Category Archives: Volunteer

One Great Day And Mixed Feelings

If it happens two times then you know the first time wasn’t a fluke.

Today was my anniversary date for the SQL Server MVP award. I wasn’t expecting to be renewed. I was though. Three of my friends weren’t added to the MVP roster. All three of them have put in the time and work. If this was as simple of do X and Y get MVP it would be easy to say you didn’t do X enough or Y enough. That’s not the nature of an award.

a·ward verb (used with object)
1. To give as due or merited; assign or bestow: to award prizes.
dictionary.com

An award is given. Let me say that one more time. An award is GIVEN. You may have done enough to earn an award. That doesn’t guarantee you will be given it.

I deserved it!

I dare say many have deserved it and not been granted MVP status. I thought I was one of those people. In 2004 I did a ton of crazy traveling and promotion for SQL Server 2005. I was a user group coordinator for two user groups almost 2 hours apart from each other. I sacrificed a lot. I felt I was entitled to the MVP award. I had been passed over before but this time I deserved it. I didn’t get it. Was I mad? Did I feel a bit betrayed? You bet I did. Why should someone that hangs out in a user forum all day be more worthy than me? I had a hard time accepting that I was passed over, AGAIN. It changed me. It changed my outlook on things. I sat back and evaluated why I was giving so much of my time supporting a product, made by one of the wealthiest software companies in the world, FOR FREE? Eventually, I realized it wasn’t the product or the company. I was supporting my career,  my desire to learn more and the people around me who also just wanted to learn as much as I did. So, for the most part I got over it. I quit flinching every time I was introduced as an MVP or former MVP. I stopped getting angry every time someone would say “I was sure you were an MVP!” I stopped letting my world revolve around achieving MVP status. Even though many of my friends and colleagues were current or former MVP’s. I just put it aside. I said if all the work I did in 2004 wasn’t enough then I can’t imagine how much more I could do, what else I could give up to prove I was MVP material. I just kept doing what I loved to do, working with a product I was passionate about teaching what I knew and learning from others whenever I could.

Being happy for others.

Eventually, I just got really zen about it. I watched others get the MVP and I was always happy for them. My favorite was when Jen McCown (@midnightdba) got her award. I watched it live on DBAs@Midnight. I was so happy for her I cried. I cheered at the screen and realized just how awesome Sean can be sometimes. I had several conversations about how Jen “came out of nowhere” and was awarded “early” in her efforts. Had Jen been community driven as long as I had? No. Did she take a sabbatical to have a family? Yes. Did she F**KING CRUSH IT when she got back in the swing of things? Oh hell yeah. She started blogging, recording videos and speaking in 2008. In January of 2011 she was awarded. She didn’t write a few blog posts. she wrote HUNDREDS. She didn’t record a few vids she (and Sean) started a live show on fridays. She was just everywhere, for TWO YEARS SOLID. To say just just popped fully into her MVP in 2011 is a great injustice to the amount of work she put in. Did others work harder during that time than Jen? Maybe, but I couldn’t name them.

I Finally made it.

When I was awarded last year I was unbelievably fortunate to be surrounded by my friends and the community I support. I was, and am, extremely humbled to be an awardee. Today, when I hadn’t received my nod, I was ready to pull the MVP logo from my intro slide and give the best presentation I possibly could. MVP or no MVP I love what I do. I love teaching. I love community. If I don’t get renewed next year it won’t change a thing. I will still travel on my dime, give my time and do my best. If you think that is “lip service” then I am sad for you. If not being an MVP keeps you from doing the things you love then maybe you really aren’t doing what you love.

We are all human.

 

It’s not wrong to want the MVP award. Its not wrong to work towards that goal. If you think you earned it and didn’t get it, thats your fault. You aren’t alone in the “I should be an MVP” club. As a former member I know just how bitter it can make you sometimes. If you want to earn something, go get your Microsoft Certified Master. It shows you are technically one of the best with SQL Server. You don’t have to speak, blog, record videos or hang out on the technet forums for years hoping to be recognised. If you work your ass off for it and you earn it Microsoft hands your certification right over.

