Something New Learned

T-SQL TuesdayThis month’s T-SQL Tuesday is hosted by Chris Yates (@YatesSQL) and is about sharing something new you’ve learned recently.

For the past five years I’ve worked as a data warehouse and business intelligence developer. My job is all about providing high-quality data, visualizations, and make sure end users have the right data and reports to do their jobs. I don’t have to worry about performance tuning down to milliseconds, I don’t need to know anything about hardware, and administrators take care of backups and security. I don’t have to or need to know any of these things to do my job, and that is exactly why I want to learn about them.

I’ve spent five years learning and there is still so much more to learn about business intelligence. However, this year I’ve started attending sessions on topics I know close to nothing about, and it really is making me a better developer.

At SQLSaturday #337 Oregon I attended a session by Argenis Fernandez on Securing Your SQL Server Instance Without Changing Any Code. In theory it’s not relevant for me at all, and I have to admit that I hadn’t even heard about some of the things presented before that session. But do you know what I had heard about? Vendor software that requires SA accounts to run. And what did I learn? Rename the SA account, create a new account named SA, and voila! The vendor software can now use the “SA account” that you’re in total control of. It might be 101 material for many, but for me it was something new and useful.

At Red Gate SQL in the City I attended another security session by Bob Pusateri, this time about Passive Security for Hostile Environments. Again, something that in theory was not really relevant for me, but it was probably the session I learned the most from! I knew about triggers, auditing and extended events, but it was the first time I saw a demo of event notifications. It was really useful to see the features compared and learn more about when they should and shouldn’t be used.

While I still feel like I have so much more to learn, I also realized that I actually know quite a lot that I can teach to others. And so do you! Share something you’ve learned recently, something you’ve known for ages, or something you think “everyone knows”. There’s always someone out there like me who will learn something from you :)

Volunteering at SQLSaturday #337 Oregon

SQLSaturday #337 Oregon Volunteer Name BadgeSQLSaturday #337 Oregon was a great event, and I’m so happy I could be there and help out as a volunteer! Arnie, Paul, Vern, Sopheap, Rob, Theresa and everyone else who spent time working on this event, thank you so much. There were 52 volunteers helping out at this event. 52! That’s amazing. I hope you had a great time and I look forward to seeing you again next year!

Isn’t this one of the coolest name badges you’ve seen? Staff, speakers and volunteers all had name badges like this. Each group had a different color with their own pictures and text on it. The QR code takes you to a website where you can get in touch with the person. They were laminated and the same on both sides, so you didn’t have to worry about it flipping over. You didn’t have to worry about people not seeing it either, because it was large and very visible. I may have to borrow a few ideas from this name badge for our next SQLSaturday :)

My first and last assignment of the day was being a room proctor, but I didn’t actually get to see the session. There were quite a few people who arrived during the first session, so I stayed outside my room guiding them to where they wanted to go. It was nice that the organizers had put up maps of all the session rooms in the hallways, I could help attendees or just show them the map. A quick tip if you’re volunteering like this: don’t be afraid to walk up to people! A simple “hi, how can I help you?” if they look lost, or “hi, which room are you looking for?” if they’re staring at the schedule is all it takes. Most people are happy to ask when you approach them first, but they might not want to bother anyone or they might not even know you’re there to help.

Another tip is to hand out evaluation forms when people walk in and let them know that you’ll collect them at the end of the session. We noticed in Oslo that we got a lot more evaluation forms when we handed them out instead of placing them on the chairs, and it was the same in Portland. Feedback means a lot to speakers, so make sure you get them as much feedback as possible.

In the middle of the day I was assigned to monitor the speaker room, but speakers usually know how to take care of themselves :) I got to attend a session I wanted to see, and also tried to help out where needed. There was a great effort during multiple sessions and breaks to get all the SpeedPASSes printed, sorted and distributed. SpeedPASSes are a great idea, but they have been a major cause of headache at all the SQLSaturdays I’ve attended so far. Many people don’t know about them, many people forget them, and many people don’t have a printer available.

