PASS Summit and the #SQLFamily

PASS Summit 2016 was a week ago, and I’ve tried (unsuccessfully) to put my thoughts into words. I’ve read many excellent blog posts about the conference and I wholly agree with them all, but I wanted to articulate my feelings in a blog post of my own.

PASS Summit 2016 was my third Summit on paper, but was more like my first in reality. The previous two times, I went to the sessions, spent time on the exhibition floor, ate my lunch with other attendees and then I went back to my hotel to read up, do research, work or just watch TV.

The Summit lends itself to this kind of activity very well, as the sessions and speakers are generally excellent, there is fun stuff to be had, done and seen on the exhibition floor and the other attendees are very friendly. It has consistently been one of the best conferences I’ve been to, and I’ve been to quite a few by now.

But this year was to be something different. This summer I held a presentation at SQL Saturday #536 in Gothenburg and there I had the pleasure of meeting a Norwegian MVP by the name of Cathrine Wilhelmsen. Not only was she firmly established in the PASS community, but she thrives on bringing new people in and helping others grow their network. We kept in contact and she promised to introduce me to other members of the PASS community and I went to Seattle with an open mind.

I had just picked up my badge when Cathrine happened. She grabbed hold of me and proceeded to physically haul me around the hall and introduce me to a multitude of people, several of whom I recognize from the community and whose blogs I frequently read. I must have looked like a deer i headlights, much to the delight of Cathrine. Among the people I was introduced to was the guy I went on to spend the week with – Adam Saxton (of Guy in a Cube fame). We hit it off immediately and hung out almost every night. He in turn introduced me to more people than I can remember, and for this I will be forever thankful to them both.

It proceeded to become the best conference week in my professional career. Let that sink in for a moment. The people I met and my growing network was the best thing that could have happened. I keep going on about that I’ve been doing this for close to 20 years and while that is all good and dandy, it also means that *I’ve* been doing this. Singular. The magic happens when there’s more than one person, when ideas get exchanged and networks grow. The discussions I’ve had with amazing people over the week, over karaoke, drinks, food, pool or just hanging out at the conference center has done more to boost my career to the next level than a lot of the technical work I’ve done the last couple of years. Technical stuff is extremely important, but it is only part of the equation – the other parts are a willingness to share, wide-ranging contacts and a network of like-minded people.

That’s where the SQL Family comes into play, and the whole reason I needed some time to put my thoughts in order. At Ignite in Atlanta I had the idea to have silicone wristbands with the text #SQLFamily made up to give to people in the community. I got a good deal for 200 bands, and kind of expected to give out some 30 or so. This turned out to be the single best idea I’ve had in years – they took off on Twitter like crazy, and people from near and far sought me out to get one. I met even more amazing people this way and the reaction of everyone who saw the band was the same: “I love my #SQLFamily! Where can I get a band like that?” At the end of the conference I had less than 80 left.

wristband

The SQL Family is unlike anything I’ve seen – a collection of like-minded individuals who live and breathe the Microsoft data stack, ranging from wide-eyed newbies to hardened veterans such as Kalen Delaney or Bob Ward. Everyone is invited to come play, and everybody takes care of everyone else. This community is the reason I think PASS Summit 2016 was the best conference of my career, and this community is the reason I strive to share my knowledge through teaching, blogging and presenting. Together we are strong and together we can grow exponentially. Come join us!

SQLHangout #38

We just concluded SQLHangouts #38 where Cathrine and I talked about career transitions from hardcore DBA stuff to slightly fluffier PowerBI / cloud stuff. I want to thank Cathrine for having me. It’s on youtube (and there it will stay, probably for all eternity) so head on over to take a look. I might have said that I’ll be more active on the blog, so I better be lest Cathrine come at me with a pitchfork. Beware of Norwegians with pitchforks!

SQLHangout #38

SQLHangout #38 and Microsoft TechDays

My life is … hectic, to say the least. I just finished a talk at Atea IT-arena in Karlstad last week, as well as a 60-minute recap of Micrsoft Ignite in Atlanta that I held yesterday for 40 people at AddSkills in Linköping. The crowd was very attentive and lots of good questions were raised. Hopefully even more Swedes will go to Ignite next year! I’m preparing for speaking at the Atea IT-arena i Norrköping in late November as well as teaching two courses in December: 10986 (Upgrading your administration skills to SQL Server 2016) and 10989A (Analyzing data with Power BI). Full speed ahead!

At 1800 CET On Monday the 17th of October I have the pleasure to join MVP Cathrine Wilhelmsen for a chat about career transitions in IT. I’ve spent close to 20 years deep under the hood of database systems and only recently crawled up and decided to tackle something new – data visualization and the cloud. Or is it really new? That’s what we’ll cover on Monday, so be sure to tune in and don’t hesitate to tweet us if you have any questions!

