Category Archives: SQLPASS

What Do You Want?

It’s that time of year, planning for PASS Summit 2016.  We’ve already put out the Call for Volunteers, which closes today, January 22, 2016, so get those applications in and be part of the team that helps determine content for the Summit.  Don’t want to volunteer but still want to help determine content for the Summit?  Then take the survey to tell us what you want to see.  It’s a quick survey, less than five minutes and you only have until Wednesday, January 27, 2016 to tell us what you want.  What are you waiting for, get to it!  You may even win a USB of the session recordings.

What would you like to see at Summit 2016?

We Want You!

It seems like PASS Summit 2015 was just yesterday and here we are again, getting ready for Summit 2016 already.  This will be my seventh year of being a member of the Program Committee and my second year as a Program Manager.  If you have ever thought about volunteering for PASS this is a wonderful opportunity.  We need lots of volunteers to assist with everything from reading abstracts to special projects so that we can make Summit 2016 a great experience for the entire community.  Summit 2016 is still over nine months away but the work starts now.

The call for volunteers just went out this afternoon and we want you.  Use the link below to fill out the volunteer application.

PASS Summit 2016 Call for Volunteers

The Whirlwind That Is October – Part 3

October has been such a whirlwind of PASS activity for me. Two SQL Saturdays and the PASS Summit. This post is about the PASS Summit in Seattle, October 27 through 30. You can read about my SQL Saturdays here and here. Settle in, get a cup of <insert caffeinated beverage of choice>, this is going to be a long one.

I arrived in Seattle on Saturday, October 24th. Since I spent a lot of my formative years in the Pacific Northwest, I usually go early and have family and/or friends meet up with me for the weekend, but this year life just got in the way so I spent Saturday afternoon and Sunday wandering around Seattle alone doing touristy things and stocking up on souvenirs for those left at home.

Monday morning came bright and early and I headed over to RedGate‘s SQL in the City event. This is the fourth year that I’ve attended this event. It mostly showcases how to use RedGate products, but there are some other useful sessions as well. One that I particularly liked was the workshop that called on SSDT users. They broke us up into two groups and had a RedGater leading the conversation. I got to meet some new folks like Phil Helmer (B | T) and know that I wasn’t alone with some of my frustrations when using TFS in SSDT. Of course Bill Fellows (B | T) was there providing valuable insight as well. And yes Bill, I will blog about my build and deploy process sometime in the near future. I also got to meet Andrea Allred (B | T) in person. We had connected over Twitter via our musical interests and really hit it off in person. Andrea I can’t thank you enough for encouraging us to drive 4 hours to see The Struts (B | T), it truly was an experience I will never forget. I also got to officially meet Sheila Acker (T). She has been a familiar face for the last five years, but we officially met this year. So nice to finally meet you Sheila.

I ended my Monday by catching up with my dear South African friend Martin Phelps (B | T) at Rock Bottom Brewery. He has a lot of work ahead of him, he and his teammates are trying to make it to the World Championships of sky diving in April 2016. Good luck Martin!

I got to sleep in a bit on Tuesday before I hit my favorite hole in the wall eatery, Blue Water Taco Grill (BWTG). Let me just say that I LOVE BWTG. I live in High Point, NC, where they think that a good breakfast burrito is what you get at Chik-Fil-A during their breakfast hours – NOT! I miss my breakfast burritos from Pete’s Kitchen in Denver and while the one that I get at BWTG is not smothered in green chile, it does have chorizo in it – food fit for a king (or queen as it were). But I digress, on with the adventures of Tuesday.

Tuesday was a day for meetings, the SQL Saturday Organizer and Chapter Leader meetings. These were fabulous, got some great ideas for ways to advertise SQL Saturday and my local chapter. After my meetings I hung out with Andrea and her husband Ryan Allred (T) for a while talking music. We exchanged some of our favorite band names, which I am still going through. Then it was off to be a PASS Ambassador for the Welcome Reception. For those that don’t know me, this is my “Most favorite-est” (as my youngest niece would say) thing to do at Summit. I can’t stand up in front of a room of thirty people and present a session without almost hyperventilating, but I have absolutely no problem standing in a crowd of people and greeting them with smiles and assistance when needed.

If you couldn’t tell, I am a big music fan, so it was no contest when I found out that Florence + the Machine (B | T) was playing in Seattle on Tuesday night. After my PASS Ambassadorship ended, I skipped the volunteer party and headed straight to Key Arena. Florence did not disappoint, she performed barefoot (as usual) and was very “twirly”. After a very long day of nonstop action, I headed back to the hotel to get some much needed sleep.

