Archive for Networking

My Eleven Day PASS Summit 15 Experience

“STUEWE!” This is how I knew PASS Summit was about to begin. I was walking to the Friday night SQL Saturday Portland speaker dinner, prior to PASS Summit, when I heard my name being called, well, yelled. Since it was already dark, it took a minute to spot the black SUV with Mike Fal hanging out the window waving at me.

But wait, that is not when my Eleven Day Summit Experience started.

Day One – Thursday

It actually started on Thursday before Summit at LAX. I was there bright and early to pick up two of my Australian friends, Martin Cairney and Ben McNamara, who would be traveling with me to Portland and then on to Seattle. Despite the 14 hour flight, they wanted to go see the Endeavor space shuttle at the California Science Center in LA.


Day Two – Friday

Friday was spent flying to Portland where we would be attending SQL Saturday Portland. We stayed in an Air B & B house. This is a great way to save some money for lodging and to feel like you’re at home. There is always a coffee machine with decent coffee and the best…no rambunctious kids on the floor above you. WIN!

Friday night, we attended a wonderful speaker dinner (This is when Mike Fal yelled my name out a window of an SUV). Speaker dinners are always fun to attend. You get to catch up with friends and make new ones. Portland is always a bit special, because it’s full of speakers from around the world who made a little extra time to speak at a community event before PASS Summit.

After dinner, we found an amazing restaurant. It had the most scrumptious gluten free bread. I think it was made of clouds.


Day Three – Saturday

Saturday was spent at one of my favorite SQL Saturdays. Ok, I’ll be honest. ALL SQL Saturdays are my favorite. It’s a great time to do a little extra networking, get to see SQL Family, and meet new people in the community. I also love speaking and that is what I did in Portland. I spoke on SSRS.

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I was able to attend several wonderful sessions. My favorite was given by Julie Koesmarno and Cindy Gross: Moving beyond Unconscious Bias. I really liked their approach to this topic. Throughout the presentation, they strongly emphasized that we are all good people.

They spoke about how everyone categorizes everything in our lives, but sometimes we have a bias in our categorization, an unconscious bias that we are unaware of. They told us about a study by Harvard called the Implicit Association test, which tests how we categorize various topics. Julie and Cindy then showed us a video of Allen Alda taking the Harvard test. I strongly recommend learning about unconscious bias.

No Portland trip is complete without going to my two favorite places in the evening. We put our names in for our two hour wait at the Multnomah Whiskey Library, and then we headed over to Cassidy’s. They have great food and AMAZING bacon. I ordered enough bacon for all sixteen of us. (And there was much rejoicing). Afterwards we went to the Whiskey Library, where I was finally able to try some Scapa Scotch. I really liked it (Thanks for the recommendation Grant!).2015 PASS Summit13

Day Four – Sunday

One of the cheapest ways to get from Portland to Seattle is the train. When we bought our tickets, they were around $25. Little did we know it would be an unexpectedly amazing day. My friend, Ted Stathakis, was really looking forward to this day too. He loves trains; neither of us realized how amazing it would be.

Last year, there were only five of us on the train. Martin Cairney and I spent the majority of the trip troubleshooting a problem with my VM. Not this time. This time it was completely non-technical. There were sixteen of us in our car, and two who (foolishly) purchased tickets in a nicer car. Why do I say foolishly? Well, we were having so much fun, that they spent the majority of the trip in our car…eating our Voodoo Donuts. Next time, I think they will buy the general tickets. Next time, I’m also going to try getting the WHOLE car too. So if you want to ride with us, keep an eye out for a post from me in the summer.

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For more details on the fun we had, go look up the twitter handle #SQLTrain.

Day Five – Monday

Monday was a red day. Red Gate day that is. Red Gate puts on a free event called SQL in the City. They have put it on each year on the Monday before the PASS Summit for several years now. They bring quite a few people from the UK to talk about their tools, and they have amazing presentation. This year, they went with a common theme: Continuous Integration. I participated in the Lightening Talks. I spoke on how to use their DLM Dashboard. This is a great tool that keeps an eye on the databases you connect to the DLM dashboard. You can monitor who modified the database and which scripts they ran on the database. Did I mention this is a free tool?

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Monday night is the annual Networking dinner put on by Steve Jones and Andy Warren. This is a “must attend” event. Why? It’s all about networking and integrating 1st timers into the community. This year, a bunch of us crammed into a booth with four 1st timers. At least two were from Europe. I enjoyed getting to know them and they enjoyed being introduced to all the people that came by our table to say hi.

