Not long ago (I don’t remember how long — I’ll say a couple of weeks), I stumbled across a ‘blog post that someone had written. Apparently, this person was a new SQL Saturday speaker. I don’t remember his name, and from what you’re about to read, it’s probably just as well.
I don’t remember exactly what was said, so I’ll paraphrase: “I just applied to speak, and was accepted at, a SQL Saturday in (some city that’s not local to me). Now I have to figure out how to pay for my trip! Can you all help me? Here’s a GoFundMe page to help me out!”
I resisted the urge to write him back to say, “you’re a f**king moron. You’re not getting a single dime from me. Poor planning on your part does not constitute an emergency (or charity) from mine!!!”
SQL Saturday is an all-volunteer event, and organizers go through a great deal of time and effort to plan it and ensure that the speakers are lined up to the schedule. Committing to speak at SQL Saturday and not keeping that commitment disrespects the organizers, and it does not reflect well on you. If you renege on your commitment to speak at SQL Saturday, try seeing if you’re ever invited again.
It’s not just about travel planning, either. If I was interviewing this person for a job (note: I’m in no such position), I would highly question his ability to make smart decisions. Unless he could demonstrate to me that he learned from this mistake, I would not ask him back for a second interview.
Clearly, this person leapt before he looked, and in my mind, he has no common sense whatsoever. Whenever I apply to speak at a SQL Saturday, the first thing I do is check to make sure that I can do the trip. Among other things, I make sure the date is clear on my calendar, and I make sure that I can actually get there (there’s a reason why the large majority of SQL Saturdays where I present are ones to which I can drive).
On March 21 (a few weeks from today), I will be speaking at SQL Saturday Chicago. I Googled the driving time from Albany to Chicago, and it told me it would take 12 hours, which is much longer than I am willing to drive for a short weekend trip. I put together a hypothetical itinerary using Amtrak (I love traveling by train — I prefer it over flying whenever possible) and Chicago-area public transportation, Lyft (which I tend to prefer over Uber), and hotels. (I also looked into renting a car, but there were very few rental agencies near Union Station that were open for the hours that I needed it; besides, I didn’t want to deal with traffic in a strange city, and it was also more expensive than the other options.) I came up with a game plan that was workable and would not break the bank. When I realized that the trip was do-able, I went ahead and applied to speak (and was accepted) at SQL Saturday #945 in Chicago!
I enjoy attending sporting events. My previous post got me thinking about the sports venues that I’ve visited, and I thought it’d be fun to compile that list!
A few caveats: I only list venues (along with their home teams and/or events) in which I’ve actually seen a game. For example, I’ve set foot in Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor, but I didn’t actually see a game there, so it’s not on my list.
I don’t list opposing teams. I’ve been to so many events that I don’t remember them all. Also, for “home” arenas in which I’ve seen large numbers of games, they’d be too many to list, anyway.
I also denote any arenas that are homes to “my teams.” While I live two hours away from Syracuse, I still consider the Carrier Dome as my “home” arena. Geographically, Siena and UAlbany are only minutes away from me, and I do root for the home team in those arenas, but they’re not necessarily “my” teams or home arenas.
I only consider organized professional (major or minor league) and NCAA (any division) teams or events. Organized non-professional or collegiate events (e.g. Little League World Series, Olympic games, etc.) count too, although I’ve never been to one. The pickup game of touch football in the public park doesn’t count.
These are listed in no particular order, although I try to list my “home” arenas, places I’ve visited more often, and places geographically close to me first.
I mark arenas that either no longer exist or are no longer used for that sport with an asterisk (*).
All games are regular season games, unless denoted.
I have never been to an NBA, NHL, or major soccer game, which is why you don’t see them listed.
So without further ado, here’s that list.
