SQL Saturday NYC — a quick debrief #SQLSat912 #SQLSatNYC #SQLSaturday

I wanted to take a quick moment to do a quick debrief of the events from this weekend. I’m actually working on a longer article about the events of this weekend, but it’s still a work in progress. Hopefully, I’ll get it out later this week!

Until I get that article cranked out, here are a few highlights from SQL Saturday #912, New York City.

  • As I mentioned, I gave three presentations on Saturday, which is a new record for me. I started the day with my networking presentation. I felt it went well, but there was one disappointment: only two people showed up. Granted, I believe that I should always put on a good performance, no matter how many people are in your audience, but my networking session is more effective with a larger crowd, especially since I have a section in my presentation where my audience actually networks!
  • I did discover, to my chagrin, that my presentation clicker was missing the USB plug, rendering it useless. This was also disappointing — it was effectively a brand-new clicker, only used once, and I paid $40 for it. It occurred to me later that I think I know where I left it. I think I left it sitting in the desktop PC I used for my presentation in Providence. I don’t think I’m getting it back. Looks like I’ll have to invest in a new clicker.
  • I sat in on Matt’s session (again!), which was right after mine. His presentation keeps getting better every time I see it. It also occurred to me that both of our networking presentations complement each other very well, and I would love it if we could present back-to-back more often. We both bring different perspectives to the same topic, and the two of us combine for a very effective presentation!

    I felt bad for Matt, because, like myself, he also had a small audience (only four people, including myself). He gives a great presentation, and he deserves a larger audience.

    I also had to leave his session early, because I had to go to…
  • my second presentation of the day. This one was better attended — ten people showed up. This room setup was more like a conference room, which allowed me to give my presentation while seated. This meant I didn’t have to use my presentation clicker.
  • I ran into Thomas Grohser during lunch — my friend, one of the co-organizers of SQL Saturday #912, and the man who scheduled me for three presentations. He said to me, “go get your lunch. You’re going to need it!”
  • My third and last session wasn’t until 4:45. I thought about attending other sessions, but lack of sleep was catching up with me (I’ll talk about it more in my other article). I decided to pass on the next two session slots in favor of getting myself some rest.
  • My third session was held in the same room as my previous session, so again, I didn’t need my clicker. There were around six people in the audience when I started, but people filed in as I went along. I think there were around ten when I finished.
  • Amusing moment at the end of the day: I sat in the front row for the raffle prize drawings. James Phillips, another of the co-organizers, was doing the wrap-up, and he let me pick one of the raffle tickets. I reached into the bowl, mixed the tickets, and pulled out… my own ticket!

    I won a Bluetooth speaker!

So overall, it was a fun day (as SQL Saturday usually is). There was a lot more to my weekend, but I’ll save those details for my other article, which is still a work-in-progress. You should be able to read that article later this week.

That should pretty much wind up my SQL Saturday schedule for this year! My next scheduled speaking engagement is in Seattle next month for PASS Summit! We’ll see you then!

Jumping on the opportunity

(Photo source: NYCgo.com)

As I mentioned before, I’ll be in New York City for SQL Saturday #912 this Saturday (come check out my three presentations! </plug>). I’m taking the day off from work and am traveling down to The City on Friday.

I also noticed something else that was going on in The City while I was there — and I decided to jump on the opportunity!

Did I mention that I’m a big Yankee fan? As it turns out, Friday and Saturday also happens to be Games 1 and 2 of the American League Division Series! It’ll be the Minnesota Twins vs. the New York Yankees those days. And lo and behold, I’ll actually be in The City on those days! Can we say, opportunity knocks?

The only issue was the game time. My train arrives at Penn Station at 3:45. If it was an early afternoon game, there was no way I’d be able to go. When I found out the game was at 7 pm, I went online and splurged on a ticket for Game 1.

I’ve never attended a postseason baseball game before. It’s been on my bucket list for a long time. Granted, I’d prefer that it was a World Series game. But it was a situation where opportunity was knocking. The first two playoff games are in New York, and I’ll be in town when they happen!

So I will be in attendance at Yankee Stadium on Friday evening!

