Thursday, October 29, 2009

My PASS Summit 2009 Schedule

Hooray! The PASS Summit is upon us (finally)! Here's what my plans look like for next week:

My week starts with the cross country flight from Orlando to Seattle-Tacoma International, arriving at 1:30 PM (Want to split the fare for a ride into town? Drop a comment, send me an email, or tweet me and let me know. Otherwise I'm planning on trying out Seattle's illustrious public transportation to make my way downtown). After checking into the Sheraton I'm heading to Don Gabor's "Networking to Build Business Contacts" pre-con at 4:30 PM, followed by the welcome reception and quiz bowl at 6:30 PM. I'm finishing up the night at the SQLServerCentral party, then back to the hotel where I will presumably collapse from exhaustion before the first full day even begins.

I'm assuming I'll be up bright and early since my body will still be on east coast time. I'm shooting for the welcome breakfast at 7:30 AM and the keynotes afterwards. I'll be at the Birds-of-a-Feather lunch (no idea what table I'll sit at though, there's lots of interesting topics and people to choose from!), and throughout the day I'll try to hit as many technical sessions as I can. I'm headed to a by-invitation sponsor dinner\event Tuesday night.

The day starts at 7:00 AM with a breakfast sponsored by Quest where the topic will be "Simplify SQL Server Management with DMVs". I'll try to make the keynotes and as many technical sessions as I can fit in. No firm plans for lunch, but I'm leaning towards going to the Women In Technology luncheon. The title alone suggests that this would be for women only, but as was pointed out to me earlier this week it's open to all; Since my sister works for NASA and I've got a daughter who's as smart as a whip there's some interest in this for me. Wednesday night you'll probably find me at the SQL Server Appreciation Event from 7-10 PM.

No plans for breakfast (maybe the Quest breakfast again?) and I may hit the keynotes. Otherwise it's technical sessions all day. I'll probably go to the Chapter Lunch, or maybe venture outside the conference for once to grab something nearby. The big event of the day for me is my session -  Transactional Replication: Beyond The Basics - at 4 PM in room 606-607. I'll finish the night at another by-invitation sponsor dinner.

By now my brain will be complete mush, so I'm leaving the day open to do whatever comes my way. That probably means shopping for gifts for the family back home and some kind of sightseeing. My flight leaves at 10:20 PM, and since I don't get home until 9:30 AM Saturday morning I'll likely spend the flight catching up on all the sleep I missed during the week.

Other Things I'm Doing During The Week
I have no idea when they'll happen, but these things are on my list of to-dos:

  • Meet people. The list of people I want to meet up with is too long to go into detail here, so I'll just put it this way: If you follow me on Twitter, or I follow you, or you read my blog, or come to my session I want to meet you.
  • SQLCAT Clinic. I've got a few things I need to talk to these folks about.
  • Visit the expo hall. There are a couple of vendors I want to meet with for product demos and to just say hello.
  • SQL Saturday tweetup? There was was some talk about a tweetup with people who have presented at SQL Saturday events. If it happens I'll try to be there. I'm bringing my shirt from SQL Saturday #1 (for bragging rights) just in case.
  • Find some really good coffee. I love good coffee and I hear there's a shop or two in Seattle worth visiting.

Finally, a quick mention that I'm a square in SQLServerPedia's Twitter Bingo contest. If you play it could be worth a $50 Amex gift card (2 winners per day!). Read the rules, print out a card, and see if you can find me next week!

Monday, October 26, 2009

SQL Saturday #21 (Orlando) Presentation Downloads

Here are the slide decks and code samples from my sessions at SQL Saturday #21 Orlando on 10\17. I've also cross posted these over on the SQL Saturday #21 event site.

Download: Performance Tuning With DMVs
Download: Configuring SQL Access for the Web Developer & Admin

SQL Saturday #21 (Orlando) Recap

Saturday, 10\17, marked the third year for SQL Saturday here in Orlando and each year it gets bigger and better. With 56(!) sessions across 9 tracks and some big name speakers there was plenty of SQL goodness for everyone who came out for the day.

Pre-Event Happenings
Although the main event was Saturday things started for me with dinner Thursday night with Andy Warren, Jack Corbett, and Buck Woody (Blog | Twitter). Buck is a SQL Server Technical Specialist and Program Manager at Microsoft, and an all around interesting guy to know. I didn't do too much talking – mostly listening to him spin some great stories about SQL Server. If nothing else I found the perspective from someone inside Microsoft interesting to hear.

Friday night was the speaker party at Jax Fifth Avenue. I enjoyed getting the chance to catch up with old friends and SQL Saturday "regulars", and meet several people who I've talked to on Twitter for the last year (too many names to name!). The party was scheduled for 6-8 PM but at least half of us ended up staying until 10ish talking about the upcoming PASS summit, Patrick LeBlanc's SQL Lunch, what it takes to become an MVP, and a variety of other SQL related topics. I've done a lot of SQL Saturdays and enjoy the speaker parties almost as much as the day of the event; besides the PASS summit there aren't many chances to get that many presenters and leaders in the SQL world in the same room together and I appreciate the intangible networking benefits that come from it.

