I am on a flight to LaGuardia as I write this after spending a week in Charlotte at the SQL PASS Summit . I was only home long enough to attend my brother’s wedding yesterday and sleep about 11 hours before heading to my next customer in New York City. I feel like time has stood still while the Summit captured my entire attention for the past week. I know that things happened in the world like the federal government starting up again and the Cardinals winning the National League Pennant, but mostly I have no idea what has transpired outside of the Summit since I arrived in Charlotte on October 13th.
After arriving at the hotel in Charlotte Sunday night, my SQL Sister Melissa Demcsak (@SQLDiva) and I met up with other SQLFamily at Dillingers and then Carolina Ale House. It was great to run into so many friends, including some of my Pragmatic Works colleagues that I rarely get to see. Note: I am not going to attempt to mention every person I talked to at Summit because it would be impossible. If I don’t mention your name, that doesn’t mean I didn't appreciate our conversation.
My week began on Monday as I attended Redgate’s SQL in the City. I attended the morning sessions and lunch before heading back to my hotel to take care of a few things. I especially enjoyed Grant Fritchey’s (@scarydba) session on tuning queries in Azure. Since I have made MVP this month, I can now get back on Azure with my shiny new MSDN subscription. Most intriguing to me is the execution plan available on the web based tools. I also wasn’t aware how much throttling comes into play with things like rebuilding indexes. On Monday night, Melissa and I met up with other SQL Peeps and headed over to Carolina Ale House once again. We were with a group of about 30 people and couldn’t believe it when we were turned away. Someone forgot to warn Charlotte about #SQLFamily.
On Tuesday, I attended the Big Data pre-con given by Jen Stirrup (@jenstirrup) and Allan Mitchell (@allanSQLIS). Once again, I am happy about that MSDN subscription and can’t wait to play with Azure HDInsight. Thanks Jen and Allan for a great day.
Tuesday night is the official start of PASS Summit with the Welcome Reception. I like what PASS did this year by expanding the reception to the hallway and balcony. It was so much easier to talk to folks and move around. After the reception, Melissa and I headed over to the Strike Zone for the Volunteer Appreciation Party and Linchpin People party. Somehow these ended up in the same venue, but it worked out great for meeting up and talking with more of my SQL peeps.
Next we headed over to Denny Cherry’s (@mrdenny) famous Karaoke party. Thanks to SQL Sentry and Denny for putting on such a great party. I don’t think I have ever seen so many people having such a great time. It looked like I was going to have to wait a couple of hours to sing, but used my position as the person who introduced the SQL community to Karaoke and reigning Karaoke Queen to get moved up the list. I sang "All I Wanna Do" by Sheryl Crow which seemed like the appropriate song for this group. I’m not sure if they noticed I changed the words “washing cars on their lunch breaks in skirts and suits” to “washing cars on their lunch breaks in kilts and skirts”.
Wednesday morning I skipped out of sessions to have my Global Entry interview at the airport. I watched the tweets and blogs about the keynotes while I was waiting. Hey, next time, can someone get the bloggers some Starbucks? Congratulations to Amy Lewis (@amy_lewisAZ) for winning the PASSIon award!
I managed to catch two sessions on Wednesday afternoon as well as hangout at the Pragmatic Works booth for a couple of hours. I learned more about data cleansing from Tim Mitchell (@tim_mitchell) and sat in on the Windows Azure VM session. This session was a Q&A session actually meant more for folks already running or in the planning for running Azure VMs. This was not what I expected, but it is good to understand the challenges that folks are facing as I learn more about this topic.
During the Exhibitor Reception Wednesday evening, I helped staff the Pragmatic Works booth by handing out wristbands for our party and talking to folks about our training and consulting offerings and products. Then, of course, was the highlight of the week the Pragmatic Works Karaoke party with Rockaoke. Rockaoke is Karaoke but with a live band. Pragmatic Works actually booked two bars instead of just one, so there was room for 800 people in the different areas of the two buildings. I managed to get two songs in, "Hit Me with Your Best Shot" and “Mama’s Broken Heart” my new go-to song. Singing with the live band and the fantastic sound system really made me feel like a rock star. At one point during the evening it hit me how fortunate I am to work for a company who would throw a party like this.
Ah, Thursday. By Thursday I was feeling the effects of too little sleep and too much loud music. I didn’t actually make to any sessions on Thursday despite my good intentions. My first obligation was a book signing with Joes 2 Pros to promote my SSRS book. I signed over 30 books and met several new friends. We also gave out cards for a free trial for their new Joes2Pros Academy. My actual real life niece on my husband’s side, Sarah Seals, stopped by the booth as well. I am so proud to say that Sarah is working in analytics and uses SSRS!
Next up was my PASSTv interview with Meredith Ryan (@coffegrl) about the Women in Technology panel. I am the community outreach Coordinator with the WIT chapter which means I help extend the Summit WIT Panel to events like SQL Saturdays.
