The trip didn’t start smoothly for this one. Wed night I was really sick with some kind of stomach flu. I was able to crawl out of bed mid morning on Thursday to work and Thursday afternoon didn’t feel too bad. Thursday night was truly miserable so I slept until noon on Friday and was finally able to eat some rice. Loading up for the trip at 2 pm wasn’t fun, more sleep seemed like a better plan. The drive up went smoothly though and we made it to Jacksonville before traffic became miserable. That gave me time to rest for an hour or so after checking in before going to the volunteer dinner.
The dinner was at Seven Bridges, good location with a nice patio. I settled into a chair to drink water, thinking food wasn’t a good plan, especially with a less than subtle trash can/sewage line smell saturating the patio. Great crowd there. I got to argue politics with my friend Robert Cain (it’s nice to be able to talk about a tough topic without it escalating), talked with Eric Wisdahl about my recent blog posts, and talked with Rob Volk about whether it might make sense to seek a larger venue for SQLSaturday Atlanta. The latter conversation was a great one, it’s just not an easy decision. It adds costs, it adds risk, it makes sponsorships more expensive. It’s also hard to gauge the remaining demand. Do you need 50 more seats (and would it be worth it for that), or can you fill another 100 or 200? For Atlanta, as in many free venues, a big challenge is room size, few rooms hold more than 50 people. It’s never a bad thing to have to run a wait list, but I can appreciate thinking that there is more than can be done. One other option is to try running two events, typically a BI event such as we do here in Tampa and also in Dallas. I’ll be curious to see what they decide and how it works out.
Saturday morning I felt better, arrived in time to watch Mike Davis present on interviews. Clearly Mike has done a lot of interviews and had some good tips for candidates. Mike clearly sees travel as a litmus question – he’s hiring for a consultancy that plans on 50% travel after all, and that makes sense. He also does all interviews via Skype with webcam, in part to be sure the candidate he interviews is the one that he hires and in part to see how tech savvy they are. Clearly he gets what is important to his culture and I like that, the challenge for someone interviewing is that it’s very hard to discern the culture from the outside. Every time I go to these I wish that this was taught more in school and more at events. I like seeing different takes on how to interview well, but I can understand why attendees might wind up frustrated because what one presenter values the next one doesn’t (or even dislikes). Not simple.
It was interesting to watch because I don’t consider myself a very good interviewer and usually figure I have a 50/50 chance of having a hire work out (after removing the ones that are obviously not a good fit). Few managers get a lot of practice at hiring – much smarter to work on retention. It’s also why contract to hire is a very common and often preferred strategy. It’s less stress on the organization – no HR set up, no vacation days, no mental hurdle about firing someone.
I did my presentation in the same room at the next hour and it went very well. I had about 40 people in the room to hear about building professional development plans and it made me wish I had also submitted my talk about learning plans which is, depending on how you see the world, the step before or the step after building a PDP. I did my standard bit of asking everyone to introduce themselves to someone next to them and that went well, I also handed out the evals at the very beginning mentioning that they would be turned as a raffle tickets. I think I got almost 100% completion of the evals with good scores and a few nice comments. A nice way to spend the morning.
I then spent some time talking with Jason Carter about check-in for SQLSaturday, Jason essentially challenging Orlando to find a way to go paperless other than the name badge. Even with the SpeedPass we end up printing a lot of raffle tickets, just the nature of how things work. I know there is some provision for scanning tags built into the SQLSat framework already but I’m not sure how robust – need to talk to Karla on that. Beyond technology though, the paper raffle tickets have always worked in a way that badge scanning seldom does. You can watch at the events where the sponsors have scanners and see people stay just out of ‘scan range’ as they look to see what the sponsor does. Maybe we’ve evolved to where that isn’t as big a deal, or maybe we can make it fun by having it smart phone based or having something pop up on the monitor when they “check-in” ala Foursquare. We’ll see. Also should not that it’s not just to be green, printing requires time and aggravation, reducing that makes for a better experience for all, if we can do it right.
Lunch was pizza. Ok, but compared to Orlando and Tampa lunch…blah! I hereby challenge Devin and Scott and team to show us they have some game when it comes to lunch next year.
I left right after lunch to take the family down to St Augustine for the afternoon and do some walking on St George street, then home by mid evening and a 10 hour nap so that by Sunday I felt almost normal again.
A good trip and a very nice event, thanks to the event team for continuing a great tradition in Jacksonville.