Thoughts on the Student to IT Pro Seminar

Miscellaneous notes as I think on this.

I’ve been reading through feedback from the students. Reading the raw feedback is interesting and informative. I’ll try to recap some of the things I’ve seen so far:

  • Some found it to be interesting and helpful to understand the career journey (in this case mine)
  • Some were overwhelmed by our “beginner” session on databases and SQL
  • Some were introduced to new titles/areas (didn’t have a sense of what the options were)
  • All seemed thrilled to hear from a staffing company about how to find work
  • SQLSaturday was interesting, hopeful, and sometimes overwhelming to those that stayed
  • Lesser mentions about the networking part, nothing negative, just not as big a deal for them

Reading the feedback I’m reminded that writing is an important IT skill and I bet few realize how much depends on our ability to convey ideas in writing.

Based on what I’ve seen so far, here’s what I think I’ll recommend if we do it again:

  • 30 minutes on networking. Not a waste of time to talk about LinkedIn, separating (or not) work/life, and how to attend events/meet people
  • I like the hour introduction to a major silo, but we’re going to have to show them enough to interest without losing them. I think it’s important that they see it’s about tools and problems and solutions. That said, maybe an hour is too much. Changing to 30 minutes might encourage brevity/avoid deep dives.
  • I’d like to put more people up front to tell their stories. 2-4 people. Next time I’d like to get a BI person up front, maybe a data developer, etc, and give them 20 minutes to say “this is what I do, this is how I got there, this is how you might pursue this specialty”.  Diversity would be good in that.
  • Continue or expand the session with the staffing firm about the practical problems of getting an IT job
  • More resources – 10 blogs to read, career sites, etc. Stuff they can do afterwards. Free tools also – we tend to forget about the cost
  • Makes me think we need 30 minutes on virtualization and building a test lab
  • 3 hours feels about right, could go slightly longer if needed
  • Add something about writing
  • Important to have time for Q&A with each speaker, and some open floor time (would a panel be better?)
  • I’d like to have everyone who spoke available to students for 30 minutes afterward

What my comments don’t convey is how much of a beginner they are. That’s not bad, it just is. We’ve got to show them the path, with more emphasis on the next step than the tenth step, but still help them see that decisions made now affect what the tenth step will be.

Something else to ponder is diversity. We don’t have much control over who attends, but I wonder if photos of the speakers that show some diversity might not bring a few more? Hard to measure. Even if it doesn’t bring more, I wonder if having a woman or minority as part of the team might tilt someone into staying that is uneasy (even if not for reasons related to gender/race).

There’s no formula yet. It’s going to take iterations and iterations may not be easy. It’s different from an “event” because here it’s about one set of carefully crafted content and not much about logistics. That’s not to say content isn’t important at SQLSaturday – clearly it is – but as with any seminar if the content isn’t right they just don’t attend.

Let’s Create More After Hours Events at the Summit

We’ve got a good handful of events listed for After Hours so far, but couldn’t we have more? A couple thousand attend, a few hundred will be at these events, so there are plenty more opportunities. There’s nothing wrong with exploring Seattle, dinner with new friends, or whatever else, but it’s nice to have some options if none of those seem right for the evening. I love that Pat Wright continues the Photo Walk, a reminder that mornings are also a time to share interests and ideas. Why not organize something? It doesn’t have to target hundreds or even tens, just something that you want to do and hope that others will to do to. I’ve debated a Veterans meet up of some type. Maybe a few people want to meet for coffee and chess? What do you want to do?

Some suggestions (I don’t make the rules!) for making it happen:

  • Use EventBrite to manage it, everyone is used to it and its free
  • Send a note to PASS to get it added to the After Hours page
  • Blog and/or Tweet about it once in a while, and consider personal invites to people you know will be at the Summit
  • In general I’d say don’t schedule opposite “official” PASS events, but if it’s a handful of people don’t sweat it

 

 

image

Fixing SCOM After a Hardware Upgrade

Quick note in case I need again some day. The team recently moved all the user databases for a monitoring instance to new hardware and it basically went well. Immediately afterward there were a number of error messages in the log about a missing user defined error message. Minus 5 points for not moving MSDB. We had the “old” MSDB of course, but we found this fix which took care of the problem by just adding back the error messages. Problem fixed, sorta. Turns out it was then failing differently and the new error wasn’t in the SQL log. Once I heard “service broker” it was an easy fix:

alter database ABC SET ENABLE_BROKER WITH ROLLBACK IMMEDIATE;
alter database ABC SET TRUSTWORTHY ON;

There are a handful of lessons there, the least of which is about SCOM.

