Speaking at PASS Summit 2016

Speaking at PASS Summit 2016

The first time I submitted to PASS Summit was in 2015. My Lightning Talk was accepted, and I was so excited about getting the opportunity to speak at the largest SQL Server conference in the world! I had a fantastic time, so I decided to try again and submit for PASS Summit 2016 as well.

While on vacation in Spain with my family, I woke up to an e-mail from PASS HQ. The Call for Speakers Results! I was reading the e-mail on my phone, so it felt like I was scrolling and reading and scrolling and reading and scrolling and reading until I finally got to the actual results.

Accepted!

Accepted!?

ACCEPTED!??

I didn’t just get one of my sessions accepted. I got 2 general sessions and 1 lightning talk accepted. I nearly fainted! I had to read it several times before it sunk in. I’m going to speak at PASS Summit 2016. Not once. Not twice. But three times in one week.

…WHOA!

Wuuut!?

I have mixed feelings. I’m super excited, super happy, and extremely honored to be selected! But I also know several amazing speakers who definitely should speak at the PASS Summit who weren’t selected this year. In one way it feels like I stole a session from someone who deserves it more than me. At the same time, I literally jumped around of joy when I read my e-mail. It’s difficult. I’m happy that I was selected, I’m happy for the other speakers who were selected, I’m especially happy for my friends who are speaking at the PASS Summit for the first time, but I’m also sad to hear about all my friends who weren’t selected. But next year! I’ll cross my fingers that it’s their turn next year :)

My sessions at PASS Summit 2016

I will present three sessions at PASS Summit 2016:

Biml for Beginners: Speed Up Your SSIS Development (General Session, 75 minutes)
Advance Your Career by Becoming a Volunteer (General Session, 75 minutes)
5 Ways to Advance Your Career by Becoming a Volunteer (Lightning Talk, 10 minutes)

The Biml for Beginners session is one of my favorites, and I’m so happy I get to present it at PASS Summit! :D I’m happy I have 15 minutes extra compared to the usual 60-minute sessions at SQLSaturdays. It allows me to go a little more into detail on some of my demos, or spend more time on audience questions. This is going to be fun!

I’m also really excited about presenting a Professional Development session and a Lightning Talk version of it. Volunteering has truly changed my life. I would not be where I am today if it wasn’t for getting involved in the PASS and SQL Server community. I hope that I can pay it forward and inspire someone else to get involved – maybe an upcoming SQLSaturday organizer or speaker? :)

Every PASS Summit I’ve been to has been a new and unique experience. I can’t wait to see what PASS Summit 2016 is going to be like! I’m sure I will be freaking out about my sessions :D But I also know I will have lots of fun, and I can’t wait to see lots of friends from all over the world again. YAY!

 

Abstract Feedback

Several speakers have shared their abstract feedback after the results were made public. Brent Ozar has added a list of these speakers to his own feedback post. I appreciate the transparency, I learn a lot from reading other people’s feedback, and I hope that it will help the community as a whole and improve the selection process next year – so I’m jumping on the bandwagon :)

 

Advance Your Career by Becoming a Volunteer / 5 Ways to Advance Your Career by Becoming a Volunteer

Status: Accepted / Accepted
Category: General Session (75 minutes) / Lightning Talk (10 minutes)
Track: Professional Development
Topic: Career Development
Level: 100
Use Cases / Case Studies: No
Live Demos: No
Demo Percent: 0%

Prerequisites:
• Attendees should already be interested in doing something extra to advance their careers.

Goals:
• Raise awareness about volunteer opportunities within PASS, the SQL Server community, and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics).

• Explain how volunteering helps develop soft skills that will advance your career, such as communication, project planning, time management and working in a team.

• Show the value of building your personal brand as a volunteer, how it will expand your network, and maybe even help you find your dream job.

Abstract:
You are awesome at your job. You have great technical skills, stay up-to-date on new trends and have already achieved many of your goals. Are you ready to take your career to the next level?

Whether you are a junior developer, a senior database administrator or a chief architect, you can always advance your career further. By becoming a volunteer, you will get invaluable experience while developing your soft skills, building your personal brand and expanding your network. Maybe you will even find your dream job along the way?

