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PASS Summit 2015 Preview

PASS Summit 2015 Preview

lego-editThe air is getting colder, I’m seeing pumpkins on the front steps, and the PASS Summit is happening at the end of the month. Together that can mean only one thing: It’s time for the PASS Summit preview! In less then three weeks I will head to Seattle to attend my twelfth consecutive PASS Summit. But for those of you attending for the first time I thought it might be worth your time to give you an idea of what to expect.

To help us along I’ve decided to use quotes from The Lego Movie because reasons. Seriously, the story of Emmet’s journey from an ordinary worker, to someone that recognizes they have something special about them, and overcoming the odds to get the job done is a familiar theme for any data professional. We all start out with little-to-no knowledge about the products we use, we develop a sense of self-worth over time, and then we become a valuable addition to a team (and sometimes the most valuable).

I joke how this career journey for us SQL Server folks is, in many ways, the longest lasting SQL migration we will ever face.

So, let’s get started!

“Everything is awesome, everything is cool.”

The PASS Summit is the largest gathering of SQL Server professionals on Earth. With over 5,000 total registrations from like-minded data professionals like you and me, you can be certain to have something in common with everyone else in the room. I’ve always talked about how I wanted Summit to feel like it was summer camp for data professionals, but when I walk into that Welcome Reception these days it feels more like…like…

Home. I feel home again at Summit. Where everything is awesome, and everything is cool.

“You know, I don’t want to spoil the party but, does anyone notice that we’re stuck in the middle of the ocean on this couch?”

This quote fits the Community Zone perfectly. It’s a place where many of us just hang around in between sessions. I don’t think there is a couch this year, but there are usually beanbags and there is always space on the floor to just crash as needed. The Community Zone is a wonderful place to get energized, and not just emotionally, because that’s where we have power strips. It is also in the Community Zone that you will connect with many of the PASS volunteers and leaders that help keep our community active and going strong all year long.

“Come with me if you want to not die.”

Twelve years ago I attended my first PASS Summit. I did so for a variety of reasons but one reason in particular is that I wanted to give myself the opportunity to sharpen my technical skills. I didn’t want to be left behind and I knew that I needed to spend time with more like-minded data professionals. The relationships I have formed (and even lost) over the years has given me the ability to sharpen not just the hard skills but also the soft skills that are needed in order to have a successful data career. In other words, I joined because I did not want my career to die.

“Well, uhh… technically I’m not a Master Builder yet.”

The PASS Summit is a place for data experts of all skills levels and job roles. Everyone starts out with zero knowledge and you will find that many folks in the PASS Community are there to help each other become a Master Builder. It’s typical for many of us to sit in a room and think that our skills aren’t as good as everyone else. Don’t let that discourage you from attending a session, or an event.

“Here in Cloud Cuckoo Land, there are no rules: There’s no government, no baby sitters, no bedtimes, no frowny faces, no bushy mustaches, and no negativity of any kind.” “You just said the word ‘no’ like a thousand times.” “And there’s also no consistency.”

Cloud Cuckoo Land…that kinda describes what it feels like behind the scenes of Summit. The amount of work done by PASS HQ and event staff to bring order out of chaos is nothing short of miraculous, and always with a smile. No negativity, no bedtimes, no frowny faces…yeah, that’s PASS HQ. When you see them at Summit, give them a hug and tell them I said it was OK.

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Yes, this *is* Seattle.

“Hey, I can be dark and brooding too – Guys, look, a rainbow!”

If you are not aware of what the weather in Seattle is like, then this is the quote for you. Overcast, chilly, and wet one moment and then sunny rainbows the next. Well, OK, maybe not immediately next, but I’ve seen sunshine in Seattle. It happens every now and then.

“Where are my pants?”

This seems fitting for me personally, considering I need to be on stage to deliver the Day 1 keynote and I often work from home sans pantalones. I’ve been told MANY TIMES that I’m not allowed to be on stage without pants. Although we did have a keynote speaker years ago that was wearing shorts, so there *IS* precedent, but apparently we have rules now. Whatevs.

“All I’m asking for is total perfection.”

This quote works well with regards to the timing you need to attend everything you want to see and do for the week. My fellow Head Geek Kong Yang (bio | @KongYang) went old-school at VMWorld, using paper and pencil and keeping the folded sheet in his lanyard. It helped us know when and where we needed to be and was WAY more efficient than any phone I’ve ever had. So that’s what I’ll be using this year, too, as I try to avoid the struggles I’ve had in previous years. Let me know if you want to help be my handler, too, because I need an assistant willing to work long hours for no money.

“With proper training you could become a great MasterBuilder.”

