Nov 012018

I don’t know where the last year went, but it’s once again time for PASS Summit. It really doesn’t feel like a year has passed! This will be my seventh PASS Summit as an attendee and my sixth as a speaker. I know I’m extremely fortunate to have been able to attend and present so many times, and am looking to the incredibly fun – and exhausting – week ahead! Be sure to follow me on Twitter as I will have plenty of updates throughout the week. Here’s what I’ll be up to:

SQL Saturday Portland

My first stop is Portland, Oregon, where I’m delivering a session on Azure Cosmos DB at their SQL Saturday. I know I’ve said this before, but SQL Saturday Portland really is an incredible event. It’s also one of my tips for getting the most out of PASS Summit. If you’re ever able to swing by Portland on your way to Seattle for summit, I highly recommend it.

On Sunday, I’ll be catching the SQLTrain to Seattle. This year our crew is bigger than ever, and we have two private train cars rented out! Keep an eye on the #SQLTrain hashtag on Twitter for updates on all of our adventures.


Once in Seattle, I’m very happy to be attending a full day pre-conference session this year. I’m really looking forward to soaking up all the knowledge I can in Modernize Your SQL Server with Bob Ward, the Tiger Team, and CSS Escalation Engineers. This session is led by some of the best of the best, and several of my heroes on the SQL Server engineering team. I am absolutely stoked for this one.


I’m presenting not one but two sessions this year, so I will most definitely be present for those! I’ve blogged about this previously, so you can find out all the details in my post: Presenting Two Sessions at PASS Summit 2018!

Live Blogs

I’m very lucky to have a seat at the official blogger table this year, and will be live blogging the keynotes taking place on Wednesday and Thursday. If you can’t be present at the convention center, come to my website and I will make sure you know everything that’s happening. I’m really looking forward to this opportunity!

…And Everything Else

Aside from all the things I just mentioned, for the few hours per day that I’m not sleeping I will be out and about catching up with old friends, hopefully making new ones, attending sessions, playing hooky, hanging out in the community zone, and attending a wide variety of after-hours events. Here’s the ones I’m currently planning to be at, though I’m sure I will end up at others as well:

And on top of all this I’ll also be trying to squeeze in some sightseeing and grab food from my favorite places. It also wouldn’t be PASS Summit without at least one pilgrimage to Bush Garden, the (former) restaurant and (still) karaoke bar with an incredible history.

It’s going to be an exhausting but extremely rewarding week! If you’re going to be at PASS Summit 2018, I really hope to see you at some point! Please come find me, or drop me a line on Twitter and I’ll let you know where I’m at!

Oct 302018

PASS Summit is now approaching really quickly, so this will be my final tip for the year. I’ve mentioned in previous posts about the tremendous networking opportunities you will find at Summit, and I’m going to bring that up again, because I really feel it’s that important.

There is a ton that goes on during the day at PASS Summit, and even more happening in the evenings. Once the sessions are done for the day, there are so many ways to meet and connect with people. You will find official PASS activities, like the v.20 Celebration (formerly the “Welcome Reception”), and the Exhibitor Reception. (Hint: These events involve food – at the very least you should stop by and grab a bite to eat!) You will also find official community hosted events such as game night, the networking dinner, SQL Karaoke, and the WIT Happy Hour, just to name a few.

And if all those official things aren’t enough for you, you’ll find many more unofficial events, which is my blanket term for “people just hanging out”. One place you’re almost guaranteed to find attendees at is the Tap House Grill, right near the Convention Center. But an even better way to figure out where people are at is Twitter! Really. If you don’t have a Twitter account already, sign up now. Check the #PASSsummit or #sqlfamily hashtags, and see where people are at. If you see something that looks fun, go join them.

In short, please don’t just go back to your hotel at the end of the day. There will be MANY fun things going on in the evenings – leverage them to meet new people and make new friends and connections. Some of my best friends are people that I’ve met randomly after-hours at PASS Summit, and I bet that can be true for you too. I really hope to see you out and about at Summit!

Karaoke Unicorn says: “Go out and meet people!”

Oct 122018

This week’s PASS Summit Tip is all about food. And with all the learning and networking opportunities you’ll find there, you’re going to need a lot of it!

