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Slip Sliding Away

Time is creeping away from me these days.  I’ve had some major life changes in the last year and while I’m not going to air those here, I’ve at times felt it was all I could do to keep up with my day job, community responsibilities, and all those things that must be done to keep life rolling.  Needless to say, keeping up with this blog has been at the end of my long list of high priorities while I’ve attempted to find my new rhythm.  I think (hope) that I’m back to a place that will allow me to keep this semi-regularly updated from here on out.

Here goes nothing!

While I was away I managed to pack in Summit 2011, SQL Saturday 104, and SQL Saturday 109 as well as an ERP Vendor Shootout.

I’m not going to spend time trying to summarize my experiances at Summit and SQL Saturday 104 – It’s been too long, and I certainly wont’ do justice to either.  You should know that Summit 2011 was one of the best yet  – every year Summit gets better and better.  SQL Saturday 104 was great as well.  I delivered a Backup Basics session to a great group of folks, and the organizers did a fantastic job doubling the size of their event (or did they triple it?) from the first year.  Colorado Springs will be an event I don’t plan on missing in the future – and you should make the effort to join them next year.

I will tell you a little bit about SQL Saturday 109 though.  I have to hand it to Mark Ginnenbaugh, Ross Mistry and their team of volunteers.  They put on a great show, with an all star cast of speakers for their inaugural event.  I believe the attendee count was right at 450, which is a feat in itself for the first SQL Saturday in Silicon Valley.  The session selection was top notch – in fact I had tough choices to make for each session slot, and really wished that sessions had been recorded for playback after the event.  I think the top session for me was Grant Babb’s session on Pro-I : open source security monitoring on SQL2008 because it was completely new material for me.  Don’t get me wrong – security isn’t a new concept for me, but I’d not considered what it would take to create a proactive monitoring system end to end using SQL Server and the work he and his team did is fascinating to me.  In fact I plan on sharing it with my co-workers this week as something to consider in our shop.

Other sessions I attended included Angel Abundez’s session on Reporting Services for mobile platforms, Wendy Pastrick’s Replication session, Denise McInerney’s session on Begin.. Commit, and Allan Hirt’s session on High Availability in 2012.  The day was rounded out with the Women in Tech lunch panel.  I had the pleasure of sitting on the panel with Wendy Pastrick (@wendy_dance), Jen Stirrup (@jenstirrup), and Nikila Srinivasan (@nikisrinivasan), moderated by Denise McInerney (@denisemc06).  We had a great discussion about why we keep talking about Women in Tech.  Both Jen and Nikila brought diversity and insights to the panel that we’ve not always had at previous SQL Saturday WIT events.

I’m still gathering my thoughts on the ERP Shootout – while it wasn’t really a SQL centric event in any way, the format was interesting and I can see a place for that type of event in our community – imagine if we had an event to see all of the 3 party packages for say, backups following the same scripts, using the same databases, on the same hardware, back to back.  Would that be valuable to you?  I could see how it would be if your company was in the process of evaluating toolsets.   I have more to say on the event in general and the format as well.

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Categories: Community, SQL, SQLSaturday

Let’s see some sparks people!

August 16, 2011 3 comments

First a disclaimer – this post has very little to do with SQL, or even IT; rather it is all about community and sparks.

I attended Ignite NM 11 last night, and was very disappointed in myself that I managed to miss the first 10 events.  That’s right.  I missed 10 other opportunities over the last 3 years to participate in my community, and watch other people talk about their passions.  For those of you that are unfamiliar with Ignite talks they are 5 minute presentations similar to the Lightning Talks at PASS Summit (speaking of, go submit now you have until August 17, 2011) with a few differences.  At an Ignite talk you have 5 minutes, 20 slides, 15 seconds a slide.  Speakers submit abstracts and the community votes on their favorites.  The result is truly an evening full of diverse presentations by folks with differing levels of public speaking skills.  Last night I was introduced to organizations ranging from The Metropolitan Homelessness Project to the Challenger Learning Centers   and in the same evening learned a little bit about alternate plant sources for the paper industry, what it is like to live in a dune shack for 3 weeks, and how to publish a ‘zine.   All of that, and I missed at least 3 Sparks while I took a phone call outside.  The event ran just over 2 hours, included ample networking time before hand, during an intermission, and after the last spark and was a great way to reconnect with old and dear friends as well as meet a few new people that I otherwise would never run into.

The evening started as a way for me to get out of the house, avoid yet another night of talking to the dog and cats about SQL server and things happening at work, and wound up being just like a first date.  I left feeling energized about the community I live in.  I left with sparks of my own floating in my head.  I left with a long list of things and groups to research, a desire to help out with Quelab, and a reminder that there are folks out there that are passionate about the things they know in my local community.

