Tag Archives: Professional Development

2011 was a crazy year!

Now that we are finishing up the last few days of the year its time to take a few minutes and reflect on my accomplishments for the year. To be honest, looking back at the blog posts I have no idea how I completed so many mile stones.  Last year I privately established some long term goals and I knocked several items off my three year and five year plan in the first year.

Major Accomplishments in 2011

PASS Member Summit 2011 Ribbons

Vendor said, "Wow... it looks like you had a very big year. Would you like to attend our vendor party?"

My first child was born in February.  Typically having a child would slow you down but somehow I still completed several milestones. I have to give huge props to my wife for all her help and support.

This year I gave presentations at the first SQL Rally; the SQL PASS Member Summit; SQL Saturday in Houston, TX (presented multiple sessions); the Pittsburgh SQL User Group and several session at the West Virginia SQL Server User Group.

One of my good friends and I co-founded the first SQL Server User Group in West Virginia. I also helped relaunch the Pittsburgh SQL Server User Group and was truly honored to  speak at the relaunch event. I also organized the 2nd  Annual SQL Saturday in Wheeling, WV. Its was truly an honor to bring my peers and friends to my hometown for some free SQL Training (photos). Towards the end of the year I also became a PASS Regional Mentor for the Mid-Atlantic Region.

Personally, I also had the following accomplishments.  I was included in a local

Reading with my baby

It's never to early to get started on your professional development.

magazine article on “Digital Generation.” Finally, I changed jobs and became a SQL Server Consultant.  I am truly blessed to say that many of these milestones couldn’t happen without my #sqlfamily and  my tech giants mentors .

My 11 Favorite Blog Posts in 2011

The following are my favorite blog posts and tips written by me in 2011.

I look forward to sharing some goals next week as we break in the new year!

My #sqlpass 2011 Member Summit Schedule

The following is my tentative plans for the SQL PASS Member Summit this week.  I have listed scheduled sessions to attend but may switch or do something else. You never know what will be going down on the #sqlpass or #sqlfun hash tag on twitter.

Isn’t it awesome that the sessions are recorded and available for playback after the event? I will get the sessions on DVD and will be able to watch them later.

Tuesday, October 11th 2011

* 7:30am to 1pm – Travel to Seattle for PASS Conference (Yes, I am actually writing this on the airplane)
* 1pm to 2pm – Regional Member Meeting (Hopefully, logistics work and I won’t miss this)
* 2:15pm to 5pm – Chapter Leaders Meeting
* 6:30pm to 8pm – Welcome Receptions and Quiz Bowl
* 8pm to 10pm – Red Gate Party

Wednesday, October 12th 2011

* 5:30am to 8am – Visit Pike Place Market or Top Hat Donuts Shop
* 8:15am to 10am – Attend Keynote
* 10:15am to 11:30am – This isn’t your fathers Cloud: Kevin Kline, Buck Woody
* 11:30am to 1:00pm – Chapter Leaders Lunch
* 1:30pm to  3:00pm – Visit and get know Vendors @ Vendor Expo
* 3:00pm to 4:15pm – Tips and Tricks for Writing Better Queries: Joe Webb (AD-314)
* 4:45pm to 6:00pm –  Characteristics of a Great Relational Database : Louis Davison (AD-318)
* 6:15pm to 8:00pm – Attend SQL PASS Vendor Reception
* 8:00pm to 10:00pm – SQLPeople Party & PUSS Party

Thursday, October 13th, 2011

* 8:15am to 10:00am – Keynote Bloggers Table @ Dell Ballroom
* 10:15am to 11:30am – Advanced SQL Server 2008 Troubleshooting: Klaus Aschenbrenner (DBA-403) @ 6E
* 11:30 am to 1:30pm – Women in Technology – Lunch @ 6B
* 1:30pm to 2:45pm – Lighting Talk (I am presenting) @ 201
* 3:00pm to 4:30pm – All the Magic Knobs: Cindy Gross @2AB
* 5pm to 7pm – Vendor Appreciation Party
* 7pm to 10pm – Microsoft Community Appreciation @ GameWorks

