Zoom link can be found on our Meetup event link at https://www.meetup.com/Capital-Area-SQL-Server-User-Group/events/285622042 )!

Our May speaker is Monica Rathbun!

Topic: Always Encrypted for Beginners
One of the biggest challenges to successful implementation of data encryption has been the back and forth between the application and the database. You have to overcome the obstacle of the application decrypting the data it needs. Microsoft tried to simplify this process when it introduced Always Encrypted (AE) into SQL Server 2016 and Azure SQL Database. In this demo intense session, you will learn about what Always Encrypted is, how it works, and the implications for your environment. By the end you will know how to now easily encrypt columns of data and just as importantly how to unencrypt. You will also learn about the current limitations of the feature and what your options are to work around them.

For more information and to RSVP, use our Meetup link above! Hope to see you there!

Thanks to Datto for sponsoring our event!

April Monthly CASSUG Meeting #SQLFamily #Azure #SQLAzure @CASSUG_Albany

Greetings, data enthusiasts!

Our April meeting will again be online. NOTE: you MUST RSVP to this Meetup at https://www.meetup.com/Capital-Area-SQL-Server-User-Group/events/285058597/ to view the Zoom URL!

Our April speaker is Rie Merritt!

Topic: Transitioning your On-Prem Database Skills to Azure SQL

Adoption of Cloud is at an all time high, with no end in sight. Managing a small fleet of databases on-premises was something you long ago mastered. In this session, we’ll cover the most common tasks a DBA needs to learn to manage in Azure SQL as well as they currently manage their On Premises installs. One of the great things about Azure SQL is that the skill set your team has developed over the years translates well. The tools and technologies you’re familiar with are all there. Let’s modernize those existing skills to make you a cloud DBA.

About Rie:
Rie Merritt has been working with SQL Server since 1999, when she started as a data analyst for a non-profit. She’s worked in many industries over the years including pharmaceutical, e-commerce, legal, financial, education and both federal & state government. Most recently, she was director of database management, Integrated Payments for WorldPay, Inc. She is currently Senior Program Manager with Microsoft Azure Data, serving as the MVP PG lead and as liaison between the product group and the data community. She is based out of Redmond, but works remotely from her home near Atlanta.

Over the years, Rie has done extensive work with the SQL Community. She was an MVP in the Data Platform for three years, speaking frequently at conferences across the US and moderating webinars, WIT panels and career panels. She has also served co-leader of the PASS Women in Technology Virtual Group and Executive Director of SQL Saturday Atlanta. Most recently, Rie helps run the Atlanta Azure Data User Group heading up Microsoft’s efforts for the Azure Data Community.

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!

I’m speaking next weekend — in person! #WELocal

Time to get back on the road for the speaker’s circuit again!

I am speaking a week from tomorrow (April 9)! I will be in Buffalo, NY for the WE Local Buffalo conference, hosted by the Society of Women Engineers!

I will be doing my original presentation that kicked off my public speaking endeavor: “Whacha just say? Talking technology to non technical people“! I’m scheduled to speak at 2:15 pm next Saturday (click here for a PDF of the conference schedule).

This will be my first in-person event since SQL Saturday Rochester in 2020, right before the pandemic started! I’m very much looking forward to this trip, as I enjoy traveling! I’ve spoken at a number of virtual events since I went to Rochester, but they’re just not the same thing. I’m looking forward to being able to shake people’s hands (or give fist/elbow bumps, if they’re still anxious about spreading germs), handing out business cards, and taking in the local culture. I’m always game for a plate of Buffalo wings! (My wife and I were in Buffalo last summer, and we made it to the Anchor Bar. I’m hoping to sample some Duff’s this time around!)

Hope to meet you in Buffalo next weekend!

March Monthly CASSUG Meeting

Our March meeting will again be online. NOTE: you MUST RSVP to this Meetup at https://www.meetup.com/Capital-Area-SQL-Server-User-Group/events/284474830/ to view the Zoom URL!

Our March speaker is Taiob M Ali!

Topic: Options and considerations for migrating SQL Server databases to Azure

Many tools are available to migrate your on-premises database to an Azure SQL database. Are you familiar with all of those tools, and how do you choose the best tool for you? How do you analyze and identify what objects are not compatible with migrating to Azure? Answer: It depends (of course) on the type, size, and complexity of the database you will be relocating.

This session will explore considerations before migration, appropriate targets, migration tools available, and the pros and cons of each tool. I will demo four different tools that you can use to analyze/migrate your on-premises SQL Server Database to Azure SQL.

At the end of this session, you will be aware of the various techniques available to analyze and migrate SQL Database to Azure and choose the best fitting one for your database.

About Taiob:
Taiob Ali, Microsoft Data Platform MVP, is an accomplished technical leader with a proven record of success. During his last 16 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 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 New England SQL Server User Group, founder of ‘Database Professionals Virtual Meetup Group’, and organizer of Boston SQL Saturday.

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!

#WELocal Conference, Buffalo, NY — I’m speaking!

I received word that one of my submissions has been accepted for the WE Local Conference in Buffalo, NY on April 8-9! The WE Local Conference is sponsored by the Society of Women Engineers. This is my second conference that is not related to PASS where I’ll be speaking, and this will be my first in-person event since SQL Saturday in Rochester, just before the pandemic hit.

I will be doing my presentation about communicating to non-technical people (my original talk)!

So meet me in Buffalo next April for what looks to be another great conference! And perhaps you’ll be able to catch my presentation, along with a plate of Buffalo wings!

December Monthly CASSUG Meeting

We are doing something different for our December meeting!

We will be hosting a forum with a number of SQL speakers in a quick-thinking “Whose Line?” format! The speakers will get a topic no more than a few minutes before they are to speak, and they will speak on whatever the topic is!

To join us for the festivities, RSVP at https://www.meetup.com/Capital-Area-SQL-Server-User-Group/events/282546705/ (you MUST RSVP for the Zoom link to be visible).

Come join us for the fun!

#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!