Arenas I’ve visited
Yankee Stadium (new), Bronx, NY — NY Yankees (my home arena), ALDS
Yankee Stadium* (old), Bronx, NY — NY Yankees (former home arena)
Joseph Bruno Stadium, Troy, NY — Tri-City ValleyCats (another home arena), NCAA Div-III tournament regional
Heritage Park*, Colonie, NY — Albany-Colonie Yankees (former home arena), Albany-Colonie Diamond Dogs
Robison Field, Troy, NY — RPI Engineers (my home field)
Fenway Park, Boston, MA — Boston Red Sox
Shea Stadium*, Queens, NY — NY Mets
Citi Field, Queens, NY — NY Mets
Kingdome*, Seattle, WA — Seattle Mariners
Safeco Field (now T-Mobile Park), Seattle WA — Seattle Mariners
Camden Yards, Baltimore, MD — Baltimore Orioles, All-Star Game
SkyDome (now Rogers Centre), Toronto, ON — Toronto Blue Jays
MacArthur Stadium*, Syracuse, NY — Syracuse Chiefs
Alliance Bank Stadium (now NBT Stadium), Syracuse, NY — Syracuse Chiefs
Olympic Stadium*, Montreal, PQ — Montreal Expos
Veterans Stadium*, Philadelphia, PA — Philadelphia Phillies
Tiger Stadium*, Detroit, MI — Detroit Tigers
Coors Field, Denver, CO — Colorado Rockies
Tropicana Field, St. Petersburg, FL — Tampa Bay Rays
Damaschke Field*, Oneonta, NY — Oneonta Yankees
East Field*, Glens Falls, NY — Glens Falls Redbirds, Adirondack Lumberjacks
Stade Canac, Quebec City, PQ — Quebec Capitales
Dwyer Stadium, Batavia, NY — Batavia Trojans
Silver Stadium*, Rochester, NY — Rochester Red Wings
Places where I’ve never seen a game, but are on my wish list: Wrigley Field, Chicago; Dodger Stadium, Los Angeles; Oracle Park, San Francisco; Kaufmann Stadium, Kansas City; Petco Park, San Diego; Nationals Field, Washington DC; PNC Park, Pittsburgh; any Nippon Professional League game in Japan
Carrier Dome, Syracuse, NY — Syracuse Orange (my home arena)
ECAV Stadium, Troy, NY — RPI Engineers (my other home arena)
’86 Field*, Troy, NY — RPI Engineers (another home “arena”)
Bob Ford Field, Albany, NY — UAlbany Great Danes
Alumni Stadium, Chestnut Hill, MA — Boston College Eagles
Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium, Annapolis, MD — Navy Midshipmen
Michie Stadium, West Point, NY — Army Black Knights
Veterans Stadium*, Philadelphia, PA — Temple Owls
Yale Bowl, New Haven, CT — Yale Bulldogs
Met Life Stadium, East Rutherford, NJ — Syracuse Orange (NOT my home arena!)
Giants Stadium*, East Rutherford, NJ — Syracuse Orange (also not my home arena!)
Ohio Stadium, Columbus, OH — Ohio State Buckeyes
Louisiana Superdome, New Orleans, LA — Sugar Bowl
Pontiac Silverdome*, Pontiac, MI — Cherry Bowl
Tampa Stadium*, Tampa, FL — Hall of Fame Bowl
Sun Devil Stadium, Tempe, AZ — Fiesta Bowl
Yankee Stadium, Bronx, NY — Pinstripe Bowl
Camping World Stadium, Orlando, FL — Camping World Bowl
Places where I’ve never seen a game, but are on my wish list: Harvard Stadium, Harvard; Memorial Stadium, Clemson; Beaver Stadium, Penn State; Rose Bowl, UCLA; Michigan Stadium, Michigan; Notre Dame Stadium, Notre Dame
Carrier Dome, Syracuse, NY — Syracuse Orange (my home arena), NCAA tournament
Manley Field House*, Syracuse, NY — Syracuse Orange (women)
RPI Armory*, Troy, NY — RPI Engineers (my other home arena)
Times-Union Center, Albany, NY — Siena Saints, MAAC tournament
Alumni Recreation Center*, Loudonville, NY — Siena Saints
SEFCU Arena, Albany, NY — UAlbany Great Danes, America East tournament
Pittsburgh Civic Arena*, Pittsburgh, PA — Pitt Panthers
Lundholm Gymnasium, Durham, NH — UNH Wildcats
Case Gym, Boston, MA — Boston University Terriers
Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome*, Minneapolis, MN — NCAA tournament
Reunion Arena*, Dallas, TX — NCAA tournament
Madison Square Garden, New York, NY — St. John’s Red Storm, Big East Tournament, NIT Preseason Tournament
Barclays Arena, Brooklyn, NY — preseason tournament
Places where I’ve never seen a game, but are on my wish list: The Palestra, Penn; Allen Field House, Kansas; Pauley Pavilion, UCLA; Cameron Indoor Stadium, Duke
RPI has a new arena: ECAV (East Campus Athletic Village) Arena. I have yet to see a game there.
Houston Field House, Troy, NY — RPI Engineers (my home arena)
Messa Rink, Schenectady, NY — Union Dutchmen
Times-Union Center, Albany, NY — Mayor’s Cup/Capital Skate Classic, NCAA tournament
Glens Falls Civic Center*, Glens Falls, NY — Mayor’s Cup/Capital Skate Classic
Lynah Rink, Ithaca, NY — Cornell Big Red
Starr Rink, Hamilton, NY — Colgate Raiders
Tate Rink, West Point, NY — Army Black Knights
Bright Hockey Center, Cambridge, MA — Harvard Crimson
Yale Ice Arena, New Haven, CT — Yale Bulldogs
Thompson Arena, Hanover, NH — Dartmouth Big Green
Olympic Ice Arena, Lake Placid, NY — ECAC tournament
Walter Brown Arena*, Boston, MA — Boston University Terriers
Cumberland County Civic Center (now Cross Insurance Arena), Portland, ME — Maine Black Bears
Hartford Civic Center (now XL Center), Hartford, CT — I don’t remember the event, but it was four teams: RPI, Maine, Colgate, and I don’t remember who the fourth team was.