For those of you who haven’t been awarded yet, please don’t stop trying. More importantly, don’t stop giving to the community who appreciates it more than Microsoft ever will. Realize you change lives when you teach others. Your and theirs.

So, now that I’ve ranted and rambled about the MVP what is it? Again, Jen wrote it up well.

My Playbook For Putting On a SQLSaturday Part 1

The Long Road

I am going to post this as a series covering, in detail, everything humanly possible about the logistics of SQLSaturday #97.

Fiddly bits. I cannot tell you how important it is to plan in minute and excruciating detail. If you don’t have a ton of experience in event planning I don’t recommend you “wing it” or leave it for later. We had a very aggressive time table and little experience planning this kind of event. Both of those could have been the undoing of the whole event. Having several detail oriented people made the difference in our case. What we lacked in experience we made up with time and energy. We asked lots and lots of questions from other people who have done SQLSaturday’s. Jonathan Gardner, Ryan Adams and Andy Warren were all instrumental in the success of SQLSaturday Austin.

Initial Planning

A Key thing to have in place before you can start your SQLSaturday is pretty simple. People, you must have a core group of people to handle the planning and logistics. For a small event three people may be enough to get everything done even if one person drops out. In our case I lined up five. We had one drop out but found a replacement so the workload didn’t get too crazy for any one person.

<rant>

The first rule of leading something like a SQLSaturday event is respect. Everyone is volunteering their time or money and in some cases both. No matter how small the contribution realize that person didn’t have to give at all. Treat everyone with respect, period. Don’t belittle anyone or any task. Planning a SQLSaturday can become overwhelming very quickly and everyone will be leaning on each other for moral support. If you lay the foundation that you are the leader and everyone else are peons don’t be surprised if tasks are half done or not done at all. Lead by example, expect their best and treat them accordingly.

</end rant>

Don’t be afraid to delegate responsibilities. Realize I didn’t say “punt” or “push off” stuff to others. You are handing people important tasks no matter how small and you should treat it as such. Keep an eye out for early signs of tasks slipping and don’t be afraid to talk frankly and clearly about anything that is slipping. Better to have someone realize they are over committed and volunteer to reduce their workload or actually drop out than find out in your last week you don’t have lunch lined up yet. It isn’t failure if you back out, it is failure if you “stick it out” and don’t get anything done.

How Big Is Too Big?

Deciding on how big your SQLSaturday should be can be a real brain buster. When we looked around our area having a goal of 250 attendees seemed small! Dallas, Houston and Baton Rouge all exceeded those numbers. Looking back I would have probably positioned us at 150 to 200 max. It changes the requirements on the venue and also reduces cost. Since this was our first SQLSaturday we really didn’t know what the cost per attendee should be. Don’t be afraid to do a small event! If it is your first SQLSaturday it is much easier to recover from mistakes if the head count is 50 instead of 500. Once you do your first one the lessons you learn will apply directly to your next event. As you grow the size you are in a much better position to deal with any issues. Experience is a great thing to have.

We had originally set our attendance goals at 25o people. In reality, if you have 25o attendees you also have 10 to 20 volunteers plus 20 to 30 speakers and an additional 5 to 10 vendors. If you plan on housing 250 you are short 50 to 70 people.  Keep this number in mind, since we were planning for 250 that meant planning for 320 instead. This can blow your budget up in unexpected ways.

Head count pretty much determines your minimum budget. At 250 I set the initial budget at 6,000.00. Remember the extra people, at 250 attendees I set the actual headcount at 350 for budgeting purposes. Better to over estimate costs and pay less, than under estimate and be short on funds. I was fairly confident that I could raise that kind of money, find a venue to house us and feed the event. Everything else was optional. It was also the maximum amount of money I was personally willing to risk. This will vary from city to city and state to state. Some may be much less some may be much more. We will get into a detailed cost breakdown in a later post. If I could secure a free venue I would have dropped this number to 3500.00. Food is almost never free. Even if you charge the maximum allowed it probably won’t be enough.

