First off I’d like to say thank you to the sponsors of SQL Rally and to the pass team that made it happen. This was an absolutely wonderful event and I look forward to seeing what will happen both at SQL Rally Nordic as well as the next version located in the US.
I’d also like to express my gratitude to Kendal and Jack for choosing my session to fill in for a cancelation. It added a bit of stress to the week before the event, but I am very glad that I was able to do the presentation and I think that it helped to put a lot of things in perspective for me about my presentation style and actually planning things out relating to timing a bit better. I had a blast and am very grateful to have been a part of the event.
As a side note, I really wish I had thought to bring the camera. I guess everyone will just have to enjoy the flickr streams put up by others in the community (Notably Tim Mitchell and Kendal Van Dyke).
Tuesday started midway through the afternoon as I drove down to Orlando. I got a message from Mike Fal around 3 PM that he was already in Orlando and had managed to check in to the hotel, even though I was the one who had made the reservations. This made me feel a bit better as I was afraid that he would have to be sitting there for a few hours until I arrived. Luckily, this was not the case. After arriving I was happy to find that he was in fact not the type of person I would expect to stab me in my sleep since I had agreed to room with him without yet meeting him in real life. In fact, he was quite a likeable fellow and we spent much of the social time together over the next several days.
Even though there were no presentations on Tuesday evening, I got a chance to attend the mixer event at Johnnie’s Hideaway and meet up with lots of great people, both old friends and new acquaintances. After the mixer a group of us went out to dinner at the Celebration Town Tavern where I got to spend even more time with members of the community. I can’t appropriately convey how fun, and how useful, I find these extra networking sessions. A big thank you for the great conversations at the after party to Stacia, Vicky, David, Kendal, Wes and Mike.
Check-in went incredibly smoothly, the signs made everything clear, lunch was decent, etc. About the only thing was that there was no breakfast, which was OK because I had already stopped and inflicted Chik-fil-a on Mike, who had never tried it before, since I rarely get the chance to grab it for breakfast. Mmmmm spicy chicken biscuit.
A couple of months ago I choose to go to the Leadership and Team Management Skills for the Database Professional pre-conference seminar by Kevin Kline. I am extremely glad that I did so as I believe that working on my soft skills is probably the area which I will need to concentrate on most to escalate my professional aptitude. In the class we went over several items ranging from what motivates people, to effective communication, to personality types and how they can and should affect your dealings with others. I will be attempting to put some of these items to use soon, with the most immediate being a change to the way in which I conduct interviews.
The after hours event for Wednesday was held at Buffalo Wild Wings with a theoretical trip to the miniature golf course afterwards. First Mike and I returned to the hotel to drop off our bags, etc before heading out. I kind of wish we had just headed straight over after the pre-cons were done as by the time we got there the place was PACKED! I’m not sure of the total count for members of the community the attended this event, but I’d say it was pretty high… at least a hundred people if not more.
I traveled around a bit throughout the night, first spending some time inside and then out. The people in the community are extremely approachable, friendly and quickly become friends whom you want to catch up when the chance arises. I really enjoyed catching up with Julie, Shawn, Karla and meeting Jen McCown. Thank you for the enjoyable evening.
The miniature golf did not happen as everyone was so caught up enjoying the evening at wild wings that we didn’t migrate over to the course. A few of us did, however, migrate back over to Celebration Town Tavern for another fun after-after hours event. Good times all around.
And so, the real conference began. The first session I attended was on SQL Server Parallel Data Warehouse (Brian Mitchell). I wasn’t really aware that this was a product that was sold as vendor issued hardware married with a special version of SQL Server (I had thought it was just another version of SQL Server for some reason). All in all, it sounds rather interesting, but I don’t know that I’ll ever get my hands on one of the machines to try it out. I don’t see this gaining a large market share and am a little curious how long the product will be around.
The next session was on Troubleshooting Performance Problems by Reading the Waits by Eddie Wuerch. This session seemed alright if a little too low level for me at this time. I kind of wish that the mobile app had given what the session levels were as I switched to using it instead of my printed schedule. Oh well, live and learn. Still a good session that had lots of great information.
The next session was by far my favorite session of the conference. Wes Brown did an amazing job with his Understanding Storage Systems and SQL Server presentation. He had the room on edge, laughing and giving them great information for ninety minutes (this was a spotlight session). If this isn’t one of the top three rated sessions from Rally then something is seriously wrong with the world. Once the slides become available I would highly recommend everyone download them and flip through them. The information he is able to convey in a simple and straightforward fashion on this difficult subject is downright amazing.
Lunch again, this time I snuck in to the Women In Technology luncheon with Jennifer McCown, Karen Lopez, Adam Jorgensen and Melinda White. The room had a fair number of attendees and the topic was pretty good. How do we provide good mentoring opportunities, and steer women (or men too for that matter) into the technology sector?