Friday, October 14th, 2011

* 7:00am to 8:00am – Breakfast
* 8:15am to 10am – Keynote Presentation or Microsoft Labs
* 10:15am to 11:45am – Query Tuning Mastery: Adam Machanic (AD-500) @ 6E
* 11:30am to 12:30 – Birds of a Feather – Lunch
* 12:15pm to 1:30pm – Board of Directors Meet and Greet
* 1:30pm to 2:30pm – Final review for my sessions
* 2:30pm to 3:45pm – Evaluate your Daily Checklist against 100+ Instances of SQL(ME) @602-604
* 4:15pm to 5:30pm – Best Practices for Deploying SQL Server on VMWare: Wanda He (DBA-310) @ 2AB

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.

Un-SQL Friday #2 – My Tech Giants

UnSQL Friday #2

The second round of UnSQL Friday is here and the topic is so good I am typing while I eat lunch rushing to beat the deadline to get this in. UnSQL Friday was created by Jen of @MidnightDBA’s to provide an avenue for SQL Bloggers to focus on a non-technical topic. The topic is as follows:

Read this blog, and then write whatever you want about Tech Giants. Be sure to mention in your blog that you’re writing for Un-SQL Friday, and link to this post. Oh, and have it up any time before the weekend (Saturday Jan 22) hits, mmkay?”

Jen said, to write about whatever I want so here we go!  I am using this venue as an opportunity to say thanks to a bunch of people who have helped become who I am today. I will also explain how they fit into my definition of a Tech Giant.

There are several other people I could include but I have a deadline so I will have to find another way to thank them later.

What is a Tech Giant?

This definition is subjective and will be defined differently from blogger to blogger so here is my definition. To me a Tech Giant is someone I look up too within IT; someone who has helped me out; someone who is mentoring me; someone who is mentoring me without even knowing that they are mentoring me.

In no particular order here is a list explaining why these individuals peeps are my tech giants:

David Hoerster, Eric Kepes & John Hidey

David Hoerster, Eric Kepes & John Hidey: These are three stand up .NET developers who are highly involved in Pittsburgh .NET User Group and the Pittsburgh code camp for years. To this day I will always remember my first code camp four years ago. The next year they gave me my first public speaking opportunity. Every year the Code Camp in Pittsburgh gets bigger and bigger. This year there were two code camps with over 150 attendees.  David, Eric and John showed me first hand how important it is to give back to your technical community.

Side Note: How the heck are none of these guys a Microsoft MVP? This almost makes me question the MVP program. I am going to do my part in correcting this by nominating them at the Microsoft MVP site.

Thomas LaRock aka SQLRockStar

Tom LaRock: Last year Tom asked the community if anyone wanted to have a mentor on his blog.  I jumped on this opportunity and we have been skyping (is this actually a word?) monthly. His book (check out my review) and those sessions have shaved years off my learning curve moving from a developer to becoming a valuable Production DBA.

I finally meet Tom in person at the 2010 SQL Pass Member Summit. He introduced me to almost everyone in the community that week. It’s weird, in a way I feel like he is my older brother from another mother.

Tom also has a great blog. In my opinion it’s one of the most entertaining technical blogs out there because he does a good job teaching with stories. A perfect example is “Everything I Needed to Know about Waits and Queues I learned From the TSA.”

Side Note: Other than his addiction to bacon and being a Patriots fan he is a great guy! Can you tell I am a die hard Pittsburgh Sports Fan?

Brent Ozar

I love this book!

Brent Ozar: I ran into Brent virtually two years ago at the Pittsburgh SQL User Group. At the end of his presentation he challenged the crowd to start blogging. I found his intro to blogging series and gave it a try.  A little later I was hooked.  Brent made me a syndicated blogger at SQLServerPedia. People will see this blog post because he took a chance on a new blogger.