Madison Square Garden, New York, NY — Rivalry On Ice (Yale vs. Harvard)
Places where I’ve never seen a game, but are on my wish list: Alfond Arena, Maine; Hobey Baker Rink, Princeton; Matthews Arena, Northeastern
Times-Union Center*, Albany, NY — Albany River Rats, Albany Devils
Giants Stadium*, East Rutherford, NJ — NY Giants (my home arena)
Rich Stadium (now New Era Field), Orchard Park, NY — Buffalo Bills
Sullivan Stadium*, Foxborough, MA — New England Patriots
Veterans Stadium*, Philadelphia, PA — Philadelphia Eagles
Although I’ve been to Met Life Stadium, it was for a Syracuse game. I have yet to see the Giants there.
Landsdowne Stadium*, Ottawa, ON — Ottawa Roughriders
Times-Union Center*, Albany, NY — Albany Firebirds
Wow, I’ve attended a lot of sporting events!
Anyway, this was a fun exercise, and a neat list to put together. I’m hoping to add to it!
I became interested in this ‘blog for several reasons. I am an alumnus of an NCAA Division I power conference basketball school. I am a college basketball fan, and a sports fan in general. I was a pep band member in college, so that fandom tends to be amplified. I enjoy visiting and exploring sports venues. And I love to travel (although I don’t always have the time or money to do so).
I became curious about his ‘blog. I did a quick skim of his impressions about my “home” arena. I also have two Division I basketball schools within fifteen minutes of my home (Siena and UAlbany), so when I have a chance, I’ll have to read those as well. His ‘blog looks interesting, so I’ll have to read through it some more when time allows!
I applaud the gentleman’s efforts. While I’m not as ambitious as he is to try attending 350 basketball arenas, I do enjoy catching games whenever I can (I recently caught a St. John’s game at Madison Square Garden during a weekend getaway down in New York). I will confess to having a pipe dream of attending games in all thirty Major League Baseball stadiums. (So far, I’ve made it to Yankee Stadium [both old and new], Citi Field, Shea Stadium, Fenway Park, Camden Yards, SkyDome/Rogers Centre, Olympic Stadium, Tiger Stadium, Veterans Stadium, Kingdome, Safeco Field [or whatever they call it now — T-Mobile park, or whatever it is], Tropicana Field, and Coors Field. Whew! I think that’s all of them!)
Everyone needs to go out and experience life. One of my ways of doing it is attending sporting events. Whatever it is you enjoy, go out there and enjoy life!
Before I do, however, I should lay out a disclosure. I present at SQL Saturday completely on my own. And by this, I mean on my own time and on my own dime. I don’t do this for pay, and my employer does not dictate what events I attend or where I speak. I do this because I love doing it (and it doesn’t look bad on a resume, either). All schedules are my own schedules, and all expenses come out of my own pocket. My employer does not reimburse me for my trips (some speakers have their companies pay for their trips, but I do not have that luxury). This plays a huge factor into my planning, as you’ll read about below.
Will it break the bank?
Since I mention that I do this on my own dime, I’ll start there.
Cost is a huge factor whenever I consider where to submit. Traveling gets expensive (and traveling also incurs other issues, which I’ll talk about in a minute). The easier it is for me to get to an event, the cheaper it is for me to get there. I apply to nearly all SQL Saturday events that are within easy (about a few hours) driving (or, for NYC, commuting) distance from my home in Troy, NY. I have yet to apply to an event (other than PASS Summit) where I have to fly. There is good reason for that. Flying is neither cheap, nor convenient.
Of course, I apply to speak at Albany every year. It takes me all of twenty minutes to drive from my home to the UAlbany campus, where the event is held. It’s my hometown event, and it’s sponsored by my local user group, of which I’m a member. I am not paying for a hotel, and my trip expenses are no more than my normal commute to work. Other than nominal expenses, I pay nearly nothing to attend this event.
I attend New York City pretty much every year, regardless of whether I’m speaking or not. It’s an easy trip — doable in a day, in fact. Amtrak goes directly from Albany right into midtown Manhattan, making it a very easy trip. If I do need to stay overnight, my siblings live in the City, so I have a place to stay. Or, I might splurge a little for a hotel. New York isn’t the cheapest city to visit, but if you look hard enough, deals can be had.
Boston — straight shot down I-90 for me, roughly a three-hour drive. And while Boston area hotels aren’t necessarily cheap, I can find lodging that won’t break the bank.
I did apply to speak at Chicago this coming year. I created a theoretical itinerary and realized that I could make it work. If I’m accepted, it would represent my first SQL Saturday where it wasn’t feasible for me to drive there.
There are a number of other examples, but at this point, you can see where I’m going with it. Finances will often dictate whether or not I can attend an event. However, finances alone aren’t the only factor. There are other things I need to consider, such as…
How easy is it for me to get there?
