Welcome to SQL University Community Week. The SQL Server user community is, in one word, awesome. There are hundreds, no, thousands, of database professionals from all over the world just waiting to meet you, answer your questions, share their knowledge, and learn from you.
Where do you find these people? Let us take you on a tour around the community, introduce you to some of the networks and tools you can use, and give you the information you need to go out and use them!
What is a community? You probably live in a neighborhood with other people, and that’s a community. It’s a group of people that share a common interest – keeping the dandelions out of the yards, or keeping Harry the Sasquatch from the Henderson’s out of the street. Have you ever been part of a business group or social group? That’s another example of a community.
The SQL Server community is exceptional. There is a huge of group passionate people at user groups, training events, and online that you can connect and share with. Once you start to meld into the community you will quickly see that not only does it offer SQL knowledge at will, but much more.
Let’s start by talking about a very traditional way to meet fellow technically-minded people: user groups. These are groups that get together on a regular schedule (generally once a month), have networking time, and then a speaker will give a session on anything from Stored Procedures to Service Broker. The speakers may come from your area, and sometimes from distant locations. These sessions are free, with sponsorships that help maintain locations and, if we’re lucky, dinner and swag.
Swag: May include t-shirts, stickers, promo CDs, posters, etc.
The benefit of a user group is that you get to meet other database professionals that are local to you. Through PASS, there are over 80 SQL Server User Groups in the United States alone. You can view a list of PASS SQL Server User Groups on the PASS website.
I have been attending the Wisconsin SQL Server User Group for a year, and I have had a great experience. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting other database administrators, database developers, and SQL Server MVPs. There have been presentations on SQL Server 2008, source control, the recently released SQL Server 2008 R2 features, Business Intelligence and other topics. Pretty much every SQL Server topic you would cover in a normal database team has its moment on the SSUG presentation stage. I’ve made some great professional contacts and gotten some great books as door prizes. (I got some swag!)
I highly recommend that you attend a user group if there is one in your area. If there isn’t, have you thought about starting one? Go to the website and get the ball rolling by contacting the great people that run PASS.
SQL Saturday is a series of one-day training events, organized by volunteers, held around the country at various times of the year. (Guess which day of the week?) While you should attend for the free training, the networking opportunities are invaluable.
I attended SQL Saturday 31 in Chicago, IL on April 17, 2010. I was able to sit in informative, exciting sessions on SQL Server administration, Powershell, and execution plans, to name a few. I also got to meet Kevin Kline (blog | Twitter), a PASS board member; Brent Ozar (blog | Twitter), blogger and MCM; Jorge Segarra (blog | Twitter), the SQL University Chancellor; Jason Strate (blog | Twitter), blogger and MVP; and more. These are people whose blogs or books I had read, who I’d had Twitter conversations with, whom I’d exchanged emails with.
But the best part was meeting other “regular” people, like Sheila, Richard, Christina, Dustin, Aaron, and Keith. These may not be names you recognize (yet!), but they are a valuable part of my network now because they do the same job I do, and face the same challenges I do. How did I meet these people? Networking took place in the morning while working registration, over a pizza lunch, in between sessions, and even at the end of the day when a group gathered in the lobby to relax and chat.
I came home with a stack of business cards, a slew of new people to follow on Twitter, more blogs to read, and a great group of new friends. I highly recommend you attend a SQL Saturday! You can view the upcoming scheduled events at http://sqlsaturday.com/. If you don’t see a SQL Saturday near you, think about organizing your own.
Did I mention the gobs and gobs of swag you get?
Twitter describes itself as a “micro-blogging” website. It is designed to allow you to share short messages (140 characters) with other users. I describe it as a mash-up of blogging and instant messaging.
How does it work? You set up a profile with some information, such as your name, location, website and bio. Then, you post updates, or “tweets”. You could post, “I just ate a taco for lunch.” I’ve been known to do that. But we also want to hear about what you’re working on: “I just wrote a sweet Powershell script for SQL Server backups!”
You follow other people to see what they have to say – and there are some interesting things being said on Twitter! Then people will start to follow you, and read these great things you post. Soon, you’re having conversations with people all over the world, ranging from how to solve a T-SQL problem to chatting about your other hobbies and passions.
Another great part of Twitter is the camaraderie when interacting with such a large number of different SQL Server professionals. Humor is spread amongst everyone and the atmosphere of the SQL Server Twitter community is very accepting to everyone at all levels of their careers.
What kind of SQL Server community is on Twitter? A huge, vibrant, dedicated community! You can follow Paul Randal and Kim Tripp, Buck Woody and Stacia Misner, Brent Ozar and heck, even me! I have used Twitter to connect with all of these people and more. I’ve gotten answers to questions about how to correctly write an OVER() statement, how to handle out-of-control transaction log growth, and how to disable the Windows Server 2008 firewall, to mention just a few.
Another great feature of Twitter is the hashtags (#). All tweets that contain a word preceded by a # are categorized together. The SQL Server community has created several of these – for example, #sql, #sqlpass, and even #sqlhelp. If you have a SQL Server question, tweet “How do I set up transaction log backups for my database? #sqlhelp” The answers will start flowing in! Also reference: #sqlmoviequotes, #youmightbeaDBA, and #awesomesauce.
LinkedIn is another valuable networking website. This site focuses mostly on your professional accomplishments and career growth. It allows you to enter your employment history, education, and personal information for visibility to other professionals and companies. You can then make connections with coworkers, professionals in the same field, classmates, and other people you have known. Think of LinkedIn as a central repository for your accomplishments and a sharing place where others with the same background connect to you. You have the opportunity for career advancement through visibility of your profile and an all-around great marketing strategy for yourself.
Build your network on LinkedIn. Connect with people who know what you have done, that know how you work, and that can recommend you for future positions!
What you should do now
Realize that you will not be able to answer all of your own questions, that you will learn from other people, that you will be able to share your knowledge with others, and that the community is here to help you and be helped by you.
Find groups to join, both in person and virtually. Talk to the people you meet. Ask questions. Answer questions. Enjoy!
Then, come back here and share your community stories with the rest of us!
Please take the time to fill out the SQL University Course Evaluation.