Its amazing how much time and energy he puts into the SQL PASS Community with his presentations and blog posts.  His blog is a great resource for SQL Server, Professional Development, Speaking and Blogging.  Did I mention that he also co-authored one of the best SQL Server books (its the image on the left side)?

Side Note: I am working on creating a VMWare Workstation image right now due to his blog post on “How to rehears a Presentation.” Brent, I will be shooting you some question soon 🙂

Andy Warren

Andy Warren: The first SQL Saturday in West Virginia wouldn’t have happened without Andy’s help.  Andy and I had several phone calls where he gave me the guidance I needed to make it happen. He helped me from the point where I wondered,can I make this happen up to the week of the event.  Now, I have spoken at three SQL Saturdays and am adding another one to the list next week.  I don’t think this would have happened without Andy’s support.

Side Note: At SQL PASS Summit I learned that Andy is referred to as the godfather of SQL Server. I am not sure why this is true. I will have to follow-up with more at a later date.

Justin Siebert

Justin Siebert: There is no way I am going skip the great state of West Virginia. And there is no one better qualified than Justin. He started his own consulting company to provide Online Marketing and Search Engine Optimization. He now does business with Fortune 500 companies.  He is a big supporter of LAMP and is doing great things with WordPress.  His website is a perfect example.

Once he found out I was interested in blogging he talked me into using WordPress. Justin gives me several tips on WordPress and SEO and has never asked for money.   He also pulls me aside every once in a while to make sure I am focused on my goals and heading down the right path.

Side Notes: some people call Justin by his name. I call him the SEORockStar.  Justin and I might be the only remaining die-hard Pittsburgh Pirates fans left in Wheeling (Yes the owner Bob Nutting also lives in Wheeling).

What I am reading in 2011- week two

This year I am going to try to keep better tabs on what I am reading on the intertubes and why I found the posts interesting.  Here is my first list of the year.  I hope you enjoy these links.  I know I did.

Writing a Technical Blog: Why to do it and what to write about – Kendra Little (blog | @Kendra_Little) wrote a great post for someone who is technical and is thinking about blogging. Actually, If you work within IT and don’t blog you should really read this blog post!

Cloud Computing for IT Pros – My local IT Pro Microsoft Evangelist Youg Chow produced this is a  six part series going over the basics of cloud computing for IT pros. It starts with defining what is a service.

SQLPASS Lightning Talk Video

Profiling 3rd Party Applications

Today I am giving a lightning talk at the PASS Member Summit in Seattle, WA.  A lightning talk is a quick fire five minute talk given by seven individuals during a single session.  My topic is going to cover using profiler to troubleshoot 3rd party applications.  Profiler can be intimidating when you start to use it.  My goal is to make the use of Profiler easier for people who don’t use it.

If you are not at the Summit or decided to skip out on the lightning talks I have good news for you.  I have uploaded one of my practice sessions for you to see.


Speaking at PASS Member Summit 2010

I am excited to share with everyone that I am speaking at the PASS Summit in Seattle on Wednesday this week.   The Summit is by far the biggest event for database administrators and anyone who likes to work with data. I would refer to it as the Super Bowl for Database Administrators.  I will be participating in both a chalk talk and lightning talk.

Chalk-Talk is a forty minute interactive talk in the vendor expo hall.  I will be presenting SQL Server 2008 for Developers with a twist.  I will provide a list of topics and the crowd (yes this is you everyone) can pick the topics we cover.  That’s right everyone, even though I think Table Value Parameters is the most under used feature for developers we can skip it if you are more interested in other topics.

Lightning-Talk is a quick five minute talk about anything the speaker wants to talk about.  There is a session each day dedicated to Lightning talks and they will include seven speakers.  I will give a talk over using Profiler to troubleshoot third party applications.  This tip was very important to me when I became a production DBA and I am sure it will help others.