One event that I’ve never attended — and would like to — is Cleveland. With its relative proximity to New York State, you’d think that Cleveland would be an easy one for me to attend.
For starters, Cleveland, for me, is roughly an eight-hour drive… in good weather. Now consider: Cleveland holds their event in February. Imagine trying to make that drive in unpredictable, snowy, winter weather. Maybe I could get lucky and get good weather on a drive out that way, but it’s a crapshoot and not guaranteed.
Okay. Amtrak goes to Cleveland. How about hopping the train?
The Lake Shore Limited, which travels between Boston/NYC and Chicago, makes a stop in Cleveland. Is it a direct line from Albany? Yes. Is it convenient…?
That would be a big no. The train arrives in Cleveland at 3:30 AM. As for the return trip, it departs at 5:50 AM. Either way, it would make for a very inconvenient itinerary.
That pretty much leaves flying. In years past, this would also not have been an option. Flights from ALB to CLE have been expensive and inconvenient. Additionally, there are no direct flights between the two cities. I did look up a theoretical flight for SQL Saturday #930 and found a roundtrip flight as low as $218. I’d have to fly through Detroit to do it.
Maybe I could’ve applied to speak in Cleveland and flown out. But I didn’t want to deal with the hassle.
One of these years, I might be able to make Cleveland work. That day hasn’t yet arrived.
Is the travel convenience (or inconvenience, as the case may be) worth it for a short weekend trip? That’s up to you to decide, but it is another major factor that I consider when I think about submitting to an event.
Does it fit my schedule?
Another event that has interested me is Pittsburgh. I spoke at Pittsburgh in 2016, and it was an enjoyable event; in fact, I’ve been wanting to return ever since. It’s a long drive for me, about eight hours. At the time, it was the farthest that I’d ever traveled for a SQL Saturday (that has since been surpassed by Virginia Beach).
I decided that eight hours is a long time to spend in a car, so I’d prefer not to drive there. It turns out that I can get Amtrak to Pittsburgh, and the schedule works for me. On top of that, I have a friend who lives there, so I’d probably have a place to crash. Pittsburgh is a long trip for me, but it’s one that I can make work.
So why haven’t I been back? Mostly, it’s been because of scheduling issues. One year, I withdrew from Pittsburgh because it was separated by only a week from another SQL Saturday where I was accepted to speak, and I decided that traveling on back-to-back weekends was a bit much. This past year, I’d fully intended to apply… and New York scheduled theirs for the same day. Other years, I’ve had a number of things come up on my calendar that have interfered with the event.
I’ve withdrawn from or didn’t submit to other events because of schedule conflicts. As much as I’d like to submit to every event that’s within a couple of hours from me, it doesn’t always work out.
If I was able, I’d apply to as many SQL Saturday events as possible. However, there’s also something to be said about work/life balance… and maintaining your own sanity.
So if you’re a road warrior, you like to keep a busy schedule, have deep pockets, or have an employer who will fund your trips, a lot of these issues might not affect you. But for other SQL Saturday speakers (like me), we do this on our own time and our own dime. These are the things I consider whenever I decide whether or not to apply to speak at a SQL Saturday. Whether or not you can handle the issues that come with getting to an event is up to you.
I came across this link on the New York Times website that talks about how the current New York City subway map was designed. I found it to be fascinating. It was a neat article about how the design came about, and how thinking out-of-the-box resulted in ideas that made it better.
Out of curiosity, I looked for previous iterations of the NY subway map before it was overhauled starting in 1979. I came across this map from 1978 on NYCSubway.org. Although I don’t actually live in NYC, I know it well enough to be able to get around and survive. I don’t know about you, but if I tried to use this map to get around New York City, I’d probably be totally lost. I only vaguely remember how rough NYC subways were at that time (for some people, that bad reputation endures to this day), but it wouldn’t have surprised me if this map contributed to subway rider angst.
A number of things struck me as I went through the Times‘ interactive article.
Designing out of the box: Some of the design techniques included, among other things, designing lines by riding the subway with eyes closed and sketching how they “felt,” eschewing “straight-line maps” used by many other subway maps to reduce confusion, and combining parallel routes into trunk lines.
I think it goes to show how much can be accomplished with unconventional thinking.
Much of this out-of-the-box thinking emphasizes a concept that I espouse as a technical communicator, which is…
Less is more:As I’ve said time and again, reading is work. If a document needs to be understood within seconds, and it takes more than a few seconds to comprehend a document, it has failed. Innovations, such as the aforementioned trunk lines, strategically using varying colors and fonts, and eliminating superfluous landmarks, contributed to making the map easier to follow.
Documenting history: I also found the interactive article to be a neat history lesson about the NY transit system, map design, and New York history in general.
Any time that I take a trip down to the City, I take the NYC subway map for granted. I now have a greater appreciation of it, and I’ll probably be thinking about it the next time I hop a NYC subway.
And for those of you who are planning a trip to New York City, hopefully, this makes your planning somewhat easier!