That reminder is important to me for a couple of reasons.  I find myself energized when I surround myself with passionate people.  I thrive in situations that allow me to tap into someone else’s enthusiasm to recharge my own batteries.  Generally I get my recharge by attending PASS Summit, SQL Saturdays and even ABQSQL meetings.  To find yet another venue that is close to home to charge myself up is a fantastic thing.  To find another venue that introduces me to even more places to find passionate people is better than fantastic… fantabulous maybe?

So, what are my next steps?  Fortunately I have SQLSaturday #95 booked in September, PASS Summit in October and SQLinTheCity in late October so I can get my DBA fix, and in the time between those events I plan on meeting up with the gang at Quelab to see what I might contribute to their efforts, and I might just develop a spark of my own for IgniteNM 12.

You should do the same…

Categories: Community, PASS, SQLSaturday

SQL Saturday #73 in the mostly sunny state

April 12, 2011 2 comments

I’m freshly home from SQL Saturday #73 in Orange County California and wanted to jot down some notes before they slip my mind.  These days it seems I’m just as much a forgetful DBA as I am a lonely DBA 🙂

Denny Cherry (t|b), Andrew Karcher (t|b) and the rest of the crew did a great job planning and organizing SQL Saturday #73.  In fact, the only piece of feedback I have for them is that they could have used more signs on campus to guide us all to the Technology building for the event. 

I presented first thing at 8:30, and had a good number of folks for my Help Desk to DBA in 60 talk.  When I started I had about 10 folks in the room, and a few more trickled in as I spoke so I would guess I had right around 15 attendees.  They had some good questions and seemed to enjoy the material I presented to them.  If you attended, please drop a comment or an email to me with feedback – it’s the only way I can improve what I do!

Next up I watched Denise McInerney (t|b) give her DBA as Protector of Data session.  She had one of the best explanations of the difference between NULL, ‘NULL’ and ” that I’ve seen.  If you have a chance to see this session I suggest you go.

Lynn Langit(t|b then presented on Azure and did a great job as usual.  I don’t have a business case to use Azure yet, but I do like to keep up on the changes so that I am at least aware of what my options are. 

During lunch Denise, Lynn, Diana Dee, and I were on a WIT panel discussing ways to encourage the next generation of girls to look at IT.  We had a great conversation with the audience and I even learned of some new tools I can use with my munchkin at home to get her started with programing.  I will have a separate post out soon with a run down of tools  and options.   While I am on the subject – if you are in SoCal and so inclined, Lynn is looking for teachers during May.  Check out all the details here.

After the lunch panel I took some time to decompress and network a bit with Juan Soto (t|b).  After talking to him I was convinced that his was the next session I should attend so I happily sat in the back of his Access and SQL Server tips and strategies session.  I know, I know – I’m a DBA – why an Access session?  Well, whether I like it or not I have to support Access creations from time to time.  Juan gave me some ideas on how to make the best out of the situation as well as some tips and tricks I can take back to work.

The last session of the day for me was Denny Cherry’s (t|b),  Index Internals talk.  This was a new deck for him, and he ripped through it – even with questions.  It worked out though, as he had plenty of time to answer questions at the end and dive a bit deeper into corruption and a few other things.

I watched the drawings then went on to join other speakers and others at the sparsely attended after party.  That’s something that I can’t really wrap my mind around – why don’t folks go to the after parties?  I see them as fantastic opportunities to continue networking, ask deeper questions, and get to know my peers; yet it seems that the vast majority of SQL Saturday attendees don’t go to them.

All in all, this was yet another great SQL Saturday to attend – I mean really, what could be better than a full day of free training and networking with other SQL geeks?  The big question now is where to next?

I got my SQL Kicks @ #66

February 16, 2011 5 comments

SQL Saturday # 66 was last weekend, and it was nothing short of fantastic!  Chris Shaw, Rebecca Mitchell and crew put on a great event and I hope they plan on working their magic again next year.  I know I will make an effort to attend again.

Chris had forewarned me that he wanted to emphasize the networking part of the event, but had remained pretty tight lipped when it came to details so I wasn’t really sure about what to expect.  I knew that the event was being hosted at a family fun center, but not having spent much time in Colorado Springs I didn’t really know much about the place.  I decided to make it a mini-vacation for the family though, and trusted that my husband and daughter could entertain themselves in a place that boasted both an indoor mini golf course and go cart track.