Wheeling, WV to Dallas, TX? A SQL Saturday 56 Recap

Why would I travel from Wheeling, WV to Dallas, TX to speak at a free SQL Saturday? First, of all SQL Saturday’s in general are bleeping awesome. In a nutshell SQL Saturday is an all day multi-track, multi-session learning opportunity to learn SQL Server.  SQL Saturday #56 was was the first Business Intelligence SQL Saturday in the nation.  Second, I am blessed to have a great mother-in-law and father-in-law in Dallas and I enjoy hanging out with them so this was a huge bonus. Third, I enjoy connecting with people in the SQL Server Community so I can network and talk shop and see how we do things differently.

Facility & Logistics

First of all let me say this Pittsburgh we got gipped. Microsoft’s Campus in Dallas (yes campus not floor) was super cool. When I walk in the main door the first thing I saw was servers. You know I am a geek when I love the fact that servers are the first thing I see when I enter a business building. Anyways back to how the facility worked with the SQL Saturday event. The facility was a great fit for the 200+ attendees. There were several rooms that held 50 or more attendees and a gigantic room for the opening, main events and the end of day raffle. There were also some smaller rooms that brought everyone in closer and made for some good collaborative sessions.


I attended Jen McCowen (twitter) SSRS from Ground Zero session and was very impressed especially when I found out Jen only had one day to prepare. I already know the basics in SSRS so I was really interested in picking up a few tips while I see how an experienced speaker gives an introduction session.  I really liked Jen’s style as she just dove straight into BIDS and went over key concepts you need to know to start using SSRS.  I also got to steal a few minutes after the presentation and see how she records her videos for midnightDBA.  For those out there who are interested in recording demos it looks like she uses Camtasia Studio and from what she showed me it looks like it’s not hard to use. More on camtasia a little later.

Another session I attended focused on evaluating use case personas for a new feature coming up in the next edition of SQL Server.  I really enjoyed this session because it basically was an hour group discussion about how we do things in our shop.   I would love to go into more details but I signed an NDA. 

My Session

I gave a talk on SQL Server 2008 for Developers.  Overall I think the session went well and I was glad to take part as a speaker.  The session was interactive as there were great questions from the audience.  I didn’t do a head count so I would estimate that there were about 30 attendees in the session. 

The host crew did a great job with speaker evaluations.  I even recieved my evaluations a few minutes after my session was complete.  In fact, I had a really helpful evaluation from an attendee who mentioned I should have went over Change Data Capture and MERGE in more detail and skipped the other features.   Being that this was a BI SQL Saturday I agree so I am going to evaluate Camtasia and see if I can record a video over these features and add them to my blog over the next two weeks.


On of my favorite parts of attending SQL Saturday is networking.  I was able to meet a lot of great people.  I apologize in advance as I am sure I am leaving some super cool people off this paragraph.  I meet Ryan Adams and had a great discussion about how he uses visual basic to perform actions on alerts with MOM for SQL Server. I also shared some information about our TFS configuration with Robert Crocker during lunch.  I also meet Thomas LeBlanc, Tim Mitchell, David Stein and had several great conversation in the speakers room and at the after party.

Other Posts

The following is a short list of other bloggers recaps on SQL Saturday 56


In conclusion this was a great event. The North Texas SQL Server User Group did a great job.  I would love to speak at another one of their SQL Saturday’s.  I cannot believe they are going to have three within a twelve month period.

Pittsburgh Code Camp – SQL 2008 for Developers

This past weekend I presented SQL Server 2008 for Developers at the PGH.NET Code Camp.   You can download the slides here if you would like a copy.  You can also check out my scheduled speaking engagements.

The PGH.NET 2010.2 Code Camp was organized very well.  I want to give a big shout out to organizers as they did a great job.  My favorite session of the day was Scrum 101 with Eric Kepes (Blog | Twitter).  Personally, I knew very little about Scrum coming in to the presentation so this was a great opportunity for me to see how others have implemented it in their shops.  The presentation lead to some great debates.

If you would like to see Eric’s presentation or download a Scrum worksheet check out his blog post.

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.