In this session we will explore volunteer opportunities and how they can help advance your career. There is something for everyone! From helping others through social media, to sharing your knowledge by blogging or speaking, to organizing small or large events. Volunteer to do something you already love or volunteer to develop a specific soft skill. Either way, you are guaranteed to learn, grow and better position yourself for the next step in your career.

Reviewer comments (regular session):
• Nice topic and abstract but actually loses points on the basis that if the abstract is also submitted as a lightning talk then you have to question whether a 75 minute session is 60 minutes of filler. Also session has no indicated real examples! This is a session that *should* have. Otherwise this could be good.

• We all could profit from more volunteers. :-)

• Well written abstract with clear goals and a nicely developed outline. The topic is one that should appeal to the Summit attendees as a whole. Overall sounds like an excellent session.

• Well written abstract. Topic feels thin. Volunteer is just one piece of advancing your career , it’s not everything – that’s what makes this topic not quite there. Might be limited appeal.

• Great topic, well-written abstract.

Reviewer comments (lightning talk):
• Catchy title Abstract seems to be much content for a 10 min LT

• Well written abstract, great topic that should appeal to a large audience. Sounds like it would make an excellent lightning talk.

• Too much material for an LT, abstract not bad; just too much of it. rewrite abstract and streamline it.

• Good topic. I lke it as a lightning talk, but you might need to curate your narrow your content a bit to make it fit into 10 minutes.

My comments:
I spent quite a lot of time writing and rewriting this abstract. I submitted it to the PASS Abstract Coaching service and I also asked several friends to review it. They gave me useful feedback on things I could explain better, so thank you! I knew that this was a very specific topic that may have limited appeal, but volunteering is something I truly love doing. It has changed my life, so I decided to give it a go and submit the session. It’s a great opportunity to pay it forward and give something back to the community, and I’ll be super happy if I can inspire just 1 person to get involved :)

Only minutes before session submissions closed, I decided to submit this as a Lightning Talk as well. I completely agree that the Regular Session and Lightning Talk should have different abstracts, but that’s what I get for being impulsive in the middle of the night ;) You can’t tell from the abstracts that my idea was to present the highlights in the lightning talk (and not take a lightning talk and fill it with 60 minutes of nothing), so I completely understand and agree with the reviewers who question the amount of content. I would have rewritten the Lightning Talk abstract if I had thought about it earlier. (Actually, I think I’ll rewrite it anyway and ask PASS if it’s possible to update it.)

The only comment I don’t really understand is the one about real examples. Are they referring to the use cases / case studies checkbox or the abstract itself? This whole session is pretty much one giant case study of my life over the past couple of years, so maybe I should have selected Yes in that checkbox :D If they’re referring to the abstract, I’d appreciate any feedback on what kind of examples to add to what I’ve already written.

 

Biml for Beginners: Speed Up Your SSIS Development

Status: Accepted
Category: General Session (75 minutes)
Track: BI Platform Architecture, Development & Administration
Topic: Biml
Level: 100
Use Cases / Case Studies: No
Live Demos: Yes
Demo Percent: 50%

Prerequisites:
• Attendees should have experience developing SSIS packages. Experience with ETL and Data Warehouse concepts will help, but is not a requirement.

Goals:
• Explain what Biml is, how Biml compares to and works with SSIS, and why using Biml will save time and speed up traditional SSIS development.

• Explore free tools for creating Biml projects on-premises and in the cloud, and show how to centralize and reuse Biml code across multiple projects and solutions.

• Create a fully functional Biml project that can be downloaded and used as a starting point for new projects.

Abstract:
Are you tired of creating and updating the same SSIS packages again and again? Is your wrist hurting from all that clicking, dragging, dropping, connecting and aligning? Do you want to take the next step and really speed up your SSIS development?

Say goodbye to repetitive work and hello to Biml, the markup language for Business Intelligence projects.

In this session we will look at the basics of Biml. First learn how to use Biml to generate SSIS packages from database metadata. Then see how you can reuse code to implement changes in multiple SSIS packages and projects with just a few clicks. Finally, we will create an example project that you can download and start with to speed up your SSIS development from day one.

Stop wasting your valuable time on doing the same things over and over and over again, and see how you can complete in a day what once took more than a week!

Reviewer comments:
• Abstract is well written and easy to understand.

• Very interesting topic and very well written. The level sounds right. And good goals.

• Good abstract.

• Low level, but interesting topic and well written abstract. I’d like to see this as a 200 or 300 session though.

