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Category: Community and Events

Community! Events! These are two of my favorite things :) I love my #SQLFamily as much as I love teaching and sharing knowledge. And what better way to combine the two than staying involved in the community while participating in as many events as I can?

In this category, I write about upcoming events I’m SUPER EXCITED about and announce where I will be speaking next. I also link to resources like slide decks and videos from sessions I have presented, write recaps and post pictures from events I have attended, and share tips and advice for others who want to get involved by volunteering or speaking.

I’m a Microsoft SQL Server MVP

Microsoft SQL Server MVP (Most Valuable Professional)I spent most of July 1st relaxing in the sun, reading The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and enjoying my vacation. I spent the rest of July 1st reading, re-reading and re-re-reading the e-mail I received from Microsoft congratulating me with my first MVP Award.

On July 1st 2015, I became a Microsoft SQL Server MVP (Most Valuable Professional) in Norway.

Unfortunately my copy of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy did not have Don’t Panic written in large, friendly letters on the cover. So I panicked a little. I think I may have panicked more than just a little. Actually, I’m pretty sure I panicked a lot:

Sheldon Panicking

You see, I had mixed feelings about becoming an MVP. I am truly honored and thankful, but it is also very intimidating to be part of a group with so many talented people that I admire. I don’t have decades of experience, I’m not a SQL Server expert, I haven’t published any books and I haven’t created any scripts that are used all over the world. Why should I deserve to become an MVP? I panicked a little (or a lot) because I compared myself to those who are years ahead of me down the road, and because it felt like I cut in line in front of amazing people who deserves the award more than me.

So I took a step back and thought about what the MVP Award means to me. To quote Microsoft: MVPs are community leaders who’ve demonstrated an exemplary commitment to helping others get the most out of their experience with Microsoft technologies. They share their exceptional passion, real-world knowledge, and technical expertise with the community and with Microsoft.

To me, it’s all about community. I may not be the most experienced SQL Server expert, but I helped restart SQL Server User Group Norway. I was the main organizer of the first SQLSaturday in Oslo and currently organizing the second one. I’ve volunteered and presented sessions online, in Europe and in the US. I blog, I tweet and I do my best to help others.

And I love it. Being recognized by Microsoft and getting a thank you for what I have done this past year means so much to me. Thank you to everyone who has been there for me and believed in me, it means more to me than I can say. Receiving the MVP Award inspires me even more to give back and pay it forward, to keep learning and sharing my knowledge, to help grow the Norwegian SQL Server community.

I’m just getting started :)

SQLCruise Mediterranean 2015

SQLCruise Mediterranean 2015
Happy SQLCruisers!

SQLCruise – Learn. Network. Relax. Grow… Just add water.
I recently attended my first SQLCruise, and trying to summarize a week full of experiences is difficult. Let me skip straight to the important part:

Did I learn anything?

Was it worth it?

Would I attend again?

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Presenting a webinar for the first time

Cathrine Wilhelmsen Presenting a Webinar for the First TimePresenting online is a completely different experience than presenting in-person. When you present online you lose the interaction with the audience, you are unable to read body language or facial expressions to see if they are interested or bored out of their minds, and you get absolutely no feedback on whether or not they understand what you are trying to explain. You have to trust yourself, talk to a screen for an hour, and hope that the technology does not suddenly decide to throw a tantrum and stop working for no reason.

I recently presented a webinar for the first time. It went quite well, but there are many things I want to do better next time. Writing down what I learned will help me improve my own presentation skills and slide decks, but I also hope it can help other new speakers prepare for their first webinar. Please feel free to share your own tips and tricks, I would love to learn from you! :)

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Volunteering and Speaking at SQLBits XIV

SQLBits XIV Superhero Edition was my first SQLBits experience, and it was a truly amazing week!

I want to start with a massive thank you to the organizers: Darren Green, Simon Sabin, James Rowland-Jones, Chris Testa-o’neill, Allan Mitchell, Jonathan Allen and Annette Allen. You guys did one heck of a job to make this the best conference in the universe! :) I also want to say thank you to all the sponsors, volunteers and speakers who made this a great event. And to all the attendees, I hope you had a blast and that I’ll see you again next year!

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SQLKonferenz 2015

SQLKonferenz - Name BadgeI spent the past couple of days in Darmstadt, Germany for Deutsche SQL Server Konferenz 2015. This was the first time I spoke at a conference (not a SQLSaturday), and it was an absolutely amazing experience. I want to thank PASS Deutschland for doing a fantastic job to make this a great event!

