Reflecting on Ten Years of SQLSaturday

It’s hard to believe it’s been more than 10 years since we started the planning for the first event in Orlando. The success of the idea seems obvious now – surely the time was right for something to happen in our space. Back then though it was far from obvious. We didn’t have doubts about the ability to do one event, or even repeat it in Orlando, but how to get it to grow in other cities? The best answer we had was to leverage our network, slowly. Pam Shaw in Tampa, Brian Knight in Jacksonville, Greg Larsen in Tacoma. We were bare bones on everything in those days – the site had no login, no tools, and we just updated the HTML from the first event to support the second one. Thinking about it, I don’t know if I could do it that agile/lean again, but back then we had limited time/resources and we knew that we didn’t know enough to build anything, and building tools is a big leap when you don’t know if the concept will grow or not. Running lean was the right decision, not without pain times. We learned a lot in those early days, the chance to iterate quickly made a big difference.

Even back then there was a lot of worry. We worried about finding free venues (or having someone go the paid space route and lose personal money). We worried about running out of sponsor dollars! We worried about finding speakers. We added the optional lunch fee to mitigate the sponsor money issue, a decision we struggled with then but in hindsight was a good choice.  We saw the speakers start to appear – when I saw Tim Mitchell and Geoff Hiten traveling to see what we were doing I realized that the speakers would drive it all – if they came, we’d grow. They did. Not overnight, but that pool grew (and continues to grow). Events grew slow as speakers took the idea back home and encouraged their own groups to try it, and that pattern repeated, you can see from the early days the focus on the south east and how it spread outward. Looking back at those early days with minimal tools and not a ton of experience I’m amazed that the event leaders took up the challenge and while they had suggestions for making it better it was always positive dealing with them.

We went from planting a seed to slow growth to decent success, enough for PASS to see the value and take over the event format in 2010. It was not a popular decision then, many feared that PASS would mismanage it. I can’t say we had no concerns, but we were betting on the people on the Board – good people – who wanted to serve the community. It took a while for PASS to decide and it was Rushabh Mehta who made it happen, a decision I’d call the capstone of his tenure on the Board. The handoff illuminated the weaknesses we still had in tools and processes, a source of pain and concern for HQ but once we worked through it things settled down. I believe it changed PASS. It didn’t fix everything, but it provided a steady stream of new members and it made the org feel vibrant in a way that it didn’t before. I credit the Board too for spending to support it, hiring a full time evangelist, providing direct sponsorship to events, and a lot of IT time/money into upgrades to the tools. The growth caused pain at times, but the right kind of pain.  I can’t close out this paragraph without mentioning Karla. If there was every the right person at the right time! The growth since then has been incredible.

An obvious but unpredicted side affect of having more events is that we built more relationships faster. Relationships need repetition to grow. Back then most of us met once a year at the Summit. That coincided with an uptick in social media so it’s hard to credit just one or the other, but together that sense of family started to grow further and faster.

I look back in wonder at the wisdom/luck of defining a format with so few rules. We had a formula, or a recipe if you prefer, but it was loosely defined. I believed then and now that the whole thing depends on the event leader, that one person who says “I will get it done”. The best way to encourage that is to give them a goal, some suggested guidelines, and then get out of the way. It’s their event. If they want to do a BI edition, or customize the logo, or buy Hawaiian shirts or whatever else, let them do it. It’s that sense of ownership that will drive them to do more and do it better. Related to that, we’re also training leaders – they have to find a venue, make deals with sponsors, provide customer service, and not least learn the challenges of using volunteers effectively, all skills that will serve them well in business, life, and when they run for the PASS Board.

The impact is hard to measure. We can measure hours delivered, number of events, number of speakers and sessions, all good stuff. But that misses the intangibles. The careers launched or improved because an attendee heard the right message at the right time. The friendships built, obvious but so easy to overlook. I can’t count the number of friends I’ve made at SQLSaturday, but I remember the first – Jack Corbett, who introduced himself after the first event and soon become part of the SQL fabric. The increase in the number and quality of speakers vying for Summit sessions. Even sponsors that have grown and changed from the chance to be at so many events. And what about our craft, surely it’s better for the exchange of ideas?