Monday Night Networking Dinner at PASS Summit 2014

For the fifth year Steve Jones and I are organizing the Monday Night Networking Dinner at the PASS Summit. It will be from 6-9 pm on Monday evening. I’m waiting on the “final” confirmation of the location but expect it be within walking distance of the Convention Center. It’s a free event, you pay for your own food and beverage, and it’s not complicated – register, show up, we’ll greet you and help you find a seat. No speeches, no sponsors, just hang out and talk, whatever is in your comfort zone. Bring a friend or a spouse too! It’s designed to be a low pressure and fun event. Attendance is usually in the 200-250 range, plenty of people to talk to! Hope to see you there.

Also check out the other After Hours events, lots of fun ways to interact with other attendees before and after a day of learning.

Renewed as MVP for 2015

Took a break to check email and saw the confirmation that I was renewed for another year. Pleasant news for a Wednesday morning. Strange to realize this is my 7th time, where did the time go? I’ve certainly changed a lot in those years!

For those who aren’t MVP’s and would like to be (and there is nothing wrong with that at all), here are some notes on how to do it:

  • There are multiple paths to it, from answering forum posts to writing books to being a speaker to serving on the PASS Board. Pick one (or more) that work for you.
  • There is no public formula so you have to guess at how much is enough. Do what you can like, do what you can sustain, do what you can afford.
  • My view is that being an MVP is about influence and contributions to the community. Building a network is a very good way to start, as is having a blog so you can interact with your network.
  • Build a portfolio over 18-24 months, then find someone to review and submit you for consideration

On that last bullet I’ll be glad (as will most MVP’s) to spend a few minutes with you discussing what you’ve done/are doing and make suggestions. I’d like nothing better to see you become an MVP.

Notes On SQLSaturday Orlando #318

Notes from a speaker/volunteer perspective:

  • It was a lot of fun to talk to the students at our Student to IT Pro Seminar. Interesting to hear their questions, easy to forget what it’s like to be a true beginner. 70 people in the seminar. Win!
  • I had about 20 in my 9 am presentation. Went reasonably well and I identified some things to tweak before the Summit.
  • The chef coats we received as speaker gifts were just excellent!
  • We sold 25 SQLSaturday Orlando polos this year at our cost of $25. Not bad at all.
  • We had 8 serving tables to expedite lunch (which worked), but I could see attendees struggling to see past the lines at the front tables. Minor tweak for next year.
  • Lunch went very well and we had food left over that went to a local shelter
  • We had 5 or 6 schedule changes in the last two weeks, makes it challenging to commit to the door schedules – but change is going to happen.
  • The super sized schedules in the elevators were well received, perhaps in part due to the elevators being really slow.
  • We found a volunteer to do photos and I’m hoping those turn out well. We just didn’t have enough volunteers to do it the way we wanted.
  • 54 speakers is a massive schedule. Not sure I even got to say hello to all of them. We couldn’t do it without you.
  • Shawn purchased a water balloon slingshot that worked well for tshirts. Kendal was sending tshirts all the way to the back table in the gathering area
  • We had minor glitches that we noticed, but I don’t think anything that the attendees noticed (all 450+ of them)

We manage the event as a committee here in Orlando, with leadership alternating between oPASS and MagicPASS. I think this year was our best year so far and a really good team. Everyone had a pretty good idea of what they wanted to get done and stayed focused, and Kendal did a nice job of figuring out which ideas to take and which to leave on the list. Our weekly Tuesday calls really helped maintain communication. We also focused on numbers a lot; registration, speakers, sponsors, seminar registrations too. It was also nice to reinvigorate our relationship with ONETUG (.Net group here in Orlando) and we look forward to doing a lot to help with with the Code Camp in early 2015. We’re all writing up notes on what we could do better/different next year and in the next week or so we’ll have our first planning call for SQLSaturday Orlando 2015, then we’ll mostly be on break until March.

We had a lot of great volunteers, but I had a note to mention one – Rodney Landrum. Rodney is quiet and behind the scenes, but he gets things done. By the time I arrived Saturday morning he was covered in sweat from moving tables and handling problems, then came the student seminar at 9 am to teach students about what relational databases are, and then he went back over at 1130 to host the raffle for them, and that’s just the parts I saw. All of which took up so much time he didn’t get to do the thing he wanted to do – be the roving reporter. We’ll get that next year Rodney! I didn’t get to spend hardly any time with volunteers and I missed that, I like hearing the stories and having time to say thank you to them, something for me to do better at next year.

This year was the most I’ve been involved since I handed over the keys to Orlando years ago. It was good to be back. Interesting to see lessons learned, and some lost and re-learned (coffee plan). The local franchise feels strong. We’re lucky to have a lot of people in Orlando with talent and energy. It was good to have the time and energy to put into trying to push the edges back some, and sometimes a challenge to remember that while ideas area good, they can be stressful when the team sees something else that might get added to the stack.

