Posts tagged SQL Saturday

What I’m doing to evolve the Program Committee next

Since I wrote about how we’ve been evolving the Program Committee in the past, I thought Id write about some of the ways we’re trying to change the Program Committee in the future.

But first, I want to clarify something that someone else pointed out to me.  When I write about the Program Committee, I always say “We”.  When working on something as complex as the program for the summit, it is necessary to work as a very cohesive team.  This leadership team I am a part of is who makes all of the tactical decisions about the way we manage the education at the Summit.  I always refer to “us” as “we” because I cannot (and will not) take all of the credit for putting the Summit education together.  Without the team, the committee wouldn’t be half of what it is.  While I have been the overarching member of this team (the 1 they cant seem to run off) , the others are always there when we have work to do.  Well, except Jeremiah, He’s got this new gig where he’s a turtle hunter or something….

We’ve been working hard over the last 2 years to bring some exciting (well, exciting to me anyway) changes to the program committee.   A couple of these changes you should start seeing official announcements about any day now but, I decided to be a tease…

  • We’re going to be opening another limited call for speakers for a new session type
  • There are 2 new session types coming (well, 1 is a bit old but, its new & shiney)

Some additional thoughts I have about evolving this process are in no particular order

  • Expand the use of Community Choice Sessions to include pre/post conferences(1 or maybe more), Id love to even be able to give those who vote for the precon that is selected a discount code to use on that precon.
    • have a separate speaker review team that will rate/rank speakers across all tracks and sessions, so we can cut down on the differing ratings per speaker.
    • Allow that team to reject speakers without considering abstracts if they dont meet some predefined criteria (no exact ideas on those criteria yet)
    • Have a Virtual Chapter sponsored session category.  The initial idea is if a VC is active, (say has XX events a year) we allot them 1 speaker slot that they can then award to one of their best speakers (as they see fit within some reasonable framework).
    • Use the session evaluation tool for all PASS events (local, chapter, sqlsat, summit, rally)
    • Expand the feedback for speakers when we dont accept their presentation at the Summit.  Allow the review teams to leave free form comments, as well as a standardized reasons we’re using now

    If you believe in these changes and you like how I communicate them, consider voting for me. I’m running for the PASS Board of Directors, and I need your help to make a difference.  Click here to read about why I’m running.

    SQL Saturday 35 Recap


    I made my way to Dallas to take part in the SQL Saturday #35 that the NTSSUG was sponsoring.  After reading the excellent reviews from Jonathan Gardner, AJ Mendo, and Bill Fellows.  I thought Id keep this very short and say “I concur!”  –Profound aint it?

    Ok, Ill dig a little deeper–

    I saw some great Sessions, met some great people, and caught up with some old friends.  All In all a great way to spend a Saturday!

    Having had more than a little experience with putting on large SQL events, I think the volunteers and organizers of the event really need to pat themselves on the back, they pulled off a wonderful event and did it with style.  In my opinion, one of the best measures of success when trying to tell how well an event “worked” is to gauge what the event looked like to a normal attendee.  By that measure Id say the even the toughest critic would say it was a resounding success.  Everything looked buttery smooth, and this “normal attendee”  didnt see any obvious distractions.  It looks like the SQL Saturday model appears to be maturing at a very rapid pace, and this is excellent news!  In talking with the organizers at the after party, they were relaying some of their more interesting challenges, I’m not sure I said it at the time (maybe too many beers??) so Ill repeat it here for posterity: I hope the organizers aren’t too hard on themselves because no matter what level of prep, thought, or organization you put into an event, something is ALWAYS going to slip through the cracks and/or not work quite as expected.  How these “challenges” opportunities are handled is what separates the avg from the great, and in this case everything was great.

    1 general observation I do have –> The after party of the event was, as usual, one of the great benefits of this event and I made plenty of contact with others at Humperdinks and while it was obvious that a few of the speakers, and a most of the volunteers showed up, I suspect I was one of less than 10 “regular” attendees that attended.  This is a tragic situation and something that we in the SQL Community need to figure out how to increase participation.  The information&contact info gained from the social pieces of community events is an aspect that most attendees are obviously overlooking.  I’ve often wondered if it was apathy or just lack of communication about these events and this time it was obviously not communication, It was pretty tough for anyone to overlook the after party event at #sqlsat35, I saw the after party mentioned in at least 3 different places in the guide book, not to mention verbally at the closing reception.  I’m not sure how we can encourage people to attend these events but, they are a core part of the “connect” piece of the equation.