You Are The Bank

People rarely understand how events like these are funded. To put it bluntly, you are on the line for the money. If you commit to a venue and don’t have the funds in hand, they really don’t care, you are liable. Trust me on this one, I had more than one “What the hell am I doing!” moments. I would highly recommend talking to all your local contacts and leverage any vendor relationships you have to size up how much money you may be able to raise.

I cannot tell you how many people were stunned that I was financially responsible for SQLSaturday Austin. I was fortunate to have Jim Murphy also step in as a backer along with my other core board members, but when I kicked this off I had to assume there would be no safety net if things didn’t work out.

We don’t talk much about failures but they do exists. People have been out hundreds or thousands of dollars due to inexperience, or simply canceled the event and refund as much money as possible when it was realized that the budget was going to be extremely short.

DO NOT BASE YOUR BUDGET ON SOMEONE ELSE’S SQLSATURDAY BUDGET

If you didn’t plan that event you shouldn’t use it as your absolute guideline. I will be talking detailed budget numbers but your budget may vary quite a bit. Every SQLSaturday is different.

You need to look at how many attendees they planned for how much the gross costs were for the big stuff like venue, food and any other major expenses. I’ve seen several budgets and none of them had enough detail in them for a totally green outsider to use effectively. They do serve as a barometer of sorts. They help you rap your head around the expenses in a general since as well. Hopefully, they do provide some insight into how much money it takes, and what you could be on the hook for if things go south.

The Chicken And The Egg

The reason I stress that you are the bank is a simple one. You can’t sign the agreement with PASS and host a SQLSaturday sanctioned event without a venue. In most cases that may mean an up front cost of several hundred to several thousand dollars if you can’t find a free venue to host the event. They want to make sure you have done some homework and have at least put in some sweat equity before cutting you lose with the SQLSaturday brand.

Up next:

Finding a Venue

PASS Board Of Elections: Rob Farley

Be Part Of The Solution, Not The Problem

<disclaimer >

Now that BoD season is in full swing and I’m not running for the board I am going to cover the candidates I think would be good for the BoD. Make no mistake about it, these are endorsements. I have ether worked with, or have a personal relationship with the people I am going to talk about. In the past I have sat on the sidelines and watched events unfold and simply spoke with my vote. I don’t expect everyone to agree with me, heck I’m not sure the people I’ll be writing about will agree with my reasons for backing them.

Also, don’t think because I’m not backing you that I’m soundly rejecting you ether. I simply may not know you very well and wouldn’t endorse any thing, person or product if I didn’t have some personal experience to draw upon. If you want to correct that then feel free to reach out to me. I always love getting to know people better.

I won’t be speaking against any candidate. Don’t ask my opinion on a candidate that I haven’t written about, you won’t get it. I still have a sense of hope about elections in general and believe you should win them on YOUR merits and not by tearing down your fellow candidates. At the end of the day, we are all part of the PASS community. We all want it to be better and shouldn’t be in the business of belittling others just because they are running for a BoD slot along with you.

</disclaimer >

Rob Farley, High Voltage!

Many of you my only know Rob from his blog (http://sqlblog.com/blogs/rob_farley/) or via Twitter @rob_farley. I very little contact with Rob before 2009. I was an avid reader of his blog and knew he was an MVP from Australia but it wasn’t until I started following him on twitter and watching him interact with others that I add him to my “people to meet” list. In 2010 I got that chance at the PASS Summit. To be honest with you, I thought he was drunk. I’ve rarely seen anyone that excited about anything. I have seen people with enthusiasm and passion but Rob was just a notch above that.  I think Microsoft took AlwaysOn from Rob.

Management Skills

Well, that one is pretty easy. Rob started with a single person company and has grown it to 6. He is a leader in the SQL Server community running the Adelaide, Australia users group. He is also active outside the SQL Server community. Rob is a huge proponent of ownership. If you take on a problem you should own it. He doesn’t ever dodge an issue or deflect blame.

Education/Experience

Rob holds three degrees covering arts, science and computing. Again, I don’t believe that you must have a degree to be a successful leader. I do admire his dedication and for studying such a wide range of subjects.  Again, he is a local leader as well.

