I attended my very first SQL Saturday in Richmond, VA this past weekend and it was great! I wish I had been better prepared for it but at least I now know what to expect and will be better prepared for the future. That being said, though, it was a terrific experience that I wish I had done sooner and one I do not intend to miss again in the future. I also recommend it for anyone with an interest in SQL Server, databases or even data in general.

I did not even realize that SQL Saturday was coming up in Richmond until I finally started seeing the hashtag #SQLSatRVA show up among some of the people I follow on Twitter and it dawned on me that RVA referred to Richmond. I looked it up and immediately registered when I realized that there were a couple of sessions I would want to attend. The problem was that I did this on Friday, one day before the actual event. The result is that I was waitlisted. I understood this to mean that I would only be able to attend if they had space open up at the last minute and therefore believed that I had missed my opportunity to be there. Therefore, I did not make special plans to wake up early on Saturday to attend.

So, imagine my surprise when I did finally wake up on Saturday morning, a little before 9, and saw an email in my inbox indicating that being waitlisted meant only that I might not be entitled to swag bags, possibly no lunch there (as that needed to be prepaid) and would delay my being able to get registered, not that I could not attend at all! So, I quickly got ready to go and drove off to the University of Richmond (which is a beautiful campus not far from downtown Richmond) where the event was being hosted. Unfortunately, it took me almost as long to find a parking spot as it did to get to campus. However, on the bright side, I anticipated this meant a well-attended event – and it certainly seemed to be that way!

Because I had not anticipated being at the event at all, I had not planned out my entire day. This meant that, by the time I got there, I had already missed the early morning presentations at 8:45 and was just a couple of minutes late to the next ones. It also meant that I had to register to get my name tag (which they couldn’t print at that moment due to technical issues but I could have gone back to get later) along with the raffle tickets. Further, by the time I arrived, there were really no more swag bags for which the registrar apologized and I told him I wasn’t worried as I was more interested in the presentations themselves and it was my own fault for being late.

There were several presentations I wanted to attend in the morning, including Andy Leonard’s beginner SSIS presentation (I needed a refresher) and Karen Lopez’s Database Design Contentious Issues – both of which were at 10 am – along with John Welch’s Unit Testing SSIS Packages at 11:15. In the end, I went with Andy Leonard and felt very happy with both his presentation and being able to ask him a question afterward on something particular to a project I’ve been trying to find time to work on for the last couple of months and for which he gave me another way of trying to resolve that I hope to try later.

John’s presentation was in the same room so I didn’t have to go far for the next one. While I do not currently work with SSIS in any major way, I am very interested in it and was glad that there were several presentations on it. John’s intrigued me as I, having come from an application developer background, was familiar with unit testing in Visual Studio for my applications but not with SSIS. He clearly laid out his arguments for doing so along with an example that gave me something to consider for the future so I was very happy to have been able to attend his lecture.

After that was lunchtime but, unfortunately, I had other things that I had made plans to do (because I hadn’t considered that I’d be able to attend SQL Saturday in the first place) so I ended up having to leave halfway through the day. But I do not regret being able to attend this event in the slightest! I learned some things that interested me and that I hope to be able to use, I got to meet some very smart people in Andy and John, and it gave me a taste of something that I want to do again. So, even though I am just a project manager now, I hope to continue to learn and do more on the data side which can only benefit me and those for whom I work on a daily basis.

One final thought – I know that SQL Saturday is a great way to network as well. I was very fortunate to have met a fellow LessThanDot blogger at this event who traveled from out of town to attend – Samuel Vanga. It turned out he was also in Andy’s presentation on Saturday morning and we had a chance to meet face to face so, along with all of the great learning, I was able to meet someone else face to face here on the LTD site! And I know that Samuel works with SSIS as well so I am looking forward to reading more of his future posts here on LTD on the subject.

For those of you who have considered attending a SQL Saturday near you, I highly recommend you do so. There is much to learn and do and, as I discovered at the one in Richmond, people will come from a long distance just to attend. Several of the presenters and many of the attendees were from out of town who came just for the event. For an event that is both educational as well as fun, there are few better ways to spend a Saturday!