The day started off with ‘speed dating SQL style’ and the attendees divvied up based on discipline – admin, dev, or BI.  We then spent 2 minute intervals meeting each other and sharing what our goals for the day were, and what our proudest SQL accomplishment was.   This was a fantastic way to start the day off.  It meant that within a few minutes I knew some of the folks that were DBA’s in Colorado Springs and coming from out of town I loved every minute of it.

I did fairly well when it comes to attending sessions.

 I was able to sit in on Dean Richards’ VM ware session and was able to translate much of what he had to say to my own environment where we use a modified XenSource hyper-visor with our Egenera Bladeframe.  He offered some interesting insights for performance monitoring that I hadn’t really thought about previously.

Next up was Tom Norman’s Policy Based Management session.  Tom and I talked briefly at SQL Saturday #52 about our ongoing PCI compliancy projects and this was a nice glimpse into the progress he has made.  He was able to show some real world use cases for PDM and I know that several folks walked out with ideas on how PDM could help them in their daily work.

At lunch I sat at the WIT table to act as the WIT expert.  I had a few great chats with folks interested in WIT activities, and had a great discussion with an up and coming accidental DBA.  Hopefully I was able to give her some pointers and share with her some resources for easing the learning curve she is facing.

After lunch I sat in Gabriel Villa’s security session.  He made a somewhat esoteric, but hugely important topic accessible to just about everyone.  I love that he had a reference to xkcd.com in his opening slide, and Matrix references were sprinkled throughout.  Additionally he made it clear when he was recommending his preference or a best practice.

My session was up next.  I presented ‘Help Desk to DBA in 60’ to a crowd of 7 or so.  I think we all had a good time and I focused on interacting with attendees, and ensuring that I was clear with the terms and concepts I presented.  If you attended I would love some feedback – the session evals I received were very positive, but lacking any comments.

The last session of the day was TJay Belt’s documentation session, and I can honestly say that his examples put my documentation to date to shame.  Seriously – if you need examples of how and what to document you should hit TJay sessions or send him a tweet. 

In between all of those sessions were organized times to network and play some games.  I didn’t get a chance to play a single one – I was too busy chatting with new friends and checking in with my family when I happened to see them. 

The other thing I spent some time focusing on was getting to know Kate Dwyer  a bit in person and talking to her about attempting to put together a PASS chapter in Albuquerque.  TJay, Chris Shaw and Marc Beacom all had great insight regarding this, and at this point I just need to decide if I am ready to take on a task like that.  If you have experience with starting a user group or PASS chapter from the ground up I would love to hear about your experiences.

Over all SQL Saturday #66 was a resounding success and I think their out of the box venue choice was spot on!

An aside:  I promise I will get my slides posted – but it may take a few days…. keep checking back or email me for them.

Categories: PASS, SQLSaturday

If I can submit to speak so can you

December 7, 2010 3 comments

I just submitted a session for the next 24 Hours of PASS.  The event is taking place March 15-16 2011 and PASS is honoring National Women in History month by featuring 24 female speakers. 

 This is big for me.  I’ve spoken at a few SQL Saturday events, moderated and participated in panel discussions and even presented a lightening talk at PASS Summit 2010; but 24HOP is a whole different ball game in my mind.  The pressure is greater because I know that the potential for the audience to be large is there, and honestly I’m a bit concerned by not having the feedback from the audience that you get from presenting in person.  I have also tended towards professional development topics and not highly technical presentations.  For whatever reason Prof Dev seems easier to me, most likely because professional development concerns and issues have no absolutely correct answer.  There’s no BOL to refer to, just what has worked for me in the past and what might work for you in the future.   With that in mind the abstract I submitted is not what I think of as a highly technical abstract, nor is it all professional dev either.  I think I found a happy medium for now and I just closed my eyes and hit the send button in Outlook.

The other thought that keeps circling through my mind about this is that I can’t compete with some of the WIT superstars that I suspect will be submitting.  And, you know what?  I think it finally sunk in that I’m not competing with them.  Over and over again I have been told (by more folks than I can list here) that someone, somewhere wants to know what I have to say, and will find my delivery and my message compelling.  That was very hard for me to internalize because I know that I’m not an expert in any single area of SQL Server.  The only place I can come close to claiming expert status is in knowing how to meet the needs of the business I work for – and even that is a moving target. 

So, my lesson to you in all of this is that if I can drum up the gumption to submit an abstract to 24 Hours of PASS then so can you.  At the very least you can submit to a SQL Saturday or Local Chapter near you.  To find a SQL Saturday near you just hit the SQL Saturday Home Page, or check out Aaron Nelson’s super cool SQL Saturday Map.  If submitting to 24 Hours of PASS peaks your interest submission guidelines are available in the most recent CommunityConnector.