Wednesday started off very early with being a PASS Ambassador once again. Did I mention that this is my favorite volunteer job at Summit? I was at the top of the escalators at 6:45 a.m. greeting attendees, speakers and sponsors. One thing that was new this year was the Ask Me! hand sign. I still haven’t found out whose brain child that was, but when I do, look out, you will be getting a serious #SQLHug from me. Most IT folks are such introverts that they seldom make eye contact with people, so the fact that I had a sign giving them permission to ask a question was AMAZING. I even had one attendee ask if he could have his picture taken with me and my sign (and if this was you, please share that pic, I didn’t get your name and would love to see how it turned out).

Since I was manning the top of the escalators until the start of the Keynote, I missed breakfast completely, so I headed over to BWTG for my morning burrito. I sat there eating my burrito and watching the Keynote – streaming live – Thank you PASS TV! After that I was able to attend the Microsoft Foundation Session on Business Intelligence. Man oh man, I can’t wait for SQL 2016, the enhancements to SSRS alone are enough to make me want to skip over Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s.

Lunch time came around and it was time to say fair well to outgoing Director Amy Lewis (B | T). Amy has been the Director with the Program Portfolio for the last two years and prior to that she was heavily involved in the Program Committee, so I have worked with Amy directly or indirectly for five years. I was sad to see her not run for the Board again, but I understand that life just gets in the way. We have a new fearless leader in Ryan Adams (B | T) and I can’t wait to work with him. I was able to make it to two more sessions in the afternoon, then it was on to the Exhibitor Reception. It was nice to get a chance to chat with some of the vendors and see their products. I also ran into more #SQLFamily than I can name here. I was also “coerced” into giving an interview for PASS TV. If you were unfortunate enough to see that take place, you now understand why I am not a speaker. If you did not witness it, be thankful and leave it at that.

The night ended with SQL Karaoke hosted by Pragmatic Works at Hard Rock Cafe. This is always a good time and this year was no exception. I only wish I could have stayed longer. I retired early as I was to be a PASS Ambassador once again at 6:45 a.m. on Thursday.

The highlight of Summit came when Lance Harra (T) was presented with the PASSion award during Thursday’s keynote. This was long overdue, Lance has been on the Program Committee in some shape or form for eleven years, being a Program Manager for the last three or four. As a member of the Program Committee for the last five years and now a Program Manager, I see how hard Lance works. Next time you see Lance, be sure to congratulate him. We are very proud of him.

Unfortunately this is the point during Summit when I come down with a nasty virus and miss Thursday afternoon and all of Friday. I ended up sleeping in my hotel room for the rest of the conference, missing out on some cool sessions and most importantly #SQLFamily time. I so wanted to catch up with Sebastian Meine (B | T) in the Community Zone to talk about tSQLt. I was also looking forward to hanging out with AZ (T) and so many others during the Community Appreciation party. But in true #SQLFamily fashion, AZ checked in on me every day until I made it home. Thank you AZ!

I ended up at Urgent Care on Sunday morning after I got home.  Needless to say my poor excuse for a respiratory system was in dire need of medical attention.  Four prescriptions and one shot in the butt later, I was sent home to rest and recuperate.

While my experience at Summit ended way too early, I still had a great time. If you’ve never attended a Summit, what are you waiting for? If you’ve attended before, I am so glad you came back and I hope to see you next year.

One last reminder – you can still submit session evals online until November 6, 2015 via the Guidebook app. So do it now! The speakers and the Program Committee need your feedback so we can continue to make Summit a success.

The Whole Pie

Today should be such an exciting day, the day the speakers are announced for the 2015 PASS Summit. But as someone who has been involved with the process for the last 6 Summits, it’s a day that I usually turn my Twitter feed off because there’s always those one or two people who don’t get selected or who don’t like the selections that were made and throw a very public tantrum. Then the insults and accusations start flying.

There has been a long history of criticism of the abstract review process for the PASS Summit. Speakers complain that they don’t get feedback or the feedback they get is not helpful and that the process takes too long. Community members complain that certain topics weren’t included, that the process is a black box or there is a “white” and/or “black” list of who gets to present and who doesn’t.

When I started working on the Program Committee six years ago as an abstract review team member, it was a lot of work but very rewarding. When I was asked to step up my game two years ago and become a team lead, it was more work, but even more rewarding. Being part of the process that builds the program for the Summit is a great honor and a tremendous responsibility. So when I was asked to be a Program Manager this year, I had to consider what it would mean. It would mean even more work but I wasn’t sure if it would be more rewarding. But I decided I was up for the challenge and accepted the role.

