Upcoming speaking engagements (as of 6/17/2019)

It’s been a fun year for SQL Saturday so far! I’ve spoken at three SQL Saturdays and two user group meetings so far this year, and more speaking engagements are on the horizon.

As of today, I am only confirmed to speak at one SQL Saturday, but it’s a big one.

  • SQL Saturday #855, Albany, NY, July 20: this is my hometown event, and I’m always honored to be presenting in my own backyard! I will be doing a brand-new presentation, about ‘blogging. (No, I still haven’t finished my slides yet!) Additionally, I got the official word this morning that I will be also be doing a lightning talk. I will do a ten-minute talk about what I think might very well be the most important business networking tool you could have.

    Come on out and see me present in my home turf! Use the link above to register for this great event!

There are also a number of events to which I’ve applied to speak. I may not know for a little while as to whether or not I’m picked, but so far, the list includes these events.

  • SQL Saturday #892, Providence, RI, August 24: When I spoke to John Miner (who is organizing this event) in Virginia Beach last weekend, he sounded pretty certain that I would be speaking. I don’t want to say too much until I get the official word, but nevertheless, this is a good event to attend. Providence is always a good one!
  • SQL Saturday #912, New York City, October 5: I’ve attended SQL Saturday in NYC more than any other event, going all the way back to my very first one in 2010! I’ve only been selected to speak there once (last year). Let’s see if I’m picked again.
  • PASS Summit, Seattle, WA, November 5-8: This is considered the “Super Bowl of SQL Saturdays.” I’m hoping!

SQL Saturday/PASS events are always a good time, and I tend to give pretty good presentations (or at least I’ve been told as much). Hopefully, I’ll see you at one near you sometime soon!

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Three years a ‘blogger — what a long, strange trip it’s been

As of this Friday, I will have been writing my ‘blog for three years. Happy anniversary to me, I suppose!

I originally started my ‘blog to supplement my SQL Saturday presentations, but since then, it’s taken on a life of its own. I’ve written about a number of topics, mostly about professional development. I’ve dabbled a bit in some technical topics such as SQL Server and BI. I’ve even written about networking and the job hunt. As a professional technical communicator, I write a lot about technical writing and communication. Every now and then, I’ll write about something that has nothing to do with professional topics, but might be of interest to professionals, anyway. I write about whatever’s on my mind. In a way, I think of my ‘blog as my own online diary, except that instead of writing a personal journal where the only people who’d see it are myself and anyone who comes across it after I’m dead, I’m writing it for the entire online world to see.

I think a ‘blog can be a good experience for anyone looking to advance his or her career. Indeed, I have a presentation in the works about exactly this topic. As of this article, it’s still a work in progress. I haven’t done much more than create a PowerPoint template and put a few thoughts into it, but I have already submitted it for SQL Saturdays in Albany and Providence. We’ll see if it gets any bites, and hopefully, I’ll be presenting it at a SQL Saturday near you!

(Note: if you’re a ‘blogger, and would like to contribute something about your experience to the presentation, please feel free to mention something in the comments. Maybe I’ll use it in my presentation! Don’t worry, I’ll make sure I give you credit!)

I have some more thoughts about ‘blogging, including things I’ve learned and tips for people who are looking to get started with ‘blogging, but I’ll save those thoughts for another time. (These are all things that I intend to cover in my presentation.) For now, I’ll just say that it’s been a fun three years, and I hope to keep going for many more!

Reaping what you sow

I originally started my ‘blog to supplement my SQL Saturday presentations (among other things).  I’ll admit that I wasn’t entirely sure what I was getting into with this endeavor, but one thing that was in the back of my mind what that my efforts might lead to bigger and better things.  It’s still too early to know whether or not I’m near that goal (I’m not there yet), but I’m seeing signs that I might at least be heading in the right direction.

I previously mentioned that I was invited to record a podcast for SQL Data Partners.  That podcast is scheduled to air tomorrow — when it does, I’ll post a link to it!  (Update: my podcast is now online!)  I was excited to do that podcast; recording it was a lot of fun (although there were a couple of things that I wish I’d said differently — that’s another article for another time), and it made me feel pretty good that I was being recognized for a skill that’s right in my wheelhouse.