My thoughts? Unimaginable success. Satisfaction. I wish I could shake the hand of every event leader and every speaker – we’ve done this together as peers, making our part of the world a better place and perhaps inspiring more to do the same. Thinking back to when dreaming of doing this in multiple cities seemed like an awfully big dream. Thinking that one day we’ll peak and perhaps even decline as needs and interests change, but also thinking that if we dare that we might do more good in more places. A bigger dream? Improbable? Why not?

Finally, the biggest reason to look back is to prepare to look forward. What if anything needs to change to continue to serve, to grow? Let’s look at that openly, calmly. I’ll write more on that soon.

Notes from our 3rd Student to IT Pro Seminar

Concurrent with SQLSaturday Orlando we ran our third student seminar. This is our way of giving back to the college that so kindly gives us free space for the event and of encouraging students to see IT as a great career choice.

  • Attendance was down last year, not good. This year we had a good discussion with the team from the college about driving attendance because we (the SQLSaturday team) have no reach into the student base. Our goal was 50+ attendees for this year. If we didn’t make the goal we would regroup post-event and figure out a better model. We registered 200+ this year, with 80 attending, a nice win. Rescheduling the event probably impacted attendance negatively.
  • We trimmed our agenda to 2.5 hours at the request of the school (we would have made it longer!). That mean we could start later (9 am) and we done in time for some post seminar Q&A and still get the volunteers back over to SQLSaturday for the lunch.
  • We tried to keep this entirely separate from SQLSaturday. Different registration, different building. We then invited them to visit SQLSaturday after lunch.
  • In previous years we invited the students to join us for lunch. Easier logistics, but it adds cost and complexity. This year based on registration we switched to pizza and that worked out really well because as soon as they exited the auditorium they could eat and mingle, giving us a chance to poll them informally on the event.
  • My favorite student comment was that “ it felt safe to ask questions”. Makes me thing “seminar” might be the wrong word. We’re definitely pushing information, but we want their involvement.
  • Schedule was simple. 30 minutes on networking, LinkedIn, user groups, etc. One hour for a five person panel to do Q&A. 30 minutes from a staffing company, then a 30 minute mock interview.
  • Every student I asked enjoyed the format (I spoke with at least 10)
  • Our partner at the college was thrilled with turnout and the content we provided.

We haven’t met to discuss it as a group yet, but it felt like we got our footing this year. We might change up some of the content and streamline some more, but we see a formula we can repeat and tweak. The marketing and logistics went a lot better – we can just about repeat that as is for next year.

I’m glad it was a win. It takes time/effort away the main event and we’re willing to do that as long as the value matches the effort. It’s also nice to do something that really delivers perceived value. Just takes some time to figure out how to do it!

Notes From SQLSaturday Orlando 2016

This year we held our 10th SQLSaturday, a very nice milestone to hit. I’ll reflect in a separate post on the growth and future of the overall franchise – there’s a lot to think about – but I’ll mostly keep this post specific to the event itself.

This turned out to be a tough year for the organizing team. I think all but one of us changed jobs, half were sick or injured at some point, and we all struggled for time. It helps that we’ve done it before, but it was still stressful to try to get it all done. We made the good decision early on to not try to add more to the anniversary event, we’d stick with our normal plan and if we had time/energy we’d do more in the last couple weeks. Our last couple weeks ended up taking more like seven weeks because we had to reschedule our event due to the hurricane. We worked through that as smoothly as could be hoped, but it still had an impact, not least of which was that the best date we could get (Nov 12) was the end of the week of the MVP Summit, so we lost a lot of speakers just from that alone – speakers we really wanted to attend. We messaged and re-messaged about the change in dates and our final registration count was close to the year before, but attendance was down, somewhere in the 325-350 range. I don’t see any of that as a failure or a disappointment, we did pretty well all things considered!

