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.

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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.

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 — day 2 debrief, and thoughts about the last day

It’s Friday, and it’s the last day of the Summit! This has been an amazing week! I always enjoy attending events like this, and PASS Summit is no different. It has been a great week of seeing old friends, making new ones, and attending some great sessions!

I will be attending a couple more sessions today. I promised Kris Gruttemeyer that I would attend his session this morning. I had a drink with him the other night, he told me about his session, and it sounded really interesting! I’m looking forward to seeing it! If you’re stressed out about the pressures of being on-call, or just stressed out in general, this sounds like a really good session!

I’ve also been volunteered to moderate a session as well, so I’ll have to make sure that I’m there for that! We’ll see how it goes!

I also witnessed something amazing yesterday. While I was sitting in the speaker’s lounge (writing yesterday’s ‘blog article, in fact), Ed Pollack came into the room, saying there was a room full of about a hundred people and no one to give the presentation. Apparently the presenter was a no-show. (I won’t name the presenter in question, but we all hope he is okay, and it was nothing more than “maybe he overslept.”) John Miner, who was in the room as well, said “I know that topic. I can do the presentation.” He packed up his stuff, went to the room, and gave the presentation — all without any notice! As far as I’m concerned, John gets the superhero of the day award!

Most of the day was uneventful. I hung out with #SQLFamily, and attended a couple of afternoon sessions. (I’d talk about the sessions some more, but I’m short of time as I write this.) The highlight of my night is that I got together for dinner with my cousin, who lives in Seattle, and her husband! I have not seen them in years, and it was great to be able to get together with them and reconnect!

One of the things that strikes me about PASS Summit is how this event is international, not just national. I have heard many British and Australian accents. I have met many of those people, along with people from Canada. At Tuesday’s first-timers’ networking event, we had at least two (it might have been three) people at our table who were from Canada. I enjoy meeting all these people from all over the world, and it adds to an already-great experience!

At this time, I’m looking at the clock, and as much as I’d like to write more, I promised Kris that I’d sit in on his session, so I should probably try to go and find his room. I’ll try to write more later when I have a chance. (On the other hand, I fly back home tomorrow morning, so it’s also possible that this might be my last ‘blog article before the end of the Summit.) Hopefully, you’ll hear from me again before I leave Seattle, but if I don’t, I’ll write more when I’m back home!

#PASSDataCommunitySummit — day 1 debrief, and what I look forward to for day 2

Greetings from Summit day 2! This morning, I’m writing from the speaker’s lounge in the Seattle Convention Center, where a number of speakers (myself included) are busy looking at their laptops. I’m not sure what the others are doing — working on their presentations, maybe? — but I know that I’m here writing in my ‘blog and enjoying a few refreshments that are provided for the speakers who partake this room and its resources.

It probably makes sense for me to talk about what went on yesterday. My session was scheduled for the very first time slot of the three days of general sessions — and, unfortunately for me, that turned out to be problematic.

I did my presentation about networking, which happens to be one of my favorite presentations to do. I enjoy giving it, I get my audience involved (there is an opportunity for my audience to do some networking themselves), and I get the impression that my attendees enjoy it as well. A big deal has been made about networking for this event — indeed, I was told that about 40% of the attendees were first-time participants, so I was looking forward to a good turnout for my presentation.

It turned out to be a disappointment. Only five people showed up for my presentation.

I had two things working against me. First, I understand that yesterday’s keynote ran over time. Since my session was at 9:30 (and I intentionally waited five extra minutes, until 9:35, to start to allow stragglers to come in), it likely interfered with my (and others’) session. Second, my room was located in a relatively-new section of the convention center, located right across the street from the main convention center, and the room was a little difficult to find.

Now, let me be clear. It isn’t so much the low turnout in and of itself that disappointed me. I’ve presented to smaller audiences before (the smallest audience I had was two people — heck, I one had a session where nobody showed up). I couldn’t care less about stroking my ego. No, I was more disappointed in the fact that, at an event where networking has been emphasized all throughout up to this point, only five people got to hear my presentation describing how to network — information that I really felt could help many people throughout this event. I felt that I had a really good message to pass along — especially to the first-time attendees — and it only got through to less than 1% of the people who are here. I had seriously expected ten times that number to show up to my presentation. That, to me, was the big disappointment.

However, attendance numbers aside, those who were there said that I gave a really good presentation. And now I can say that I am a four-time PASS Summit speaker!

There was another disappointment before that. I had signed up to attend a vendor’s breakfast. I’m not going to lie; my main (in fact, my only reason) for attending was the word “breakfast.” For a decent breakfast, I’ll spend an hour listening to a vendor’s sales pitch. But it was not to be. When I arrived, there was no food left. Apparently, when they opened the doors, breakfast disappeared very quickly. I was told they were ordering more Egg McMuffins for attendees. Um, no. Lack of planning on your part does not constitute patience on mine (at least not in this case). No food, no sales pitch. I blew off the vendor’s spiel and settled for the continental breakfast they were serving in the dining hall.

But, enough of my disappointments; let’s talk about the good stuff!