A week ago last Saturday, just before noontime, I returned home to Albany after departing Seattle the night before, and traveling across the country on a redeye flight. To say I was tired was an understatement; indeed, after my wife picked me up at the airport and brought me home, I went straight upstairs to the bedroom and just slept all day. Even a day after I arrived home, I was still not completely recovered from my trip. I spent a couple of hours going through almost 300 emails and getting caught up in general. It took me a while to get caught up, if I ever got there at all.
I had every intention of live-blogging my PASS Summit trip, but it didn’t happen. I had wanted to ‘blog about my experience each day of the trip. As it turned out, I never even touched my laptop. I ended up not needing it at all (and that includes for my presentation, which I’ll talk about below). On top of that, I was so busy during the week that I never had the chance to sit down and ‘blog like I wanted to. Instead, I’ll write about my trip exploits in one article. Warning: I expect that this will end up being a long article, so bear with me!
Day 1: Tuesday, Nov. 5
My alarm woke me up at 3:30 am Eastern time (time zones are important to note in this writeup) so that I could catch a 5:30 flight to Baltimore. Upon arriving in Baltimore, I found myself an in-airport diner where I had myself breakfast, then proceeded to the gate to wait for my flight to Seattle. I had a four hour layover in Baltimore, so I had plenty of time to kill!
While waiting at the gate, I bumped into my first #SQLFamily for the trip. Andy Leonard ended up being on the same flight! We had a nice conversation, and when the time came to board, Andy said he would save me a seat. Sure enough, I found him at the back of the plane, and he had indeed saved me a spot. I took the aisle seat; I figured that six hours was a long time to spend inside an airplane, and I might want to get up and walk around a bit.
The middle seat ended up being taken by another PASS Summit attendee: Mike, from Akron, OH (last name withheld for privacy reasons). The three of us had a wonderful conversation as we flew to Seattle.
Our flight arrived a little after 2 pm Pacific time. It would have arrived even earlier, except the Southwest pilot executed a go-around on our landing attempt. I think he mentioned something about being too close to the flight ahead of us (wake turbulence is not a fun thing, especially on a landing). It was my first experience with an aborted landing, so it was interesting to feel the jets power up and see the flaps retract on our initial landing attempt. The second attempt was more successful.
I had planned all along to not rent a car and make use of public transportation for this trip, so I made my way to the light rail and rode to the Columbia City stop, where I checked into my AirBnB. After taking a few minutes to introduce myself to my host and drop off my bags, I reboarded the light rail and made my way to Westlake Station in downtown Seattle, only a few blocks from the convention center.
Of course, getting off a transit line in any city can be disorienting, even more so in a city with which you’re not completely familiar. I exited Westlake Station at the opposite end (as I would find out later) from where I should have exited. It took me several minutes (and Google Maps on my phone) before I finally figured out which way I was going. After walking a few blocks longer than I should have, I finally found the convention center.
I made my way upstairs, and ran into another friend: Andy Levy. Having just arrived at the convention center for the first time, Andy took me over to the registration area, where I picked up my badge and started getting myself situated. I also picked up a couple of items that came with my association as a PASS Summit speaker: a hoodie jacket and a polo shirt.
As I walked around the facility, I was stopped by a few different people. I wrote before about how your clothing can be a conversation piece. I made it a point to wear my fraternity hat, as I promised I would. Two people identified themselves to me as members of my fraternity. Another told me that he was from Syracuse (the city, not the university). More examples of clothing as networking in action!
Andy said to me that one of the things about PASS Summit was that “it takes you fifteen minutes to walk fifty feet.” If you’re involved with SQL Saturday (like I am), PASS Summit is, essentially, a great big reunion. Even within my first hour at the conference, I’d already bumped into several people whom I knew. Andy’s words were true; within a short time, I already came across a number of friends I knew from my SQL Saturday involvement!
My first event was the first-timer’s event. That was an interesting experience; it was a large room, and the seats were arranged in groups of six. We were all encouraged to interact with each other and introduce ourselves. We were treated to a few talks from some PASS volunteers, including, among others, my friend, Matt Cushing, who gave a shortened version of his Networking 101 talk. (I just can’t get away from your talk, can I, Matt! 🙂 ) There was even a trivia quiz that matched up our groups of six as teams. The winning team received tickets to one of the game nights. Alas, we didn’t win. Oh well.
The second event of the evening was the welcome reception. After PASS president Grant Fritchey kicked off the reception, it was essentially one great big party! There were multiple drink stations and tables of food, and large crowds of people everywhere. The event was overwhelming — and I say this in a good way! I thoroughly enjoyed myself! I reconnected with a number of friends of mine from the SQL Saturday speaking circuit, and met a number of new ones as well!