• Fantastic session, and very well-developed abstract.

• Old topic for BIML. Need to add some new features.

• Well written and to the point.

My comments:
YAY, my favorite session got selected! :) I love presenting this session and I can’t wait to make it even better for PASS Summit 2016. I got very good feedback from the reviewers as well, which makes me happy. I have to admit that the “old topic” comment irks me a little, though. It’s a highly subjective comment. Perhaps the topic is old to the reviewer, but what about those who have never seen or heard about Biml before? Or is it because I have presented this session before? Does it mean that the reviewer thinks all sessions should only cover brand new features, or that all sessions have to be presented for the first time at PASS Summit? Or is it just for Biml sessions? Would they say the same thing about an index fundamentals session – “old topic, need to add some new index types”? :)

 

Level Up Your Biml: Best Practices and Coding Techniques

Status: Not Accepted. Speaker has exceeded number of selected sessions – 2 General Sessions max.
Category: General Session (75 minutes)
Track: BI Platform Architecture, Development & Administration
Topic: Biml
Level: 200
Use Cases / Case Studies: No
Live Demos: Yes
Demo Percent: 50%

Prerequisites:
• Attendees should already have created Biml solutions and be familiar with Biml concepts.

Goals:
• Go through best practices for optimal Biml solutions, explain why it is important to follow these practices, and show how it helps save time on development and maintenance.

• Explain and demonstrate coding techniques, and lesser-known features of Biml such as using ObjectTags and creating Extension Methods.

• Provide attendees with a list of how they can simplify and improve their own solutions, without having to rewrite their entire solution from scratch. Attendees can use this list on existing or new solutions.

Abstract:
Is your Biml solution starting to remind you of a bowl of tangled spaghetti code? Good! That means you are solving real problems while saving a lot of time. The next step is to make sure that your solution does not grow too complex and confusing – you do not want to waste all that saved time on future maintenance!

Attend this session for an overview of Biml best practices and coding techniques. Step by step, we will simplify and enhance our solution. Learn how to centralize and reuse code with include files and the CallBimlScript method. Make your code easier to read and write by utilizing LINQ (Language-Integrated Queries). Share code between files by using Annotations and ObjectTags. And finally, if standard Biml is not enough to solve your problems, you can create your own C# helper classes and extension methods to implement custom logic.

Start improving your code today and level up your Biml in no time!

Reviewer comments:
• Very well written abstract. Makes me want to attend the session.

• BIML should be spelled out before using the acronym.

• Really well written abstract with clear goals. The topic of BIML is one that is really catching steam of late and this should be a session that should appeal to a broad audience. Overall, great abstract and a session that I would absolutely enjoy attending.

• Good but average abstract. Could be an interesting session to some attendees.

• Great topic! The abstract is well-constructed and clearly communicates the goals.

• Great topic about BIML. But Goals are not outlines. It’s better to put those in Goal session in abstract session.

• The abstract seems to be trying to do a lot in a short amount of time. Is 200 the right level if C# code is being written?

• Well written abstract, clear goals. Seems to be an interesting intermediate BIML session

• Well defined learning goals. Strong abstract – good scope.

My comments:
I got a lot of good feedback on this session as well :) I should probably have spelled out Biml before using the acronym, but I honestly forgot it since this is an intermediate session for developers who are already using Biml. Ah, the goals… The goals are confusing. You can see I can’t really agree with myself how to write the goals for my abstracts, and the reviewers can’t really agree either. Are they my goals or the attendees’ goals? All I can find in the speaker FAQ is What criteria does the PASS Program Committee use to review abstracts? – “How do the goals, session level, and prerequisites align? How well do the abstract and goals align?” I would like to see clearer guidelines from PASS next year on the purpose of the goals.

 

Create a Metadata-driven SSIS Framework with Biml

Status: Not Accepted. Speaker has exceeded number of selected sessions – 2 General Sessions max.
Category: General Session (75 minutes)
Track: BI Platform Architecture, Development & Administration
Topic: Biml
Level: 300
Use Cases / Case Studies: Yes
Live Demos: Yes
Demo Percent: 50%

Prerequisites:
• Attendees should already be familiar with Data Warehouse and Dimensional Model concepts, and have experience creating Biml solutions.

Goals:
• Learn how to create a metadata model in Excel or SQL Server that represents a data warehouse dimensional model.