That means you will need a printer and scissors on-site and a dedicated volunteer to manage printing. The SpeedPASS files are named based on the registration number instead of the attendee name, so you will need to cross-check with your registration list to find the right SpeedPASS. There will most likely be a queue and attendees will spend time cutting their SpeedPASS instead of talking to sponsors or attending sessions. In Oslo we printed and cut the SpeedPASSes for all the attendees before the event. Unless I, PASS or SQLSaturday organizers come up with a better idea than SpeedPASSes, I will gladly spend hours next year getting blisters from cutting more SpeedPASSes – if that means that attendees get a better experience.

Speaking at SQLSaturday #337 OregonTurns out I wasn’t just going to be a volunteer that day. When we arrived a friend of mine was asked to do a SQL Excite presentation since they had open slots. These are 5-minute, fast-paced presentations with 20 slides set to advance every 15 seconds. I jokingly told my friend that it would be fun to do a Biml presentation, then I happily walked off to do my volunteer tasks and didn’t think much more of it… until I got a message that he had asked the organizers if I could present instead of him, they had said yes, and I would be speaking in 30 minutes.

O_O

I spent all 30 minutes creating a 5-minute introduction to Biml, and had literally just finished the last slide in the auditorium as I was called up on stage. The presentation was based on my 1-hour Biml session so I knew most of the content, but I had not prepared at all what to say to each slide until I was actually on stage. My timing was off on several slides, and it certainly was a challenge not being able to advance my slides myself, but it was so fun! I absolutely loved it.

Thank you to the organizers for giving me the opportunity to speak. Thank you to my friend who didn’t give me the option to say no, and who also filmed so I could watch my presentation after I had finished. And thank you to the attendees who gave me evaluation forms! My cats seem to be popular.

I hope to see you next year, Portland! Maybe with a proper, prepared session :)

Ready for SQLSaturday #337 Oregon and PASS Summit 2014

I’ve looked forward to this day since last year, and it’s finally here! Today I’m back in the US for an intense week of fun learning. First a few days in Portland for SQLSaturday #337 Oregon, then a week in Seattle for Red Gate SQL in the City and PASS Summit 2014.

Do you know how to clone a person? If, so please get in touch! According to my schedule I need to be in 3-4 places at all times. There is so much I want to do, so many places I want to see and so many people I want to meet! Just in case I forget my own plans, here’s a reminder to myself, and it’s also an invitation to anyone who reads this. Please come over and say hi if you’re in the same place as me :)

Thursday October 30th
After traveling across eight time zones for 15 hours on Wednesday I’m curious to see how jet lagged I’ll be on Thursday. I plan to walk over to Pike Place Market for coffee and breakfast. Yes, the original Starbucks. Yes, I will stand in line with all the other tourists. Yes, I have to, I am a tourist ;) After that it’s off to Portland by train. Since my hotel is right next to Lloyd Center mall I might have to take a look around when I get there, I’ve never seen a mall with an ice rink before.

Friday October 31st
Halloween in Portland! The main thing on my to-do list is to eat a Voodoo Doughnut :) I’ll be a proper tourist during the day, and then I’ll head over to the SQLSaturday speaker dinner where I will get to see some friends I haven’t seen since last year! I won’t speak at this event, but I’m happy I can help out as a volunteer. Also looking forward to talking to the organizers about their experiences with the event compared to my experience organizing SQLSaturday Oslo.

Saturday November 1st
SQLSaturday #337 Oregon! I’ve signed up as a volunteer room proctor at 9:00, speaker room monitor at 10:30 and 2:45, and then room proctor again at 4:30. That means I’ll probably miss a few sessions, but hopefully I will learn even more about running events like these so I can be more prepared for next year’s SQLSaturday in Oslo. Many people will probably travel to Seattle on Saturday night to get back in time for MVP Summit, but I hope to check out some of the local brews and food pods.

