Once again it is an honor to attend such a great event and meet up with other like minded geeks. It’s an honor to be selected to speak and a privilege to deliver a session without any problems. I enjoy writing about my experience to encourage others to attend, and for those that could not attend, maybe they will get some insight as to what can be learned from such events. I wrote about my experiences at the DC SQL Saturday late 2013.
First, I must recognize all of the great volunteers at this event. This year I attended the speakers dinner for the first time which was very well organized. I got a little bit more of an insight as to what exactly the volunteers are responsible for. It is a lot of work coordinating an event like this, make sure everyone is comfortable, and making sure things work during the sessions. The volunteers are the most overlooked people at the event since the speakers are usually the ones most noticed. I can’t imagine how much more work it is for those that both volunteer and speak. So my heart felt “Thanks for an awesome job” goes out to all of the volunteers and speakers as well.
The three main things I took from this event is the quality and importance of PreCon sessions, the true value of networking, and going to the sessions you like not the speakers you want to hear.
I attended the PreCon and I can’t say enough about how fantastic it was. Wayne Sheffield and Jason Brimhall teamed up for a funny and extremely knowledge packed session. It takes a lot of dedication and hard work to pull off an all day event like that which was very interesting and extremely helpful. I found myself taking notes of things I need to change in my environment as well as sending emails back to folks at work about things that I think need to be looked at immediately. Over all, it was a great immersion in SQL Server that was needed on my end.
Networking is essential whether you are job searching or not. I think a lot of people over look this during these types of events. It’s good to meet new people with similar interests and talk about things in the classroom, during breaks, or at lunch. I met a lot of new faces and had great discussions with other like-minded professionals. You take away new names, new connections on LinkedIn, and new Twitter buddies. It’s great for future career growth and you never know, you may be able to help someone else that is looking to get more into SQL Server or even get a job. I’ve hired someone that I met at SQL Saturday and I’ve interviewed people that I’ve met at these events. I’ve met folks that are willing to be a mentor for me and others that want me to mentor them. It’s an awesome tool to help grow your career.
Networking is also a great way to build your brand whether you are a consultant or not. A lot of FTEs (I am a Full-Time Employee by the way) think that networking and brand building is just for consultants. That’s not true, you need to build a brand and maybe even a portfolio (Blog, Website, etc) that differentiates you from others because it is essential these days when job searching. Again, even if you are not actively searching, building up your credibility in the community is not something to overlook.
Finally, this is probably one of the most important things I learned during this SQL Saturday, go to sessions you are interested in even if you do not know the speaker. SQL Saturday has a lot of new speakers, and a lot of speakers you have never even heard of. Some of us have strange names you cannot pronounce (I’m one of them!!) but don’t just brush them off. All of the sessions I attended on Saturday were for speakers I have never met, never attended sessions for, and never even heard of before the day of the event (with the exception of the lunch-time session for which I knew the speaker).
I was discussing with another SQL Saturday attendee about various sessions and she was debating which session she was going to attend for the last session. I mentioned to her that I’m delivering my session in the next time slot and she asked me what the session was about. She is a database developer, and my session sounded more of a session for DBAs. I explained to her that my session was geared towards DBAs, Developers, and Sys Admins (as written in the description). She decided to attend and afterward told me that she benefited greatly. So read the descriptions, attend sessions you are interested in even if you have never heard of the speaker, and always read the descriptions don’t just go off the title. You will surprise yourself with what you learn. There are tons of great speakers at SQL Saturday and I learned so much from people I just met there on the day of the event.
I hope to see you all at the next SQL Saturday I attend. There is so much more to learn other than just the technical, geeky stuff that we’re all so used to going for. The SQL Community is huge, they take care of their members and they produce quality events. Support your local chapters, support your community, support yourself and you’ll find these events to be fulfilling to you and your career!