Dedication to Community

Holy cow! Rob is dedicated the the community locally and nationally. He recently accepted an non-voting appointment to the BoD to help grow PASS as an international organization. He  Even though he has focused on that aspect he also understands that PASS has to reach out to the local level. He also gets that local doesn’t just mean metro areas like my own town of Austin, TX but to the smaller undeserved communities.

My Understanding of Rob’s Vision

Remember, this is my take and if I’ve got it wrong I hope Rob will correct me.

Growing PASS internationally. Rob wants PASS to be more than a United States only organization. PASS has tried a few times to extend its reach without a lot of success. I don’t know if the new initiative will be a slam dunk  but I think PASS has engaged the right people. Rob also understands that to expand into Australia and other countries you must engage at the local level. You must also respect the organizations that are there serving the community already. After all, we all want the same thing, to educate and support the community. He also sees PASS as an organization that isn’t as tight with Microsoft as it should be. I agree that in some aspects we aren’t as close to the mother ship, but part of that is the nature of being an independent organization. I’m not sure how we could strengthen our bonds with Microsoft without becoming a “branch” of Microsoft. I’d like to hear how Rob would grow that relationship.

A Solid Candidate

Rob Farley is probably one of the most honest and genuine people I’ve ever met. He gives of his time and resources to help others. He is also a strong entrepreneur, his brand of leadership rings true with me. Oh, did I mention he is humble? He has a hard time promoting himself. He isn’t a boastful man at all even though he has plenty to be proud about. He has been awarded MVP for several years. A successful business man, father and community leader, he may not feel comfortable putting forward his successes I do.

Yep, I support him.

PASS Board Of Elections: Adam Jorgensen

Be Part Of The Solution, Not The Problem

<disclaimer >

Now that BoD season is in full swing and I’m not running for the board I am going to cover the candidates I think would be good for the BoD. Make no mistake about it, these are endorsements. I have ether worked with, or have a personal relationship with the people I am going to talk about. In the past I have sat on the sidelines and watched events unfold and simply spoke with my vote. I don’t expect everyone to agree with me, heck I’m not sure the people I’ll be writing about will agree with my reasons for backing them.

Also, don’t think because I’m not backing you that I’m soundly rejecting you ether. I simply may not know you very well and wouldn’t endorse any thing, person or product if I didn’t have some personal experience to draw upon. If you want to correct that then feel free to reach out to me. I always love getting to know people better.

I won’t be speaking against any candidate. Don’t ask my opinion on a candidate that I haven’t written about, you won’t get it. I still have a sense of hope about elections in general and believe you should win them on YOUR merits and not by tearing down your fellow candidates. At the end of the day, we are all part of the PASS community. We all want it to be better and shouldn’t be in the business of belittling others just because they are running for a BoD slot along with you.

</disclaimer >

Adam Jorgensen, A Giant Of a Man

Many of you may know Adam. He is fun-loving, joke cracking and generally dangerous to engage in any kind of verbal jousting. He is an imposing figure both physically and mentally. Adam also has a wealth of experiences that makes him a good candidate for the board.

Management Skills

Most of us know Adam through Pragmatic Works. He currently serves as the President of Consulting. This isn’t his first position in a leadership role though. You don’t wake up one day magically in a leadership role. He holds an MBA as well as a BS in Computer Science. He is technical and still has the chops to navigate the board room. He also has a strong background in finance.

Education/Experience

I personally don’t think an MBA or a college degree is necessary to be a good leader and board member. Just look around in our own industry for that clue. What I do think you need is experience to back up any degree you have. To me Adam shows that every day. He manages a diverse group of people effectively. He has an MBA and backs that up with a solid track record.

Dedication to Community

You cannot be on the PASS BoD if you don’t get that we are a community. Adam gets that too. I watch him go out of his way to meet new people and make connections with them. Not just the normal “Hey you know Pragmatic is hiring right?” He also doesn’t put himself on a plateau above others no matter their skill level, or new-ness to SQL Server. He is an educator in every sense of the word. As an author he has worked on several books that have gone on to be standards in the BI space. He is part of the SSAS Maestro Council helping shape the top-level of certification for Analysis Services. He also is a current MVP.