• See how to automatically generate SQL scripts to create data warehouse fact and dimension tables, and SSIS packages to load data into these tables.

• Cover best practices and coding standards in Biml.

Abstract:
Have you ever wanted to build a Data Warehouse simply by pushing a button? It might not be quite that simple yet, but gone are the days of repetitive development. Biml (Business Intelligence Markup Language) helps you create powerful SSIS frameworks in just days instead of months.

In this session we will explore how to create a metadata model in Excel or SQL Server, and demonstrate how to use Biml to automatically generate your SSIS packages and SQL scripts from this metadata model. New requirements? No problem, just update the metadata and regenerate your solution!

Creating a Data Warehouse framework with Biml and SSIS can seem like a daunting task, but you do not have to start from scratch. Use the code examples from this workshop, expand the framework based on your needs, and start saving time from day one.

Reviewer comments:
• Good abstract.

• nice abstract

• Useful topic. The abstract is fairly well developed.

• Well written abstract, interesting topic and well matched level

• This is a tough topic that many people are proposing. Tough competition. Interesting twist. But enough?

• Another Biml session, just like some of the others.

• Sounds like a solid session.

• Old topic for BIML. Need to add some new features.

My comments:
Wait, is this an old topic for Biml as well? Still need to add some new features? This is the same comment I got on my Biml for Beginners session. I’m confused! I’d love to find out what the reviewer would like to see instead :D I definitely had some tough competition from great speakers on this topic and level, and it is similar to other abstracts. To tell you the truth, I’m very happy that they selected Tim Mitchell’s 3-hour level 300 Biml session instead of this – I want to attend his session myself ;)

 

Quick Biml Tricks: Not Just for SSIS Packages!

Status: Not Accepted. Speaker has exceeded number of selected sessions – 2 General Sessions max.
Category: Lightning Talk (10 minutes)
Track: BI Platform Architecture, Development & Administration
Topic: Biml
Level: 100
Use Cases / Case Studies: No
Live Demos: Yes
Demo Percent: 50%

Prerequisites:
• Attendees should be familiar with Biml and Data Warehouse concepts.

Goals:
• Explain the basic concepts of Biml, and how and why it is timesaving for repetitive tasks

• Show lesser-known Biml use cases, and how it can be easier and more efficient than writing T-SQL

• Inspire others to use Biml in untraditional ways to solve new problems

Abstract:
“Wait, what? Biml is not just for generating SSIS packages?”

Absolutely not! Come and see how you can use Biml (Business Intelligence Markup Language) to save time and speed up other Data Warehouse development tasks. You can generate complex T-SQL statements with Biml instead of using dynamic SQL, create test data and populate static dimensions, and even compare tables and views across multiple servers and databases.

Don’t Repeat Yourself, start automating those boring, manual tasks today!

Reviewer comments:
• This sounds like it would be a very enjoyable and informative lightning talk to attend. Very good abstract.

• Very well written abstract. Makes me want to attend the session.

• Great to explore the boundaries of the tool

• Old topic for BIML. But with a unique angle that sounds interesting.

• Good abstract; title is aligned, level might be better suited for 200 if prerequisites are needed; goals are good; sounds like an interesting session

• Very creative topic!

• Interesting twist to general BIML abstracts, should fit well for a lightning talk

• Good abstract. Could be an interesting session to attendees.

My comments:
My Biml for Beginners session is an old topic, my Biml framework session is an old topic, and my use-Biml-for-other-things-than-SSIS session is also an old topic? …with a unique angle? Ok, now I’m completely confused :D But based on the other comments, this seems like a good topic for a Lightning Talk. I’d really like to submit this again to other events or maybe PASS Summit 2017.

 

Tools and Tips: From Accidental to Efficient ETL Developer

Status: Not Accepted. Speaker has exceeded number of selected sessions – 2 General Sessions max.
Category: General Session (75 minutes)
Track: BI Platform Architecture, Development & Administration
Topic: SSIS – Development
Level: 100
Use Cases / Case Studies: No
Live Demos: Yes
Demo Percent: 50%

Prerequisites:
• It will help if attendees are familiar with SSIS development and ETL concepts, but even inexperienced attendees can benefit greatly from this session.

Goals:
• Show features in SSMS that are somewhat hidden for new users, like registered servers, snippets and multi-server queries.

