Tag Archives: sqlfamily

Being a Speaker

Back in 2013 I attended my first PASS Summit. I was a first timer and Bill Fellows was my “big brother.” I had no clue what I was getting myself into. This is my story on how I became a speaker.

At my first summit, thanks to Bill, I was meeting people just about from the moment I got there. Bill knew lots of people. He’s tall and bald and hard to miss. And wears shorts. Everywhere. Regardless of temperature.

Where was I…oh yeah…speaking. While at summit that year I met and talked to many people. A few of them asked me “Have you ever thought about speaking?” I politely replied that I hadn’t, but I really wanted to ask them if they had forgotten their medication that day, or if they needed to be examined by a professional. Me – a speaker. LOLOLOLOLOLOL! Bless their hearts!

But then I thought about it. Why not speak? What would I talk about? What was something cool that I had done that people would want to know about? Could I do this? I showed people how to properly gift wrap a present in speech class (oh yes I did…and there is a right way…and you’re probably doing it wrong) – could I teach them something that would actually have some career benefit?

Yes. Yes I could.

I started to think about what I could talk about. I submitted a session to a SQL Saturday event later in 2013…and I was not selected. I didn’t know it at the time but I had picked a topic that was rather niche and would not have a real following. I found this out when I went to the event (yes, I still went…I was going to this one regardless) and talked to the organizers. This also allowed them to know who I was, so when I submitted again, they would be able to put a face with the name.

The following year I submitted a panel to a different SQL Saturday…and they picked it! This allowed me to get my feet wet while having some other more seasoned speakers there to help drive the conversation. In the weeks leading up to the event, we met and ironed out the details of what we would talk about. During those meetings I learned a lot from them, and they helped make that first session for me a success.

As a speaker, there are good days…and not good days.

A few months later I did my first solo session – and it did not go well. This was a tough pill to swallow. What happened? Simply put, my session didn’t reflect my abstract. I was disappointed in myself. It takes a few days for me to get over things like this, but since this was my first solo attempt, it really made me question whether or not I wanted to do this. Could I be good at this? I went home and re-wrote the session. Then looked at it and re-wrote it again. The next time I gave this session it went much better, and my feedback reflected it.

I love things that challenge me. Speaking does this, and does it in ways I would have never imagined. It takes me out of my comfort zone. No matter where I am for the foreseeable future, I will be speaking.

Speaking has taken my love of learning new things to the next level. Not only am I learning for the sake of a problem or making a business case for something, but now I am learning with a goal or being able to facilitate the learning of others. When I refine my skills, my session material gets better too.

My passions have found an outlet with speaking. It’s thrilling and sometimes frustrating. When you are speaking you never know what’s going to happen. Sometimes you have a lot of questions from the audience. Other times you have none. Sometimes you don’t know the answer. As much as you practice, it doesn’t change the fact that as many times as you give a certain session, no two of those are alike because no two audiences are alike. The one thing that is consistent is that the more times I am able to speak, the more people I am able to reach and help improve their SQL Server skill sets or adopt a new skill set with PowerShell. I don’t know where speaking is going to take me, but for now, I’m down for the ride to find out.


If you are interested in speaking, and would like to find out more, here are a few blog posts I found on this subject.

Paul Randal (via Grant Fritchey) – I think this one lays it out pretty good.

Cathrine Wilhelmsen – A really good post on when things don’t go as you had hoped.

Thomas La Rock – Once upon a time, he was a mere SQL fanboi.

Kevin Hill – On starting to speak and then after his first time speaking at SQL Saturday.

These are what I could find. If you have a blog post on speaking leave a comment and I can add you. 🙂

PASS Board Elections – Voting Deadline is TODAY!

In case you have been under a rock, or buried in work, or otherwise occupied, the PASS Board elections are going on and end TODAY! There are some amazing candidates (thanks to the selection committee for all of their work in bringing us this fine list of folks) running for a handful of seats. Big question – have you voted yet?

When you vote you are exercising your voice and opinion on who from the SQL community best represents your views on the direction and future of the PASS organization. That said, the total number of people voting during each election cycle has steadily declined, with fewer that 1000 people voting last year.

With this being one of the easiest ways to be involved with PASS, you would think that these numbers would be increasing. If you have not voted yet, go check out the candidates. If you look at all of them, and just can’t decide who to vote for, give that Chris Hyde a second look – while it might seem like personal bias, I honestly feel he is well equipped for this position and will represent PASS and the SQL community with the same enthusiasm and vigor he has brought to the Albuquerque user group and all the other locations where he has spoken for user groups or SQL Saturday events (including the North Texas SQL Server User Group).

The voting deadline is 12 noon PST today (2pm CST). If you haven’t voted yet then put that query down and get to it!

Wanna Get the Kids Interested in Coding? Make it a Game. Literally!

Former co-worker and friend Daniel Janik is trying do something that I will eventually have to do – get a teenager interested in something that can lead to a career.

I’ve been teaching my 17 yr old SQL Server and other various topics. I have quite a bit of experience training technology and speaking but it never fails; after about 5 minutes his eyes glaze over and he nods and “umhums” and then starts checking his phone.

