Tag Archives: AITP

T-SQL Tuesday #096: The Group Who Changed My Career Forever!

T-SQL Tuesday #96: Folks Who Have Made A Difference

T-SQL Tuesday #96: Folks Who Have Made A Difference

Today’s blog post is about T-SQL Tuesday.  If you haven’t seen T-SQL Tuesday before its a great monthly call for all SQL Server bloggers to write about one topic that always changes from month to month.  In this months installment, we’re focusing on folks who made a difference.

Looking back,  I wrote about this subject almost seven years ago.  While I covered a lot of great people there is a group left out. I wished I included them because they were the first to believe in me, mentor me, and help me become the IT Pro I am today.

Being A SQL Server MVP you might think I would focus on data people.   I am actually going to focus on a forgotten IT organization.  This would be the Association of Information Technology Professionals or AITP for short.  In fact, its really for my local chapter the Greater Wheeling Chapter of AITP (GWC of AITP). For those who didn’t know I grew up as an adult in Wheeling, WV.

The Greater Wheeling Chapter of AITP taught me how to be the best IT Professional I could be. While I attended to eat great food and to learn tech. I learned a whole lot more. I learned that it’s the people who matter and that technology will always change. I started to learn how to lead here as well.  I became a chapter president, heck even became the VP of the region.  I learned a lot of skills here that helped make me the IT person and business owner I am today.

When I wanted to bring SQL Saturday #36 to Wheeling, WV the whole Greater Wheeling AITP Chapter helped and supported me. Even though none of us knew what we were doing.

Earlier this year, Dolph Santorine the current President of GWC of AITP had a speaker cancel. In a bind, he asked if I could do a webinar to help. I refused to do the webinar because I told him I would jump on a flight and be there to do it in-person.  During this trip, over a Bridgeport brownie, I learned there might be another way I could pay things forward back to the GWC of AITP.

How I Will Payback Those Who Helped Me

The GWC of AITP could use another great event to raise awareness and drive up membership.  I will be using my knowledge and #sqlfamily to help bring a third SQL Saturday to Wheeling, WV. 

That’s right, we’re going to go from SQL Saturday #36 to #717 with a good old Throwback SQL Saturday. Save the date: April 28th. Like the old days, this will be a low budget grassroots event that brings some of the best SQL Server training to West Virginia. We are going to prove again that if a SQL Saturday can happen in Wheeling, WV it can happen anywhere!

I look forward to showing my data friends why Wheeling, WV is one of my favorite places in the world! You will quickly see that Wheeling is very different from your typical American small town.



SQL Saturday #80 was a Success!

On Saturday July 23rd the WVPASS and Greater Wheeling Chapter of AITP joined forces to host the 2nd Annual SQL Saturday in Wheeling, WV. SQLSaturday is a one-day free training event for SQL Server professionals and those wanting to learn about SQL Server brought to you by the local SQL Server community and PASS (Professional Association for SQL Server).

The following is a quick run down of our stats for the event. We had 108 people signup, 85 attendees, 11 speakers covering 18 sessions on Saturday.   Many thanks goes out to the speakers, volunteers, sponsors and attendees for making this a successful SQL Saturday.

The Good

  • We had a great mix of MVP’s, experienced speakers and first time speakers. One of the greatest accomplishments for this event is giving Matt Velic (Check out his #sqlsat80 photo’s), Abi Chapagai and Shannon Lowder their first opportunity to speak at a SQL Saturday. The speakers all did a fantastic job. We received several comments from attendees thanking us for having fantastic speakers.
  • Registration was quick and smooth. Everyone was able to get in and get to the main room to socialize and enjoy a free breakfast. The volunteers did a fantastic job.
  • We took a step outside of the box with lunch and got burrito’s from Salsa Café. With only a few complaints this was a hit. Last year we did box lunches from Panera and it was expensive and we also got lukewarm reviews.
  • Speakers received their evaluation’s shortly after their sessions. Personally, I have spoken at a few events and never received my feedback so I completely understand how important it can be towards growing as a speaker.
  • WVNCC was a fantastic host facility. The staff was very friendly and able to get us everything we needed to be successful.
  • Hosted the event on a $2,400.00 budget. There will be more on this in a future blog post.

Stuff to work on Next year!