In years past I was only responsible for a very small piece of the pie. I had my track that I had to think about and that was it. As a review team member, you read the abstracts for the track that you are assigned, you rate them and then you provided the team lead with your rankings. That was it. The rest of the process was really a black box to me.

As a team lead there are a few more pieces of the pie that you get to sample. Not only do you get to read all the abstracts in your track, but you also get to wrangle reviewers (someone akin to herding cats) and make tough decisions based on input from your team members. You have to take into account things like topic distribution, session level and speaker distribution (speakers are limited to only two general sessions). Being a team lead is a very time consuming role. Last year in an effort to provide better feedback to submitters a report was introduced that allowed team leads to see the comments reviewers had made. This gave us the opportunity to have a bit more of an insight into what the team members were thinking when they scored an abstract. The flow of the data wasn’t perfect, but it was tremendously helpful to me as a team lead.

As a Program Manager you have to look at the whole pie. You have to do all the things that a team lead does, but now you have to do it for ALL the tracks, not just the one that you were assigned to review. Then you have to set out to “build the program”. Building the program is like a super-mega-charged game of Jenga. You move one piece and it can cause such a ripple effect, you might spend thirty minutes trying to “fill the gap” you just created. I have a whole new appreciation for the process after being a Program Manager.

Whether you are a speaker getting an email, or you are a community member looking over the sessions that were selected, remember that feedback is a GIFT. Everyone loves gifts, so think twice before you speak/blog/tweet about the process. That was a giant pie we just made and we are very proud of it.

Becoming a PASS Chapter Leader – Challenge Accepted!

My first real introduction to PASS was back in 1998. I was an “Accidential DBA” and needed some training. I heard about this conference in Chicago and my boss agreed it was the best place to start. Little did I know how that conference would influence the rest of my career.

Fast forward to 2010, after taking a slight hiatus from SQL Server, I was ready to get back into it. What better place than a local user group? After moving over 1,600 miles (a couple of years earlier) from where I started my career in SQL Server, I needed to make some new local connections. That’s when I was introduced to the Triad SQL Server User Group. At the time, Miguel Cebollero (B | T) was the chapter leader. Miguel was so friendly and welcoming and I remember Kevin Goode was presenting a session on CLR and how it really is NOT the devil’s work, but a great tool if used correctly. I was hooked.

In early 2011, Miguel decided to move back to his home state of Florida and handed the reins over to Kevin. Kevin moved the meeting location from Winston-Salem to Greensboro and I attended meetings on a semi-regular basis, but let’s face it, life just gets in the way. By 2012, our meeting attendance started to drop off and a new BI Group had started up in Winston-Salem. It became obvious that something had to change. Kevin had the foresight to work with the new BI group and asked for volunteers to help him out with the chapter. I decided to step up as “Speaker Wrangler” and we worked out a schedule with the new BI group that would be mutually beneficial.

Now it’s 2015 and Kevin has taken on a new role in his company which means he has less and less time to devote to the user group. When Kevin approached me about taking over the user group I was both honored and excited (and a little scared) that he considered handing the reins over to me. I have accepted the challenge and I hope that I can continue to lead the group as well as both Kevin and Miguel did and provide a much needed resource to local SQL Server professionals.

We will be a little more active on social media, we tweet at @TriadSQL and use the #TriadSQL hashtag, and welcome any suggestions that will make your user group more useful to you.

Achievement Unlocked: 24 Hours of Pass Session Submitted

I have finally submitted a session for a speaking engagement. Those who know me know that this is a very BIG deal. I have a horrible fear of public speaking, but I am slowly starting to embrace that fear. Last year I presented at the Triad SQL BI User Group and I didn’t hyperventilate, no one was more surprised than me.

I submitted the same session that I did at the Triad SQL BI User Group, Introduction to Integration Services (SSIS), to the upcoming 24 Hours of PASS: Growing Our Community.

I wanted to be a teacher when I was in college until I discovered my fear of public speaking. Now, more than 20 years later, maybe I can finally reach that goal.

Fingers crossed that my session is accepted.

Summit 2014

It’s hard to believe it’s over.  It felt like a whirlwind while I was in Seattle for my 7th PASS Summit, but now that I’m back home it feels like it was ages ago.  I think time moves more quickly when you’re with friends and that’s where I was, with friends.