As I’ve written before, every now and then, you need to say, what the heck! Your professional life is important, but so is taking the time to stop and smell the roses (or, for me, to catch a ballgame). Opportunities don’t come around very often. And if one comes around, and you have the wherewithal to make it happen, then jump on it. Make it happen, and enjoy yourself!

(P.S. Let’s go Yankees!!!)

Reminder: come hear me speak (x3) in NYC #SQLSat912 #SQLSaturday

Image result for times square nyc

This is a reminder that on Saturday, October 5 (a week from tomorrow, as I write this), I will be speaking at SQL Saturday #912 in New York City — not once, not twice, but three times!

I will be doing the following three presentations.

  • Tech Writing for Techies: A Primer — Documentation is a critical but disrespected process. Learn why tech writing is important and what your organization can do to encourage it.

SQL Saturday is always a good time, and the New York City event is one of my favorite ones to attend! Go to their site to register for the event, and come check out my presentations — three times!

Upcoming speaking engagements (as of 9/24/2019)

As of today, here’s my updated list of upcoming speaking events.

I am confirmed to be speaking at the following events.

I’ve applied to speak at Boston BI SQL Saturday on March 28, 2020; unfortunately, it appears that I will need to withdraw from this event, as I have a conflict with that date. 😦

There are a few SQL Saturday events listed as save-the-date but are not yet live. Once they become live, I intend to submit to them. They include the following events.

  • February 29, 2020: Rochester, NY
  • May 2, 2020: Philadelphia, PA
  • June 13, 2020: Virginia Beach, VA (I’m admittedly on the fence about this one; Virginia Beach is a long way for me to travel!)

Come check out SQL Saturday and PASS Summit. They are wonderful learning and networking events for data professionals. I hope to be speaking at one near you sometime soon!

I “speak” Oracle. Can I go to SQL Saturday?

I’ve been involved with SQL Saturday for a while — since 2010, to be exact — and have worked with SQL Server for even longer than that. However, I currently work in an Oracle environment. This likely begs the question: if I work in Oracle, is SQL Saturday still worth my while?

The short answer: yes, absolutely!

The longer answer: there is more to SQL Saturday than just SQL Server.

Although Oracle and SQL Server are different platforms, they are both relational databases. Granted, there are differences between the two — having worked with SQL Server for so long, I’m still trying to grasp some of the concepts of Oracle. However, many of the concepts between the two relational databases are the same. Both databases share the same SQL language — albeit with some differences (akin to, say, differences between American and British English). Table structures are largely the same (again, there are differences, but they share enough similarities that knowing one allows you to grasp the other).

While differences persist between the two environments, cross-pollination between them is not necessarily a bad thing. Understanding their differences can often lead to a better understanding as to how they work.

On top of that, SQL Saturday is more than just the technologies. Speakers, myself included, present on a variety of topics that aren’t limited to just SQL Server. A number of speakers present on BI topics (some SQL Saturdays, in fact, are BI-specific; look for any event labeled “BI Edition”). Other topics include strategy, architecture, disaster recovery, and professional development. (As I’ve stated time and again, my own presentations are all professional development talks; they have nothing to do with SQL Server.)

And SQL Saturday isn’t just about attending presentations and learning. SQL Saturday is a huge opportunity for networking, which is essential for surviving today’s professional market. I’ve written and presented extensively about the importance of networking. A number of other people have also presented on the importance of networking; for PASS events, I highly recommend Matt Cushing‘s presentation about getting ready for a SQL event!

And if that’s not enough, SQL Saturday is just plain fun! I always have a blast at every event I attend!

So even if you work with Oracle, or NoSQL, or Access, or whatever your database of choice, SQL Saturday likely has something for you. Find an event near you, and come join us in the community!

PASS Summit — Nothing to see here

I haven’t written anything in a while about my PASS Summit prep. To be quite honest, I have nothing to report. I’ve been busy with several other things (among other things, I’ll make a trip to New York City before I head to Seattle), and I have plenty of things to keep me distracted (some of it in a good way).