  • Speakers dinner might have been a little too early. We held our dinner at 6pm and a few speakers wanted to attend but couldn’t make it in time. We also had plans of following our dinner with a voyage of the Italian Festival but a rain storm quickly sidelined that plan.
  • SQLGolf was a great idea and fun until the heat kicked our butt around the fifth hole. Once we got to the eighteenth hole I forgot we were still playing golf.
  • We need more onsite sponsors next year.
  • Bacon was not included in breakfast.

AITP October Meeting – Intro to WebMatrix

Sorry local friends for the late post on a great IT event going on in the Ohio Valley. Tonight, October 13th the Greater Wheeling Chapter of AITP is having Andrew Duthie (Blog | Twitter) a Microsoft Developer Evangalist from D.C come and give a presentation on WebMatrix.

Microsoft WebMatrix is a streamlined web development environment that supports both ASP.NET and PHP, in which web devs can create sites from rich templates, or from full open source applications such as DotNetNuke, WordPress, Joomla, or a variety of ASP.NET and PHP apps available on the Application Gallery.

Click here for more information about tonight’s event!

Recap: Mid-Atlantic Community Leadership Summit

Last weekend I attended the first annual Mid-Atlantic Community Leadership Summit (#MACLS) held for user group leaders. I would like to thank Andrew Duthie (Blog | @DevHammer)  for inviting me.  He did a great job putting the event together at the Microsoft Offices in Reston, VA. 

The following are some notes for everyone that didn’t get a chance to make it out. In general the purpose for the event was to get user group leaders together to share what’s works and what doesn’t work.  There is no order to the post just some notes with some random comments from my experience running the Greater Wheeling Chapter of AITP and hosting SQL Saturday #36.

How do you measure your user Group?

Your user group doesn’t have to be huge to be successful. I learned first hand that 20 attendees is not considered a small group from the consensus of user group leaders.  Sometimes leaders get lost in user group stats. Stats being the number of new members or attendance per meeting.  I will admit that I have been guilty. These stats really don’t hold water towards determining if a user group meeting is successful.  If you have a lot of people attend but no value provided to the attendees the meeting is not successful.

How does the user group get better?  You have to ask the members.  Its hard to meet the attendees expectations if you don’t know what they are expecting. Doing so could be a rewarding exercise for the leaders of the group and the attendees.  It helps the attendees feel like they are part of the group and it helps the leaders provide value by implementing the missing pieces. 

When should I hold that event?

BatmanWhen should I hold that event? This is a question that is asked by many user group leaders during the planning phase of an event or startup phase of a new group. Andrew Duthie created a website known as Community Megaphone to help solve this problem.  There are several user groups which means you might be competing for speakers and attendees. The Community Megaphone cannot predict when another group is going to have an event but if everyone adds their events it is a great system to see if anything else is planned.

Just like the Batman cartoon try to have your events on the same bat day, same bat time, same bat channel.  From my experience I think this works well for user groups.  Its easier for members to attend if you hold the meetings monthly on the same day (number of month or day of a week), same time and same location.

Speakers and Topics

User groups need to communicate with their members and make sure the topics are covering what the needs of the user group.

When you decide to bring a speaker in to talk have them submit multiple topics.  This allows the user group leader to follow-up with its members to decide which presentation will be a better fit for the members.  This benefits both the group and the speaker.

Instead of always having one speaker talk during the meeting or a time slot consider having several speakers talk for a short period of time.  This will light a fire and motivate some new speakers to step forward and give their first presentation because they only need to present one small topic.  The PGH.NET User Group does a good job of doing this a couple times a year.  I really enjoy them check out my thoughts on the five guys with code meeting.  The SQL Server community is also doing this at the 2010 PASS Member Summit with their lightning talks series.

The general consensus of the group is that user groups need more real-world examples during presentations and more beginner (101) sessions.  More lights go off in attendees heads when they see something they can or should implement when they go back to the office.

Liability and Coverage

First of all I am not an attorney so everything covered in here is just notes from the meeting not my opinion.    If you are in a metro area you might want to combine user groups into one non-profit organization.  I learned that the DC area is currently doing this and it seams to be working out for them.  I also believe that the Pittsburgh area does the same leveraging the Pittsburgh Technology Council (This is not verified so don’t quote me on this).  If you are in a rural area then you can look at legalzoom or try to find an attorney who might be interested in doing a little pro-bono work.

It seams like a lot of small user group start off without incorporating.

If you are a lawyer or are friends of a lawyer ask them to do a white paper on the legal side of starting a user group.  It seams like there isn’t a lot of information out there on this.