I got to reconnect with old friends and meet new ones.  I didn’t attend nearly as many sessions as I would have liked, because let’s face it, cloning technology isn’t quite where it needs to be as Michael Keaton found out in Multiplicity.  With my luck my “Number Four” would have attended one of Paul Randal‘s sessions and I would have wound up doing God knows what to my servers when I got back.

I also got to meet people that I have “worked” with for quite a while virtually, but never met in person.  I must say it’s always refreshing when their “in person” exceeds your expectations.  There are so many genuinely nice people in our community, I am truly in awe.

In years past I have not been able to participate in most of the after-hours activities due to Summit happening right before a big annual swim meet, which meant I couldn’t take a break from training.  This year, my swim meet was the week before Summit so I didn’t need to get up at 4:30 a.m. every morning to make it to practice before breakfast.  I got to see how the “other half” lived at Summit this year.  I must say it was eye opening and entertaining.  They don’t have next year’s swim meet on the calendar yet, but I have the Summit dates, so next year’s meet just may have to go on without me.

If you’ve ever attended a PASS Summit, you know what I’m talking about when I say I’ve already started the count down until next year’s Summit.  If you’ve never attended a Summit, what are you waiting for?

I Didn’t Hyperventilate!

I gave what is officially my second presentation this week. I presented at the Triad SQL BI (Twitter | PASS) user group meeting and I didn’t hyperventilate! That’s a huge deal for someone like me, who is petrified of public speaking.

It started out a little rough though.

Timeline
Friday, 8/22 (just 4 days before presentation date) – I met Katherine Fraser (SQLSassy) for lunch and she mentioned that their scheduled speaker had just cancelled on them the day before. I asked her what she was going to do and she said unless I wanted to present for her, she had no idea. I jokingly said, “Yeah, sure, I’ll present”. Do not EVER, tell a chapter lead you will present, even if joking around because they will pounce on you! Lesson learned there. I agreed to present a very introductory session on SSIS. I then went home and started to panic.

Saturday, 8/23 – I woke up with a horrible sinus headache and thought I was in the beginning of nasty sinus infection. Now I really started to panic. I sent Martin to the drugstore to buy every sinus medication they had on the shelf. There was no way I could be sick, I could not cancel on Katherine after I had just agreed to present the day before. I proceeded to pound down some Emergen-C and drink about a gallon of water an hour for the rest of the day.

Sunday, 8/24 – I woke up at 4:30 a.m. to take part in the upgrade of major system at work. I felt about the same as Saturday. I pounded some more Emergen-C and worked until 11:30am. After we got the green light from the testers at 3:30 p.m., I went to bed and collapsed.

Monday, 8/25 – Woke up feeling much better, but not great. Pounded more Emergen-C. Started to work on my presentation. Did I mention that I didn’t have anything prepped for a presentation? I’m not a speaker, why on earth would I have a presentation ready to go? Got a call from my boss that the system upgrade wasn’t going so smoothly and had to start firefighting in production.

Tuesday, 8/26 – Presentation day. Got the word from my boss that the system upgrade was still up in the air, but none of the pieces that were broken were anything I could help with or fix. I started to work on my presentation. Just before lunch time I was told I had two conference calls I needed to participate in. Great, another two hours I don’t get to work on my presentation! Finally done with conference calls, when I got a call from my boss, we are rolling back the upgrade and I need to bring the old server back online. Luckily I had been able to create the content of the presentation and test it. I just didn’t have any time to do a practice run through. That was going to have to be enough, it was time to go to Winston-Salem.

I arrived in plenty of time, but I forgot: the power supply for my laptop, my external mouse, speaker evaluation forms and my list of things I needed to take with me to the meeting. Luckily my laptop was fully charged and didn’t die during the presentation (in fact I could have gone on for another 2 ½ hours, thankfully no one wanted to stay that long!). A mouse was provided by our wonderful host, Matt Clepper of Inmar, but not before I had a slight mishap using that @!#$%^& embedded mouse on my laptop. Katherine was well prepared and brought speaker evaluation forms. As for my list of things I needed to bring with me, well, I just had to “adapt and overcome”.

The presentation went pretty well, I didn’t hyperventilate. Sometimes you have to have a very simple goal, just survive without a trip to the ER.

Wrap up
Overall it was a good experience. I think I did a good job of presenting and the feedback I got reinforced that. There were some great ideas on what I could have done better and some great comments on what I did well.

Will I speak again? Probably. I’m not sure I’m ready for a SQL Saturday quite yet, but maybe another couple of times at UG meetings and I’ll think about it. A huge “Thank you” goes out to Katherine for taking a chance and believing in me.