The one thing I would like to have changed is that I should have learned German before going to Darmstadt :) The quality of speakers, sessions and topics covered was very impressive, and there were many sessions in German that I wanted to see. But I can’t complain at all, I got to see some great sessions and have learned new things that I look forward to trying.

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Tribal Awards 2014 – Best New Community Voice!

I won! Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU!

And huge congratulations to Andy, Ginger, Oz and Luan for being nominated, you all deserved it! :)

Tribal Award 2014

Winning the 2014 Tribal Award for Best New Community Voice means more to me than I can explain. 2014 was a difficult year for me personally, but it was also an amazing year where I discovered how much I love being involved in the SQL community. We organized the first SQLSaturday in Oslo, restarted SQL Server User Group Norway, I started volunteering and speaking at events, and I received the PASS Outstanding Volunteer Award.

2014 ended on a high when I found out I was nominated for a Tribal Award, and actually winning… Well, I couldn’t have asked for a better way to start 2015! :) I’m so happy, so honored, so proud, and so thankful. I went “SQUEEEEE!” and then I cried a bit. Now I have a huge smile on my face and I’m even more motivated than ever to do what I can for the SQL community in 2015. Let’s do this! 2015 is going to be a fantastic year :)

SQLHangout #26 – Biml in the Real World

SQLHangoutBack in June I did a #SQLHangout with Boris (@brshristov) about Biml that I called “Blabbering about Biml“. (Boris is much nicer, he called it “Biml. An Introduction.“)

Yesterday we did another fun #SQLHangout about Biml. This time we were joined by João Lopes (@SQLSniper), Rasmus Reinholdt (@RasmusReinholdt) and Régis Baccaro (@regbac) – great guys that I admire. It was interesting to hear how we use Biml in different ways and what we would like to see happen in 2015. I look forward to seeing all of them again and learn from their experiences!

Five people from Bulgaria, Denmark, Portugal and Norway talking about Biml – isn’t that awesome? :)

SQL Server User Group Norway 2014 Summary

This has been a great year for SQL Server User Group Norway. It has been fun to see the user group come back to life and I’m very excited to share some news about our plans for 2015! But first, a summary of what happened in 2014.

SQL Server User Group Norway 2014 JanuaryAfter getting our new website up and running we kicked off the year on January 23rd with a Hekaton presentation by Erik Flateby, and what we called an “interactive session” by me. I talked about PASS and everything it has to offer, showed our new website and how to join our local chapter, and did a survey to figure out who our members were and and what they expected from the user group. Most of the members worked in BI.

On March 5th we had Erin Stellato (@erinstellato) do a remote session for us about Extended Events, and Erik Flateby talked about Columnstore Indexes. Erin did a great job presenting without seeing her audience, and it was a good session even with a few technical problems on our side. Lesson learned: have two-way video for our next remote session.

Shortly after, on March 31st, Hans Olav Norheim (@norheim) presented Azure SQL Databases. He had traveled from the US to be part of the SQL Server 2014 launch event in Oslo and said yes to present for our user group. We were slightly disappointed that we didn’t have as many attendees as we had hoped for. We thought it was because we didn’t promote the event enough or because our meeting was so close to another SQL Server event where Hans Olav presented a similar topic. Lesson learned: Promoting too much is better than not promoting enough!

SQL Server User Group Norway 2014 MayOn May 12th it was time for my favorite event of the year, the Biml techie meetup with Varigence and Rehfeld :) I thought it was an amazing session, but there weren’t as many attendees as we had hoped for – again. (However, that was when I decided that I wanted to spread the word about Biml and start speaking, so for me personally it was sort of a good thing.) The previous meeting and this meeting were both scheduled on Mondays, and another lesson learned: Schedule meetings later in the week so you can send reminders a day or two before the meeting.

We had a long summer break and started the fall season with a massive success called SQLSaturday #317 Oslo on August 30th. Did you know that we had to say no to a user group meeting with Brian Knight (@brianknight) that following week because it was too close to our SQLSaturday, and we just didn’t have the time and resources to promote and organize a meeting? That was such a strange experience for us, and we all wished we could have said yes. (Brian, if you would like to come back another time, I promise we will have time and resources to plan a proper meeting!)