After I did my presentation, it turned out that another session that interested me was in the room next door in the next time slot. Blythe Morrow did a presentation called “How to Write a Kickass Anything.” As someone who writes for a living, the session title alone was enough to pique my interested, and she did not disappoint. There was a lot to cover — too much for me to recap — but a couple of takeaways were to come up with your own professional branding (something that I’ve already done), and that “simplicity” and “clarity” are not synonymous. In regards to the latter, for most of my technical writing career, I’ve maintained a principle of KISS. When I told Blythe this, what she told me was along the lines of “making it simple doesn’t necessarily make it clear.” That was a huge takeaway for me, and it’s definitely something I’ll carry with me moving forward.

Getting together with #SQLFamily friends after the first day!

After I did my presentation, I’ve been joking that “now that my commitment to PASS Summit is done, I could technically hop on a plane right now and fly home.” But the thing is, while presentations and learning are a big part of Summit, they aren’t the only things. I’ve often mentioned the importance of #SQLFamily. It’s a real thing. In only a couple of days here, I’ve seen so many friends whom I love dearly and don’t get much of a chance to see, except when we cross paths on the SQL Saturday circuit or at other various events. These people are important to me, and I want to spend as much time with them as I can. Last night, after the day’s sessions were over, I joined friends for some drinks at the hotel across the street, then joined a few more at the Cheesecake Factory (also across the street). My friends are very important to me, so any opportunity I can get to get together with them is cherished!

I spent some time at the exhibitor hall, where the vendors have their booths set up. I’ll admit that I look for booths with good swag and prizes to win, but it’s also important to make sure you support vendors at events like this. They are, after all, a big reason why these events exist. Vendors are big supports of conferences such as PASS Summit and SQL Saturday; without them, many of these events wouldn’t exist.

One of the big booths was Redgate (of course; they’re the ones who are responsible for coordinating Summit), and they did an interesting promo. They handed out these little mini Lego Steves (see the pics below). If you took a Twitter selfie with Lego Steve, you had a chance to win a prize! I took a couple of selfies, including the ones you see below. Honestly, it doesn’t matter whether or not I win, but I thought it was fun to take these pics!

A Lego Steve, along with the contest instructions
Me, Lego Steve, and actual Steve! (Lego Steve is the one I’m holding in my fingers!)

This morning, I woke up at 4 am (local time), before my alarm went off. I got up, showered, dressed, and went to the convention center.

Bob Ward moderates the Microsoft Q&A breakfast

My first order of business was breakfast. I attended the Microsoft vendor breakfast — and yes, this time, there actually was breakfast. I got myself a good breakfast and listened to a Q&A with some Microsoft bigwigs. Bob Ward was the session moderator.

Now, a little explanation is in order. Bob Ward is probably the Elvis Presley of SQL rockstars. He is very well-known throughout the SQL community. He has written books, he has been on the front lines of SQL Server development, and people flock to his presentations when he speaks.

That said, he has one flaw. He’s a Dallas Cowboys fan. He’s such a big fan that he has been known to incorporate the Cowboys into his presentations. In fact, SQL Server 2022 was code-named “Dallas” because of him.

Because of this, I asked for the mic (I was the first to do so), and I asked this question.

“My question is specifically for Bob. What’s the over-under on the number of wins the Cowboys will have this year?”

Yeah, I know, but I had to ask. It got a good chuckle from the crowd!

After the breakfast, I attended the morning keynote, where a number of people from Redgate, including my friends, Steve Jones and Kathi Kellenberger, got to speak! I couldn’t tell you everything they discussed (I couldn’t remember it all if I tried), but Steve did mention (and I’m mostly paraphrasing here) that we are now living in a multi-database platform world, and that isn’t going to go away.

And now, here I sit, writing a ‘blog article. There are a few more sessions I want to attend, and they look like good ones! I’m looking forward to seeing what Day 2 brings!

Less than two weeks until #PASSDataCommunitySummit! #PASSSummit #SQLFamily #Networking

November arrived yesterday (where did this year go???), and it only recently occurred to me that I will be in Seattle in less than two weeks, speaking for the fourth time at PASS Data Community Summit (or it’s equivalent)! On Wednesday morning, among the first sessions of Summit, I will be giving one of my favorite presentations: the one on networking. Come check it out!

It still amazes me that I will be going back to speak at this awesome event for the fourth straight year. Whenever I look through the list of speakers — several of whom have become very good friends through my association with events such as SQL Saturday — I continue to be in awe of the fact that my name and face is associated with this amazing group of data professional rock stars. I started speaking on the SQL Saturday circuit in 2015, and if you’d told me back then that I would be speaking at PASS Summit for four straight years, I likely would’ve asked what you were smoking.

And yet, here I am. I don’t consider myself a SQL Server expert — heck, none of my presentations even have anything to do with SQL Server — but nevertheless, I am still contributing to the SQL Server, as well as other technical, communities. I sometimes ask myself if I really belong in this same group of talented data professionals; indeed, I was even once asked how I’m associated with this group. I think that’s a very valid question, and I sometimes ask myself that same question.

But one doesn’t get to speak at PASS Summit four straight years unless you’ve got the goods. I once described PASS Summit as being the SQL Saturday All-Star Game. If you’re picked once, it’s a great honor. If you’re picked more than once, you’re a solid player. Four straight years? Now we’re starting to get into Derek Jeter territory.

Okay, I don’t consider myself the same caliber as Jeter. I’d consider myself more like, say, Ozzie Smith: someone with a long and distinguished career who didn’t hit for a high batting average. He stayed steady and just did his thing. And that’s pretty much what I try to do.

Hope to see you in Seattle in two weeks!

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!