Consider, for a moment, the Eggs Benedict. Most breakfasts involve egg, sometimes with toast, sometimes with meat (bacon, sausage, etc.), various combinations. However, this one signature dish is special because it combines all this and then covers everything in tasty hollandaise sauce. This unique combination sets the dish apart from your normal breakfast.
Our database careers are similar. Any of us can get the job done with some basic combination of study, practical experience, and some community involvement. What sets one path apart from another? What gives us that extra boost that makes us stand out from our peers, that carries us up to a new level of success? What, in short, is the hollandaise sauce of our own personal careers, providing that flavor that makes us special and unique?
This week I had the opportunity to attend the second annual SQL Rally. For those of you following along, I wrote about my experience at SQL Rally Orlando last year and the profound impact it had on me. This year, it was a little different for a couple reasons, though the impact was no less significant on my work and my professional growth.
First off, I’m now a community “veteran”. This doesn’t mean I’ve got a special status, but it does mean that it was now my turn to reach out to people who were attending for their first time. I met many new folks, shared war stories and terrible jokes, and generally spread the infection that is the SQL Family. This infection strengthens us, since having a good professional network provides us knowledge and opportunity on a logarithmic scale.
Secondly, this year I attended as a speaker. Instead of just trying to soak it all in, now I had to get up and talk on my own topic. That was a particular thrill on its own, because while I’ve done several local and regional events now, now I was speaking on a national stage to the largest audience I’ve had to date. While I haven’t seen the feedback forms yet, I was blown away by the number of people who came up and personally thanked me for presenting. Because of the encouragement I received from my audience, I’ve gone ahead and submitted to the PASS Summit for 2012. It wasn’t on my goal sheet for the year, but I see no reason to hold back now.
Finally, these conferences are still primarily about learning, not just networking and speaking. I still wanted to make time to attend sessions and add advance my own personal learning. The sessions this year were better than last year and I got a LOT of great knowledge. On top of that, all the rooms were packed with the exception of the very last slot on Friday. My focus on administration and internals topics and saw some great sessions on extended events, integration processes, 2012 features (and, yes, Bob Ward pulled out the debugger), and other topics. I also mixed in a couple development sessions to broaden my experience. Overall, some great sessions from some top notch talent.
Sure, the Summit is bigger with larger names, but Rally is incredibly valuable on its own. Since it’s a smaller conference, you can have more direct access to some incredibly smart people. I had conversations with at least 4 MCMs , a number of other authors and MVPs, and members of the SQL CAT team. I got guidance on professional development as well as technical problems, without the crush or general busy-ness that comes with the size of the Summit.
I want to reiterate that we can go through our daily work, study the blogs, and go to technical courses. We’ll still be moderately successful in our professional lives. Community involvement is what adds that special kick, that extra flavor. It’s the hollandaise sauce that completes the Eggs Benedict and makes it more than just eggs, an English muffin, and Canadian bacon. If you want to be that person in your company who makes a difference, who is recognized as being something more than a database administrator or developer, then conferences like these will not only give you the knowledge you need to succeed, but also connect you to the community that drives change and sets the trends.
I want to extend a huge thank you to the NTSSUG guys who made this all possible, like Sri(b|t), Tim(b|t), Ryan(b|t), and Dave(b|t) (as well as many others I KNOW I’m forgetting). The fact that such a great event is hosted and supported directly by members of the community shows the strength of what PASS is doing. I can only hope that reading this inspires you to go to your own local user group or attend a SQL Saturday. Get involved, get connected, because if you aren’t you’re, quite simply, doing it wrong!