• Inform about various free community tools and scripts that can be used to improve efficiency.

• Explain why Biml is currently the biggest timesaver for SSIS developers, and demonstrate how easy it is to create hundreds of SSIS packages in just minutes.

Abstract:
You have probably heard about the Accidental DBA, but what about the Accidental ETL developer? We stumbled into the world of data warehousing, learned dimensional modeling and work with T-SQL and SSIS daily. We are masters of googling solutions to our problems and make sure our ETL processes run without errors. We deliver data to business users… but we rarely deliver data as fast as we want.

You might not be able to rewrite your entire ETL process or change your team’s processes over night, but there are many things you can do to increase your own productivity and become a more efficient ETL developer.

In this session I will show you some of what I have learned and discovered that has made me exclaim “Oh wow! Why did I not know this yesterday!?” – including SSMS features, tools for query analysis and tuning, free tools and scripts, Biml for SSIS and even a couple of things I used to think were only useful for those scary DBAs.

Reviewer comments:
• Very well written abstract. Makes me want to attend the session.

• Well written and to the point.

• Solid abstract.

• Well written abstract. Level 100, really?

• Good topic. The abstract is fairly well-written but contains some minor grammatical errors.

• Great topic about ETL tips. But Goals are not outlines. It’s better to put those in Goal session in abstract session.

• Well written and interesting abstract. But how is this a lvl 100 session?

My comments:
I have some comments about the level in my other abstracts as well. Levels, like goals, are difficult. The official definitions from PASS are:

• 100 Level (Novice): Assumes some knowledge of the concepts/features, but not necessarily coding skills; 1 year experience
• 200 Level (Intermediate): Assumes comfort with technical concepts and basic coding skills; 1-3 years experience
• 300 Level (Advanced): Assumes solid knowledge of technology and strong coding skills; 4-6 years experience
• 400 Level (Expert): Assumes advanced understanding of technology; 6+ years experience
• 500 Level (Advanced Expert): Assumes deep technical knowledge of the technology; 8+ years experience

I agree that this could be a level 200 session instead of a level 100 session, especially when I re-read the first paragraph in my abstract. But there is also a lot of content in this session for brand new developers, content that might be too basic for someone with 1-3 years experience. Maybe it’s a level 150? :) It’s really hard to define levels, because something that is level 100 to me can be level 400 to someone else and vice versa.

 

Final thoughts

Whoa. HELLO WALL OF TEXT! :D This is a very, very, VERY long blog post, but I hope some of it can be useful for other speakers. If not, it’s nice to have for myself. I want to revisit this post before submitting to PASS Summit 2017 or other conferences so I can learn from the feedback and improve my abstracts.

• Levels are difficult. I need to think even more about them next year. Maybe PASS need to figure out a new way to tag sessions instead of or in addition to levels. Hmm.

• Goals are difficult. I hope PASS will give us clearer guidelines next year. Are they for me? For the attendees? For the reviewers?

• There will always be different opinions about my sessions, I can’t make everyone happy, and that’s completely ok.

• Overall, I think I got really good feedback. There are a few comments that I don’t really understand, some constructive criticism I will listen to, and a lot of nice words that I’m very thankful for :)

• If I’m ever on the program committee, I will do my best to be as specific as possible in my comments. I’ve learned a ton from reading all this feedback, and I hope that it can help me become better at helping others.

Finally, a huge thank you to everyone on the program committee for all your hard work this year! It’s not an easy task reviewing hundreds of abstracts, and I’m thankful for all the feedback I’ve got. You rock :)

Who is Cathrine Wilhelmsen?

Cathrine is a Microsoft Data Platform MVP, BimlHero, speaker, blogger and chronic volunteer. She currently works as a Community Evangelist for PASS and coordinates all SQLSaturdays around the world, but has previously worked as a SQL Server Data Warehouse architect and Business Intelligence developer. She loves sci-fi, chocolate, cat gifs and smilies :)

4 thoughts on “Speaking at PASS Summit 2016”

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Pingback: Choosing Content for the Summit – Voice of the DBA

To answer your question “Would they say the same thing about an index fundamentals session”, yes, they would, I got very much that comment on my 3-hour indexing session abstract

That’s a shame. There will always be someone new to a topic. I hope that the focus on abstract feedback and selection process this year will help both speakers and reviewers next year!

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