I have one nephew that is already intrigued by the PowerShell that I am doing and seems to have a genuine desire to write code. This makes me SOOOOOOOO HAPPY! My hope is that he is able to continue what he is learning now and migrate into a skill set that will afford him a good career. And if he happens to maybe “hack” into something that he shouldn’t have, I will help with his bail, smother him with hugs and kisses and tell him “OMG…I AM SO PROUD OF YOU!!!”

Check out Daniel’s blog post, download the game and give it a whirl. I plan on showing my nephews this to get the opinions of the younger, not-a-teenager set. I doubt my niece will be interested in this right now…unless there was a Disney princess in there with the sea monsters. I will leave it to Daniel to incorporate that in the 2.0 version. 🙂

 

Holy Blocking Chains, Batman – I’m Speaking at PASS Summit!

For the first time ever I will doing a general session at PASS Summit this year.

Waiting for an email with news one way or the other last week was angst ridden, to say the least. After receiving no notification with the first wave on Tuesday, I got even more anxious and tried to occupy myself with work and other things. I didn’t want to get excited over something that wasn’t even a thing yet.

Then late Friday – acceptance.

Yeah, that’s right. ME!

It didn’t sink in right away. I had myself so convinced I wasn’t going to get selected. Maybe my head and heart were still bracing for the disappointment that was not to happen. Why would I be thinking this way? This is the third time I have submitted and the first time I have had a general session accepted. I did have the opportunity of doing a lightning talk last year. I also got to compete in Speaker Idol, which was an amazing and valuable experience that is only available to those that have not done a general session before. More on this later.

The first year I submitted I had been writing abstracts the same way I normally did for SQL Saturday events, not knowing there was more involved for a PASS Summit abstract. I logged in and was about to fill out everything for each of my sessions when I saw all these fields to fill out that I didn’t know about. I quickly got things written for them, along with my main abstracts, and submitted.

But I didn’t get selected.

The next year PASS offered a program for feedback on Summit abstracts. I thought “Yes, this is great! I will write my abstracts, get feedback, and I will be speaking at Summit this year!”

But I didn’t get selected for a general session.

Both times I was disappointed. Both times I did a fair amount of sulking and grumbling, but I am only human. In these cases, my best was beat out by others that were better. Kind of a hard pill to swallow, but I think these challenges are what make us who we are – IT professionals that are constantly striving to improve our own skills while creating content that will convey knowledge and better the SQL Server community.

Last year however, I was selected for a lightning talk and I finally got to participate in Speaker Idol. Doing my lightning talk on How to Keep Your DBA from KILLING YOU was fun and a great experience.

Speaker Idol? Wow…how do I put this? If you are a new speaker, and have not spoken at PASS Summit before (general session or better), throw your name in the hat for this! If selected, you will have the opportunity to get up and present something in five minutes, and get immediate feedback from a panel of judges, who also happen to be well known and experienced speakers in the SQL community. When this was first done in 2014, I heard about the brutality of the first round, so I made sure I was there for the subsequent rounds. Your audience for this? Mostly speakers or aspiring speakers. Don’t be surprised if the final round is standing room only. Or if there are acrobatics (lookin’ at you, Rob).

Moving on to 2017…

Earlier this year it was announced that the Summit selection process was changing yet again. There would be no feedback to speakers and you were also limited to submitting three sessions. There was also a list of topics, with some marked as “hot topics” or topics that PASS really wanted content on. It was also stated that they wanted new content. That session you had been peddling to every SQL Saturday that would have you? Not new content.

I took all this info and combined it with a ramped-up abstract writing and review process. What is ramped-up? Reading the sessions that were selected last year, and having a reviewer that is a seasoned PASS Summit speaker. It also helped that my reviewer was super critical. Once it was announced that submissions were being accepted I logged in and grabbed all the sections that I would need to fill out and got started on my abstracts, outlining details before writing anything. There was even one session I outlined while on a plane, that I looked at later to write up and decided it was COMPLETE GARBAGE…AND WHAT WAS I THINKING???

What did I learn from the PASS Summit submission and selection process this year?

  • Review, review, review. Write them early, review, come back later and review again. Have other experienced PASS Summit speakers review your abstracts. Don’t like their feedback or think they are being mean? Ummmm….they are trying to help you get your abstract to a level that is worthy of PASS Summit. LISTEN TO THEM!!! And buy them a beer.
  • Nothing is guaranteed. In a previous blog post I told y’all how to pull all the submitted session into a table and even gave you some PowerShell code to do it. I was able to compare that to the list of speakers selected and there were some amazing people that have spoken and PASS Summit before that didn’t make the cut this year. Sessions are reviewed and selected by human beings. This is a gamble, and regardless of how good of an abstract you have, you are at the mercy of the session review committee and what they feel is good enough for Summit. This is a monumental task, but they hunker down and get it done so that all of us can have an amazing selection of sessions to pick from.