Giving Back

All of that stuff is nice for sure. Adam also works for a consulting company. All of those things either directly or indirectly can add to that business. But, that’s not what it is all about with him for sure. He also sits on the board of the Pragmatic Works foundation. The focus is to help unemployed or underemployed teachers and veterans retrain and get back into the workforce. Some of these lucky few have actually gone to work at Pragmatic Works.  Can you say that? How often do you meet someone who gives freely to help another. How about changing someone’s life for the better?

My Understanding of Adam’s Vision

I have always held that PASS has always been an organization governed from the top down style. This has been slowly changing over the years. Things like SQLSaturday and SQLRally are finally bringing the training and community connections down to a regional level. We still haven’t fully reached the local chapter level yet though. By extending what PASS does well down to the local level and provide real training for those who need it most we can make a real change in people’s lives. In our own chapter we have talked about how to fund a small training program like Pragmatic Works foundation as well. True outreach to those in need. I’m not talking about blindly sending money to a user group, but setting up partnerships and helping manage some of the logistics to those who want to be teachers can, and those who want to learn have the opportunity to do so. There are also opportunities for internships with local businesses. Possible partnerships with local colleges and universities as well. I think Adam has the tools to make it happen.

Yep, I Like Him

Adam understands. A great Summit is awesome, but changing someone’s life for the better is priceless.

Come For The Education Stay For The Networking

OMG! SQLSATURDAY #97 IS HERE!

I am really excited about SQLSaturday #97! In just a few short hours we will be opening the doors to a crowd of people wanting to learn about SQL Server.

We have a crazy good lineup of speakers and a truly awesome group of sponsors to come see and hang out with. For all of that, you should really come to meet new people, make a connection and carry that forward after SQLSaturday #97 is in the books. You have a great opprotunity to meet some new folks and maybe see them again at the PASS Summit in just a few days as well.

Again, I can’t thank my core team AJ Mendo, Jim Murphy, Mike Byrd, Richard Heim and Amy Muehleman enough for the months of work that went into this. If you bump into them tomorrow make sure to thank them, pat them on the back and let them know it was worth your time to attend.

 

SQLSaturday #97 Speaker Selection Process

Hard Choices

First, thank you for submitting to speak at SQLSaturday #97 in Austin, TX. Myself, Richard Heim and Mike Byrd had a good time reading and discussing all the abstracts.

Now that we have rapped up the selection process let me say it was no easy chore. I’d love to tell you that it was a completely unbiased and the selection committee didn’t have any agenda at all. That simply isn’t the truth. Queue ominous chung CHUNG here….

The Most Un-secret Conspiracy Ever

SQLSaturday is a very unique thing. It’s a free regional event. It provides training. It also provides a venue for local speakers and teachers to sharpen their skills. If you have ever spent any time talking with Andy Warren about SQLSaturday you will find that he also thinks it is an opportunity to promote local over more well known national people. I also have a pragmatic view of things. There are three groups of people you are trying to make happy. In a perfect world there would only be one group, us. That just isn’t so.

You Can’t Make Everyone Happy

Speakers

There are a lot of speakers these days, I know I’m one of them. SQLSaturday has been a huge boon to the new group of up and coming teachers and leaders. One of the things not to lose site of that a scant 3 years ago this pool was much, much smaller than it is today. There is a significant group of very active speakers on the “SQLSaturday Circuit” and we do rely on them to kick start things. If you are in a region where there just isn’t a very active local pool these fantastic speakers are a true asset. For me, it was a reassurance that we would have enough speakers and topics to meet the community need. Luckily for us in Texas we have a pretty sizable group of speakers between Austin, Dallas, Ft. Worth and Houston there are easily 30 or more speakers. It can also be a bit of a problem. Part of me wants to load up with the most seasoned and well known speakers to help draw a crowd. That isn’t the whole goal of a SQLSaturday though. So, I reached out to people in the area and made sure they submitted sessions. I worked with some of them personally to help with abstracts and presentations. I also made sure they had a spot to speak at the local chapter meeting to get them a little experience. You will see people on the schedule you have NEVER heard of. You may not know them. They are some of the best at what they do in our region. This also means I may have passed up a more season speaker to promote someone new. Remember, someone gave you your first chance to speak don’t begrudge me for doing the same thing for others.