We tried some new things this year:

  • “to go” containers for those who wanted to attend the lunch time sessions. We didn’t go as far as preparing them or staging prepared ones in the rooms, but we might next year.
  • We killed off the event bags. We’ve seen the content for them go down year over year and combined with the effort it takes to order them, get the materials, coordinate volunteers, etc, it just wasn’t worth the effort. Zero complaints from attendees (I noticed one sponsor gave out the low cost quasi backpacks with their logo on them – smart!).
  • We decreased the number of marketing emails from previous years with no obvious negative impact. We monitor registration weekly and while we saw the expected bumps when we did send an email, overall we tracked to the previous year trends. Not sure if we will do this next year, but it’s good to know that we can do less.
  • We move our pre-cons to a different location that wasn’t a hotel. We’ve done it that way before, but not recently. I think we’re undecided if it was worth the minor savings in food costs compared to more volunteer effort to order/pay/get reimbursed/etc/etc.
  • We ordered a 100 or so event tshirts and gave the speakers tickets they could give out for a good question. Good idea, better than early bird gets a shirt, but not all speakers gave out the tickets. We like giving the speakers something to give away (we no longer get any books), but should we do this again? Don’t know.

Things to work on:

  • I like the idea of SpeedPASS, but printing them for those that forgot/couldn’t find (we SO do not make that obvious) is effort. I think it’s time to revisit that entire stack.
  • For the last few years we have done a bi-weekly/weekly team meeting to check-in. We rarely had everyone on the call and that felt like a failure, but I think we should have just adjusted our approach. Maybe we move to evening calls, maybe it’s individual calls or a status email.
  • We didn’t have enough seats at the after party. Hard to get that perfect.
  • We didn’t nail down the pre-cons early enough [I’m of the mind to NOT do them concurrent with SQLSaturday next year, but treat as a standalone event]

Misc notes:

  • I had my two kids present as volunteers, and I wasn’t the only one. I think the right age for that is probably 9 to 13. Old enough to not need constant supervision, not old enough to want to get paid!
  • Our pre-cons went smoothly. We did breakfast and lunch from a bagel/sandwich place. Logistically we figured out that for we need to give them each a lunch order ticket where they write their name and circle one of a small set of choices. Easy to count to see if we had them all.
  • Lunch went pretty well. We somehow omitted mac & cheese from the order on the new event date – a few people missed it.
  • Tracking speaker confirmations is too manual and we had to do it twice! I long for a “you’re confirmed for x session at time, do you confirm you will be present” email/link. That should happen once the schedule is live and any time a change is made to their session after that.
  • We lost two sponsors this year. Both are smaller firms, both like participating, but struggle to generate the ROI from the event. We’re always open to negotiating price/package, but in practice sponsorship is half or less of the overall cost – it’s travel, raffle prize, swag, and at least the time of one person. I think our job is to help sponsors understand our audience – it’s not decision makers. These were both multi-year sponsors who tried, experimented, tried more, before deciding not a good fit.
  • We ordered 2 years worth of lanyards to get a price break. I miss PASS giving them out, is the price break on ordering 20k at a time worth doing? Dont know.
  • The “opt-in” list seems to continue to shrink and have less perceived value, to the point that I debate the value of including it, or at least doing so without a caution label. One sponsor complained that too many of the email addresses aren’t corporate – nothing we can do about that.
  • For next year I hope to talk the team into a change on the speaker selection process so that we give each speaker 2 sessions. They can do part 1/part 2, two topics, or just request 1. I think this decreases our logistics and costs slightly, gives speakers more value, and I hope does lead to the part 1/2 pattern. It’s a tradeoff, but I see this as a “try one new thing” idea for next year.
  • I’m also losing interest in the pre/post event email blasts on behalf of sponsors. It’s something else to do and one that I think has limited impact. Not zero impact, but limited. I like the idea of folding some of this stuff into SpeedPASS – making it a customized event guide. Better tooling would help, but I think we need to decide if we want to keep doing it first. I think we need to revisit our sponsor levels/benefits. What works, what else can we add that may/will work?