Note: Remember, networking isn’t just about talking tech. It’s about building relationships so that you can ask technical questions in the future. If you need ideas on how to meet people, take a look at my blog post, Top Ten Ways To Create Your Meet and Greet List For Summit.

Day Six – Tuesday

Tuesday was a relaxing day before the busyness of Summit. I started the day off with breakfast with Chris Yates. This is a rare pleasure. Chris and I met through the SQL Community on Twitter. We now blog together occasionally and I speak at the SQL Saturday in his hometown.

Before I took time to prep for my Wednesday morning presentation, my apartment mates and I went to the Starbucks where they roast all of their coffee beans. I had my first french press, and, I must say, I’m hooked. 2015 PASS Summit2-001

After I was done with my presentation preparation, it was time for the opening event for PASS Summit. This is a whirlwind event. I feel like a butterfly, fluttering from conversation to conversation. This year, I felt like a match maker too. I had three people from my company attending with me. I haven’t had that happen since the mid 90s! I enjoyed introducing them to a number of people.

I also did something different. I went looking for the lone 1st timers. The wallflowers who don’t know who to talk to. I found one. He was eating by himself near a wall, watching everyone by himself. I went up to him, introduced myself, and got to know him. I then asked if there was someone he wanted to meet. He wanted to meet Pinal Dave from India. Pinal and I know of each other, but we’ve never had the pleasure of shaking each other’s hands. So that’s what we did. Luckily, Pinal was standing nearby. Pinal and I finally shook hands, and I introduced him to the 1st timer. That made me very happy. Win!

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Day Seven – Wednesday

This was my day <deep breaths inserted here>. I was first up to bat <deep breaths inserted here>. I’m nervous as I walk to my room. I see my room and I get calmer. I climb up on the stage and I get calmer. I get my laptop set up and I’m ready to go. Boom.

As you’ve probably noticed, I really believe in networking. My class filled up with plenty of time to spare before the presentation, so I did the same thing I did last year. I had everyone stand up and introduce themselves to their neighbors. I stood on stage with a huge grin on my face, then I stepped off stage and introduced myself to people in the front row.

200 hundred people came to hear my presentation on Sophisticated Techniques in SSRS. I enjoyed every minute of the session. We did have a couple of exciting moments in class though. There was a laptop on the table (not mine) that started beeping. I thoroughly enjoyed slamming nicely shutting the laptop lid. There was also a crash of dishes behind me in the hallway. I said “Opa!” in my head and kept on presenting.

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With my presentation done, I was able to enjoy classes the rest of the conference.

One class I took was not found in a classroom, but on the edge of a planter on the ground floor. I started talking with this guy (sorry I can’t recall his name, but he was awesome). He was telling me how he had submitted his session, but wasn’t selected. After he told me his topic, I told him I would have taken his class. His presentation was right up my alley. So he asked if I would like to see it. I said yes and we had a wonderful one-on-one discussion, complete with demos on his laptop. Right there. On the edge of a planter. It was my favorite class. THAT is one the many special things about PASS Summit.

One of the things I was really happy about this year was the change in how special diets were handled. In the past, they have always messed up my meals. I have a lot of food sensitivities, so I understand it’s difficult to accommodate my diet, but I still need to eat. This year, they had our names on our meals, and they had the more common special requests handled in the regular food line. (Thank you)

Day Eight – Thursday

I was invited again to live-blog the keynote on Thursday. You can see my comments here. I was very sad to hear that this would be the last keynote for PASS Summit given by David DeWitt and Rimma Nehme. I’m happy that I’ve been able to see two of their keynotes.

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Before lunch, I thoroughly enjoyed directing people to lunch (I’ll tell you a secret. I think I enjoyed twirling my sign a little too much. Open-mouthed smile).

Thursday is the Women In Technology Day (WIT). WIT puts on a great lunch, and I was in the perfect place to direct people to the regular lunch and the WIT lunch. One of the traditions of WIT day is for men and women to wear kilts. This tradition was started by Grant Fritchey many years ago. This was my fourth year participating.

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Day Nine – Friday

Friday is full of sessions and bitter sweet goodbyes. Now, I don’t want you to think I only had fun this week. I did attend sessions. I have proof. I also took notes.

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… And I had fun.


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Summit is not complete without at least one night hanging out with Jason Strate at Bush Garden participating in SQL Karaoke. I was super happy to make it there multiple times this year. Last year, I wasn’t able to go at all due to all the commitments I had at Summit.

