SQL PASS 2014 Summit Diary – Day 6

Today is the last official day of the PASS Summit.  The sessions will wrap up at the end of the day, and we’ll all go our separate ways and resume our semi-normal lives.  Having delivered my presentation yesterday, my official PASS duties are over, and I’m planning to spend the day taking in a few sessions and networking.

IMG_694808:15am: No keynote today, so the sessions are starting first thing in the morning.  I’m sitting in on a Power BI session delivered by my friend Adam Saxton.  He’s an excellent and knowledgeable presenter, and I always enjoy attending his presentations.  For Power BI, this has been one piece of the Microsoft BI stack that I have largely ignored due to the fact that it runs exclusively in the cloud.  However, I’d like to get up to speed on the cloud BI offerings – even though the on-premises solutions will continue to represent the overwhelming majority of business intelligence initiatives (in terms of data volume as well as Microsoft revenue), I expect to be fluent in all of the Microsoft BI offerings, whether “earthed” or cloud-based.

11:00am: After stopping by the Linchpin booth again, I sit down in the PASS Community Zone.  And by sit down, I mean that I collapse, exhausted, into one of the bean bags.  I spent some time chatting with Pat Wright, Doug Purnell, and others, and met up with Julie Smith and Brian Davis to talk about a project we’re working on together (more on that later).

11:45am: Lunch.  Today is the Birds of a Feather lunch, in which each table is assigned a particular SQL Server-related topic for discussion.  I headed over with my Colorado buddies Russ Thomas and Matt Scardino to the DQS/MDS table, at which only two other folks were sitting (one of whom worked for Microsoft).  We had a nice chat about DQS and data quality in general.  I have to admit a bit of frustration with the lack of updates in DQS in the last release of SQL Server.  I still firmly believe that the core of DQS is solid and would be heavily used if only the deficiencies in the interface (or the absence of a publicly documented API) were addressed.

02:45pm: I don’t know why, but I want to take a certification exam.  The PASS Summit organizers have arranged for an onsite testing center, and they are offering half price for exams this week for attendees of the summit.  I registered for the 70-463 DW exam, and after sweating through the MDS and column store questions, I squeaked through the exam with a passing score.  I’m not a huge advocate for Microsoft certification exams – I find that many of the questions asked are not relevant in real-world scenarios, they are too easy to cheat, and I’m still very skeptical of Microsoft’s commitment to the education track as a whole after they abruptly and mercilessly killed the MCM program (via email, under cover of darkness on a holiday weekend, no less) – so I’m likely not jumping back into a full-blown pursuit of Microsoft certification any time soon.  Still, it was somewhat satisfying to take and pass the test without prep.

04:00pm: Back in the community zone.  Lots of folks saying their good-byes, others who are staying the night are making plans for later in the evening.  For me?  I’ve been craving some seafood from the Crab Pot all week, and I find 6 willing participants to join me.  I’m also planning a return trip to the Seattle Underground Tour.  For the record, I love having this community zone, and I particularly dig it right here on the walkway – it’s a visible, high-traffic location, and it’s been full of people every time I’ve come by.

06:30pm: An all-out assault on the crab population has commenced.  And by the way, our group of 6 became 12, which became 15, which became 20-something (and still growing).  Our poor waiter is frazzled.  I told him we’ll be back next October, in case he wants to take that week off.

image08:00pm: Seattle Underground tour.  I did this a couple of years ago with a smaller group, and it was a lot of fun.  This year, we’ve got 15 or so PASS Summit attendees here, and we get a really good tour guide this time.

09:45pm: My friend from down under, Rob Farley, turns 40 today, and about a hundred of us stop by his birthday party.

10:30pm: This may be the earliest I have ever retired on the last night of any summit.  I’m just exhausted.  I do some minimal packing and prep for tomorrow morning and crash for the evening.