I had one session on the schedule this year, which I think makes me the only person to be on the schedule all ten years. I led a discussion about the career path of the DBA, starting with how to become one, what the job looks like and may look like in a few years, and where to go as a next step. Full room of 30 people, of which maybe half were DBA’s. It’s fun to get the room talking. Perhaps most interesting was when we got to “cloud” I asked which cloud they would choose to learn and the whole room seemed to deflate for a minute – which horse to bet on, Amazon, Microsoft, or Google? Not a simple career choice.

In spite of some challenges the event went well. The goal and what matters is that we provided free training to a lot of people on a nice November Saturday. We sweat the details (and we should), but training those people – that’s the mission, and we’ve done it ten times in a row. With luck we’ll do it for next ten years just as well!

Why we need a PASS Sponsor Portal

Major sponsors in our space get hundreds of emails from us each year, all asking for money. Those are all interesting and potentially valuable invitations, but the sheer volume can be overwhelming. Beyond that, sponsors struggle to find the ROI, from picking the swag that draws people to the table to identifying venues most likely to generate leads if not immediate sales. They have to schedule a speaker and/or sales rep, ship stuff, buy stuff, it’s not just “show up”.

Imagine a sponsor portal where they can see every event scheduled/reserved, whether they’ve sponsored this year (and in previous years), and easily see the sponsor plan. Imagine they can post a note to events that says “I’m only doing 10 events this year and have already picked them”, or “we only go to events with registration counts over 500 in the previous year” or “we don’t sponsor the same event two years in a row”. They might say “we require a speaking slot”. They could see registration counts for the history of the event, how many leads we sent them. Maybe even show them how many sponsors signed up at each event so they could opt for events where they might get more time/space as a percentage of sponsors. Maybe they could see floor plans and what spaces were left. Make it as easy as booking an airline seat.

Should we do this? I think it’s based on how we see the future. Are we moving away from reliance on national sponsors, by shifting to a paid model (yuck, but maybe), local sponsors, or just spending less? Or will it always be a hybrid and merits an investment in tools combined with revisiting how we serve sponsors and adjusting expectations?

We still have don’t have the speaker bureau, but this is the companion to that. We should treat both groups well. Both are critical to our success.

The PASS Global Alliance Program (GAP)

One of the topics I forgot to mention from the Roundtable was a swell of dissatisfaction with the GAP. Not all understood it, and it’s clearly not “global” from the perspective of the non North American events. I don’t know if GAP is a good idea or not, but it started to help sponsors (and PASS) look at marketing overall. Here’s an example. Imagine you’re a vendor in our space. You’re going to get at least 2, and probably more, emails from each event asking you to sponsor. They all have similar but different sponorship plans. With 120+ events a year, how you do you manage that effectively?

One way is to give PASS a big check and have them distribute it to the events you pick. You still have to send SWAG, coordinate a speaker, send tweets and emails, but it’s a one time check to write and probably easier to manage. Not dumb to wish for easier, and kudos to PASS for trying to solve the problem at multiple levels.

I don’t think GAP should go away, but it needs to evolve. I don’t know if we can “make” sponsors allocate some of those funds to non North American events. Certainly we could encourage them – maybe even offer some dollar matching for those cases. Maybe we should just rename it!

The ROI of SQLSaturday

Following up on my notes about the 2016 SQLSaturday Roundtable I wanted to write more about the ROI of SQLSaturday. I suppose there are many ways to measure it, but I think it boils down to two views:

  • How many people did we train/hours we deliver to our members? That’s what we’re in business to do, right?
  • How much revenue did we drive back to PASS, primarily in the form of Summit registrations?

PASS puts a decent amount of money into SQLSaturday. A full time evangelist plus their travel, hosting the site, making improvements to the website, creating the event logo images, responding to web site problems, organizing the Roundtable and putting some direct money (though less now) into each event in the form of sponsorship. I’m not sure of the exact number, but it’s probably $200k-$400k per year, out of a $5-8mil/year budget. In return PASS gets brand exposure, a continuing list of new attendees and CRM type data on those returning, and a chance to further serve those. They are a super-sponsor, getting the entire list, an advantage no other sponsor gets.  Good deal? Maybe.