    I’ll be attending SQL Saturday 35

    I’m happy that I finally figured out how to clear my schedule enough to get to Dallas and soak up some free SQL Server Training

    If you happen to be at the SQL Saturday #35 in Dallas this weekend, please introduce yourself.  Ill be there and as always wearing my (Ugly)green SQLPASS 2006 laptop bag.

    I really wish PASS still gave out real laptop bags, you’d be surprised how many people will stop and ask you about it if they’re SQL Server related.  Its too bad they decided to do away with this ice breaking networking tool in favor of a 1 time use, throw it in the trash poly bag.

    I’m excited that I’ll finally be able to experience a SQL Saturday firsthand.  Sure its about a 6ish hour drive but I’m sure the experience will be worth it.  Not to mention being able to catch up with a few friends who I’ve spied on the attendance list

    Expect a post after the event with my first SQL Saturday impressions

    Convincing your boss to pay for your training


    Things are tight

    It seems like budgets are being cut everywhere, and IT training seems to be one of the first places cut.  In an earlier post I outlined where you could get a lot of valuable training for relatively little cost.  In this post I will explore a few methods that have worked for me over the years to get your boss to say YES to paying for you to refresh your fountain of knowledge.

    The direct approach

    It may seem obvious but, if you don’t ask your employer, they cant agree to send you to a SQLSaturday, or to the annual SQLPASS Summit.  So sometimes its just as simple as broaching the subject with your boss.  But before you try that continue reading!

    Explain the ROI

    Many times the people who make the final decisions about training forget what a struggle it can be to not only stay current on technology but to actually excel with it.  Last year PASS put together a very good list of ROI points  This could be used for any SQL event, make it work for you.


    If you volunteer for SQLPASS (at the local or national level) you may be eligible for a discount admission to the annual summit.  This discount can range anywhere from 100$ all the way up to a full comp (free) admission.  Armed with the discount, and your ROI documentation it can be quite a bit easier to convince your boss to send you to a weeks worth of invaluable training that they perceive to be discounted.

    Offer to partner

    A few years back this might have been unheard of but, I’ve recently decided to start trying this method to get approval for some training.  Try to combine the ROI documentation with an offer to pick up 1/2 the tab for the training.  For instance, split the cost, ask them to pay the airfare to a SQL Saturday, while you pick up the hotel, food and ground transportation.  Another idea, offer to pay the airfare/conference registration(Free if you volunteer enough) and let them pick up the rest to send you to the SQLPASS Summit.  Either way its a win-win for both parties, you get to make a small investment in your career, and it shows your employer your serious about that career.

    Mix and Match

    Hopefully you can take a few of these ideas and mix-n-match them to reach the ultimate goal of getting your desired education.

    Accessing Top Quality Training

    Where did the Training go?

    With the economy being what it is, many companies are cutting back on training budgets yet our need for knowledge as database professionals never stops.  Luckily the SQL Server community is one of the liveliest around and there are solutions.


    I’d estimate that  almost everyday of the week you can find live webcasts about various subjects in the SQL Server arena, the problem here is that many of these top quality training events aren’t well publicized.  I never knew about them until joining Twitter a few years back.  As it turns out, many SQL user groups around the world stream their meetings online via live meeting, there are PASS VC’s webcasts, Vendor sponsored webcasts, and the list goes on and on.

    Local Events

    Local events usually put on by your Local PASS Chapter, these are usually monthly events put on by your local PASS Chapter.  The added bonus is that these events provide networking opportunities. 

    Regional Events

    For the time being these usually are SQL Saturdays.  Held at various metropolitan areas across the US these are currently one of the best bets going for very cheap, very good, education.  I would highly recommend that you consider traveling to one of these if they are within a reasonable drive, or better still, a cheap flight 

    National Events

    Generally speaking these are SQLPASS and SQL Connections.  I’ll just say that these are topflight, all in wonderful opportunities, and if you have the chance Id highly recommend that you attend, everything I said about the other training events, is 10 fold when dealing with a week long immersive opportunity.

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