Apart from any last-minute goodbyes at the airport tomorrow, the SQL PASS 2014 Summit is over for me.  Without a doubt, this was the best, most fulfilling, most thoroughly exhausting summit experience I’ve had in my seven years of attendance.  I’m sad to be leaving, but couldn’t feel more satisfied.

PASS Summit 2014 Diary – Day 2

It’s another beautiful day in Seattle. And by beautiful, I mean overcast and threatening rain.  Today will be mostly consumed by the MVP Summit, with some fun stuff scheduled for later in the day.  At 6pm today, I’m headed back to the Tap House for BI Over Beers, a gathering of business intelligence professionals sponsored by Varigence.

08:00am: On the bus to the MVP Summit.

rain08:30am: Hey look, it’s raining.

08:40am: Hey look, I’m standing in the rain.

05:30pm: MVP Summit finished up for the day, and we’re headed back to Seattle for several events tonight.  Lots of traffic so it’s a slow ride, but I’m getting to catch up with Aaron Nelson.

06:15pm: I’m attending the BI Over Beers event hosted by my friends at Varigence.  We’re in the large billiard room at the Tap House, with a good crowd of 100 or so folks.

IMG_690108:00pm: Stopping by the Yardhouse to attend the networking event organized by Steve Jones and Andy Warren. Not a huge group here, but they had to change locations at the last minute due to some logistical issues.  Also learned that Andy Warren has had to skip the summit this year, so I’ll definitely miss seeing him this week.

09:30pm: A small group of us have arranged to meet up at the Monkey Pub in Seattle.  It’s a relatively small place, with just a few other locals in addition to the 15 or so SQL folks in our group.  Delight of the evening: Brian and Penny Moran entertaining us with Jimmy Buffet songs.  Twitter reports that there is another SQL Karaoke event over at Bush Garden, though I have to admit that I’m enjoying this low-key group tonight.

12:30am: The SQL Karaoke party breaks up and everyone heads back to their hotels.  Most of us have early activities in the morning, so it’s a race to squeeze in as much sleep as possible.  (And thanks to Argenis Fernandez for the ride back to the hotel)

Tomorrow is my last day at the MVP Summit this week, with the rest of the week reserved for PASS Summit activities.  Tomorrow night’s big event is the PASS welcome reception, followed by the karaoke event (yes, another one) organized by Denny Cherry.

PASS Summit 2014 Diary – Day 1

Today is the first day of official activities for the week.  The PASS Summit hasn’t yet started, but I’ll be spending the day at the MVP Summit, surrounded by a few hundred people much smarter than I am.  The details of the MVP Summit are all covered under NDA, so today’s update will be brief.

IMG_688206:00am: I woke up and saw that the clock read 7:00am.  After a brief moment of panic, I realized that I hadn’t slept through my alarm, but had simply neglected to change the alarm clock in the hotel room.  For once, I’m happy about the whole DST time change.

07:15am: Breakfast at the top of the Hilton.  There’s a great view from the 29th floor, with a  panoramic look over the sound (and the picture to the right doesn’t really do it justice).

08:00am: Headed to the MVP summit.

09:00pm: After the MVP Summit activities, I’m back in Seattle to drop my stuff off and meet up with some folks.  I found my friend Keith Tate wandering around in the Sheraton lobby, and we all wandered over to Tap House.  There’s already a sizeable group of folks here.

09:45pm: I still suck at playing pool.

10:15pm: Found my friend and fellow Texan Jim Murphy.  He tells me about how his business is going while I make fun of his oversized fruity drink.  I also got to catch up with Paul Waters, Phil Helmer, and others.

11:30pm: For the second day in a row, and against all odds, I’m headed back to the hotel before midnight.  After a quick stop at the front desk – I left my card key in the room and had to get a replacement.

Tomorrow is another long day, though I expect to be back in Seattle earlier in the day.  I’m looking forward to catching up with folks at two different events (at the same time, of course) tomorrow, followed by a smaller gathering with a few friends.  More tomorrow….

