PASS Summit Memories Blog Series – Day 1 – You Can Do This

01 Sep PASS Summit Memories Blog Series – Day 1 – You Can Do This

I’ve decided to write a blog series about some of my favorite PASS Summit memories. No, I don’t know why either, but for whatever reason I am going to write about something related to a PASS Summit and I am going to do this for the next 30 days. You’re welcome.

I have no idea what memories will come to mind. There is no plan behind this series. Each day I will sit down and simply write. Those are the rules I have given myself. The rules for you are simple: if I forget to mention somebody, or something, over the course of the next 30 days you cannot be offended. This is my eighth Summit, nine if you include Barcelona in 2006. That is a lot of memories, a lot of people, a lot of shared experiences to cover in 30 days.

And that’s why I am going to just write whatever comes to mind. The thought of trying to figure out which 30 stories to tell just seemed like work. Writing stuff as it comes to mind just seems easier.

Let’s get it started.

You Can Do This

It’s my first Summit. Orlando. 2004. The keynote has ended and I find myself in a session room to do some learning. I sit about two-thirds of the way back in a packed room. After about three minutes of listening to the speaker and seeing the materials I was struck by a simple thought, the same thought my parents remind me I always had even as a small child. Perhaps it is because I was the youngest child, I don’t know, but it took three minutes for me to say to myself:

I could do this.

That’s right, I was certain I could present a session at the PASS Summit. I had never spoken about SQL before. I had never been to a user group meeting, or to a chapter meeting, or to a conference, or anything. I had been given the title of “DBA” for about a year. I was just sitting there, watching and listening, and knew I could do as good a job as the person I was seeing that day.

My motivation was simple: I wanted to get better at SQL Server. And the best way to learn something is to teach it to others. It’s how I got better at mathematics, and basketball, and…well…just about everything else in life. I knew it was not going to be easy but I also knew it was going to be the best thing for my professional development. Since I wanted to learn about SQL Server, that meant I needed to teach SQL Server.

I made it a goal of mine, right then and there, to speak at PASS. And I did, in 2007 and 2008. I have not spoken since because I felt that as a sitting member of the Board of Directors I should allow others to have a chance.  But this year I was persuaded to submit some talks and was accepted to present two sessions including one of the half-day sessions.

I hope someone sitting there watches me and says to themselves “I can do this”. It would be cool to think that someone watching me this year gets motivated enough to get up and share with others at some point. Because you can do this, too.


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  • Scott Shaw

    Great point! I remember studying English as an undergrad at the University of Illinois and listening to the professors and I kept thinking to myself, “I can do this too.” We all read the same books, we all study the same materials so what makes them more capable than me? The difference is the willingness to teach others and overcome your fears of putting yourself in a vulnerable, public position.

    I come from a family of teachers and I asked my dad what is the secret to teaching, how do you overcome your fears of public speaking? He said, “Just know what you’re talking about.” I’ve always considered that the best advice.

    • Thomas LaRock

      Thanks for the comment Scott. That is still the biggest hump for me: know what you are talking about. But I have also learned it is OK to not know everything.

  • Gethyn Ellis

    Who were you watching when you had the “I Can do this… ” moment or at least what topic was being spoken about?

    • Thomas LaRock


      I withheld those details because I don’t want people to think that the speaker was doing poorly. It wasn’t about that, it was that I knew I could do the work, and that I wanted to do the work.

  • Gethyn Ellis

    I gathered that, and I didn’t mean to suggest the speaker was doing poorly. I was just interested in the topic and what was being discussed, and if the topic played any role in your thought process…For example Did you think I can talk about the importance of backups or was not related to the topic, more looking at the person speaking regardless of the subject and thinking you could do it? So put simply, was it the topic being discussed or the person doing the speaking that was the motivation?

    • Thomas LaRock


      It was all of it. The speaker, the topic, the setting…everything.

      If it helps, it was a topic I knew nothing about, which is why I was there anyway, to learn something new. So I didn’t think “i know this stuff”, it was “I could give a talk on something”.

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  • Ayyappan

    Good start. I like the point learn while teaching.

    Keep going Thomas!