Have you ever been to a wedding where the food is just “meh”? It’s edible, but nothing great. You can’t blame the happy couple for it, because they’re footing the bill and feeding 100 or 200 people gets expensive quickly. And the food’s just a small detail of the wedding anyway – the real fun has nothing to do with the meal. Hopefully they at least have an open bar….

Now think of PASS Summit, and instead of feeding a few hundred people, they’re feeding a few thousand. And paying convention center prices for it. Yeah, that’s what breakfast and lunch are like at the conference. But that’s okay, because the real fun has nothing to do with the meal here either. (Also, sorry, but there’s no open bar.)

PASS Summit dining has quite the ambiance!

While the conference food may be hit or miss, the real opportunity of dining there is the networking. As I’ve said before, the whole point of being at PASS Summit is to meet new people and make connections. So if you’re heading to the dining hall, don’t go searching for an empty table – find one with other people at it and strike up a conversation. Find out where they’re from, what their job is, and what sessions they are planning to attend today. Exchange business cards, and maybe Twitter handles too! At lunch this is even easier, because there are Birds of a Feather Luncheon tables pre-marked with topics.

My Picks

And don’t forget, if you really don’t want to eat the provided food, you’re in Seattle! There’s awesome choices all around! Yes, there’s a Cheesecake Factory right out the front door of the convention center, but you can do so much better than that. Here’s a few of my favorite places:

Gettin’ my chowder on!

Yes, I know it’s at Pike Place Market, and it’s touristy. But here’s the thing, Lowell’s has AWESOME breakfast. And if you get there right when they open at 7am there aren’t any tourists to be found. The market is super quiet and you can watch the city wake up from the amazing view you’ll get on the third floor. They also have great chowder at lunchtime – get it in a breadbowl and you’ll be ready for your food coma by the time afternoon sessions start.

Biscuit Bitch
I am a connoisseur of biscuits and gravy and its kindred entrées. The best I’ve found in Seattle so far is at Biscuit Bitch. It’s another great way to wake up with food that will put you to sleep during a session. But that’s ok, because you ordered the session recordings, right?

Top Pot Doughnuts
Yes, you need doughnuts, and the ones from Top Pot are really good. Even if you ate a bunch of doughnuts on the SQLTrain, you still need more. So go there and try one, or maybe two. Or just get a box and bring them back to the convention center. A box of doughnuts can help you make lots of friends very quickly! Also, save some for the hard-working PASSHQ staff. While we’re there having fun, they are busting their tails all week. And if you were curious, my favorite type of doughnut ever is a cake doughnut with chocolate frosting (no sprinkles please!)

13 Coins
And finally, if you’re looking for a late night bite to eat after one of the many evening activities lets out, 13 Coins is always a solid option. They’re open 24 hours, but I always seem to end up there in the very early morning for some reason… The original location closed last year, but they moved to a new spot, and I’m looking forward to checking it out.

This is by no means an exhaustive list, but no matter what you’re looking for food-wise, you can probably find it within a reasonable distance of the convention center. I hope you can find yourself some great eats while there!

Oct 052018

This PASS Summit tip is all about power. Electricity. Inconveniencing electrons for your own personal benefit. If you’re attending a tech conference, chances are really good you’ll have multiple computing devices with you, and each of those devices will need power. And if you’re like me, you’ll be doing plenty of tweeting and picture-taking, and perhaps your device will be using more power than normal so you may need to charge more frequently. With a little planning ahead and some help from this post, you can make sure all your devices stay charged all day long!

USB Wall Adapters

If you have lots of devices to charge, you’ll need lots of USB ports for charging. A good multi-port USB wall adapter is handy whether travelling to PASS Summit or anywhere else. This is an accessory that never leaves my work backpack. I’ve been very satisfied with this 4-port model from Anker. It charges devices quickly, can deliver 2 amps on each port simultaneously, and can convert the 220V/50Hz power that the rest of the World uses, so no voltage adapters necessary! On top of all that, it’s small and the prongs fold in for easy packing. I really don’t leave home without it!

USB Batteries

These first appeared on the market a few years ago, and I really believe they are essential for conferences. Basically they are a battery with one or more USB ports on it. Charge it up overnight, and then you can use it to recharge your devices throughout the day. They come in varying sizes and capacities, from ones that can literally jumpstart a car (hint: you probably don’t need this) to tiny ones the size of a lipstick tube. I carry two of these with me at summit. One is larger, stays in my backpack and is with me during the day. The second is smaller and weighs less, and that’s what comes out with me in the evenings. You can find plenty of these online; I’ve always had good luck with ones from Anker.