The Main Event
I was on the schedule for three regular sessions and one 15 minute mini. My first session, Performance Tuning With DMVs, was a new presentation for me and it went as well as I could have expected for the first time. While the venue had wifi access VPN was blocked which kept me from showing results from servers that had been running and accumulating DMV data for a while. I reverted to running demos against a virtual machine on my laptop which took a bit away from the wow factor (it's hard to show missing indexes when nothing's been run!). Aside from that I found a few things to clean up\clarify and the next time I give this presentation it'll be even better.

The 15 mini session was a demo of Red Gate SQL Backup Pro that ended up being a personal conversation with the one person who showed up and was interested in what it could do.

My second full session was a panel discussion along with Andy Warren and Jack Corbett on how to get started in blogging and technical speaking. Surprisingly (in a good way) we ended up having 25 people attend – standing room only – and went 5-10 minutes over our scheduled time. There was a lot of interest in both topics and some great questions asked. If only one person starts a new blog or signs up to present at a future SQL Saturday I will have considered the session a success.

My last session, Configuring SQL Access for the Web Developer, was the kind of session every speaker fears thanks to my VMs freezing up right as I went into the demo portion. For a demo heavy presentation that wasn't good news. I had a few people bail (I suggested they still had time to make other sessions), but most stayed and we chatted for about 10 minutes until things started responding again and I finished up as best as I could. I have to think about if\how to give this one again in the future. It's a topic of interest – I had 20+ people show up when I've previously presented it – but the demos are tough because I run a full Active Directory domain inside virtual machines all from a laptop and sharing physical resources gets a bit tricky.

The day ended with a SWAG raffle and an after party back at Jax Fifth Ave, but due to other obligations I had to skip the after party.

Misc. Thoughts

  • Of all the SQL Saturdays that I've been to signs seem to be a recurring problem. Despite living in the age of the GPS just having clearly visible signs strategically placed make it helpful to know if you're supposed to be in this parking lot of that one. #21's signs were black letters hand written on a neon background and I don't think they were visible enough nor placed in the right spots.
  • There was a visible lack of sponsor presence. I know Andy and Jack tried hard to get quality sponsors in the door and they just weren't biting due to the economy, but how often do you get hand fed a super focused target audience? I'm no marketing guy, but it seems like you'd have to spend a lot more money than what was being asked to get that kind of reach.
  • Large maps and schedules were posted in the main hallways and it worked really well. I ended up referring to these more often than the printed schedule I was given at the beginning of the day.
  • Between Andy and Jack coordinating things, volunteers who took care of logistics, sponsors who provided cash and SWAG, speakers who gave their time and talent to present, and the 200+ attendees it was a fantastic day!

Other Recaps
In case you might have missed it, here are some other write-ups about the day:

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Off-Hours Work: A Guide For Non-Managers

In my last post I talked about how I think managers should approach off-hours work with their teams. It's a two way street, however, so today I'll share my thoughts on how non-managers (i.e. the rest of us!) should handle the situation.

Understand what's expected of you
Imagine you've been called in to work on a weekend and show up thinking you need to do A, B, and C while your manager really wants you to do X, Y, and Z. If you don't figure that out before you start working you're in for trouble. Do yourself (and your manager) a favor then and make sure you understand exactly what your manager expects to get accomplished while you're there.

Be the solution, not the problem
Sure, it's the weekend and you'd rather be anywhere else besides work. Guess what? Your manager feels the same way, and so do all of your co-workers. Talking about what you'd rather be doing or how much it sucks that you have to work on a weekend isn't likely to win you any sympathy points. Rather, it'll probably create tension and make you look like a complainer, and no one likes a complainer. Instead, focus on finishing what your manager called you in to do and remember the phrase, "If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say it at all!"

If you are unhappy – and sometimes you have every right to be – take a minute to write down your reasons then give it some time to let your emotions settle. Revisit your list later and see if you can create some positive suggestions for how to do things better the next time, then bring them up in a one on one meeting with your manager or at a post-mortem when people are open to constructive criticism.

Minimize distractions
Shut off TweetDeck. Avoid logging into Facebook. Close Outlook & Gmail. Do whatever it takes to eliminate distractions so that you can focus on getting work done (and as mistake free as possible). The plus side of working during off-hours is that no one's there to interrupt you with their problems every 15 minutes. With no distractions or interruptions you're putting yourself in a zone of super-productivity. The more productive you are the sooner you finish what you came in to do. The sooner you finish, the sooner you can go home and log into Twitter, Facebook, and do all those other distracting things.

Work first, negotiate later
When your manager tells you that he\she needs you to work outside of normal hours it's natural to try and negotiate up front for overtime pay or extra time off as compensation but I believe that you shouldn't if possible. Do the work first and then talk compensation once you know how much time you put in. By contributing to your manager's success first and putting yourself second your manager will probably be more than willing to help you out in the end.

Note that there's a difference in negotiating for compensation and setting expectations. For example, if you're getting called in but you had a previous commitment that you can't back out of it's OK to work out what time you can come in beforehand…but it's not OK to tell your manager that you expect a few hours off on Monday because you are coming in on a Saturday.

The Big Picture
We all value our personal time, but from time to time we're going to have to give some of it up to go into work outside of normal hours. When it happens, remain positive, focus on getting the job done, and be a professional about it. Handle it wrong and you'll have to dig yourself out of a proverbial hole, but handle it right and you'll earn yourself a few extra karma points which may come in handy at some point in the future.