I was extremely fortunate to be able to present at the PASS Summit this year. It was an amazing and energizing time, despite getting about 15 hours of sleep the entire week. Much like last year, here are some of my thoughts and highlights in no particular order:
I love community. Really, I do. I’ve always loved getting people together to have a great time, whatever we happened to be doing. Back in high school my brother and I would have a huge Christmas party every year and invite all our friends. We’d also be sure to cram everyone into a photo – quite the challenge in my parents’ small basement. I don’t think PASS Summit is all that different. It’s a giant group getting together to share our knowledge with others and have a great time while we’re at it. Sure it’s a little bigger and a single photo of everyone isn’t possible, but the motivation is the same. To me what makes PASS events like the Summit special is the way we all revel in community. It’s the little things like the Community Zone, an area loaded with beanbag chairs and power outlets so people can hang out, charge their gadgets, get help with a technical problem, or just get to know each other. The sessions are important and valuable, but even moreso is the opportunity to catch up with old friends and make new ones. If I need to skip a session or two to do that, I don’t feel the least bit guilty.
- Charlotte is pretty cool. I love Seattle and had a great time there last year, but Charlotte provided a nice change of scenery and showed me an excellent time too. I wish I had more free time to explore the city, but everything I saw about it I enjoyed. The weather was mild, the downtown easy to navigate, and I’ve never seen crosswalks with longer signals in my life! 50 seconds to cross a 4-lane road is amazing – I’m used to Chicago, where the “don’t walk” signal is usually flashing by the time you make it halfway across the street.
- There’s always plenty to do. I can’t imagine going to a conference and returning to my hotel room once sessions are over for the day. Thanks to #sqlfamily, that’s never been an option. There’s more than “enough” things to do – there’s too much! Between the PASS-organized events like the volunteer appreciation party (this year at the NASCAR Hall of Fame) and the exhibitor reception, or the plethora of events organized by community members and sponsors such as the #SQLRun, networking dinner, or SQLKaraoke. I like sleep, but not during summit week. I don’t think I got back to my hotel before 2am any night.
The content was amazing. Once again, my biggest problem with sessions was simply determining which ones to attend in person. Buying the recordings is something I highly recommend, not only because you can watch all the sessions, but also because it’s much easier to absorb material when you can hit “pause”.
- I’m getting better at names and faces. Last year I did a pretty good job of making a fool of myself a few times. I like to think I did way better this time: the vast majority of people that I couldn’t identify were actually ones I’ve never met in person before. I got to meet tons of people for the first time this year, and I don’t think it’s fair to list names as I will undoubtedly be leaving people out.
- My wife wasn’t there. You’re probably thinking that I’m saying this in the “SWEET! I’m on my own for the week!” sense, but not the case. Early in the week I was fortunate to meet Cathrine Wilhelmsen (@cathrinew). A few of us started hanging out at the social events each night, and shortly thereafter the comments started rolling in about how nice it was that I brought my wife with. Wha? I didn’t realize it at first, but several other people pointed out that Cathrine has a certain resemblance to my wife. See for yourself.
- It’s the best week for twitter. Ever. Twitter is a great way to communicate with groups most of the time, but it really shines at events like this. It’s an amazing tool for keeping in touch with all your friends and finding out where everyone is. It’s also extremely enlightening during keynote sessions. I can’t fathom attending the summit (or any other tech conference) without it.
- Presenting at PASS Summit is somewhat nerve-wracking. It really shouldn’t scare me – I’ve been getting up and speaking in front of people for over 10 years. Back in college it was things like the Physics Van, and more recently it’s at user groups and SQL Saturdays, but summit is different. Why? Because for the first time in my life, people were paying something to see me. Sure it was indirectly – they’re paying to attend the conference and then choosing my talk as opposed to forking over cash for a ticket with my name on it, but still I felt extremely obligated to put on an excellent session. Thankfully once I got started everything seemed to fall into place. And much like when I speak at a user group or SQL Saturday, I can’t wait to do it again!
Being asked to autograph a book is surreal. Yep, I co-authored a book. I have a post all about it coming up in the queue, but to briefly summarize, I contributed a chapter to Tribal SQL, a project started by the Midnight DBAs, and published by Red Gate. Red Gate was kind enough to do a launch event at the summit, distribute free copies, and have a signing for all the authors that were present. It was a ton of fun to see people so excited about something I contributed to.
- It’s not possible without sponsors. Even though the summit isn’t free, the costs of putting on such an event are so massive that it still wouldn’t be possible without sponsors. A huge thank-you to all the vendors and organizations that had a booth in the exhibition hall or contributed in any way. Probably the best way to show your appreciation – and this goes for any conference – is to spend some time in the exhibit hall, talk with them, and let them scan your badge. Yeah, you’ll get some emails from them, but nothing you can’t stop later if you’re not interested. Many vendors determine the “value” of a conference by how many people they make contact with. If they don’t get enough foot traffic they may not be likely to come back.
- Thank you to SQL Sentry! I don’t like singling out sponsors – all are important, and many go to great lengths to sponsor a wide variety of SQL Server community events throughout the year. But I feel a special shout-out to SQL Sentry is warranted this time. Charlotte is their home, and they went above and beyond to make all of us feel welcome. They also arranged for the free shuttle trolleys all around town, distributed maps of trolley routes and points of interest, sponsored the #SQLRun, and probably did a bunch more things I’m not even aware of. I’m very happy that my workplace is a customer of theirs because I know how much they support this community that I love.
That’s all for this time. I can’t wait to do it all over again in 2014!