One of the new people I met was Anthony, my designated SQL buddy. The idea of the SQL buddy program is for first-time PASS Summit attendees to have a “buddy” with whom they can connect so they’re not overwhelmed by the large crowds of strangers attending. I think it’s a great program, but I have to admit that it probably wasn’t completely applicable for me, because, even despite that this was my first PASS Summit, I wasn’t a stranger, either, since I knew dozens of people attending the event. As it turned out, the few minutes I spent with Anthony was my only contact with him during the week. I had wanted to talk to him even more during the week, but I lost him at the welcome reception, and didn’t reconnect with him again. (I am going to make it a point to drop him a line later!)
I left the event to attend another one, a volunteer party for PASS Summit volunteers. This event was invitation-only; only Summit volunteers were allowed to attend. I’m not sure whether it was my association as a PASS speaker or my willingness to help with the event, but in any case, I did receive an invitation to attend the party. It was held in a bar called SPIN, a ping-pong-themed bar. The venue was pretty cool; I wish we had one of these back home! (Their website says there’s a couple of locations in New York City, which are probably the closest ones to me.) I conversed with a number of people, and had a great time!
I would’ve enjoyed it even more, but by this time, the fact that I had been awake twenty hours was catching up with me. I decided to call it a night and head back to my AirBnB. If the rest of the week was going to be anything like this first day, I was going to be in for a long and tiring, but exciting, week!
Day 2: Wednesday, Nov. 6
My alarm went off around 5:30 — granted, that’s 5:30 Pacific time, and my body was still living on the East Coast, so it wasn’t that much of a problem. I showered, dressed, and caught the light rail to the convention center.
The first order of business was breakfast. I had signed up for a vendor breakfast, and went straight to the conference room. I filled up on my share of breakfast sandwiches, juice, and coffee. I’ll be the first to admit that I signed up primarily for the breakfast, not for the vendor talk. That said, vendor sessions are an integral part of just about any conference; as sponsors, their input and support are invaluable.
I decided to skip the keynote and took the time to explore the convention center. With everything that was going on, I figured it would be my best chance to get some downtime. I located my room where I would be speaking on Friday and got myself a sense of what was where.
At 10:15, I attended the session titled “Becoming a Technical Leader,” presented by Denise McInerney and Kellyn Pot’Vin-Gorman. I had previously crossed paths with Kellyn at Boston BI SQL Saturday (and likely some others — I’d seen her name before), but as far as I knew, I’d never met Denise (at least not that I remembered). They emphasized communication throughout their session, a topic close to my heart. Overall, it was an excellent presentation.
I had a variety of reasons for choosing sessions to attend. One of the big ones was to advance my own career. I will likely not be doing what I’m currently doing forever, so I wanted to attend sessions that I could use to improve my own professional standing.
With that in mind, I also attended a session called “Build Your Brand with Technical Writing,” presented by my friend, Kathi Kellenberger. She focused on tips and advice for getting published. I’ve had a couple of articles published before (my article on the history of major-league baseball in Troy comes to mind), but writing a book is a bucket list item of mine. I picked up some good pointers from her presentation. I did speak with Kathi, and she suggested that she might have some opportunities for me to write! I might just take her up on it!
For the last session, I decided to take in round 1 of Speaker Idol. For those not familiar with Speaker Idol, it’s an opportunity for people to give a quick presentation — within a span of five minutes. The presentation is judged by a panel, and the winner moves on to the final round. The grand prize is a guaranteed speaker’s slot in next year’s PASS Summit!
Last year’s winner was Rob Volk, who did a presentation of being “the very model of a SQL Server DBA.” (Imagine him singing to the tune of “I Am The Very Model Of A Modern Major-General,” and you’ll get the idea.) Click the link and check out his winning presentation. Trust me on this!
There were a number of vendor-sponsored events that evening, but I hadn’t registered for them. I ended up having drinks in a hotel bar with another friend from my SQL Saturday travels, Slava Murygin. We spent a few hours chatting and having drinks before deciding to call it a night.
Two great days down!
Day 3: Thursday, Nov. 7
Another day, another vendor breakfast. The spread was a little more substantial this time: scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage, pastries, and so on. If you’re interested in having a fulfilling breakfast at PASS Summit, I definitely recommend signing up for vendor-sponsored breakfasts! And it also helps if the vendor is doing a talk that interests you!
I started my day of sessions by attending “Making the Leap to Management” by Chris Yates and Adam Jorgensen. Honestly, I’m on the fence as to how interested I am in pursuing a career that involves management. Nevertheless, it is a possibility as I advance further in my career, and a sense of what I could potentially get into is never a bad thing. I did find it interesting that good communication was a common thread throughout the session. I’ve always been a big believer that the vast majority of the world’s problems can be solved by improving communication, and this session seemed to validate that belief.
I attended “Successfully Communicating with Your Customers” after lunch. Denise McInerney gave this talk, and I saw a lot of similarities between her presentation and what I do with some of mine — enough to the point that I told her, after she was finished: “you could do my presentation.” I sent her a LinkedIn connect request and asked if we could stay in touch so we could compare notes.