Vendors (Sponsors)

One of the most surprising things I learned this weekend is that vendors want relationships not just sales.  Okay I you caught me, I knew this but sometimes its great to be reminded because it can be easy to forget.  Anyways, ComponentOne and Infragistics had evangelists at the meeting.  They both wanted all the user group leaders to know they are willing to help they just need to know what you need.

Vendors can also do more than provide swag, pizza and money.  A real world example is SQL Saturday #36.  I had no idea where I should put the sponsors.  I called Andy Warren (blog | twitter) my mentor for the event and he reassured me that this was a common problem.  His advice was very helpful.  Andy said, “Ask your platinum sponsor Confio they have sponsored SQL Saturday’s in the past they will know the best spot for the sponsors.” I followed Confio’s advice and the rest was history. The moral of the story is that vendors are not evil they can be helpful if you choose to ask them for help.

Hosting an All Day Event (SQL Saturday, Code Camp, SharePoint Saturday etc..)

The following advice was given about hosting a big event like Code Camp, SQL Saturday, SQL Saturday (or any other all day multi-track event) but I believe it also is good advice for running a user group.  You need to treat the event like a business and get a core team together to make it happen. A core team doesn’t have to be a huge team but it has to be more than one individual.  Treat the event like a business means assign action items and have people be responsible for the detailed action items and assign due dates. The group needs to have a task manager who can get things running and make sure everyone is meeting deadlines.

Always put your attendees in charge of giving away their information. Allow sponsors to have raffles where they can collect business cards or information.  At SQL Saturday #36 we printed out cards with everyone’s contact information and gave them to the attendees in their welcome kit.  This sponsors could get contact information from attendees who don’t have or forgot their business cards.

Don’t do individual sponsorship as it can be too complicated. For example, you might think to have a lunch sponsor, snack sponsor, after-party sponsor and so on. This can be complicated because one group had an after-party sponsor but found out after the fact that the sponsor would only cover non-alcoholic drinks.  The group had to pay out of pocket for half of the dinner bill. So what’s an easier way to handle sponsorship?  Divide up sponsorship by using levels.  Break sponsorship levels out into Platinum, Gold, Silver and Bronze and then assign values and benefits to them so that the sponsorship will cover your total budget and still get value out of their money.  Remember that you should build your sponsorship plan like a pyramid and have only a few Platinum level sponsors.

This covers everything I have in my notes.  If you attended and I left anything out feel free to add it in the comments section.

Upcoming Speaking Engagements

With football season starting I thought I would share some travel dates.  If you are at any of the following events please don’t be shy and say hi.  I look forward to hitting the road and making some new friends as I continue to connect, share and learn.

Sept 18th : Reston, VA
Microsoft Regional Leadership Summit (Non speaking)

Oct 16th : Pittsburgh, PA
Pgh.NET Code Camp 2010.2 (SQL Server 2008 for Developers)

Oct 23rd : Dallas, TX
SQL Saturday #56 BI Edition (Submitted: SQL Server 2008 for Developers)

Nov 8th – 12th : Seattle, WA
SQL Server PASS Member Summit (Submitted Chalk Talk – SQL Server 2008 for Developers)

Nov 19th : Pipestown, WV
AITP Region 18 Fall Conference

Jan 29th : Houston, TX
SQL Saturday #57  (Submitted  SQL Server 2008 for Developers)

Compare your websites traffic against your competitors

Once upon a time I did software development for a dot.com start-up that did very well.  Highschoolsports.com  is a huge success and eventually got bought by Gannett.  When I worked there we were constantly tracking unique hits.  In the back of my mind I always wondered how we did against other companies.

Today I caught up with a good friend of mine Adolph Santorine (old owner of highschoolsports.com) at tonights Greater Wheeling Chapter of AITP meeting and he showed me a tool I had to throw on here.  Its a web app that allows you to compare your competitors unique hits against yours. 

Give www.compete.com  a try.  It’s a nice tool that just might give you what you need.

Wheeling, WV and Pittsburgh Joint AITP Meeting

Every year the Pittsburgh, PA and Wheeling, WV chapters of AITP have a joint meeting in Washington, PA.  It is usually is the most attended meeting for both chapters.   Currently at this point in time 40 people are signed up to attend. 

