My very first SQL Saturday was #31, Chicago 2010. I showed up, I volunteered, I learned a hundred things I got to use, and I met some great people – some of my best friends, now. So when I heard there would be a Chicago 2011, I was stoked. Sign me up! Better yet, let me speak! And how about I offer to help with anything the organizers need?

So, on Friday, March 25, I set out on a road trip. Destination: SQL Saturday #67, Chicago. I had my usual road trip essentials of coffee and granola bars, along with boxes of t-shirts for the event, and two laptop bags. I spent the day in downtown Chicago, at Brent Ozar’s Freecon, which deserves a blog post of its own (and will get it). Then I headed west, to DeVery University in Addison, to help set up and go to the speaker dinner.

Friday Night

First: thank you, DeVry University, for sponsoring the event and hosting us. The location was excellent. A group of volunteers was busy setting up registration, prepping rooms, and in general being awesome, giving up a Friday evening to help us.

Second: thank you, SQL Sentry, for taking the speakers out to dinner. This was when I started to get really excited about the event. Oh, the people I got to rub elbows with! Imagine getting to eat dinner with almost everyone listed. I got to meet a few people I’d known through Twitter and blogs for a while for the first time: Jeff Mlakar, Allen White, Doug Lane, Kevin Boles, Nicholas Cain, Brian Davis, Hope Foley, and Jose Chinchilla. It was way too fun! Also, of note: Brian Davis and Allen White are tall. Very tall.

SQL Saturday #67

There really aren’t words to describe how awesome this event was.

Thank you, sponsors. Without DeVry, Redgate, SQL Sentry, Quest Software, Embarcadero, Idera, Confio, Microsoft, PASS, Fusion IO, PTI, SQLSkills.com, Magenic, Morgan Kaufmann, SQL Server Magazine, Wrox, CozyRoc, Apress, Gerasus Software, O’Reilly, and the many SQL bloggers, this event wouldn’t have been possible.

Thank you, organizers and volunteers! Norman Kelm, Aaron Lowe, Ted Krueger, Bob Pusateri, Rich Rousseau, Wendy Pastrick, and Bill Lescher put countless hours into this very successful event. We had a great location, top-notch speakers, excellent breakfast and lunch (of course I’ll mention the food), wonderful sponsors – all because of them. In addition, there was a whole fleet of volunteers who registered people, handed out t-shirts, answered questions, and in general were awesome.

Thank you, Michael Kappel, for being our event photographer. You took great shots and captured the energy and excitement of the event.

My experience this time was a little different from past SQL Saturdays, since I was a Speaker. I got to sit in the Speaker Prep Room. You know what’s really cool about that? Being there. I suggest everyone try it sometime. Other than that, it’s a place to throw your laptop and spare laptop and get extra-caffeinated and nervous. I was moderating the WIT panel at lunch, and giving my “Make Your Voice Heard” presentation at 2:30, so I had the morning to attend sessions.

I listened to Ted Krueger present “SSIS: The DBA Multiplier”. I picked up some good tips from him on what tasks are good and which aren’t in SSIS. He also showed three real-world examples of how he saved time with SSIS: incremental file backups, SQL Server instance scanning, and automating restores between environments.

Then I headed to Grant Fritchey’s “The Optimizer, Statistics, and Indexes” presentation. I learned a really useful DMV (sys.dm_exec_query_optimizer_info), and more information about what steps the optimizer goes through and more. I can’t wait to use this!

At lunch, there was a Women In Technology lunch panel, focusing on “Energizing the Next Generation”. I moderated a discussion between Kim Tesserau, Hope Foley, Wendy Pastrick, Miyaka Tabe, and the great audience. Each woman told us how she got into IT and database work, what she loves about it, and how to expose kids to tech. We came up with a list of ways we mentor kids, talk to them about tech, and get them involved: The Alice Project, FIRST Lego League, and the Boys and Girls Club were all mentioned. The audience was very interactive, as well, and I hope everyone was able to take something away from the discussion.

I really meant to catch Erin Stellato’s presentation after lunch, but got talking with other user group leaders instead. This is one of my favorite parts of SQL events – the unplanned but incredibly useful networking and sharing opportunities we get.

Then, it was all about me! I gave my presentation, “Make Your Voice Heard”, for the first time. This was a fun session on how to get involved in the community, and help others, using LinkedIn, Twitter, forums and blogging. I had 17 people in the session, some who had never been on Twitter or answered a forum question, and several MVPs who have years of experience with all of this.
SQL Saturday 2011 Session 4 068
The discussion was lively and interactive and a ton of fun. I hope everyone learned at least one thing! I know I have a least three new Twitter followers after that! My presentation materials can be downloaded from http://www.sqlsaturday.com/viewsession.aspx?sat=67&sessionid=3436.

Then, I meant to catch Christina Leo’s session, but got asked a few questions and decided to help clean up and get things ready for the raffle. Next time!

The end-of-day raffle was amazing. Again, the sponsors were wonderful. I’m thrilled to say that I was a lucky raffle winner! As I was pulling the goodies out of the SQLSkills.com bag to show off what the winner would get – cups, pens, stickers, the bag, and an autographed copy of SQL Server 2008 Internals, autographed by Paul and Kim – Norm called my name. I think this picture says it all.
SQL Saturday 2011 Raffle 110
Congratulations to everyone who won a prize!

Afterwards, I had a great dinner with a fantastic group of people, and then headed to the karaoke after-party. To quote Grant Fritchey: “But that’s all I’m going to tell you about that. If you didn’t go, you missed out.”

Sunday

Amazingly enough, I still had energy on Sunday morning. That’s a good thing, because I had organized a group run. I got to run with Brian Davis, Mike Reigler and Allen White. We had a beautiful day and a great run. We covered 9.12 miles in less than two hours. We got to talk about marathons and show tunes, run past a horse farm in the middle of suburbia, try to figure out how to get the “Walk” signal at a busy intersection and trek through a nature preserve. Like everything else over the weekend, it was awesome.

Final Thoughts

SQL Saturdays are a great community event. The relationships they foster are important, and the opportunities given to people like me who are new to speaking are priceless. I encourage you to attend one (or another one), and if you haven’t yet, speak! You’ll learn so much and have a great experience! Everyone who attended should also go leave feedback at http://blogs.lessthandot.com/index.php/DataMgmt/DBProgramming/MSSQLServer/sql-saturday-in-chicago-2011, to let us know what was good and what we can do better next time!