Right after the presentation, the vendors did their prize drawings. If you’ve ever attended a SQL Saturday, it’s the same concept as the vendor prize drawings at the end of the day (the only difference was that they held it in the middle of the conference): you submit your ticket, and maybe your name is drawn for a prize. You need to be present to win. No, I didn’t win anything on this day. C’est la vie.
I attended another sponsor reception that evening at The Tap House Grill. It was billed as “a chance to meet and network with people outside of the conference.” Among others, I met Janice Gerbrandt, who, along with my friend, Paresh Motiwala (who did not attend Summit this year), lead the PASS Professional Development virtual group. I had previously been acquainted with Janice when I did my virtual presentation on networking back in May; now, I finally met her in person for the first time. During the week, I met a number of people whom I’ve only gotten to know through emails and online correspondence, including most of the staff at PASS.
I also bumped into my friend, George Walters. He was not attending Summit, but he was in town for work-related reasons, and decided to crash the party. It was nevertheless good to see yet another familiar face in a somewhat-strange town!
Unfortunately, I couldn’t stay out too late. Since I was presenting the next day — not to mention leaving town — I had to go back to my AirBnB and pack my things, as well as get some rest so I could do my presentation the next morning!
Day 4: Friday, Nov. 8
At last, it was my day to speak! My presentation was scheduled for the first time slot of the day, at 8 am.
I checked out of my AirBnB before 6 am and made my way, with my luggage, to the convention center. For the last day of the conference, PASS had a baggage check set up, and I made use of it. I checked my bags and went off to find myself breakfast.
Unlike the previous two days, there was no vendor breakfast that morning, so I had breakfast at a hotel restaurant right across the street. Up to that point, nearly every meal I’d had was provided by some PASS or vendor event, so this breakfast was the first meal since I’d arrived in Seattle that I paid out of my own pocket. After finishing breakfast, I went up to my conference room to prepare for my presentation.
As I mentioned earlier, I did not touch my laptop at all during this trip, including for my presentation. Each presentation room included a laptop that was already connected to a projector. All I needed was my presentation on a USB stick. I also used my own presentation clicker. (That said, I kept my laptop nearby anyway, in case a problem came up with the equipment that was supplied. Always have a backup plan.)
The presentation went well! It really wasn’t all that different from my experience with doing SQL Saturday presentations. The audience was larger, it was more geographically diverse, and because it was being recorded, I had the use of microphones. I passed it around when attendees had questions; that way, their questions could be captured as part of the session recording. People I spoke to later told me that they enjoyed my session, and I did a good presentation!
And after it was over, I could honestly refer to myself as a PASS Summit speaker! Achievement unlocked!
One disappointment about my presentation was that it conflicted with round 3 of Speaker Idol. It was especially disappointing, because two of my friends were participating in this round: Slava Murygin and Deborah Melkin. While I never got the chance to see Slava present, I would later get to see Deborah!
I hooked up with Andy Levy so we could go to the exhibitor booths. RDX gave out what was widely thought to be the best (and definitely the most popular) vendor swag: Minecraft swords! We had tried to get them the day before, but they had run out. We were told that they would have twenty more at the beginning of the day, and if we wanted one, we would have to be one of the first twenty. Indeed, Andy and I were number one and two in line when the vendor fair opened for the day!
I had volunteered to man a Birds of a Feather lunch table. These special-interest tables allowed people to congregate and discuss a common area of interest during lunch. As someone with writing, UX/UI, and design experience, I ended up moderating the Storytelling & Visualization lunch table.
Since the entire CASSUG (Albany user group) leadership team — myself, Greg Moore, and Ed Pollack — was at PASS Summit, I decided that we needed to take a photo of the three of us. Our local user group was well-represented in Seattle that week!
We took our photo at the PASS Community Zone. I spent a lot of time there during the week. It was a good place to congregate, meet people and network, and relax (there were beanbag chairs around the area). It was also a good place for me to recharge — literally. There were outlets set up around the zone, where I could plug my phone in to let it recharge. I spoke to a number of people and made some new networking contacts there throughout the week.
I did make it to the final round of Speaker Idol. As it turned out, I did not miss Deborah’s presentation, as she was one of the finalists. And wouldn’t you know, she ended up winning the entire thing! She was the Speaker Idol winner for 2019! She now has a guaranteed speaker slot for next year’s PASS Summit in Houston! Congrats, Deb!
By this time, PASS Summit was beginning to wind down. There was still another slot of sessions going on, but I didn’t attend. PASS Summit is an exciting, but tiring, experience. I learned that I needed to be picky about what sessions I attended, because trying to attend them all is impossible. I took some time to get myself organized, making sure that my stuff was together, packed, and ready to bring home. The Minecraft sword I’d obtained earlier in the day wouldn’t fit in my carry-on luggage (and it wouldn’t have surprised me if TSA flagged it while going through security). There was a FedEx office on the ground floor of the convention center, and I took advantage of it, shipping my new toy, along with a few other swag items, home. They’d be sitting on my doorstep later in the week.