After lunch I attended a session on Visual Studio 2010 Database Projects by Randy Knight. I am in the middle of trying to learn where I should be using this and how I can leverage the tool to help me with source control, environment integration, etc. The course was useful and I hope to incorporate some of the ideas into my daily activities.
Next up I attended the Data Visualizations in SSRS 2008 R2 session by Stacia Misner. I try to make sure that I get to one presentation on SSRS or SSAS at most events to stay somewhat current since I don’t do much with these at work. I also wanted to see Stacia present in person (I’ve caught a webinar or two of hers in the past). The session had quite a few good visual tools that can be incorporated into your reports to allow information to be conveyed in an easy fashion. It’s definitely worth catching if you have the chance.
Finally, I attended another session in the “I’d really like to see them present” category when I caught Aaron Bertrand’s What’s new in SQL Server 2011 (Denali) session. I’ve heard the majority of the information here before, but if you haven’t been keeping up it is an excellent primer of the database engine changes due in the next version (Sorry, no BI).
Finally, the sessions concluded with the “Overdrive” events. I attended the Conducting an Interview event which provided a lot of really great information and conversation among the panel and the crowd on what is expected, what is bad practice, and where we might improve on both giving and being interviewed.
After the overdrive event several of us went out to dinner outside of the main after hours party at Sizzlin Country Grill and Buffet (? – not to be confused with Sizzlers). After this we made it over to Old Town to wander around the tourist trap for a bit and catch up with everyone else right as dinner was winding down at the Tex-Mex place where the majority of the people ate. This turned in to some go-kart action and finally into SQL Karaoke. Unfortunately I was a bit too paranoid to attend the Karaoke as I felt I needed to go over my presentation at least one more time and went back to the hotel instead. I’m glad that I did, as I feel it calmed my nerves a bit and allowed me to do a good job, but I am a little sad that I missed out on the fun.
My hat and I arrived a bit late to the event and between that and wanting to once again go over my presentation I skipped out on the first session (a somewhat common theme for the day). The second session was mine and I think it went pretty well. I certainly wouldn’t say that I knocked anyone’s socks off, but I would say that I got through my material and believe I did a relatively good job conveying the information I set out to convey. I did have four or five people get up and leave, but I had an equal amount say how helpful the session was, so I figure it’s probably a wash (What’d I do Jen ??!? j/k). If you were there and you’re reading along let me know how I did in the comments and what it is that you think I could change to do a better job.
After my session I got caught up talking with people about it and various other items and managed to miss the next session. I guess that I’m really OK with missing some sessions at these events if I’m having some good conversations with people. I got to meet a few MVPs whom I hadn’t yet met, talk with Jonathan Kehayias and Rafael among many others. This also gave me a little bit more time to wander around the sponsor area and check them out again.
Lunch was good, and there were a lot of interesting people to talk with. More conversations followed, talk of jobs, salaries in different areas for different levels of experience, etc (I have to admit I was trying to recruit a little here). This bled over a little into the next session where I caught the end of Julie Smith’s Cool Tricks to Pull from your SSIS Hat presentation. I’ve caught this before but always like hearing SSIS presentations to see if there are better ways I might use to describe an idea or theory. And she’s got Monty Python references.
The next session I sat in on A.P. Ward Pond’s SQL Tricks session. I was on the fence about whether to attend this or not as the abstract a little to be desired. However, the man apparently taught the SQL Rangers program (the precursor to the MCM classes) and I figured that he wouldn’t disappoint. He didn’t. I didn’t quite meet his challenge of knowing all of the tricks he was presenting as I think two of them were new to me, but man was that a condensed set of tips that I learned from all over the place over many, many hours of reading and research. In all, I think he presented ten tricks on general SQL and six on dealing with XML in SQL. All of them were fun and I can see where most of them would be quite useful (I use several of them on a regular basis already, others I had read about previously and the reminder might kick start there use for me now).
Next up everyone met up outside for the Raffle drawings. A good crowd, some good information, lot’s of well deserved thanks and people winning stuff.
The sessions for the event ended for me with Fundamentals of SQL Server Internals by Jeremiah Peschka. This was another of the “I’d really like to see him speak” category mixed a bit with the “I wonder what the heck he is going to talk about” since it could be such a big topic and I knew that he would probably approach it a bit differently than some others with his knowledge of other databases and methodologies.
And, that was it for the sanctioned events. I did manage to go out to dinner at a very nice sushi restaurant with a great group of people. Afterwards we wandered back for a redux of SQL Karaoke that didn’t take off nearly as much as the previous night (probably about 10 or 12 people attended). And then I drove home (and managed to forget a few of my favorite shirts in the hotel. DRAT!) making it in some time after 3 AM.
If you have the chance to go to any of the PASS events I’d recommend doing so. If you do make it to the events, try to introduce yourself to everyone around you. The community at these events is awesome!