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Day Ten – Saturday

Saturday was a vacation day. I spent the day with my Australian friends. These are friends that I’ve made through Summit. I even worked with a some of them for a few months. In the evening, Julie Koesmarno and I threw a dinner party for a few of our friends who were still in town. We were even able to invite some friends we met this year.

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Day Eleven – Sunday

Sunday I had to come back to reality on my flight home. While I had an amazing time in Seattle speaking, learning, networking, and reconnecting, I was happy to see my family and they were happy to see me.


Top 10 Ways To Create Your Meet and Greet List For Summit?

There was a time not to long ago when I didn’t know how to meet others in my profession. I didn’t know about SQL Saturdays or PASS Summit. The conferences that I was starting to attend were full of people who really didn’t want to network. But I’m persistent. I was determined to find a community of professionals who wanted to network. Then I found my first SQL Saturday and I fell in love with the community that PASS helps create the world over. I now have friends on almost every major continent? (Are there any SQL professionals in Antarctica? If so, I want to meet you.)

Who you gonna meet?

As each PASS Summit approaches, I make a list. I check it twice. And I decide who I’m going to meet. My question to you is, who are you going to meet at PASS Summit (or at your next SQL Event)? How do you decide who you want to meet? If you are looking for ideas on how to make your list, and you should have a list, keep reading.

My Top Ten List of How I Pick People to Meet


1. Set up a Twitter account to get to know the #SQLFamily community

The first thing I did before my very first Summit was creating a Twitter account. The SQL community has a huge presence there and it is a great place to get to know people from all over the world. You’ll not only connect with other individuals, but you’ll also see tweets of links to great articles that people share. You’ll also have a place to ask others how they solved the problems you are now facing through the hashtag, #SQLHelp.

I had several people on my first “Meet and Greet” list whom I had met this way. One of them was Ed Watson, whom I’m still friends with.

IMG_3221We chatted on twitter often. It was great meeting Anil in person.

Note: I recommend reading this before acquiring your first Twitter account.

2. Consider the bloggers you follow

I checked out the list of blogs that I read and compared the authors to the list of attendees to see if any of the bloggers I knew were attending.

1651Ola Hallengran is known for his maintenance scripts.
We connected at a karaoke bar.


3. Ask the people in your local community if they are attending

They will be able to introduce you to other people during the event. I met several people at the SQL Saturday in San Diego who were also going to Summit. They were happy to introduce me to people at the various events we attended.

723I know Phil from the local user groups.
He helped introduce me to other people.

4. Consider the speakers of the sessions you are attending

As you determine which of the sessions you want to attend, read up on the instructors. They all have small bios on the PASS Summit site. You can also check out their blogs. If they have something in common with you, or if they really helped shape your career, then add them to your list. Just don’t make your entire list out of the speakers. You need variety.


Jes Borland is an amazing speaker.
I’m so happy I’ve gotten to know her.

Note: I would recommend introducing yourself to speakers you want to meet at various after parties, during lunch, or as you see them in the halls. They are usually super busy right before their sessions setting up and right after their sessions answering questions.
But wait! There’s more!

Those are the easy ways to create a list before the event. But don’t stop building your list after the event starts. The list you bring with you is just the beginning. Keep reading to find out how to add to your list during the event.

5. Go to the networking parties in the evenings

At PASS Summit, there is a Networking Party put on by Andy Warren and Steve Jones. GO TO IT. Sit with people you don’t know. I know I will be. This event is not a sponsored event. In other words, you need to pay for your food and drink, BUT the networking is free and encouraged. Register for it here.

When I went to my first one, I met the lovely Viki Harp. She introduced me to Wendy Pastrick who whisked me away to meet Pam Shaw. It was actually amazing that I ate any food at all. It was so much fun meeting new people.

MickeyAndJasonJason and I are connecting at the
Summit Networking event.

6. Sit with new people during breakfast and lunch

At my first Summit, I only knew the people I had met at my first SQL Saturday, and I was very determined not to eat a single meal by myself. So I didn’t. Every morning, I got on Twitter and asked if I could join anyone for breakfast at the Daily Grill. I used the hashtag #Summit2012 (this year it will be #Summit2015, obviously). And guess what. I never ate alone. This wonderful woman, Monica Rathburn asked me to join her almost every morning.

1143This was my last breakfast at my first Summit.
We started with four people.