Vendors

This event wouldn’t be possible at all without vendors, end of story. It takes money to put on a SQLSaturday no matter how big or small. There are a finite number of dollars to put on these events and vendors have to pick where they think the money will do the most good. Not just in marketing terms, but in bolstering their local communities as well. I’ll let you in on a little secret, I’ve been the guy that had to choose where those dollars went. I had to look at the size of the market. Did we want to pull in more of the market share in that region. Would we be able to support a push by sales to continue the initial drive. All of these things are a factor. At the end of the day, will there be a direct or indirect benefit to the company. Why should I put dollars into your event and NOT into some other marketing channel? To that end, I want to see that you are stacking the speaker list to put as many butts in seats as possible. This isn’t 100% against the goal of getting some new people on the roster, but it isn’t a guarantee that we will maximize eyeballs on product ether. You will find that 99 times out 100 a vendor will gladly take that gamble.

Attendees

Big names do draw a part of the crowd that attends a SQLSaturday. Not as much as most people think. You may look and see someone well known speaking but there is usually a lot of other content that you want to see. What I have seen is people going to the sessions that are teaching something they want to learn. What a shocker! Yes, people will pack a session if there is a topic that is hot and there is a well known speaker presenting. I’ve also seen well known speakers speak to a hand full of people. What I’ve found is a lot of the attendees have never been to a SQLSaturday or any event like it. They may not know that you, the veteran speaker, are totally awesome and they should come see you. Even if you are talking about turnips. You, as an attendee, may choose to come because there are some super stars speaking. Trust me on this one, you will learn from every session you attend.

It Ain’t Always Easy

Myself and my team have made every effort to balance the needs of all three groups as best we can. If you submitted this year and didn’t get a slot to speak, please don’t let it stop you from submitting again next year! If you opted not to be a sponsor I completely understand that too. If you choose not to attend that’s OK, there are other events in the region I hope you can make it to. We did our best to promote local, balance the schedule and make sure that there was enough solid content to make this a true learning experience. I hope everyone, speakers, attendees and vendors all get some benefit from our event.

I will make you this promise. I will never put myself on the schedule. I’ve been blessed with a job that allows me to travel and with the support of the community, I have been given lots of opportunities to speak. I will gladly make sure that a slot is held open for the next new person in hope that they grow into the next rock star and give back to the community.

Again,

A huge thanks to everyone that submitted a session, I cannot express how humbled I was to see the number and the quality of submissions. I look forward to having this same problem next year.

Plucking Wallflowers

Wallflowers Bloom

My friend Tim Mitchell wrote an awesome personal account a while back and shared it again recently. It’s a tale I have seen and heard all to often. A tale of a really smart guy who just lacks the courage and confidence to step forward and participate in the social aspects of our great community. If you have had the privilege of meeting me at the Summit, or anywhere else for that matter, you know I don’t suffer from “Wallflower Syndrome”. As a matter of fact I have the incurable reverse of that infliction.

Who are you, where are you from and what do you do?

If you meet me for the first time this year at the Summit, or the second time my memory isn’t what it use to be, I will ask you that question. Usually, in a very loud and assertive way. I get a lot of smiles, some shocked looks and sometimes brushed off completely after asking. Oh, and I may just come up to you out of nowhere to ask you. You got it, I come up to complete strangers and engage them with confidence and good cheer. I’ll let you in on another little secret, if I see you sitting alone and shunning the crowd I will make it a point to come shake you awake. I pluck wallflowers. As Tim pointed out, if you aren’t engaging in the social aspect of the Summit you are missing half of the reason to be there at all.

I SAID WHO ARE YOU, WHERE ARE YOU FROM AND WHAT DO YOU DO!