I meant to take more photos, only ended up with a couple. Here is Jedi Knight Mark Souza defending the attendees against the Empire, which was attacking with a t-shirt slingshot. He put up a valiant fight but was finally knocked to the ground by Sith Lord Rodney Landrum. Obi-Wan was bent and a little crumpled, but was able to attend the closing raffle by leaning against the wall, light sql saber still at the ready!

 

IMG_20140927_173426816_HDR

 

This is mid-raffle. It’s a lot of people! Green shirts are volunteers. The walkway behind the crowd is where we put the serving tables at lunch (and check-in before that), with the building that has our classrooms on the far side.

IMG_20140927_175644165_HDR

That’s for it this year, now we have to finish up our joint meeting of OPASS/MagicPASS in October featuring Mark Souza, then it’s off to the Summit and then I think it will be time for the end of year break. Time flies.

Notes On Our First Student to IT Pro Seminar

This past week we did our first try at the Student to IT Pro Seminar, run concurrently with SQLSaturday Orlando. You can read why we did it at http://sqlandy.com/2014/09/the-student-to-it-pro-seminar-were-doing-at-sqlsaturday-orlando/. Some notes on the experience:

  • We registered 85, had about 70 attend
  • Mostly students, but we had a few from SQLSaturday that found it interesting
  • We spent the first 30 minutes talking about logistics and then the silos in IT, from Java/Microsoft down to the various and many titles related to SQL Server
  • Rodney Landrum then delivered a hour or so about relational databases, installing SQL Server, and some really really basic queries
  • I returned after the break (and after delivering a session at SQLSaturday) to discuss LinkedIn and social networking, career choices, and answered lots of questions, ranging from “what is business intelligence” to “should I take cert exams” to “how do I get my first IT job (and how to become a DBA)”.
  • We had a local staffing company thing spend 30 minutes with them, building on the themes of networking and knowing the target job title to help the students understand how to use staffing firms effectively, common resume mistakes, and more
  • We finished up with a raffle, and provided students with a certificate of completion and/or a signature on their schedule proving attendance, and then invited them to lunch at SQLSaturday and to attend the afternoon sessions
  • We need to send a follow email to try to connect them to oPASS/MagicPASS and to solicit more feedback
  • It’s almost impossible to make this “too beginner”. I’d bet money that your best shot at beginner is still too advanced. Advice to us for next time too!
  • A half day or less seemed about right, both for students and for us. I wish I could have sat with them at lunch to interact more (had to serve the food!) and I can see it being very handy to have more than one person available to answer questions – perhaps a networking, server, developer, DBA, maybe a few more different people, let them pick a group, or even rotate.

The response seemed very positive. We need to dig into the evals and feedback from Rodney and others, mainly to see what we could better and to work on formalizing it more – very off the cuff this year, we had good ideas and were prepared to adapt as needed.  Definitely a win though, and we’re hoping to do more and better next year. That said, it put a strain on the team running it on the same day as SQLSaturday. Nothing decided yet, but we’re thinking there is real merit to holding it 2-3 weeks prior to SQLSaturday. That would separate the logistics and allow us to give it our full focus, and hopefully we convince some of them to then register/attend SQLSaturday.

Lots of lessons still to be learned.

SQLSaturday Orlando Marketing Plan–Part 48

This past Saturday we held our eight annual SQLSaturday. I’ll write some notes about the event and post today or tomorrow. The final registration count after marking 20-30 people as cancelled (things got hectic, was hard to track) was 640 (vs 344 last year) and our best effort on attendance count is 450 (and was slightly higher than that because we ended up with some students dual registered). Our Student to IT Pro Seminar had about 70 attendees (and some of those were dual registered). We had more people pay for lunch than registered last year. We’ll try to get the final drop percentage refined, but it looks like the expected 30% or so. I surpassed both my goals for this year, 450 attendees against the goal of 350, and 640+ registered against the goal of 500. Definitely satisfying to hit the goals after months of work.

I still have some work to do that I’m planning to have wrapped up by Oct 17th:

  • Send out the remaining sponsor email blasts
  • Related to the event, market the upcoming joint oPASS/MagicPASS meeting starring (featuring hardly seems to be the right word) my friend Mark Souza
  • Write up a core set of lessons learned
  • Write up a plan that can be repeated next year (and by other events)

It’s been a long road and I’m definitely tired. Not unexpected, but a reminder that I need to find ways to make it less intense next year. We haven’t met yet to discuss roles for next year, but I’m leaning towards a different role and a new challenge while I coach whoever takes on marketing. It’ll be interesting setting a growth goal for next year, I know I’ll want to think hard about whether 20% is doable after the kind of growth we had this year!

 

 

image