Following the interview, I headed to the WIT Panel lunch and got to sit at a table with my niece Sarah, a woman I had just met at the Joes2Pros booth, and a nice gentleman. I didn’t expect to learn so much during this session and especially thank Erin Stellato (@erinstellato) and Gail Shaw (@SQLinthwild) for the profound things they said. The topic was about embracing diversity and fitting in at work. From Erin: When someone tells you that you won’t make it in IT because you are a woman, or are an athlete or whatever, just tell them “How can I not succeed?” From Gail: Make sure you are not part of the problem when it comes to including others in the work place.
So, the next thing that happened felt quite magical. One of the attendance prizes was Goldie Blox, an engineering game for girls. When I heard about this a few months ago I vowed to buy it as soon as my 19 month old granddaughter was old enough. As the game was announced, I said “I want that!!!” Well, I didn’t win it, but the lady sitting across from me did. She ended up giving the game to me because she wouldn’t be able to fit it in her luggage.
After lunch was more booth duty for Pragmatic Works. This time there were no wristbands to hand out and a smaller crowd. I was able to spend some time actually demonstrating our software.
On Thursday night I headed over to the Community Appreciation party at the Nascar museum. Chris Shaw managed to talk me into an interview (about minute 4) before Melissa and I went over to Howl at the Moon piano bar. Since I was feeling the effects of several late nights and my own session was coming up on Friday, I decided I needed a more low key evening. There was a lot of peer pressure to go out for Karaoke again Thursday night, but I managed to resist and made it back to my room around midnight.
Friday morning was my big day and I set my alarm a bit late. Once I arrived at the convention center, I went over to the speaker ready room to test my laptop with a projector. In the speaker ready room I ran into my team leader Brad Ball (@sqlballs) and longtime friend Matthew Roche (@SQLAllFather). I realized that I was now sitting in a Food Vortex as I recalled that some of the most memorable meals of my life were experienced with these guys, Matthew in Seattle at Elemental and two weeks of interesting restaurants with Brad in Columbia, SC, where we were working. I promised to attend Matthew’s session on BI Self service and data stewardship and he told me it was at 10:45.
After a few minutes of confusion since the Summit guide said Matthew’s session was actually at 10:15, I made it to the session on time. I learned all about Power Query and Power Map at the session as well as laugh as Matthew managed to get his heavy metal and geek references in.
My own session was scheduled for 2:45, and after lunch I began to prepare mentally. My stomach was already doing flip flops and my hands were numb. I went to the speaker ready room to go over my demos and try to relax. I guess I will always be a bit nervous before speaking, but speaking at PASS Summit takes my nervousness to a different level. I was also afraid no one would show up for the session since Paul Randal (@PaulRandal) was speaking in the same time slot.
There was a 30 minute gap between sessions so I was not worried about setting up, but I went ahead and walked to the room early. I was surprised to see so many people waiting to get into the room while the previous session ended. After yet another trip to the bathroom, I got everything set up and was miked with many minutes to spare. One thing that good speakers do is try to engage the audience before the session actually starts to warm them up. I started asking them about how they liked the week, talked about the importance of filling out the evaluations, asked the first timers if they felt welcome, and told them I was the person who started SQL Karaoke. So, maybe that last topic was a mistake because I soon had several people asking me to sing. I still had five minutes to go, so I thought, why not? I found “Mama’s Broken Heart” with lyrics on YouTube and started singing. I finished just in time and started my presentation.
So, I don’t regret singing before my presentation, but I hope that the session recording starts at the actual time the presentation was supposed to start and not when the mike was turned on. I also hope that the singing didn’t hurt my evaluations at all. I gave the audience a great deal of information with lots of examples and they seemed very receptive. Time will tell, I guess.
Friday evening I was invited to attend the Charlotte SQL Saturday speaker dinner. It was great getting to extend my time with SQL Family a few more hours. I was actually in my hotel room by 9:30, but I couldn’t sleep as the events of the day played in my mind. Maybe I drank too much iced tea at the speaker dinner or maybe it was the infamous PASS High.
Saturday morning I met up with Keith Tate (@keith_tate) to share a ride to the airport. As luck would have it, we were on the same flight to Chicago. I was a bit nervous about the trip home because my youngest brother’s wedding was at 3:00 pm that day. I was only going to make it on time if everything worked perfectly. Amazingly it did. There were no flight delays, and my luggage was the second item out of the shoot. Even the parking shuttle was waiting for me, not the other way around. I made it home in time to change clothes and headed to the wedding with my husband and granddaughter, Gwen. It was about a 45 minute drive to the wedding, and I slept the entire way. I was falling asleep at the reception and slept the entire ride home. Now it is time to recover and get back to the real world of consulting tomorrow. Maybe I’ll forget how amazing the week was as all the PASS Summits seem to blend together as they move further in the past, but I’ll never forget what the SQL Family means to me.