That’s right, even if you blow me off my memory is so shoddy I will forget that you gave me the stink eye and come back for a second round. I may even send in others to help me in my task of drawing you in to the crowd. You have to fight kicking and screaming to get me off your back and let you sit on the wall all alone, you know like at your last high school formal. I will get the message eventually though. There are so many people that do come to the Summit secretly hoping that they will be invited to go sing karaoke, or a least go hang out and socialize that I will forget about you (shoddy memory again) and just go have a good time.

Making Lasting Connections

To me, the Summit is more than just education from the best minds in our field. It is about making connections with others. You will meed the greats at the Summit, you know who I’m talking about, the Paul Randal’s, Brent Ozar’s and Steve Jones’s of the SQL Server world. You will also meet peers, people just like you that grind out the less glamorous parts of our job every day. You may end up being a mentor to some, even though you don’t think you are anything special. You will also be mentored by those whom have something to share with you. I still get emails and stay in contact with people I’ve only ever met at the Summit. I got emails this year from people that haven’t been to the Summit in two or more years to let me know they would be there this year and are looking forward to reconnecting. That’s the kind of deep connections you can make with people too. It isn’t just all about “expanding your network”, it’s about making lasting friendships with people who are in the same boat with you.

Fine, Be That Way

If you choose not to do anything social at the Summit that’s OK too. Not the outcome I was hoping for, but not the end of the world ether. Maybe you will make one new friend or go to just one of the after hours events. At the end of the day you did make the effort to come to the Summit. Hopefully, you will be back again, and I’ll have another chance to get the stink eye from you (damn my shoddy memory!).

Why You Should Attend SQL Saturday 97

Reposted from :http://sqlaj.wordpress.com/2011/08/19/why-you-should-attend-sql-saturday-97/

By AJ Mendo

Free Training

Part of the mission statement of SQL Saturday (read the full statement here) is to provide a day of free training to SQL Server Professionals and those new to SQL Server an event that combines training and networking as well as find and grow new speakers (see Calling All Local Speakers) that means you!

Take a look at all the sessions submitted. The tracks are not finalized yet but so far we have sessions submitted for DBAs, Developers, BI professionals, dotNet, and an Advanced. As you can see there is something for everyone.

Cool People To Meet

For me networking is one of the best parts of any SQL Saturday event. You can catch up with old friends and meet new ones. I especially like meeting the people I have chatted with on twitter and not met in person. That’s part of what makes the SQL community so strong and always growing. You can have conversations (all be it short ones) on twitter and when you actually meet them it’s almost as if you have known them for years.

The Weather Is Fine Wish You Were

I am sure you have seen something in the news about how hot it has been and the serious drought conditions down here in Texas recently. Yes it’s true; we have many days during the summer over 100 degrees and have not had measurable rain in several months.  However, our fall weather is usually very, very nice.

The normal high temperatures for October are in the low 80s and the normal low temperatures are in the upper 50s. Our average monthly rainfall is below 4 inches. That is not too shabby when compared to other areas of the country or world for the month of October. This year will be no different it is going to be a beautiful weekend to be in Austin.

Things To Do

After getting your learn on during the day, and after you have hung out at the Networking Social post event party you can stroll along 6th street. Checkout the clubs the people and maybe, just maybe run into the world famous Leslie (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leslie_Cochran).

Austin is known as the Live Music Capital of the World! Every weekend for sure and just about every week night you can find live music to your liking in Austin. Whatever you decide to do Austin has the nightlife to support it.

Vendors

Vendors are a big part of any of the SQL Saturday events and ours is no different. They support the events financially and with people. Please make it a point to visit the vendors, talk with them, and check what they have to offer, get a free pen or a splat ball, and if they are giving something away, throw your name in hat for a drawing at the end of the day. Who knows you may win something and get more than just free knowledge. I was at an event in the spring where one of the attendees won several things in a row. That could be you this time.

Final Thoughts

When you look at the wide range of session topics submitted. The speakers on the list, then networking possibilities, not to mention it is FREE, there is bound to be something for every level of experience.

If you haven’t noticed by now, I am really excited to be a part of CACTUSS and that we can give a little back to the community by SQL Saturday 97. If you are attending, find me and say hi. I’ll be the one grinning from ear to ear.