For those of you new to my ‘blog (the rest of you can skip this paragraph), here’s a quick summary to get you caught up: this past July, I learned that I was chosen to speak at PASS Summit! If you’re a data professional, PASS Summit is a huge deal. If you’re familiar with SQL Saturday, I’ve heard it described as “the Super Bowl of SQL Saturdays” and “SQL Saturday on steroids.” Being selected to speak at PASS Summit is an enormous honor for me, as well as being a great boost for my career! (I should also mention that not only is this my first time being selected to speak at PASS Summit, this is also my first time attending, as well!)

I did get feedback about my presentation slides. I’m not sure whether or not I’m allowed to talk about that (it’s nothing bad), so for now, I’ll leave it at that. I also asked about luggage storage arrangements for the last day, after American Airlines pulled a fast one on me and changed my flight schedule. (Tip: I can store my luggage at PASS Summit. And from now on, I am avoiding American Airlines if at all possible.)

I’ve been poking around the Summit website for the latest updates. The only new thing that really caught my eye was a link to buy PASS merchandise. I can always use more polo shirts, so I will likely splurge on a shirt. (Heads up to my wife, a.k.a. she who controls my checkbook!)

I did speak to my mother this week, who asked me if I was planning on visiting my cousin (who lives in Seattle) during my trip. I said that, most likely, I wouldn’t have time. To be honest, it appears that there are a lot of activities going on around PASS Summit, and multiple friends who’ve attended in the past have told me to prepare to drink from a fire hose. So as much as I want to see people — I have several friends and family members who live in or near Seattle — I’m not sure if it’ll be in the cards for this trip. (And to those friends and family, if you’re reading this: if you do want to hook up, drop me a line; maybe we can work something out!)

So that’s about it for now. As I said, nothing really significant to report. Less than two months until I fly out to the West Coast! Looking forward to it!

Coming up with presentation ideas

As a followup to yesterday’s article, I thought it might be fitting to talk about presentation ideas.

Despite the fact that I speak regularly at SQL Saturday, none of my presentations (up to this point) have anything to do with SQL Server or even anything data-related. My topics revolve mostly around documentation and communication. So how do I go about coming up with presentation topics?

To answer this, I suppose I should go back to the beginning, and (re-)tell the tale as to how I got involved.

Back when I was primarily a SQL Saturday attendee, I knew I wanted to get involved. The question was, how? At the time, I looked around at the people attending the event, and I said to myself, “these people probably know more about SQL Server than I do. What can I present that these people would find interesting?”

In the early days of our user group (I was one of the original co-founders and members), we sought out speakers to present. I thought about data-related topics. I even took a turn one meeting where we were encouraged to bring up SQL-related issues as discussion topics. But when it came to ideas for data-related topics, I kept coming up empty.

I thought about a time at one of my jobs where I became an accidental customer service analyst. As a developer, I was not allowed to speak with end-users, but one day, I received a phone call from a user. It turned out that he had gotten my number from someone who was not supposed to give out my number. I was able to walk him through and satisfactorily resolve his issue. In fact, I did such a good job with it that, from that point forward, I became one of the few developer/analysts who was allowed to talk to customers. It made me realize that I had a knack of being able to discuss technology with end-users without being condescending to them.

During one user group meeting, I jotted some notes down. By the end of the meeting, I had come up with enough material for a presentation. I ran my idea past my fellow user group attendees, all of whom said, “that would make a great presentation!”

I worked on the presentation and presented it at a user group meeting.

Four years later, I will be giving that same presentation at PASS Summit! I’ve come a long way!

While that ended up being a good presentation, I’ve tried not to rest on my laurels. I still try to come up with new presentation ideas. I’ve come up with several since then, and I’m still trying to come up with more.

When I think about presentation ideas, I generally keep these thoughts in mind.

  • Is it a topic that attendees will find interesting?
  • Is it unique?
  • Is it something about which I’m knowledgeable, and I feel comfortable talking about?
  • Is it something I can present within an hour? And do I need to cut it back to an hour, or do I need to fill it in to an hour?

I still remember a piece of advice that Chris Bell, a DBA and fellow SQL Saturday speaker, once told me: “an expert is someone who knows something that you don’t.” That was profound advice, and I’ve never forgotten it. So far, it’s served me well in my speaking endeavors.

So if you struggle to come up with presentation ideas (like I do!), hopefully this will help you get the ball rolling. I look forward to seeing your presentation soon!