Sunday November 2nd
What’s a typical breakfast in Portland? I need to try one before I take the train back to Seattle. In the evening I’ll meet my three coworkers for dinner. I’ve reserved a table at a restaurant with a nice view for us, but they don’t know where we’re going until we get there. Hope they will enjoy my surprise! :) It will be nice to spend a night with my coworkers, it’s their first time at PASS Summit so I plan to give them the whole first-timers session myself :D

Monday November 3rd
Red Gate SQL in the City! This is where my entire SQL community journey started last year, so I’m very excited to go back this year. I actually watched the live feed from SQL in the City London, so I plan to attend the sessions they didn’t broadcast there. After SQL in the City I actually have three events in my calendar, and I want to attend all of them! How do you decide which events to go to?

Tuesday November 4th
This is going to be a very special day for me, since it’s my birthday :) I haven’t signed up for any precons, so I have most of the day off to do a bit of sightseeing. In the afternoon I’ll attend the SQLSaturday Round Table meeting where I look forward to meeting more organizers and learn more to make our next SQLSaturday better. I especially look forward to the sponsor Q&A and tips & tricks panel discussion. Later that day I’ve signed up as a volunteer to guide attendees to the first-timers event, and then I’m off to the Welcome Reception. After that? #SQLKaraoke, of course!

Wednesday November 5th
Summit time! This is where I could really use a couple of clones so I won’t miss any sessions. I’ve roughly planned my schedule, but based on last year’s experience it will probably change a lot. Maybe I meet someone interesting and talk to them instead of attending a session, maybe there are exciting chalk talks, maybe I spend some time in the Community Zone – there’s a lot happening there this year! I’ll be there for the Nordic Region hour from 4:30-5:30, so come over and say hi if you see me. I have candy! ;) It’s also SQLSaturday and SQLRally shirt day, so I will wear my beloved pink SQLSaturday Oslo shirt. At the end of the day it’s Speaker Idol Round 1, and I want to be there and cheer for the contestants! After that I’ll go talk to the exhibitors at the Exhibitor Reception, I need more fun swag in my collection. These guys are the ones who make events like SQLSaturdays and PASS Summit possible, so I want to say thank you. After that? #SQLKaraoke, of course!

Thursday November 6th
I had planned to attend the Women In Technology (WIT) luncheon, so I signed up as a volunteer there as well. I’m very interested in hearing about (and I quote) “how we can all imagine a world where everyone is given the tools to succeed”. There’s also Speaker Idol Round 2, and the Community Appreciation Party. This year it’s held at the EMP Museum, which I’m super excited to see! Unfortunately it crashes with the Nordic User Group dinner, so I need to figure out how to go to both. Again, if you know how to clone someone, please please please let me know :)

Friday November 7th
Last day of PASS Summit :( But there are some cool things happening this day. There’s Speaker Idol Round 3 and Speaker Idol Final Round. I can’t wait to see who will get to speak at PASS Summit 2015! There’s also the Birds of a Feather luncheon. That will be tricky, there are so many topics to choose from. I’m pretty sure I will be at one of the community / volunteer tables, since that’s what I’m most passionate about. Maybe I’ll help inspire someone else to start a SQLSaturday in a new place :)

Goals
I have a couple of personal goals this year:
– Help my coworkers have an amazing time during PASS Summit
– Submit feedback directly after each session to give the best possible feedback. It’s so important for the speakers!
– Don’t sit down alone and stare at phone / look at schedule / dig through purse unless I am actually trying to find information. Find someone to talk to instead :)
– Always join someone for coffee and meals
– Meet as many of my friends as possible, and make new friends
– Most importantly: have fun :)

Help! My computer is dead and I’m supposed to do a demo-based presentation!

