In October 2011, after working with SQL Server since 1998, I discovered something called SQL Saturday and PASS. For those unaware, these are local events, setup and run by volunteers. Speakers come in from all parts of the country to share, for free, their knowledge of SQL Server and other topics of interest to data professionals. These events also draw sponsors of various types. Without this symbiosis, the events would not work.
My First SQL Saturday
At this first event, held on the campus of the University of Texas at Austin, I got to meet and learn from some of the big names in the community, referred to as SQL Family. Thomas LaRock (t/b) kicked off the morning with a keynote. Afterwards, I found Tom is a HUGE bacon aficionado. This was my first realization these folks were approachable and not “full of themselves.” Very different from other professions I’ve been around. After the keynote, it was off to learn from the likes of Jim Murphy (t/b), Wes Brown (t), Joe Celko, and many others.
I was hooked. I started traveling the country to attend these events as an attendee, usually at my own expense. Thanks to SQL Saturday, I’ve been to Portland ME, Atlanta, Louisville, Omaha, San Diego, Houston, Salt Lake City, and countless others.
One Road Leads to Many Paths
In October 2013, while at a CodeCamp in Austin, I met John Sterrett (t/b). He had decided it was time for Austin to host a SQL Saturday, the first since October 2011. It was a big hit and repeated in 2015. Unfortunately, we haven’t been able to find a suitable venue since; but hope to be able to bring SQL Saturday back in 2019. I tell this part of the story because John is responsible for the next part.
It used to be a standing joke that we saw each other more away from Austin than in Austin. One frequent topic of conversation was, “Hey Jay, you come to these events, why don’t you speak at them?” My answer was always, “I don’t know anything these people don’t already know.” He kept telling me the same thing I had heard other speakers say: At least one person doesn’t know what you know, or you have a different take on something others speak about.
Diving in to Become a Speaker
It took several years of prodding, but I did my first SQL User Group presentation to the Austin community in June 2017. It had been years since I was up in front of a non-work group, but it went well, except for the demos of course. Now I was hooked again, I went to work on my next presentation idea, which was delivered late in 2017. It went well enough I decided, OK, I was coerced into submitting to a couple of SQL Saturday events, Wheeling and Albuquerque. I was selected to speak at Wheeling but unfortunately had to withdraw from Albuquerque.
Fast forward, OK, not really fast, but I’m getting there. I tried very hard not to fall into the trap I heard all speakers talking about: don’t change your presentation last minute, have an extra laptop so you can deal with hardware failures, make sure you have plenty of cables, etc. I made it to Wheeling with extra laptop and redundant cables but found myself updating the presentation on Saturday Morning to include a new item I had seen earlier in the week.
Whew, I did it!
Even with last minute changes, everything went well with my first SQL Saturday presentation. Feedback was helpful even though it was limited. Based on the input, I’ve updated the presentation and been accepted to speak at SQL Saturday events in Los Angeles and Houston. I will also be co-presenting with John Sterrett at SQL Saturday Dallas. I admit to a bit of nervousness as I expect both to be bigger, but I think I’m up to the challenge.
I’m looking forward to preparing new presentations and being a speaker and volunteer at many of the locations I’ve just been attending to this point.