Tag Archives: Greater Wheeling 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.



WordPress Community Podcast

I had the pleasure of catching up with John Parkinson, one of my mentors and a great friend of mine. It feels like yesterday John, GWC of AITP, and I brought two SQL Saturday’s to Wheeling, WV (#36 and #$80).

It’s fun to see how we both stayed highly involved in the IT Community over the years. John is highly involved in the Greater Wheeling Chapter of AITP and WordPress while I am highly involved in the SQL Server Community.

John reached out to me to do a podcast with him talking about my SQL Saturday experiences so people in the WordPress community could learn about other all-day training events. The result is the 10-minute video which is provided below.

Photo Gallery – SQL Saturday #80 in Wheeling, WV

Below is a collection of photos at SQL Saturday #80 in Wheeling, WV on July 23rd.

You can find my recap of hosting SQL Saturday #80 here.

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.

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.

SQLSaturday Update & Future Presentations

I wanted to give a quick update and thank everyone who has responded to my initial posting about bringing SQL Saturday to Wheeling, WV.    I have spoken to a couple technology groups and several individuals and everyone is very supportive of this event.

The following are upcoming work items:

  1. Establish a budget
  2. Build a support team that will help with organizing the event.
  3. Find a location and pinpoint a date (tentatively First Quarter 2010.)

I look forward to blogging the status of these work items.

On another note, It looks like I will be presenting the following topic “Building a Data Warehouse with SQL Server” twice in November.  I will present first at the Greater Wheeling Chapter of AITP meeting on November 11th.  I will also give the same presentation at the Pittsburgh SQL Server User Group Meeting on November 16th.

You will soon see a series of blog post that go over building a data warehouse.  You can find the first one here.

AITP Tours the Center of Educational Technology

This month’s meeting of the Greater Wheeling Chapter of AITP is tour of the Center for Educational Technologies. It will start at the CET office located on the WJU campus at 316 Washington Ave. Wheeling, WV 26003-6243 on Wednesday, April 8th 2009. The meeting will include a presentation of video conferencing and a tour of CET given by Dr. Bruce Howard.

Social hour will start at 5:30 P.M. We will meet in the CET lobby on the third floor.  The tour and presentation will start at 6:00 P.M.  Dinner will follow at 7:15 P.M and it will be held at the White Palace in Wheeling Park.  Dinner will be followed by a tech session on IE 8 presented by Chuck Hill.
Cost for the evening is $18.00 for AITP members, $10.00 for AITP student members, and $23.00 for guests.  To RSVP please email kkovacs@dwc.org.  If you have any questions or need help with directions please call John at 304-780-8532.

Driving Directions:
The Center for Educational Technologies® is located on the campus of Wheeling Jesuit University in Wheeling, WV. To reach the center, take exit 2B off I-70 in Wheeling
If you’re coming from the West, turn left at the end of the exit ramp and follow Washington Ave., bearing right at the end of the bridge. If you’re coming from the East, turn right onto Washington Ave. From either direction, then, the entrance to the campus is on the left. The center is the first building to the left off the main campus drive. Parking is available in the rear of the building.


Microsoft is coming to Wheeling AITP Meeting

This month’s meeting of the Greater Wheeling Chapter of AITP  is titled Virtualization with Hyper-V and will be held at The White Palace in Wheeling Park on Wednesday, February 11, 2009.   


Ian Lindsay will present Virtualization with Hyper-V.  Ian is a Account Technology Specialist with the Microsoft Corporation located in Pittsburgh, PA.


Virtualization with Hyper-V presented by Microsoft.  How does virtualization fit into Microsoft?  What is the virtualization capability with Windows Server 2008?  Through this meeting you will be able to understand licensing for virtualization and also determine what investments and resources are needed.  Ian will also welcome questions and answers through the session. 


Ian had been in the IT industry for over 20 years, with the last nine (plus) spent at Microsoft Corporation.  As an Account Technology Specialist, Ian is responsible for providing solutions and architectural guidance to core healthcare and financial services customers in Microsoft’s Pittsburgh Account group.  Ian’s experiences range from software development on UNIX to designing enterprise network infrastructures using the latest technologies.  Prior to joining Microsoft, Ian was Operations Manager with Actium Corporation (now Idea Integration).  He was responsible for the Actium network infrastructure, as well as running the Actium Training organization and providing training on all of Microsoft’s BackOffice products. 


Social hour will start at 5:30.  Dinner will be at 6:15.  Meeting/presentation will follow dinner.  Cost for the evening is $18.00 for AITP members, $10.00 for AITP student members, and $23.00 for guests, which includes a buffet dinner at Wheeling Park.

Please reply to this e-mail message or e-mail Karen at kkovacs@dwc.org, or go to the Greater Wheeling Chapter’s website at http://www.aitp-wheeling.org  to make reservations.  Reservations are essential to ensure there is sufficient food and seating available for our group.  Please respond early to give the restaurant ample time to prepare.  No shows will be billed for the reserved meal.