At PASS Summit you will find many places to charge your devices. There’s lots of power strips in the community zone and plenty of other nooks throughout the convention center. Where you won’t find much power is in the session rooms. And chances are you’re not going to want to miss out on sessions so you can charge your phone (even if you did buy the recordings). This is where USB batteries really shine, because you can charge your devices anywhere at anytime. Even if it’s during a session where the nearest outlet is across the room.

Charging Cables

If you’re ordering a USB battery to charge your devices, it may be a good time to get a few additional charging cables as well. I have never been disappointed with the ones sold by Monoprice.

Extension Cords & Power Strips

With all of the above charging accessories, why not add a bit of power distribution as well? If you find yourself needing an extension cord while at PASS Summit you won’t be out of luck, there is a Target a few blocks from the convention center. But if you’re building out a power kit for travel, buy it at a hardware store and save yourself some money. I always keep a 6 foot extension cord in my backpack. It’s nothing fancy, and cost me about $3. Whenever I travel I also keep a 15′ cord in my luggage – this can be immensely helpful at the hotel if there are no power outlets where you need them.

Finally, one thing I carry with me at Summit that isn’t usually otherwise in my backpack is a simple 6-outlet power strip. You never know where you might need one. I’ve also come across situations where a power strip is fully utilized and more people would like to plug in, and then you can be the prepared Boy/Girl Scout who saves the day!

Some of these suggestions may seem like no-brainers, but I can tell you I was most definitely not prepared power-wise for my first PASS Summit. I hope no one else has to suffer that same fate!

Oct 032018

I’ve been honored to present a session at PASS Summit for the past few years, but this year I am especially humbled as I had not one but two abstracts accepted! The first is an introduction to Azure Cosmos DB. The other is covering some of my favorite SSMS and T-SQL tips and tricks that can help you save time!

Select Stars: A SQL DBA’s Introduction to Azure Cosmos DB

Level: 200
Where: Skagit 4 (TCC Lower Level)
When: Thursday November 8, 2018 1:30-2:45pm

Azure Cosmos DB has quickly become a buzzword in database circles over the past year, but what exactly is it, and why does it matter? This session will cover the basics of Azure Cosmos DB, how it works, and what it can do for your organization. You will learn how it differs from SQL Server and Azure SQL Database, what its strengths are, and how to leverage them. We will also discuss Azure Cosmos DB’s partitioning, distribution, and consistency methods to gain an understanding of how they contribute to its unprecedented scalability. Finally, we will demonstrate how to provision, connect to, and query Azure Cosmos DB. If you’re wondering what Azure Cosmos DB is and why you should care, attend this session and learn why Azure Cosmos DB is an out-of-this-world tool you’ll want in your data toolbox!

SSMS & T-SQL Tricks: Working Smarter, Not Harder

Level: 100
Where: Room 6A
When: Wednesday November 7, 2018 4:45-6:00pm

Do you spend a considerable amount of time in SQL Server Management Studio? Are you always in search of ways to write better code with less effort? Attend this session to see demonstrations of all the helpful gems SSMS has hiding in plain sight that will save you keystrokes, mouse clicks, and time while getting your work done. We will also cover useful T-SQL Scripts to make common tasks easier and faster, and solutions to frequently-encountered coding problems. Whether you’re a developer or a DBA, whether you do your work on-premises or in the cloud, attend this session to learn how easy it is to write better T-SQL code and save the day, all while working smarter, not harder!

I hope to see you there!

PASS Summit starts in a little over a month, and if you’re thinking this sounds pretty awesome, registration is still open! The program committee has put together an incredible schedule combining top presenters from all aspects of the Microsoft Data Platform. On top of that, opportunities for networking abound. While the sessions are awesome, the community is PASS Summit’s greatest asset. You really don’t want to miss this.

Even if you can’t attend, be sure to follow me on Twitter (@SQLBob). I’ll be sharing plenty of updates and photos from throughout the conference. Even if you can’t experience PASS Summit in person, by following myself, other community members, and the #PASSsummit2018 hashtag, you can get a great virtual experience.