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TENK Tech Camp 2018 – Experiences Volunteering

TENK Tech Camp 2018 was a 2-day event for teenage girls who are interested in technology and science. On August 9-10th, 2018, over 200 girls gathered at Teknisk Museum (Norwegian Museum of Science and Technology) in Oslo, Norway to attend workshops about coding, hacking, artificial intelligence, chatbots, design thinking, app development, web development – and rocket engineering!

TENK Tech Camp 2018 Attendees

I was honored to participate as a mentor alongside more than 50 other talented women working in STEM. It was an absolutely fantastic experience, and I’m already looking forward to being part of this event again in 2019!

In the videos below, you can see some of my memories from TENK Tech Camp 2018, and the official recap of the event :)

Cathrine’s memories from TENK Tech Camp 2018
Official video from TENK Tech Camp 2018
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Speaking and Volunteering at SQLBits 2018

Cathrine Wilhelmsen Speaking at SQLBits 2018

It’s that time of year again… The largest, coolest, geekiest, most awesome party of the year is just around the corner! Oh, and there’s this conference attached to the party as well. SQLBits 2018: Magic Edition. You may have heard of it? :D

SQLBits is the largest SQL Server and Microsoft Data Platform conference in Europe. It has 4 days of training and over 170 sessions by both the Microsoft Product Group and community speakers. It’s a professional conference in all ways, and it’s organized entirely by a group of dedicated volunteers. That’s right, it’s a pure community event, and it’s fantastic.

I was a speaker and volunteer at SQLBits 2015 (Superhero Edition), a precon speaker at SQLBits 2016 (Space Edition), a PASS representative at SQLBits 2017 (Disco Edition), and I’m very happy to go back to where I started as a speaker and volunteer at SQLBits 2018 (Magic Edition). I was actually really bummed when I wasn’t a volunteer, it’s so much fun helping out to make it a smooth conference for attendees and getting to know all the other wonderful volunteers. This year, I’m back! Yay :)

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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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Thankful

We don’t celebrate Thanksgiving in Norway, but I wanted to participate in “What Are You Thankful For?” hosted by Bob (@SQLBob) this year. Instead of posting on a day we don’t celebrate in my country, I decided to wait until the first Sunday in Advent. It marks the start of the time of year where I spend the most time with my family and feel truly thankful for so many things in my life.

I’m thankful for my closest family. My parents, my older sister, my niece, and my dad’s best friend who has been my uncle for as long as I can remember. We have and always will be there for each other, no matter what. At the age of 27 I still look forward to going home and spending time with my family, and I’m lucky to have them in my life.

I’m thankful for wonderful friends, coworkers and #SQLFamily, more than I will ever be able to explain. I had no network and have been fighting a depression and all its nasty companions for many years. Getting to know these people and having them in my life to share smiles, laughs, experiences and memories with, who challenge me to become a better person, who welcomed me from day one… They changed my life and keep me going every day. Thank you.

I’m thankful that I have the opportunity to help others. I discovered Kiva years ago and instantly fell in love with the idea of microloans and helping people create better lives for themselves. I believe it’s important for everyone to achieve something, and I hope that the borrowers are left with a feeling of “I did this! I did this!” when they’ve paid back their loan. $25 is so little to me, but it can change someone’s life. In Norway I support The Church City Mission in Oslo because they work hard for a better society for everyone.

I’m thankful I’m healthy, I have a secure job, I live in a safe country where I will get help if I need it, I get to travel and see new places, I get to experience four seasons with dark winters and the overwhelming joy when it gets lighter and warmer. I’m thankful I have so many things to be thankful for :)

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 :)

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