In a perfect, or even better world, we’ve see a nice upsell path from attending SQLSaturday to attending the Summit (the money maker). In practice that number is very low, at least as far we can tell looking back five years and not having a perfect “member id” for each member (they often use different emails for SQLSat vs paid events). As is currently assessed SQLSaturday is “losing money” – which is acceptable or not depending on the state of the budget, whether you think “losing” money on anything is bad, and how you see the overall role of PASS. That lack of growth has contributed to a view from at least some Board members that SQLSaturday is decreasing Summit attendance/growth (though I hear it grew 10% in 2016), a position so far not supported with data and one that seems non-intuitive to me. Those two things plus some short of budget shortfall due to an overly ambitious revenue projection have led to cuts in how much money goes to events from PASS for sponsorship.

Why don’t our attendees go to the Summit? Easily the number one reason is cost! It’s a very large spend, many are reluctant to even ask, and fewer still get approved. It’s often a multi year effort, or one that is done when negotiating initial salary and benefits. We can’t (probably) make it cheaper long term, but we would surely work on giving those not-attended-yet people more of an incentive (first time cost of $1000 for example). We could do more to reach the decision maker directly. There’s no doubt I take this “failure” to drive Summit sales personally. Those of running these events are pro-PASS, pro-Summit, and we do what we can, but we’re running the event. Our job is to show people the value of learning, get them thinking about learning more, and to get them into the system. The job of PASS and its marketing team is to find ways to reach those contacts and guide/incent them to attend other events, paid or unpaid. I’m glad to do what I can to help, but if this isn’t the target audience to market to, what is? How do we not see this as a marketing failure? Setting up a table and staffing it with a regional mentor is a start, but it’s superficial.

I was stunned to hear a Board member tell me people are opting out of Summit because they can just go to more SQLSaturdays (leading him to think we should do fewer of them). Is this true, where is the data? It defies intuition at best. No one skips the Superbowl to go to 4 local high school games, regardless of the quality of those teams. If it it true, then what? That’s an interesting discussion. They go to multiple events because they enjoy them and can afford them. How many go to multiple events per year? I’d be surprised if that is a large number, not counting speakers.

I heard about “speaker exhaustion”, a problem that I don’t see but might exist, and is easily fixable. I heard about reduced sponsor participation, or at least the inability to scale it up as we grow. Both in the context of reasons to do fewer events and to make them smaller.

I get PASS has to pay the bills. I’m not opposed to being smarter about how we send out money. For example, lets offer more money to first time events, or to events that cannot find a free venue. I’m not opposed to doing less for a year if we had a shortfall. Maybe it’s time to wean from that entirely, but that cost – about $60k – is noise in the PASS budget.

Ranting and frustration aside, it’s the nature of a quasi-not-for-profit to struggle with balancing the need to raise funds vs using those funds to do go good. What I don’t want to see happen is a return to the bad old days where PASS spent basically nothing on anything besides Summit, a game of make money so we can grow staff and make more money, over and over. That’s a tough balance without some guiding principle or goal that I’m not sure we have. I’ve wondered more than once if we didn’t need PASS.COM and PASS.ORG as two different companies, one for profit with a mandate to put x dollars/percent into the other.

Why does this all matter? I feel like the Board is making decisions about the growth, size, etc, of SQLSaturday based on an incomplete view of the world. We can cap spending, cap the number of events, do other defensive things, or we can ask “how do we change the game so we can train more people?”. Steve isn’t wrong to think about 500 events a year. Not events for the sake of events but to reach people that want to learn, grow, join the craft, be part of our community. That’s why we started this, why so many of you lead and speak and volunteer at these events. If we can help with the ROI, that’s good. If we have to get less support, let’s be smart about what support matters. We need a longer and better conversation about the two conflicting but valid views of ROI. I think we can achieve both, but we don’t do it by pulling back.