At this point, a number of people were making arrangements for final dinners and plans before venturing home. Apparently, there was a tradition for a number of #SQLFamily to get dinner at the Crab Pot at the end of PASS Summit. Greg had invited me to accompany him to a small private party with Rensselaer alumni in west Seattle, which is what I elected to do. Unfortunately, because of issues with ordering dinner, I had to settle for taking a couple of hours to reconnect with some old friends before getting a Lyft to the airport and catching my cross-country redeye flight home.
There’s a number of things I left out of my commentary; most of it is superfluous. Besides, I didn’t want to feel like I was rambling, not to mention that I’ve been sitting on this article for over a week.
PASS Summit was everything I’d been told and I expected: exciting, overwhelming, tiring, and fun! I had an absolute blast during my week in Seattle! I would attend every year if I could. Unfortunately, there are mitigating circumstances that prevent me from attending more often (the biggest being the registration fee; unlike SQL Saturday, PASS Summit is not free to attend. Since I’m doing this on my own dime — my company does not pay me to go — my resource to attend are limited. I was able to attend because I was selected to speak, so my fee was waived). That said, should an opportunity for me to attend ever comes up, I will not hesitate to go again!
I will definitely submit my presentations to speak at PASS Summit again. Hopefully, I’ll be selected again! And hopefully, you’ll be able to experience the same excitement and learning experience that I did at PASS Summit!
It is now less than twenty-four hours before I depart for Seattle and PASS Summit!
I still need to pack. From my quick little poll from last week, it looks like I’ll wear my fraternity hat, and I’ll pack lots of orange shirts! And don’t worry, Yankees haters; my baseball jersey is staying home.
Last week, I got an email from Southwest, saying that my flight plans have changed. I was originally supposed to depart at 6:20 am, flying from Albany (ALB) to Chicago (MDW) to Seattle (SEA). Instead, my flight leaves at 5:30 am and going through Baltimore (BWI) instead of Chicago-Midway. And if the earlier hour wasn’t enough, I now have a four-hour layover in Baltimore. Ugh. At least I’ll have plenty of time to grab breakfast and relax before my flight to Seattle. Note to self: bring a book to read (or something to do) while waiting for four hours in an airport.
Other than that, travel prep continues. By this time tomorrow, I’ll be on my way to the West Coast!
When I arrived at work this morning, temps were somewhere in the forties, and a strong wind was blowing (in fact, I believe there’s a high wind warning in effect), which brought wind chills down even more. I said to myself, I think it’s time to switch over to my heavier jacket. I did a quick check of the weather in Seattle. Although it’s not quite the chilly Arctic winter conditions to which we upstate New Yorkers are accustomed, it still looks like it’ll be cold autumn weather. So at the very least, I’ll bring my heavier jacket and at least one sweatshirt with me to Seattle.
It also got me thinking about all the little things that I need to think about any time I travel, much less go to a big event like PASS Summit. Other than the activities that I have planned for my trip, there are things like how am I getting to the airport (I’m still debating whether to drive myself and take advantage of the $6-a-day economy lot, or make my wife drop me off at 5 am), how well will I be able to navigate the light rail system, how long will it take to get to and from my AirBnB, and so on. Planning for the big things is important, but forgetting something little, such as forgetting to pack your presentation remote (which I’ve done plenty of times before), can be enough to sabotage your trip.
One helpful tip: create a checklist of what you need to bring or do. A checklist ensures that important little things are not overlooked. (I’ve written before about the importance of checklists. I’ve been meaning to talk more about them; I’ll make it a point to revisit it at some point.)
When planning, little things can sometimes make a big difference.
With less than a week until I depart for PASS Summit, I’m starting to think about what I need to prepare for my trip out to the West Coast.
I signed up for, and was accepted, to host a Birds Of A Feather table! On Friday (Nov. 8), I will be facilitating discussion at the Storytelling and Visualization table! If you are into visual presentation of data analytics, come to my table! People who are into UX/UI and design/layout are also encouraged to join me at my table!
A tie (not to wear, but for my presentation — those of you who’ve been to my presentation know what I’m talking about!)
My laptop (for general use, not my presentation — they’re providing a laptop for that)
My presentation on a flash drive
Am I forgetting anything?
(*Speaking of picking my wardrobe, I pretty much just threw the poll together. That said, after one day, based on some comments I’ve received, it looks like I’ll be wearing my fraternity hat and lots of orange. And there are a lot of Yankee haters out there!)
So, as of right now, my tentative PASS Summit schedule looks something like this (and I’m posting this mainly for my own reference):
Catch my flight home (SEA-PHL-ALB) (on a red eye, no less — ugh! Thanks for nothing, American!)
There are probably other items on my itinerary that I’m missing, but that’s pretty much the gist of my plans. I reserve the right to change it at my whim! I’ll be keeping an eye on the activities page and the #PASSSummit Twitter feed as I go along.