My first SQL Saturday ever was Saturday, April 17, at SQL Saturday #31 in Chicago. I can sum it up in one word: “Awesome”.
I wanted to be part of the experience, so I volunteered to help for the event. That was the best decision I made, and I highly suggest you do so if you get the chance. I got to meet more people than I would have if I had just attended, and I felt useful.
Friday evening I arrived at the hotel, a little stressed after a 3-1/2 hour drive. I met up with the organizers, Ted Krueger (blog | twitter), Wendy Pastrick (blog | twitter) , Aaron Lowe (blog | twitter), and other volunteers who were stuffing bags and prepping swag. This was a perfect opportunity to meet people face-to-face that I had known for months or years through Twitter. I met Tim Ford (blog | twitter), Kevin Kline (blog | twitter), Eli (blog | twitter), and Sheila, among others.
I tagged along to the speaker dinner, and had a fantastic time. I know I won’t remember everyone, but I got to meet (deep breath) Aaron Nelson (blog | twitter), Andrew Karcher (blog | twitter), Brent Ozar (blog | twitter), Jeremiah Peschka (blog | twitter), Jorge Segarra (blog | twitter), Brad McGehee ((blog | twitter), and Mike Steineke.
Saturday started bright and early. I was so excited, I woke up before my alarm went off. I helped set up registration, got a coffee from Starbucks, and prepared to greet the attendees. There was a steady flow of attendees all morning. I hope I gave everyone the right t-shirt size and raffle tickets!
In the morning, I watched Jorge Segarra’s “SQL University 201: More DBA Fun” session. Jorge is an engaging, funny speaker. He talked about day-to-day database administration tasks, and handed out flying chickens.
I next sat through some of Aaron Nelson’s Powershell session. (Sorry I left, Aaron.) Powershell is something I’m really interested in. I was lucky enough to catch up with him later and see some of his scripts.
After lunch, I watched Brent Ozar present “Blitz! 60 Minute Server Takeovers”. This was an excellent session, immediately relevant to my job. I’ve already downloaded the scripts from his website. (http://www.brentozar.com/sql/blitz-minute-sql-server-takeovers/) Brent is also a funny, engaging speaker. There was no post-lunch nap in his session!
Next was the session I was most interested in attending, “Oh Cluster, My Cluster!” with Chuck Heinzelman and Michael Steineke. In the next month, I have to put my first clustered SQL Server into production, so I was hoping to get some really good pointers. Unfortunately, it was more of a Q&A session with the audience, rather than a demo. I talked to Chuck and Mike after, got their business cards, and will be able to ask questions if I have them.
I watched Brad McGehee’s “Introduction to Graphical Execution Plans” session. He stated right away that this was a 100-level class, designed for absolute beginners. I have played with execution plans, so I wasn’t sure how much new information I would pick up. I learned the steps to optimization, and some tips and tricks for reading the plans. I’m even more eager to dive into Grant Fritchey’s book now. (One of four sitting on my desk!)
At this point, it was 5:00 PM and there was still one session left. I was exhausted. I briefly popped into Arie Jones’s Reporting Services session, but it was standing room only and I needed to sit. So, instead, I went to the lobby, where I found the speakers and a few other people hanging out. (I got to see Brent’s iPad. Love at first sight.)
To round out the day, we had a Q&A with the experts and raffle give-away. Everyone wanted prizes, so I felt bad for the “experts”, who were sent to various corners with no one to talk to. There were some really sweet prizes given away, so thank you to the vendors. I’m happy to say I had the Xbox in my hands for about two minutes, as I handed it to the winner, Richard Lewis (blog | twitter).
After the event, I got to decompress a bit over the worst dinner I’ve had in a long time (I ordered a burger and got a chicken sandwich, and Ted got carded for ordering a Coke). Then there was the after-party, where I got caught up in Jason Strate’s karaoke whirlwind, and sang “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” with the SQL girls.
I got about four hours of sleep before heading back to Wisconsin. It was a long ride, but gave me lots of time to reflect on my first SQL community event. I learned a lot and made some very good friends. The networking was exceptional. Wendy, Aaron and Ted did a fantastic job on this event. I can’t wait for my next one!