Notes from the 2016 SQLSaturday Roundtable Meeting

Each year PASS holds a meeting for SQLSaturday event leaders and key players on Tuesday morning. It’s a valuable meeting, though I have some criticisms about both format and content this year, more on that in a minute. Watching and listening, I appreciate more than ever that while it’s useful for the audience, it’s an incredibly event for the HQ/Board team that oversee the portfolio. I think it’s easy to get distant, to forget the real world impact of decisions, to be influenced by a small set of events/people with challenges without really checking to see if its a systemic issue. I think reconnecting with the people you serve as a group is just hugely important. You could say the same on the other side of course – many of us see the world as our local event and it’s eye opening and invigorating to hear different points of view. Now, on to some comments.

  • The meeting is 2 hours and that’s just not long enough. Why can’t we get 3 hours? Not time for the sake of time, but to add the biggest piece missing – time to network, to break into groups and work on ideas and challenges.There was definitely back and forth discussion, but it was all moderated based on the Board set agenda, which was in part based on surveys sent out. I think sending out the agenda ahead of time might spur more comments as to agenda topics. Give us time to just talk!
  • The slides were mostly awful. Hard to read. I know it’s one more thing but with an audience of 100 or so, it’s got to be easy to read and useful.
  • I was disappointed to hear that the latest IT analysis of how the software stack might evolve (things like using MailChimp) wouldn’t be done until AFTER the Summit. Useless. That could have been a grand discussion.
  • One of the goals on a slide was discussing “paid” SQLSaturday events, but then they said it was just an idea. Goal or idea? I don’t know. I think there are challenges worth discussion here, but it’s a big-big-big change to contemplate and has a lot of side affects. 
  • My friend Steve Jones briefly spoke about what it would take to get to 500 events per year. That’s not an immediate goal, it’s a way to reframe what and how we do things. Getting to even 200 events per year means re-thinking and accepting that it may cause pain – we may get fewer sponsor dollars, we may have to grow more speakers or have each do two sessions (I suspect few would complain). He also talked about running lean, doing the things that matter, being willing to run smaller events. I’m for all of that, but I’ll repeat (again) it’s a local event. If you have a great team and can serve 500-1000 attendees with all the bells and whistles, that’s fine with me. If you want to cap your event at 75 attendees and have them all bring their lunch, that’s good too.
  • Listening to the room I realize, again, we just don’t have a process in place for distributing lessons learned and new ideas tried/perhaps failed. I had hoped a monthly SQLSaturday specific email would be that channel, but it it’s been inconsistent and ineffective.
  • Not from the meeting directly, I also think it’s time to revisit the formula, particularly around sponsors. We built the model based on what we knew in early 2007. We’ve learned a LOT since then. I’m not suggesting wholesale change, but I’m willling to revisit every piece of it so that we can continue to serve, to serve more people, and maybe most important, do it in a way that doesn’t exhaust the team running on it.
  • We seem to disagree – event leaders vs HQ – on the goal and ROI of SQLSaturday. More on that soon.
  • I was amazed and energized by the cooperative and collaborative power in the room. We don’t all agree on all the details, but this group of people gets it, and gets it done.

Though I listed some complaints, I’m thrilled that the meeting continues. It does a lot of good and it time well spent.

Thoughts on the 2016 PASS Summit

I’ll have several more posts this week on specific activities at the Summit, but wanted to start with how the trip went personally:

