I had the opportunity to attend (and be a technical lead for!) SQL Cruise Caribbean 2015 in February 2015. This was my second SQL Cruise – my first was as an attendee on SQL Cruise Alaska 2012. I loved the first event, so my expectations were fairly high – and they were completely exceeded.
The mantra for SQL Cruise is Learn, Network, Relax, and Grow. This is not just a phrase – I’m an example of this in action.
On my first SQL Cruise, I was an attendee, just starting a new job with Brent Ozar Unlimited, just awarded Microsoft MVP, and, honestly, I felt like a kid. I was surrounded by SQL Server MCMs, MVPs, and people that had been working in IT longer than I had been out of high school. But I never once felt out of place. I learned a ton, I answered questions for other cruisers, and I made friends I talk to to this day. (Hi Eric! Hi Wayne! Hi Mala!)
Fast-forward to Saturday, February 7, 2015. I am riding in a limo to the dock with my dear friend Mickey Stuewe (and our +1s)! At the dock, we meet up with Grant and Michele Fritchey . Other cruisers find us – Patrick and Victoria, Tim and Amy – and we make plans to meet at Flamingo Grill when we get on the ship. Within the first 12 hours, I’d met old friends and made new ones; had an informative session from Jeff Lehmann, who was sent by AWS, a fantastic sponsor; and played Search the Ship, one of the many fun networking events Tim and Amy Ford (the SQL Cruise directors) put together. It was a fun-filled first day – and that was just the first day!
Sunday was an at-sea, and thus in-class day. Lest you think this is awful, it is not. 20 incredibly smart people are in a room with few distractions. Sessions are set up so that instead of the presenter just talking through slides, everything is a discussion point, and attendees are sharing war stories and knowledge. It was in class on Sunday morning that I got a bit overwhelmed: not with information, but emotion. Three years ago, I had been trying desperately to keep up. I’d been asking so many questions. I felt out of my league. Sunday, though – Sunday, I felt leaps and bounds above where I was on my first cruise. I had so much more to add to the discussion, and because I knew the group was small and comfortable, I had no problem sharing my thoughts and ideas.
That feeling never once went away. From the first time one of the attendees asked me, as a technical lead, about my opinion on a log shipping problem, to the first time I got to ask one of the attendees to describe how his company handled maintenance with PowerShell, to the last time we had dinner together, I was empowered and happy and in my element.
The week continued on with even more learning and fun. At-sea days were spent in session and Office Hours. I learned more about virtualization, infrastructure, continuous integration, best practices, and more. At-shore days were spent exploring warm, sunny beaches; snorkeling around coral reefs, looking for endangered sea turtles; and touring old forts, then having lunch and drinks on the beach in Nassau with half the cruise crew. It was fantastic.
So, to every sponsor that ever made SQL Cruise possible, to every technical lead that ever shared their knowledge (in the classroom, by the pool, in the bar, on the beach), to every attendee who ever asked or answered a question – thank you. Without you, I wouldn’t have had the fantastic week I did. More importantly, I wouldn’t be where I am in my career today. I wouldn’t have the knowledge I do. I wouldn’t have the confidence I do.
AWS, Red Gate, and SQL Sentry: thank you for providing swag, but more importantly, thank you for giving us attendees the ears of your representatives. When I get advice on how best to use an AWS feature from an AWS expert, I know I’m getting the best information. When the attendees have a chance to give direct feedback on vendor tools – yes, please, do ask my opinion on Report Models – I appreciate the chance to give it in an open, honest environment. I know that Jeff, Grant, and Kevin have taken our feedback and passed it along to their product and marketing teams.
Tim: every hour you’ve spent organizing these – and there are many – have been completely worth it, because these events really do change people’s career trajectories.
One attendee – an MCM! – mentioned on Twitter he’d already used his new-found knowledge no less than three times in the first week. Learn.
I’ve already emailed back and forth with other cruisers about upcoming events, technical questions, and just to share pictures or say hi. Network.
Another of the attendees has already emailed me his idea for his first session to submit to SQL Saturday. Growth.
I came back from the cruise refreshed and energize. Relax.
Everything SQL Cruise says they accomplish: they do.
So if you think this sounds amazing, but you don’t think your company will pay for it – please leave me a comment and I’ll get in touch with you (and I’m not the only cruiser willing to do this). I will personally attest to what SQL Cruise has done for my career – and what it can do for yours.