The meeting is scheduled for Tomorrow June 9th 2010 and it will be held Holiday Inn – Meadowlands at 340 Racetrack Rd, Washington, PA 15301.  You can register online and pay at the door. The cost is $29.  The meeting starts at 6:30pm

The topic for this joint meeting is Cyber-crime, investigations and digital forensics it will be presented by the Members of the FBI Pittsburgh Division Cyber Squad.  Members of the FBI Pittsburgh Division Cyber Squad will discuss current trends in cyber-crime, investigations and digital forensics.

Use UGSS and GITCA to support your User Groups

If you are supporting/running a user group or  interested in becoming a technical presenter this blog post will help you. I am starting to help with the Pittsburgh SQL Server User Group and I wanted to share some knowledge learned from working with the Greater Wheeling Chapter of the Association for Information Technology Professionals. If your user group is based on technology (AITP, INETA, PASS) etc. I highly recommend you look into leveraging the resources provided by UGSS and Culminis GITCA.

Today I received an email reminder to sign up for the Q2 UGSS User Group Kit and this motivated me to write this blog post for leaders and presenters who are not familiar with UGSS or GITCA.  At the end of the day you need to offer something of value (knowledge, training, networking, swag)  for people to attend your events. I want to commend both UGSS and GITCA as they provide support to increase the value of your user group meetings.

Global IT Community Association (GITCA)

For starters Culminis is now GITCA.  Global IT Community Association (GITCA) represents over 700 member organizations and over 3.7 million IT professionals.   GITCA is the world’s largest international not-for-profit independent organization powered by dedicated volunteers devoted to the development and growth of the IT community by providing services to support leaders and connect user groups, associations, and student IT organizations.

The following is a list of benefits for user groups:

  • SharePoint hosting for user group
  • LiveMeeting account online meetings
  • Event Support
  • Community Development
  • Access to User Group Support Services (UGSS)  more on this below.

To apply check out the requirements and sign up if you qualify.

User Group Support Services (UGSS)

User Group Support Services (UGSS) is dedicated and committed to serving technical community members and leaders worldwide.  UGSS provides resources that will ignite your efforts as leaders and invigorate your experience as members.

The following is a list of benefits for Community Leaders:

  • Get speakers for your events – if you are interested in presenting sign up here. Groups will find you and ask you to present.
  • Get funding for your events – yes, they will help sponsor your events.
  • Get publicity for your events
  • Get more publicity for your events
  • Get swag (content, demos, samples and more) –  the photo below shows some items I received during the last kit.


If you are the leader of a user group, a presenter, or someone who would like to sponsor events apply here. If you have any questions feel free to shoot me an email at jsterrett at gmail dot com and I will do my best to point you in the right direction.

December events to attend in Wheeling, WV

Hello everyone,  I want to share some cool events going down in Wheeling, WV in December. 

If you like wine or technology I highly recommend catching the Greater Wheeling Chapter of the Association for Information Technology Professionals meeting on December 9th.  This meeting is open to the public. We will meet on the forth floor of Wheeling Central High School at 6pm.  All attendees will have the change to share their 2009 accomplishments while we chow down a pizza dinner.  Dinner will be followed by a wine tasting at the Good Mansion Wines store. Check out the event page to signup for the 2009 December meeting.

Are you a young superstar go getter? If so, OVConnect is the group for you.  The mission is to bring young professionals in the valley together.  This months installment includes a holiday toy drive with a happy hour twist.  On December 17th at 5:00pm we will socialize and get our drink on at River City.  In order to attend all you have to do is signup and bring a toy or make a ten dollar donationAll donations benefit Catholic Charities.

Bonus Pittsburgh Technology Event

Are you a .NET programmer and interested in what’s going on with MVC?  If so, this months installment of the PGH.NET User Group is a must attend free event.  The PGH.NET meeting is on December 8th. You can find more info here or register here.

AITP Region 18 Conference

This past weekend I attended the AITP Region 18 Conference in Columbus, OH. This was a great opportunity for me to meet and network with several Information Technology Professionals.  If you have never attended a AITP meeting I highly recommend that you do.

The following was our agenda and a brief afterthought of the topics:

  • Ice Breaker – Got to trade name tags and learn a few facts from a new friend.
  • Leadership – Caught up on the leadership changes within AITP on the national level.
  • VMWare – Learned how VMWare is moving into the cloud.  I was very impressed with the ability to move in and out of the VMWare cloud.
  • Cloud Computing – This really makes it easy to do a SaaS startup.  I am looking forward to trying azure out.

Following the technical sessions we had a great dinner and networking session at the Buckeye Hall of Fame.  Unfortunately, it looked like my presence cursed Ohio State.