You’ve worked for days, weeks, maybe even months on your session. You’ve rehearsed, rehearsed, rehearsed, triple-checked every single demo, memorized ZoomIt keyboard shortcuts and timed your presentation. You have all your programs open and ready, cleared all personal information from your start screen and turned off notifications. You’ve brought power, USB hub, adapters to HDMI and VGA, mouse, wireless presenter with laser pointer, tablet with stopwatch, water, swag for attendees and even notes on paper so you won’t forget the things you don’t have in your slides. The room is full of people staring at you. You’re all set and ready to present.

…and then your computer won’t connect to the projector.

Your computer does not want to connect to the project with your HDMI adapter. Your computer does not want to connect to the projector with your VGA adapter. Your computer does not want to allow remote connections even when you’ve told it to. Your computer is all “yes, I do in fact notice I’m connected to a second screen, but I’d prefer some personal time right now, thanks”.

HELP! PANIC!

Sheldon Panicking

What would you do? Have you been in the same kind of situation? What did you do?

This happened to me during my second ever SQLSaturday presentation, which was my first SQLSaturday presentation in a foreign country. I was nervous and excited and really looking forward to presenting something I think is truly awesome, and then nothing went as I had planned.

Luckily I had a backup plan. I had hidden slides with screen shots and explanations in my presentation and I could go through the slides instead of doing live demos. However, I had not rehearsed or timed my presentation without live demos. Since I had already lost 10-15 minutes at the start of my session, I rushed through my presentation a bit too fast and had 10-15 minutes left at the end.

I decided to ask who were interested in seeing the demos on my computer, and I was happy to see quite a few hands in the air! I finished my presentation and thanked the attendees for being so patient, and then those who wanted a break could leave early while those who wanted to see the demos came up on stage.

Backup plan: Show demos on your computerIt was not the best way to do a demo, for sure! But it worked out better than not showing anything. I sat on the floor so the attendees could look over my shoulder while I showed them how things actually worked. (And I even got to show my new Zoomit skills!)

I was happy to hear “oh!” and “aaah!” while doing the demos, and I was also happy to get a lot of questions. I think it was less scary for attendees to ask questions in a small group than raising their hands during a presentation. It was also great to hear attendees discuss with each other and share ideas on how to use Biml!

Hopefully the attendees learned something even though things didn’t go as planned. And for me? I definitely learned a lot!

Always:
– Have screen shots of your demos in your presentation
– Have a backup of your presentation on a removable drive
– Rehearse your session without demos to get your timing and transitions right
– Ask organizers if you can try to set up your laptop as soon as you arrive, don’t wait until right before your session

If possible:
– Create videos of important demos and keep them on the removable drive
– Have a second laptop with your presentation and demos
– Team up with another speaker to set up your demos on each others’ laptops

And of course, don’t forget the obvious:
– Power
– Adapters to HDMI / VGA
– USB hub
– Mouse
– Wireless presenter with laser pointer
– Printout or notes on paper
– Water
– Tablet with Stopwatch / Watch / Friend with Watch

Outstanding PASS Volunteer for October 2014

Outstanding PASS Volunteer for October 2014A few weeks ago I received the news that I had been nominated as an Outstanding PASS Volunteer for October 2014, and I’m so happy I can finally share my excitement! It’s hard to find the right words, but this truly means a lot to me. I’m deeply thankful, proud and honored that someone took time out of their busy schedule to nominate me.

Exactly one year ago I wrote a post called A shy first-timer at PASS Summit 2013. I wrote about my hopes for 2014, and at the time they were just hopes and dreams that some day, some day I would be able to give something back to this great community. At the time I thought I was dreaming big, but never in my wildest dreams could I have imagined that I would do so much in a year that I would be nominated for an outstanding volunteer award.

Getting involved in the PASS and SQL Server community changed my life. It gave me something meaningful to do, and along the way I have visited new places, made new friends and accomplished things I thought I couldn’t do. I have grown so much as a person this year, and it wouldn’t have happened without PASS events and all the wonderful volunteers who gave me the chance to help out.

Thank you, thank you, thank you, I look forward to seeing you soon at another event! :)

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