In September we joined Meetup and moved our meetings to our new “home”, Teknologihuset (House of Communities), two of the best decisions we made in 2014. We reached more people through Meetup, and it is a great tool for organizers with all its features. I do have to admit it is a bit confusing having members spread out over the PASS chapter website, Meetup and LinkedIn. It takes a bit of extra time to schedule meetings and get the correct information out to everyone without feeling like we’re spamming our members, but we’re learning. So far it seems like it’s better to have too much information than not enough. My favorite part about moving to Teknologihuset is that it is such a cool and unique concept, a whole building dedicated to technical communities that we can use for free on evenings!

SQL Server User Group Norway 2014 SeptemberWe were thrilled to have Stacia Misner (@StaciaMisner) kick off the fall season with a presentation about Multidimensional vs. Tabular for us on September 24th. She spent some days in Oslo doing other events and also brought Dean (@mr_stacia) with her, so I named it the Stacia Misner Week :) A new experience for the board members of our user group was that we didn’t have to look for a meeting sponsor, we had some sponsor funds left from SQLSaturday Oslo to cover food and drinks. One of the goals of a SQLSaturday is to be fundraisers for the local user group(s), and I’m happy that we were careful with how we spent our money. It is a great feeling knowing that you can organize user group meeting without worrying about sponsors.

Just a few weeks later we had another familiar face visit our user group. Peter Myers presented Data Mining on October 13th. I couldn’t make it to the meeting, but Peter got great feedback from the attendees. It was great to see many new people sign up for our meetings after the summer, and to see the average attendance rate go up.

On November 20th we welcomed our first new, local speaker! Marius Pedersen (@soylentshell) presented Maintenance Plans. One of our goals in SQL Server User Group Norway is to grow new speakers. We want to give new speakers a chance to practice presentations before submitting to larger events, and of course we want to build a community of sharing knowledge. I was so happy that Marius wanted to present, and I hope to see more new and local speakers in 2015. Try it one time, maybe you’ll get addicted! :)

SQL Server User Group Norway 2014 DecemberThe last speaker of the year was Marco Russo (@marcorus) who took us on a tour inside Power Query on December 1st. We had three new attendee records! Most attendees registered, most attendees who showed up, and most first-time attendees. One lesson learned with Meetup is that it is very easy to RSVP yes for anyone, and this can make it difficult to plan meetings. Our meetings have had at least 25% fewer attendees show up than the number of registered attendees, so we always count the actual attendees during meetings.

What a year! I’m so proud of our user group. In May Tone S. Hansson (@ToneHansson) stepped up as the new Chapter Leader, and she has done a phenomenal job. Just wait until you see what happens in 2015! Say thank you the next time you see her, she deserves it :) In November Rune Ovlien Rakeie (@runeo34) joined the board, and we were happy to welcome a proper DBA to the team. Let’s make 2015 an even better year for SQL Server User Group Norway! :D

Business Intelligence presentation for The Code Pub Oslo

Cathrine speaking at The Code PubYesterday I had the pleasure of speaking at The Code Pub Oslo, a meetup for women who are interested in IT. It’s a great concept where they get together, learn about new technology, and spend the rest of the evening working on projects. It was their one-year anniversary and in just one year they have grown from 5 to over 130 members.

My presentation was an introduction to Business Intelligence and Data Warehousing, as well as how you can benefit from getting involved in a community like PASS. I like working on presentations because I learn so much from it. It was a bit of a challenge trying to sum up Business Intelligence because there is so much happening and things are changing rapidly. (And I only focused on the Microsoft world!) It was a bit of an eye-opener when I pulled out a book I bought less than two years ago and I realized it was already outdated. So many exciting things have happened in just a couple of years, things like Predictive Analytics and Machine Learning, all the Power BI tools, cloud services and real-time Big Data.

My focus was on what Business Intelligence is, why it’s important, and all the different things you can work with if you pursue a career in Business Intelligence. I explained what Data Warehousing is, and how it is evolving from the traditional to the modern Data Warehouse. I finished my presentation by telling my story of how I’ve gone from being the shy girl who didn’t know anyone to being part of the SQL community, and how life-changing it has been for me.

I hope it was interesting for the attendees, and I hope I’ve inspired some of them to get involved in their own communities. Thank you to Netlight for hosting The Code Pub and for giving me the opportunity to present!

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.


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 :)