I hope I get to see everyone at PASS Summit this year, whether or not they are speaking. Out of the conferences that I have been to over the years, I have found PASS Summit to not only be the best of them, but it was where I discovered that the #SQLFamily thing is real. If you are open to it, you can get hooked into groups that will welcome you and include you all because you are there for the same reason they are – to expand your knowledge and career in the area of SQL Server.

See y’all in October!

SQL Saturday NEW YORK CITY? Get a rope!

This weekend I will be speaking at SQL Saturday New York City. My last time here was two years ago for the last SQL Saturday here and I had a great time. If you are in the area come on out for some awesome speakers and a great day of learning!

Anyone remember this? No? Just me, huh? Ok.

Podcast with SQL Data Partners

Recently I had the pleasure of meeting Carlos Chacon with SQL Data Partners and found out he had a podcast (I know…I live under a rock…with cats). He asked if I was interested in being on said podcast – ummmm…yes, please! Click here (Episode 33) if you wanna go listen to the podcast or here if they get all up in your grill about streaming stuff at the office and you wanna just read the transcript. Thanks to Carlos for the opportunity! Enjoy! 🙂

My First Time Submitting to SQL PASS Summit – Part 1

I have now officially submitted to SQL PASS Summit 2015. Five sessions. All me (well, and a few others on the panel I submitted). The hard part is over…but how did this all happen?

My story starts back in the year 2013. My first time to attend a SQL PASS Summit. It was in Charlotte, NC. I didn’t know these were normally in Seattle. It didn’t really seem to matter too much either. I was a first timer. And they labeled me as such.

first_timer_2013

I didn’t mind. I knew I was a newb. I embraced it. I signed up for and watched the webinar for first timers put on by Denny Cherry. I also got a first timer buddy (aka Someone I can follow around like a puppy until I am comfortable enough and have found other suitable, like minded, people that will welcome me and allow me to accompany them to places that sell beer).

I met so many new people while at Summit that year and out of all the conferences I had been to in the past, this was by far the best experience I had ever had. One this that happened numerous times when talking to people was hearing the words “Have you thought about presenting?” I’m all “Wow…these people are nice…and encouraging…wait…presenting? Say what?”

Did they need fresh meat? A new crop of willing yet unsuspecting folks to throw their hat in the ring, to hopefully be selected, and dive head first off that cliff into something that might become an obsession that would challenge them in ways they had never thought of before? Maybe. Maybe they did. Maybe it was a little cultish. Well, pass the kool-aid.

I came home and gave it some thought. I really wanted to do this but did not know where to start. I felt like I had stuff to say. Stories to tell. Experiences to share. But where to start? I decided I would do a panel. I rounded up some experienced speakers for a particular SQL Saturday, created my session and submitted it. That was the easy part. I then decided we would have weekly internet video chats so that everyone could get acquainted, and I could get their take on how they saw the panel going. They were also able to provide me much needed guidance with my slide deck (something else I had never done before) and how the session needed structure. I took all this in and did my slides accordingly.

The time finally came for the SQL Saturday event and my panel session. I made the trip out there and met up with everyone. I attended my very first speaker dinner. I could not believe I was there and in the same room with some of the brightest and well known minds in the SQL community. This was it – my first taste of what would consume that entire year.

The panel went well. My fellow panelists and other patted me on the back for a job well done. Feedback was good. I was elated. I was hooked. I thought I was ready to handle what was up next – my first solo session. Just me and my slides. Another SQL Saturday. Another city.

To be continued…

SQLSat#324 – Session Noms

Thanks to everyone who attended my sessions at SQL Satruday #324 in Baton Rouge. This was really a awesome event – thanks also to all the people that helped put it on and all the sponsors who helped make it happen.

I had a great time presenting and I think my demos went ok (for the first time ever doing demos). I also really appreciate the feedback since I want to keep on presenting. If you were in one of the sessions and have any further comments or questions feel free to leave a comment here and I will get back to you.

Also, I have gotten the scripts posted here and the download appears to be working now. Let me know if you have any questions about those. Enter the password below to access and download the scripts from Beginning Automation with Powershell.

Thanks again and see everyone next year!

SQL Saturday #324 – I’m headed South!

It is just a few more days until SQL Saturday #324 – Baton Rouge. I will be giving two sessions there – Making the Leap from Developer to DBA and Beginning Automation with Powershell. So looking forward to this event!

The last time I was in southern Louisiana I was barely in my 20’s and on a family vacation. I found that my normal routine for straightening my natural curls was no match for the level of humidity in New Orleans. This memory prompted me to check the weather for this weekend – yeah…this could get interesting.

See everyone there! 🙂

Back from SQL Summit

Quick post – I am back at work this week from the SQL PASS Summit and I have to say I think it was the best conference I have ever been to. From the sessions to the people and the events, everything was crazy fun. I now see what people mean by #sqlfamily. Even though it was my first time, everyone was so welcoming that it didn’t feel that way. I am looking forward to more of the same next year in Seattle. Coming up soon is SQL Saturday #255 – Dallas (well, actually, it is in Arlington…hmmm) and then SQL Saturday #233 – Washington DC. Heck, I might even make it to the after events this time. If you want to connect with me at either of these events hit me up on twitter – @texasamy.