I spent the past two days attending the latest SQL Saturday event held in Cleveland, Ohio. (http://www.sqlsaturday.com/595/Sessions/Schedule.aspx).
It was an awesome 'geek-fest', which is something I truly enjoy. For those of you who are not aware of these events I wanted to provide an overview of the experience.
SQL Saturday is an ongoing series of free training events - worldwide - featuring some of the most authoritative speakers on a given technical topic. The sessions cover SQL specific topics as well as those that work in conjunction with SQL Server. Such as Maching Learning and the Cloud. They are sponsored by PASS, the Professional Association of SQL Server. Membership is free, the sessions are free and the speakers are top-notch. And attendees of all skill levels are welcome.
I attended the full day session on Saturday which had a large variety of session topics that are relevant to attendees at all skill levels. I also treated myself to a pre-con session on 'Tuning your Biggest Queries' by Adam Machanic. It was a great investment of my time! Lots of useful information presented by someone who has mastered the topic as well as their presentation skills.
Different perspectives on the same subject matter is what allows you to fill in the gaps in your understanding of a topic. Even if you already 'know' a topic, you'll usually learn something significant. At the very least, a professional review of a topic is a good way to keep your skill set current.
The most significant takeaways, in my opinion:
The generosity. The speakers do not get compensated! That's right, they pay their own travel, their own lodging and for their own meals. They take attendee questions, give accurate and understandable answers ... and make it very clear 'there are no embarrassing questions'! Without getting paid. Nice.
The content ... demonstrated by professionals. They walk you through the various features, functionality or technologies explaining the relevant - and not so obvious gotchas - along the way.
Just watching them use the tools we do everyday will expand your skill set as well. Even though I use Management Studio more than nearly all other programs on my computer, there are ways of using it to be even more productive. Being demonstrated just 8 feet away from where you are sitting.
The time savings. Most of us know it takes time, sometimes a long time, to understand a technology and master it's usage. Plus the suitability to task and the nuances of it all. That's the most important knowledge to gain, in my opinion, the nuances. (See the blog post about 'Really, you can do all that? for more discussion on that matter).
All of the speakers welcome questions and if you speak up you can learn that ONE THING that can save you hours or days of effort. Maybe this new technology won't really work out for THAT situation, because of XYZ. Much better to know that now before you immerse yourself in pursuing that goal. Or convince your boss to use that feature only to discover later - after many hours are lost - you were wrong.
Although the math might 'seem strange', giving up 10 hours of time to have 1 critical question answered actually saved 4 days of effort. Now, if only my mutual funds performed that well :). Actually, they do sometimes ... 10 x 1 = 4.
The downloads. Nearly every speaker has both the PowerPoint presentations as well as TSQL code they used during the session. Now, I don't actually believe most 'PowerPoints' have much value without the accompanying notes or speaker's comments. But, at a minimum, they do serve as a framework for progressing through a new technology or feature. Once again, a quickly digestible, major time saver.
The networking opportunities. No matter what your background or current job duties you may meet someone who is 'the same boat' as you. And they may have a way of solving a situation you are currently encountering they are more than happy to share ... over a cookie! Plus, you never know where you will end up in the industry and having more peers is usually better than having less.
In summary, if you are not attending the various SQL Saturday events please consider doing so. It is a worthwhile investment of your time. It will improve your skills - both technical and social. And having appreciative attendees is the very least we can do for the committed professionals that are so generous with their time and knowledge. Also, most areas of the country also have local SQL Server user groups. Think about joining your local chapter and making an investment in your SQL skill set.
Thanks for reading!
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