Five people you should meet at the PASS Summit

imageAs I write this, I’m airborne and on my way to Seattle for the summit week (the Microsoft MVP Summit, followed by the PASS Summit).  I was struck with the notion – and not for the first time – that I’m not really looking forward to these events for the technical content as much as I’m looking forward to networking and reconnecting with my fellow SQLFamily members.  If you are planning to be at either or both of these, I strongly encourage you to make it a priority to meet people and get to know them.  This should be at least as important, if not moreso, than attending sessions.

If all goes well, I’m going to meet up with dozens of people – some of whom I’ll be meeting for the first time.  If you’re new to the SQL community, there may be lots of new names and faces to meet.  If you’re in that group, I want to share with you five folks whom I know that you should make an effort to meet while at the PASS Summit:

Argenis Fernandez: He’s one of my favorite people in the SQL Server community.  He’s an MCM, MVP, and a former Microsoftie, so his depth and breadth of knowledge is clear.  However, he’s also one of the nicest, most interesting folks you’ll meet there.  When you meet him for the first time, don’t be surprised if he wraps you up in a big ol’ bear hug.

Tom LaRock: Tom is the president of the PASS organization, and someone I’m glad to call my friend.  He’s an incredibly smart guy with a talent for getting things done.  But above that, he’s a very approachable, personable guy who really listens when you’re talking.  Tom is a good guy to know for a lot of reasons, and if you introduce yourself to him you’ll be glad you did.

Allen White: Allen is one of the friendliest folks you’ll meet in the SQL community.  He’s also one of the most versatile people in the industry, with a great deal of knowledge in database engine, business intelligence, Biml, and many other diverse topics.  If you want an honest opinion on something, ask Allen – he’ll give you a polite but fair and accurate assessment.  Allen is also a runner, but you’d better be in shape if you intend to keep up with him.

Stacia Misner: Of the various business intelligence practitioners you should know, Stacia is near the top.  I’ve known her for several years and always enjoy chatting with her.  She’s wicked smart, but goes out of her way to share what she knows.  Meeting Stacia often comes with a bonus, as you may also get to meet Dean Varga, her fiancé and also a new member of the SQL community.

Scott Currie: Scott is easily one of the smartest people I’ve ever met.  He’s the CEO of Varigence, the company that makes Biml (and my affection for that tool is well known).  But apart from that, he’s a very insightful guy, one whose opinion I would trust on just about any matter, technical or nontechnical.

By no means should this be considered a comprehensive list of people whom you should meet; winnowing this list to just five people was quite difficult.  These are just five of literally scores of outstanding people in the SQL community who would be happy to say hello to you at the Summit.

SQL Saturday 223 OKC

okc This past weekend I made the relatively short (about 3 hours) trip to the Oklahoma City area to attend and speak at the third annual SQL Saturday event there.  I’ve been invited to speak at each of their three events, and I’ve been impressed with each one of them so far.  The folks in the OKC and surrounding groups have an excellent community, and the leadership team did a great job again of putting on a well-organized event.

sqlsat223_TimAndRyan This weekend was a first for me in that I brought along my oldest son Ryan to the event.  At age 9, he’s already showing highly analytical tendencies, and I’m trying to expose him to more technology-related happenings.  He was very excited to attend the event – I was out of town with a client all week, and when I called him each night last week, the upcoming trip was always one of the first things he wanted to talk about.  During the event he did get bored frequently, but that’s to be expected when deeply technical content and a short attention span intersect.  He still enjoyed the event, but it was more about doing something different and getting to see a bit of what I do for a living (he sat on the front row during my presentation) that made it fun for him.  I think it was a great experience for him, and I’m hoping to bring him along to some more events in the future.

For my part in the event, I presented “Handling Errors and Data Anomalies in SSIS”.  Had a moderate sized group, maybe 35-40 folks, with some good discussion during and after the presentation.  For those who attended and are interested in the presentation materials, you can download them here.

Thanks again to the OKC-area folks who organized this event.  I look forward to coming back again next year.