I’m also seeing subtle indications that my skills are being recognized.  In my current job, people are increasingly referring to me and asking me questions about documentation, writing, and communication-related issues.  On the SQL Saturday circuit, I feel as though I’m treated as an equal among other speakers, despite the fact that I’m not necessarily an expert in SQL.  I’ll admit that I’m somewhat humbled when I think about the fact that I’m sharing space with SQL MVPs.  My presentations may focus on soft professional development (rather than hardcore technical) topics, but these people make me feel like a fellow professional and one of their peers — and that makes me feel pretty good!

There are many resources you can tap to get yourself going.  I highly recommend an article by James Serra where he discusses how to advance your career by ‘blogging.  I also suggest a SQL Saturday presentation by Mike Hays where he talks about creating a technical ‘blog.  They are both excellent presenters, and I recommend attending their presentations if you have such an opportunity!

There are a number of ways to refine and practice your skill sets.  Activities such as writing ‘blog articles, taking part in a user group, speaking about topics in your field, answering questions in an online forum, taking courses, and so on, provides a solid foundation for the skills you want to establish.  It’ll take time, but if you make the time and effort to develop and enrich your skills, your efforts will eventually bear fruit.

Why I ‘blog (or, “Variations on a Theme by Serra”)

In my first ‘blog post, I mentioned that I had numerous reasons for starting a ‘blog.  I’d like to expand upon that here.

I should mention that this is not my first effort at writing a ‘blog.  I also had another ‘blog on Livejournal.  However, that account mostly served a purpose that’s currently (and better) served by Facebook.  (I purposely exclude links to my old Livejournal account.)  After I started my Facebook account, my Livejournal account was mostly ignored.  Once I had new reasons for starting this ‘blog (that I write about below), I decided that it was time to put my Livejournal account to bed for good.

(If you’re looking for links to my Facebook account from my ‘blog, don’t bother.  I purposely don’t include them.  My Facebook account and my ‘blog serve two different purposes, akin to separating my personal life from my work.  I do, however, have links to my LinkedIn profile; that is more outward-facing and publicly shared.)

I met James Serra at SQL Saturday #526 in Rochester.  He has an excellent ‘blog post titled “Enhance your career by blogging!”  Many of the reasons he cites are exactly the same reasons why I started this ‘blog.  He is one of the big influences that prompted me to start my ‘blog.  In this article, I take his ideas and expand upon them, using them to explain why I ‘blog.

I listen to a lot of classical music.  One of my favorite works is Rhapsody on a Theme by Paganini by Sergei Rachmaninoff.  In that piece, Rachmaninoff takes a theme written by Niccolò Paganini and creates his own spin on it by writing his variations based on that theme.  In this article, I suppose you could say that James is Paganini, and I’m Rachmaninoff.

I’m a stickler for documentation.  I have a Master’s degree in technical communication, and I have professional experience as a technical writer.  Technical writing and documentation are among the most essential, yet most underutilized and disrespected, functions within most organizations.  (I have a SQL Saturday presentation that addresses exactly this issue; additionally, I will address this topic in a future ‘blog article, but this goes outside the scope of what I’m writing about here.)  ‘Blogging provides a forum for me to document my thoughts and ideas.

I’ll start with the very first bullet point that James writes in his post:

“I can document solutions I encounter for future use.  Sort of my own personal Google”

Above all, this is probably one of the top (if not the top) reasons why I started my ‘blog.  I frequently look up online references to help me with my work.  Among some of my favorites: SQLServerCentral, 4GuysFromRolla, StackOverflow, MSDN, W3Schools, etc.  Having this information readily at hand is like having my own online library.  If you walk into someone’s office (or cubicle), you might see a bookshelf containing books related to that person’s job.  Maintaining my ‘blog serves that same purpose.

Stealing a few more of James’ bullet points:

“I enjoy sharing knowledge”

“It helps as a consultant when I can use my blog as a solution to a customer’s problem”

“I use it as a replacement for client documentation.  They want you to document a solution, a work-around, etc.  Don’t just write-up something in an email or Word doc…blog it!”

James lists these as separate bullet points, but they all have an idea in common: what I write on my ‘blog helps other people.  Not only does my ‘blog serve as a reference for myself, but what I write is helpful to others as well.  If what I write helps other people, then I’ve made a productive — and satisfying — contribution.

Moving right along . . .

“It helps me to remember the things I blog about better because I am researching it and writing it”

How often have you come up with a thought, told yourself, “I’ll remember this; no problem,” become distracted with other tasks, then completely forgot about your thought?

