If only I could have lasted another hour at the after-event, it would have been an even 24 hours. The pre-conference seminar with Louis Davidson took place on Friday from 8am until 5pm, so there’s nine hours. I arrived at SQL Saturday #49 around 7am and stayed at the after-event until 9pm, so there’s fourteen hours, totaling up to 23 hours of fun, friendship, learning, networking and community!
Friday’s pre-conference database design seminar was fast-paced and interactive. Louis is a very enthusiastic teacher, and he kept us engaged with questions, discussion and exercises. We also broke out into groups several times to tackle assignments of increasing difficulty. Coffee was plentiful, a sit-down lunch was provided, and everyone received a copy of Louis Davidson’s Pro SQL Server 2008 Relational Database Design and Implementation. I’m very glad that I flew in a day early to attend this seminar, and this experience has caused me to consider signing up for pre/post conference sessions at the PASS Summit in three weeks.
Before going any further, I’ll list the pros and cons that stuck out to me. The pros include…
- Lots of signage. I know it’s been said before, but I’ll repeat – you can tell an event’s organizers are experienced by this characteristic. Since the event was on a college campus, there were twists and turns to navigate once you got off the main road, and thankfully there were SQL Saturday arrows placed at the forks in the road. Once you got to the event’s specific location, signs were abundant to point you to specific rooms. There were also huge posters of the event schedule in several locations.
- Receiving pre-printed raffle tickets at registration gives you a warm-fuzzy that the event’s organizers care about your wrist making it through the day.
- Eating lunch outside was a great idea. I can’t remember the last time I sat in the grass on a warm sunny day and ate lunch while having a relaxing yet engaging conversation with several new friends.
- The “SQL Blogger” sponsor level was a new concept and I really benefited by participating. A few times people mentioned that they had seen I was a sponsor, so this alone was worth it because that’s a great ice-breaker when you meet someone. This has also turned out to be a top-ten source of visits to my blog. I hope more SQL Saturday organizers turn to this as a revenue generator.
- The after-event location at Liam Fitzpatricks was fantastic for socializing. There was plenty of room to sit or move about and the servers did an amazing job of keeping track of me when I’d move to another table. I had a hard time breaking away and leaving the fun at 9:00, but I had an hour drive back to my lodging and I needed some sleep for the next day’s activities and flight home. Also, many thanks to Aaron Nelson for giving me a ride to the after-event (although I was somewhat surprised that his car’s navigation system doesn’t use Powershell).
As far as the cons, there weren’t that many. Some of the session rooms had items blocking the projector screen so that you couldn’t see the bottom third of presentation slides. I didn’t consider this to be a big issue, but it would have been annoying to someone who needed to see that material. The only other con was that Argenis Fernandez didn’t wear a hat, so I didn’t recognize him at first because he was wearing a hat when I sat next to him at SQL Saturday #40, and he’s wearing a hat in his twitter avatar. Anyway, sorry Argenis that I had to look at your name tag… I’ll still scope out the seat next to you at events because you know the answer to all the SQL Server questions!
In the early morning, I helped with set-up and then worked one of the registration tables. This was the first time I’ve volunteered for a SQL Saturday event. It’s very rewarding and I can’t wait to do it again! Once the registration activity slowed down, Andy Warren let me know I could leave my post. I decided to visit the vendor hall since the first sessions were underway, and I didn’t want to walk in late. At the sponsor booths I learned a great deal while meeting some fun and passionate people. I must admit, sometimes I get so wrapped-up with attending sessions at tech events that I forget to spend time talking with sponsors about issues I face and where they might help. Okay, one last piece of advice… don’t assume that a vendor’s products fall out of your price range until you’ve talked with them.
The sessions that I attended included the following:
- Jose Chinchilla – Learning SSIS in under 1 hour. Jose mentioned using Project REAL as a reference for SSIS projects.
- Rafael Salas – Planning your ETL architecture with SSIS. I sat next to Rafael during Jose’s session. At one point, Jose asked Rafael if he was going to cover a particular point, and Rafael said “I am now” as he opened his presentation and modified it. I was so impressed by that attitude that I attended Rafael’s session, which went into details such as connections and error handling.
- Patrick LeBlanc – Speaking, should I? Patrick discussed getting started with speaking, beginners tips, etc. while the room hung on his every word.
- Jack Corbett – Profiling: it’s okay in SQL Server. Jack went through the process of using SQL Profiler. Even if you are familiar with using Profiler, this is helpful because he shared which columns he feels are important to capture and why, which templates to use for given situations, etc.
- Jorge Segarra – Policy Based Management in a nutshell. In addition to walking us through an overview of PBM’s capabilities and demos, Jorge showed us the Enterprise Policy Management Framework solution that’s available for free on codeplex.
- Chad Miller – ETL with Powershell. Chad didn’t just discuss this topic in isolation. He also talked about alternatives and the drawbacks they might have that could make Powershell a preferable solution.
As I mentioned in a previous blog post, one of my reasons for wanting to attend this event was to have a chance to see some of the folks I met at SQL Saturday 40 in South Florida. Several of those people are mentioned above with just two remaining:
- Gareth Swanepoel – the day after a very busy SQL Saturday 40, Gareth and his family opened their home to the SQLCruisers for a wonderful poolside BBQ party.
- Troy Gallant – I attended Troy’s session at SQL Saturday 40 and enjoyed his relaxed and interactive style of presenting. At this event, his presentation was in a time block where I was trying to decide which of five sessions to attend. Such is the dilemma at a SQL Saturday!
Before closing, I met many people in-person for the first time. The only folks in this group that haven’t appeared above include Karla Landrum, Kendal Van Dyke, Maximo Trinidad, Mike Walsh and Thomas LaRock (there actually is a star-shaped white light radiating from his body, I thought that was just a cartoon).
Thanks again to the organizers, sponsors and volunteers. It was an amazing event!