Of course I didn’t sleep at all Tuesday night. I kept thinking, “I forgot to tell them…”

2014 NomCom Slate is Amazing

Serving on the Nomination Committee (NomCom) is such an honor. One that I was lucky enough to experience two years ago. It allows me to give back to the community that has given me so much over the years and continues to give back on a daily basis. This year’s NomCom will also be tasked with “streamlining the process for involving and evaluating candidates and with enhancing opportunities for community engagement in the elections.” I am very excited about this opportunity. When I served two years ago, I thought there was room for improvement in the process and it looks like this will be my opportunity to see if I can make a difference.

This year’s slate is a great one. There are former Board members, chapter leaders, former NomCom members & some very outstanding volunteers. I am excited to see there are so many taking an interest in their community. Please do your research on each candidate and make the choice that is right for you, then get out there and VOTE! It’s your community. Voting opens June 3 and closes June 6.

Disheartening Apples

Question:  How many Oracle DBAs can you fit in Madison Square Garden?

Answer:  None, their egos won’t fit through the door.

No, this blog is not a slight towards Oracle DBAs.  I have several friends who are Oracle DBAs and they are some of the nicest, most humble people you will ever meet, but in my experience, they are the exception.  Early in my career I had to administer Oracle and the person I was supposed to learn from was a hard core Oracle DBA and had been for years.  Probably one of the smartest people I’ve ever worked with but only barely tolerable to be around because his ego was larger than the Goodyear Blimp.  When I was introduced to SQL Server way back in 1996 (yes, I am dating myself), there really weren’t any experts in the field readily available when questions came up.  The internet was just starting to flourish and Google hadn’t even been invented yet.  There were a few guys that I had heard of that were willing to help, Brian Knight, Andy Warren & Steve Jones.  I knew about them because Steve Jones was a local guy in Denver, where I was living at the time.  They created this thing called SQLServerCentral.com.  These few are the epitome of SQL Server stewards, for both knowledge and professionalism.  Smart, humble, easy going, willing to share knowledge freely and did I mention smart?  Honestly, they have been my role models for “lifting as you climb” in my career.  Okay, now I sound like some creepy stalker, so we’ll move on to the point of this blog.

For those that know me personally, you know I am not a speaker type, so I give back to the SQL community by volunteering behind the scenes in any way I can.  So when I was selected to work on the program committee for PASS Summit 2014, I was so excited I did a little happy dance in my cube at work.  My co-workers are used to seeing my head bob to the music of my headphones, but seeing me do a happy dance was a little startling for some.  This will be my 5th year on the committee, more specifically the abstraction review team.  I love being on the abstract review team, getting to read what people are passionate about teaching is always so exciting.  It kick starts my love of SQL Server and learning.  However, just because I had been on the committee in previous years, I never assumed I would be selected again.  It is such a privilege to be chosen, and trusted, with this huge task.

Recently there has been a lot of chatter in social media about the selection process (or lack thereof according to some).  It saddens me to see some people’s true colors.  Being chosen to speak for any engagement, not just the PASS Summit, is a privilege, not a <insert deity here> given right.  The selection process has improved over the years and has become more streamlined thanks to the investment made by the PASS IT team.  It still has room for improvement, but most things do.  One of the things I like best about this year is the increase in the amount of time we have been given to review the abstracts.  In years past, we’ve had a very small window in which to review the abstracts.  That small window made it very difficult to coordinate team members’ schedules to discuss final rankings and assign rejection reasons.  I am hoping we can do a much better job this year of providing useful feedback to speakers.  Another improvement that was implemented last year was the removal of the speaker from the abstract.  This is a huge deal.  In years past, we could see who submitted the session and I fear that it swayed team members’ opinions of abstracts, both good and bad.  Some would be chosen because they were “well known” speakers and/or authors, it didn’t matter that their abstracts were poorly written, which in my experience often translated into poorly presented sessions.  Some would be excluded for the exact same reason.   As a speaker you need to have enough respect for your audience to provide them with the best written abstract you can, it’s the surest sign of respect.

I congratulate all those that have submitted sessions for the Summit; it’s a huge step just submitting a session for the PASS Summit.  If you are selected to speak, I ask that you remember that it’s a privilege and an honor and that you treat those attending your session(s) with the respect they are due.  If you are not selected, I ask that you not give up.  If you have questions about why your session was not selected, ask.  I have been asked in the past and am always glad to provide additional feedback.

Question:  How many SQL Server DBAs can you fit in the Seattle Convention Center?

Answer:  Unlimited, as long as they remember why they attend and/or speak at the PASS Summit.