7. Consider people in your sessions

Introduce yourself to people sitting around you before the session starts. Or strike up a conversation about the session with someone after the session has ended.

722Ritu and I connected when we realized
we kept attending the same sessions.

8. Hang out at the Community Zone at PASS Summit

This is a great place to meet people. Why? That is the purpose of the Community Zone. Usually there is a schedule for various groups of people to be in the community. So, if you really want to meet the Australians, then show up during the hour to hang out there. If you want to meet people from your own region, then come when they are scheduled to meet up in the Community Zone. (The best part is there are awesome bean bag chairs to sit in.)

1648Tjay and I ran into each other in
the Community Zone.

9. Attend the after parties

Attend as many after parties and other non SQL events as you can. Yes, quite a few of them have drinking, and that might be an issue for you, but not all of them do.  Here are some other events that have little to no drinking that are usually found at PASS Summit:

  • Running. That’s right, there is a large group of runners who get up when I’m still dreaming and go for a run. They usually have cool SQL shirts and Jes Borland is usually found leading the pack of SQL runners.
  • Board game night. Last year there were a couple of nights where people gathered around board games to talk and have fun.
  • PASS Prayers. This is a Christian group who meets for prayers and fellowship in one of the hotel lobbies in the morning, again when I’m still dreaming.
  • Photo walk: This is a great way to learn about Seattle, get a good walk outside, and get to know other SQL Photography lovers.

2014-11-07 21.39.38We were hanging out at an event in the evening.

Note: All the events that PASS knows about will be put on this page a few weeks before PASS Summit starts.

10. Attend other events that occur around PASS Summit

Last but not least, attend Redgate’s SQL in the City event on the Monday before PASS Summit. This is an amazing free event put on by Redgate. They have several speakers speaking on various topics. There’s also a free lunch and networking at the end of the event. When you are done, you can head over to the Networking dinner I mentioned in No. 5 above.

downloadSebastian Mein and I had a photo op with
the lovely Carly from Redgate visiting from the UK.

Hi. My name is…

One of the things you can do when you are talking to people is give them your card. Wait…You don’t have one? That is easily fixed. Vista Print is where I make mine and they always seem to have discounts. Since the card is about YOU and not your company, just put the contact info you are interested in sharing. I put my name, title, email, and a picture of myself.  My first year, I came home with 50 cards from other people. I wrote on the back where I met them. The following year I went through them and I was amazed at how many I still remembered and even interacted with through other SQL events and through social media (mostly Twitter).

Back to talking to people

So, you’ve got your list and you are standing in front of someone you wanted to meet. Now what?

If they’re not considered “famous”, then ask them if you could buy them a drink (coffee, soda, or bottled water works, too) or ask if they have time to meet in the Community Zone to chat. The Community Zone is usually full of awesome bean bag chairs to sit and talk in.  Tell them you wanted to meet them to talk about xyz, and xyz doesn’t have to be about SQL. Maybe you both enjoy art, or learning about Whiskey distilleries. (Oh wait, that’s me.)

2014KY4ChrisYatesChris and I will be reconnecting over breakfast this year.

If you consider them “famous”, thank them for writing/speaking/inspiring. If they have time to talk, tell them about yourself and maybe ask them a question about SQL.

What if you are shy or an introverted?

You can still make connections. You only really need to make one strong connection. It’s ok if it takes more than one Summit to develop. I have SQL Family friends that are shy/introverted. I make sure they go out to some of the events and are having a good time. I help with making introductions for them to make connections with people on their “Meet and Greet” list.

Anecdote: My first Summit I met someone who was shy. We saw each other again our second Summit, but it wasn’t until our third Summit when we developed a stronger connection. I know it was hard for them, but they called me and asked if they could go with me to an event. They weren’t comfortable going by themselves. I was happy to go to the event together. I was also happy to introduce them to other people in the community. I’m really looking forward to spending more time with them this Summit.
Follow the White Rabbit

In the end, it’s all about making connections. If Neo hadn’t followed the white rabbit, he wouldn’t have met Trinity who took him to Morpheus. These connections are not just for the yearly PASS Summit. They are there for as long as you nurture them. Some of the people I’ve met, I only see at Summit, some I see four or five times a year, and some I talk to every day through social media and Skype. These connections help remind me that I’m not crazy when the App Devs tell me that Foreign Keys are bad, and they help me when the poo hits the fan and I need to restore data in a way I’ve never done before. Finally, they are there for me because we are all part of this huge community, affectionately dubbed “SQL Family”.

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