  • I flew out Monday instead of Sunday. Whether it just that or my pacing for the week, I wasn’t wiped out on Friday afternoon
  • I didn’t take the direct flight to Seattle because it leaves at a kinda-too-early 5 am. I had a 2 hour stop in Houston, had coffee and a bagel and all was good. A side story to that, when I got to Houston there was an earlier flight to Houston but I couldn’t get a seat because it was leaving in less than an hour, not enough time for them to move my checked bag. I took my scheduled flight and waited on my bag, now show – it was put on the earlier flight!
  • I stayed at Motif year on 5th. Ok to good, annoyed about an auto included $12.99 per day convenience fee for wifi and bottled water.
  • Monday night networking dinner went fine and was good start to week
  • I attended the SQLSaturday meeting and the pre-con on Tuesday both went well, had lunch with friends off site, was nice to have that break
  • Wish I had gone to the Chapter meeting, but wanted to attend a pre-con, first time I made time for that!
  • I watched parts of both keynotes remote and felt better for it. Better watching when you can have a table, coffee, and scone, and less annoying when they not to my particular interest.
  • I didnt blog during the week, deliberately, and didn’t pay much attention to Twitter either. Nothing wrong with either and I might change next year, but it was nice to just….be there and do the things I wanted to do
  • Logistics were fine, lunch was ok to good, maybe not quite as good as some years, a very subjective judgement
  • I’m not thrilled about the continued expansion of content to the building across the street. I don’t know if that is just to add more tracks or due to capacity issues. It works, but it adds time.
  • Our Thursday night SQL dinner meetup and game night went well – more on that separately
  • We designed our Thursday events for introverts and as I watched through the week I feel like there is an enormous opportunity there to serve attendees that is being missed. We have the First-Timers thing, but that doesn’t go far enough or address introverts (first timers or not).
  • It was a week of interesting conversations. Had someone recommend that I do some learning in an area I hadn’t considered, got to see an old friend who is very sick, do some diplomacy and strategy, and a lot more.
  • Committed to submitting a presentation as co-presenter with my friend Mitch for next year (and thinking I might do that with one or two others – a different way to participate)
  • Took the train back to the airport on Friday still wearing my attendee badge and that led to a great conversation that lasted right up to the airport.
  • I attended with two colleagues this year that were both first timers, plus a former colleague that was also a first timer. I’m interested to follow up with all three to hear what they thought worked and what didn’t.
  • Took the redeye home, never a fun experience, but I had to be home in time to get some rest before taking my kids to see Lindsey Stirling perform Saturday night!

A good week overall. Learned a lot, technically and otherwise.

MVP No More

Back in September I received a call from my MVP lead that I wasn’t being renewed. Not a big surprise, though still a disappointment. The program has changed a lot since I joined in 2008 and today has much more focus on “data platform” than just SQL Server (where I continue to focus). I’ve also done less in the community in the  past year or two than in many years, opting to use the time I had to support local groups and serve on the NomCom this year. The combination of the two meant I fell under whatever magic line was drawn between stay and go.

Since I was first awarded in 2008 I’ve tried to stick to the plan of doing the things I wanted to do and that I could do (time, effort, money) and if they aligned with MVP goals that was good, if not, that was good too. I have no complaints about my time in the program, or on my non-renewal. Our paths have diverged, at least for now, and that means someone with more time and energy than I have gets to ‘take my seat’ as it were.

Writing More This Month

I haven’t written much in a while, having had to put more time into both personal and professional obligations over the past year. I still don’t have a lot of time/energy for it, but I miss the effort – calming, cathartic, useful. I still want to do more long form writing, but maybe that is a case of the perfect being the enemy of the good. A friend remarked to me at the PASS Summit that it was good to hear Steve and I talking about PASS and SQLSaturday. In truth Steve far more than me lately (good to see), but coming back from the Summit I had a lot of notes and hate to not share them. I can write them quickly and perhaps start a conversation, or wait for time to write them well and maybe never get them published. So as always you may see some typos, bad sentences, incomplete thoughts and even a rant or two.

I’ve also been affected by the presidential race this year. I’m tired of snark, tired of not talking about facts, of focusing only on the negative, of not having discussions about how to fix things. In politics, career, PASS, life, we have and will always have disagreements. Whether the conversation is useful and productive depends on two things; patience and respect. I’ll readily admit my views are one of many, if you’ll hear mine I’ll hear yours (mind you, lets NOT discuss politics here!) and maybe we can each learn something. One of my unpolished guiding principles is that I want to win more than I want to be right. I have no interest in tearing things down for the sake of it, if anything I’m the opposite, it’s good for my soul to make something incrementally better. Doing that in 200 word posts is hard though. I like to write about things that can be made better, or that intrigue me, or that have taught me something. I don’t know yet if that will change how I write. I hope it does, though I recognize the best writing isn’t done in 15 minutes – its longer to write, needs time to rest, then be revisited, time I don’t often have, back to perfect vs good, for done vs not done even.

So I’ll write more this month, then pause to consider – am I writing something worth publishing, sharing, or should I just journal privately?