Cheers!

What It Means To Me To Be A Volunteer

Hi my name is Wes, and I am a volunteer

I am not unique. There are others like me, who give time, money or both. I am not the biggest giver. There are some who dedicate their lives to helping others. I couldn’t stop being a volunteer even if I wanted to. It is simply part of who I am.

All Shapes And Sizes

People from all walks of life are volunteers. I’ve met people who had very little in the way of material goods still giving to those who had less. I know people who have found success in the highest levels of their professions still take time to give back. Does the person who has millions of dollars and gives the same amount of time as the person who lives paycheck to paycheck valued less as a volunteer? I don’t think so. The rich person may give because he can while the poor person gives because he must, doesn’t diminish the gift.

Why People Volunteer

There are no wrong reasons for being a volunteer. I’ve had some heated debates on this one. Some people feel that if you gain materially through being a volunteer it cheapens your contribution. I personally don’t agree with that assessment. I know several people that are private consultants that give their time and money to the SQL Server community. In return they may get some business. I know some people that it is literally their job to interact with the community. I’ve heard people say things like “He gets paid to do that.” and it is true. It doesn’t change the fact that someone’s life has been enriched by their activities. We consider some paid volunteer positions noble in nature. Take teachers for example. They touch our lives in ways that just can’t be measured. A great educator can effect whole generations and have a lasting impact long after their teaching years are over. Sometimes being a volunteer is encouraged by your employer. It may be part of your improvement plan and factored into your bonuses or promotions. It doesn’t lessen your contribution to the community just because you get direct or indirect benefit from it.

Should You Volunteer?

I’ll be honest with you, I don’t know. Would I like you to give back to the community? Without a doubt I would. Should you volunteer is a personal question I can’t answer for you. I can tell you about my choices and introduce you to others that have made the choice, but I can’t choose for you. I’ll share another little secret with you, if you choose not to volunteer you aren’t a bad person. Even if you benefit from my work and don’t share in return I’m fine with that.

How Volunteerism Impacts My Life

As a life long volunteer I can say it has changed my life in many ways, none of them I regret in the least. I will say it is getting harder to give time without impacting my professional  and personal life. I try to balance my desire to be a volunteer with my duties to my family and work. It isn’t always easy. Since I’m a volunteer my wife is also a volunteer. When I am away from home she has to shoulder all the parenting duties. My son is also a volunteer. Even though he is only three he gives up time with me and does crazy things like ride in the car eight hours so he can be with me when I travel. It also diverts money away from my family. I’m not saying I’m broke or anything, but when I give money in support of the community it means that some things may get delayed at home. We may not get to save as much. Again, I’m not the only one giving in my house. My family gives when I give. Without the support of my family it would be almost impossible to be as active as I am.

Community Reactions

It always surprises me when people come up and thank me for doing what I do. Do I like the praise? You bet I do. It lifts me up and makes me want to do more and try harder. Would I still do this without the pats on the back? Yep. I’ve done a lot of volunteer work where there was zero recognition from the community. Sometimes people tell me I’m a good person for doing this when I don’t have to. What most people don’t understand is I really don’t have a choice. I have to volunteer. I can’t imagine my life without it. It may be something my parents instilled in me or a genetic defect for all I know but it is an imperative that I cannot avoid.

Final Thoughts

If you are a sufferer of chronic volunteerism I’d love to meet you and hear your story. Even better I’d like to see you write about it too. Trust me, there are people that look at me and say “I don’t know how he does it.” I then turn to someone else who does more than I do and say the exact same thing. I wonder what they are giving up to help me be a better person and what I can do to pass that on to others.

Heading to Baton Rouge! SQLSaturday #64

I’ve been honored again to present at Baton Rouge. This is an excellent event from every angle. It is also getting big! This is shaping up to be a truly well rounded Microsoft focused event. If you are there please come say hi, I love to meet new people!

http://www.sqlsaturday.com/64/eventhome.aspx

Check it out and build your schedule. Don’t forget the after party ether. Networking is a huge part of a SQLSaturday, take advantage of it!