SQLHangout #38 live stream

In November it’s time for Microsoft TechDays in Stockholm. I’m happy to say that I’ve received a speaking slot where I will be talking about Azure SQL Database – the cloud awakens. Or, as attendees will find out – what REALLY happened on the Death Star and what led to the downfall of the Empire. Few people know the inner workings of these events, and even fewer realized that it has a lot to do with IT…

SQL Database: the Cloud Awakens

 

SQL Saturday #536

I had a fairly short vacation this year in anticipation for a trip to Japan next year, but the time running up to said vacation was … hectic to say the least. Some time during this hectic workload I had the brilliant idea to send in a few abstracts for SQL Saturdays around the world. One fine day this summer I got a phone call from fellow Sweden Mikael Wedham, organizer of SQL Saturday #536 in Gothenburg.

In short: I’ll be presenting “Unicorn safari – alleviating consolidation pains with SQL Server 2016” in two weeks time. The title does not entirely reflect the content, though, but I’m hoping my audience will forgive me. It’s an intermediate level talk, not necessarily because of the technical content but the fact that a lot of business factors are involved.

SQL Saturdays are the best thing that’s happened since sliced bread, and what’s even better is that they’re free. Now is the time to go to Gothenburg and SQL Saturday!

Presentation skills – do you have them?

A large part of my work as a consultant is giving presentations and teaching stuff. I’ve been doing presenting and teaching since 2000 and I feel fairly good at it. When I started out I was young and inexperienced, something I compensated for with a huge ego instead. Needless to say, I had … mixed results. Thankfully I’m a quick learner and dialed back the ego and increased the use of my ears to a level where I consistently managed to get both my points across and get good scores.

I had my own company in parallel with my normal job at the University and taught for a company called Learning Tree. This was back in the early 2000s when there was still some money to be made for teachers and training companies alike, but after a couple of years this started to go downhill so I decided to shut down my company and focus on my main line of work.

True to form, I couldn’t keep my hands out of teaching so I did a few guest lectures and some internal courses here and there. Fast forward to my present job at Atea, where I’ve been actively involved in giving presentations from day one. I do presentations on anything imaginable when it comes to IT infrastructure, both for internal use and for customers. We also have a couple of events ranging from 100 people to almost 2000 people where I regularly talk or do demos.

In the summer of 2014 I attended a CompTIA CTT+ (certified technical trainer) course as a prerequisite to attaining MCT (Microsoft Certified Trainer) status in order to be able to teach Microsoft courses. This was held in London by a superb teacher by the name of Simon Garlick (of reZound UK). I’ve been through technical trainer courses a few times before, but it was a great refresher aimed at getting the students through CTT+ certification, something that involves videotaping yourself giving a presentation and keeping track of a myriad of details the judges want to see. I passed both the video and written exam parts and finally achieved the coveted MCT title – 16 years after first hearing about it.

Then along came my good friend and colleague Simon. Not only is he exceptionally bright, but he has a knack of finding interesting tidbits that he likes to share with me. This time he had found a book by a guy called David Phillips called “How to avoid death by Powerpoint” and claimed it was very good. I scanned it, realized he is a proponent of black backgrounds (something I have never understood), and decided to see what this was all about.

After reading said book, I found myself unable to look at Powerpoint in quite the same way again. I then watched his TEDx talk and very much liked what I saw.

A few months later Simon came along again and reminded me that this David Phillips person apparently gave a course on presentation skills and had taught a previous colleague of ours. Said colleague was very impressed, and since that is a rare occurrence we decided to book ourselves on a course to see what this was all about.

And boy, am I happy we did.

Having stayed over at the mansion next door, we walked the couple of hundred meters to the venue – another mansion. Here David greeted us and told us he had worked hard on creating the ultimate learning environment – complete with birdsong and absolutely no creaking floors.

We launched straight into the course and David mesmerized us from the moment he opened his mouth. The two days went by in a flash, and without giving too much away I can honestly say that it was the two best training days I’ve ever attended. Me and Simon were pretty good when we came, but we were much, much better when we left. David managed to create an environment where eight people, most of whom had never met each other before, could present to and get feedback from each other as well as the instructor without any friction whatsoever. That is a feat in itself, but he went on to elevate all of us from our respective levels to a common standard that was higher than where I was when I came through the door.

We went through the neurological basis for learning, preparation, movement, body language and use of voice, to mention a few things. One aspect turned out to be key for me – preparation. I’ve been doing things more or less unplugged for 15 years – never again.

I can’t praise David highly enough, and I recommend anyone who is looking for a presentation skills course to look no further. The training is superb, the instructor is exceedingly good and the venue is outstanding. I can’t wait for the next level training.

Blog developments

Things are slowly getting back to normal after the sudden passing a few weeks ago. Sure, it was “only” a cat, but as me and my wife don’t have any kids (and have no intention of getting any either), the cats are our kids. Anyhow, I’ve updated the blog a bit to make it more useful to myself. I’m using Feedly on my iPad for RSS aggregation, and I had the bright idea the other day to do the same on the blog as I don’t always carry my iPad around. Said and done, and there is a new link at the top for the aggregation page. I’m always on the lookout for new blogs so if you have any suggestions, shoot me an e-mail or hit me up in Twitter.

I’m also in the process of revisiting and rewriting my best practice post for SQL Server 2008/2012/2014. Since this is always evolving I’ve decided to create a page specifically for it, and it will be appearing as soon as I’ve cleaned up and updated the code. Stay tuned!