As I write this, I have eight (and counting) ‘blog drafts sitting in my queue.  Whenever a thought comes to me, I’ll go to my drafts and write my thoughts down.  One of my life philosophies that I’ve developed over time includes this one: if I’m thinking of something, either (1) take care of it right away, or (2) write it down.  I have a lot of ideas in my head that deserve (I think) to be heard.  A lot of my drafts are merely scratch notes or ideas for articles yet to be written.  When I was researching the tech writing/documentation presentation I mentioned earlier, I came across this quote (that I included in my presentation slides): “If it isn’t documented, it didn’t happen.”  In George Orwell’s 1984, O’Brien destroys a document, then promptly tells Winston Smith, “I do not remember it.”  Documentation preserves thoughts.  If your thought isn’t written down, you risk losing it forever.

“I learn new technology by blogging about it.  The best way to learn is by teaching, especially when I don’t know enough about a topic”

One thing I learned from my experience as a technical writer is that I learn a lot about something when I write about it, sometimes to the point that I become a subject matter expert.  When you write about a particular subject, you need to learn about that subject in order to document it.  Writing about something helps you retain that information in your memory.

“To raise my personal brand”

“It’s a way for recruiters to find you”

“To prove to clients I know my stuff”

“It’s a way to become ‘known'”

While this is more a minor reason that I ‘blog, I readily admit that a part of me hopes that ‘blogging and presenting will eventually lead to bigger things.  Right now, it’s too soon to know whether or not my ‘blogging experience leads to a higher salary or significant advancements in my career.  But you never know.  Whether or not ‘blogging leads to bigger and better things remains to be seen.  We’ll see what happens down the road.

I’ll also mention something that James doesn’t talk about in his article.  One of my reasons for ‘blogging has to do with my involvement with SQL Saturday.  I gave my first SQL Saturday presentation in 2015, and have come up with additional presentations since then.  While my presentations seem to work well by themselves, I found that they could be made even more effective with additional information to supplement them.  That’s where my ‘blog comes in.  Much of what I write can be used either to support my presentations, or the material in my presentations can be used as fodder for future articles.  The ‘blog provides the vehicle that allows that to happen.

Are those enough reasons?  Maybe, by this point, I’ve inspired you to create your own ‘blog the same way that James inspired me.  Best of luck in your ‘blogging endeavor!

Greetings, and welcome!

Greetings, and welcome to my ‘blog!!!

So, why did I start this ‘blog?  There are a number of reasons, but mostly, it’s because I have things to say and thoughts in my head — and I figure that I can help people in the process.  (And yes, there’s a part of me that hopes that this leads to something, as per the links in the next paragraph.)

I was also inspired by others to do this.  For starters, I connected with a number of people through my involvement with SQL Saturday (I’ll talk more about that in a later post).  One of the people I met recently at SQL Saturday was James Serra, who wrote a ‘blog post about why it’s great to write a ‘blog.  (On a related note, James has a presentation called “Enhancing your career: Building your personal brand” that I’m hoping to catch at a SQL Saturday at some point.)  I also met Mike Hays, who presented a SQL Saturday session about technical blogging.  I give both of these gentlemen credit in prompting me to get started with blogging.

So what can you expect?  Mostly, I’ll likely write musings about some things about which I’m passionate — including (but not limited to) music, technology, communication, traveling, working out, and sports.  Mind you, I don’t write this to be social or to talk about my personal life (that’s what my Facebook account is for); rather, I write this as a memoir of things on my mind that’ll help me and (hopefully) help others.

So, let me lay out some ground rules here.

While I will likely write about a variety of topics, what I write in this ‘blog is strictly professional.  I fully expect this to be seen by networking contacts and employers (present, past, and future), in addition to my friends.  My rule of thumb is, if I don’t want my boss (or my mother) to see it, I’m not writing about it here.

Also, I expect all discourse in this forum to be respectful, thought-provoking, or constructive.  While people are welcome to express their opinions (I know that I sure will), I won’t tolerate name-calling, flame wars, racism, mudslinging, or spam.

I also will not tolerate plagiarism of any kind.  Anything I write are my own ideas.  If I do utilize other ideas (which I’m sure I will), I’ll either cite them appropriately or include links to the original source.  Any ideas I post that aren’t mine and are not cited are inadvertent, and I welcome people to call me out on them.

I reserve the right to remove anything I deem offensive.  I also reserve the right to report anything illegal or unethical (especially if it’s spam, which I despise passionately).  My ‘blog, my rules.

So, let’s get this party started . . .