The content available at PASS is the best in the world for data professionals invested in the Microsoft data platform. No other event brings together so many leading experts combined with members from the Microsoft product teams. And the content isn’t just inside the session rooms, it’s in the hallways as well as inside the SQL Clinic. You may not be an expert in something, but chances are you can find the expert at PASS. In some cases, you can find the person who wrote the code! You may not be a MasterBuilder yourself, but exposure to the collective at PASS is your first step to becoming one.

“Hi everybody. You may not know me, but I’m on TV, so you can trust me.”

This quote is for the Summit recordings you can purchase because you can’t possibly attend every session at the same time. And there are times when you will miss a session because you are having a wonderful conversation over an egg-nog latte at Tully’s with Buck Woody (blog | @buckwoodymsft). Either way, the Summit recordings are worth every penny.

“If this relationship is going to work out between us I need to feel free to party with a bunch of strangers whenever I feel like it. I will text you.”

Like I said, there are a LOT of people attending Summit. Lots of sessions and lots of events to attend. You are likely going to find yourself in a room of strangers at some point. But that’s OK, because they aren’t really strangers, they are just friends you haven’t met yet. So do yourself a favor and meet someone new. Just one person, at the very least. Don’t eat alone. Don’t just head back to your room at night. Meet someone, anyone, and ask them why they decided to attend Summit. You might find you have a lot in common.

“Well for what it’s worth, this has been about the greatest 15 minutes of my life.”

I am fortunate to have had the opportunity to present sessions at the PASS Summit over the years. This year I will have one session, Database Design Throwdown, presented together with Karen López (blog | @datachick). I remember what it was like the first time presenting at Summit, when they got all the speakers together in one room to go over logistics, hand out gifts, etc. I looked around and saw the talent in the room and immediately thought I was way out of my league. The day came for my session and I was nervous. I got through it and then, just like that, it was over. It felt like no time at all had passed. If you are presenting for the first time this year, enjoy every minute while you can.

YOU ALL NEED TO BE MORE FRIENDLY!!!!”  

This makes me think of the many volunteers we have, not just at Summit but at all PASS events. The growth that PASS has seen over the 12 years I have been involved is amazing, and is the result of the growth in the number of people willing to volunteer their time. For example, at Summit look for the red vests, those are the ambassadors and they are there to help you find your way around. When you consider the number of people we have volunteering their time you can get a sense that moving everyone in the same direction can be as challenging as herding a bunch of Unikitties.

“Got room for just one dude?”

Chances are the session you are attending is going to be packed full of people. (One of the perks as an ambassador is that you get a seat reserved down front, in case you were interested.) And there will be a time or two when you will find yourself in a crowded hallway, or looking for a place to eat lunch. Summit is crowded, but there is always room for one more person.

“Yeah! I know! Tacos! Tacos! Go crazy!”

Of course I need to mention something about the food, as that is a topic of conversation every year. We do our best to work with convention staff on the menu options in order to provide something for everyone. We don’t always get it right, but we do try our best. It’s not easy to feed a few thousand people at the same time. Many events of our size have started serving boxed lunches and are scaling back on appetizers served during receptions. We may get there at some point, too, but not this year. So I will enjoy the fact that we are still able to serve a hot lunch.

“You have a great day too, President Business. Man, he’s such a cool guy. I always wanna hear more of…wait! Did he say put to sleep?!”

There is a lot to do and see while at Summit. And sleep is often at a premium during the week. I do my best to get extra rest the week before, and also to make sure I find my way to bed before midnight (especially since I have to be up at 6AM each day). The days are long at Summit, get plenty of water and get rest especially early in the week. Pace yourself, finsih hard, and sleep on the plane ride home.

If you can’t tell, I love this event, and the people that make up my #sqlfamily. I am fortunate that twelve years ago my manager agreed to send me to my first PASS Summit. I do my best to repay that kindness by helping others, as I have been doing ever since. I would not be where I am, or the person I am, today without my having joined PASS all those years ago.

See you in Seattle!

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  • Pat Phelan

    Those were great analogies, and a wonderful summation of my views of PASS Summit too!

    I do have two comments though…

    The DVDs have been gone for a while (two years maybe???). The USB flash drive is every bit as valuable, and it is SO important that I think it ought to be built in to the event… Jack the price of the conference up enough to cover the cost, then make sure that EVERYONE gets the recordings. I’m a “kid in a candyland” at PASS Summit, and there are two or more sessions I want to see in EVERY time slot. There are more than a couple of sessions that I need to see more than once too!

    My second comment… This year I promise I won’t hijack your cab!

    • ThomasLaRock

      You can hijack my cab anytime.

      Yes, you are right about the DVDs, I should have said session recordings or something. I’ll clean up the post next week as there are some typos bothering me anyway. Thanks!

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  • Teresa Lebel

    I am so sad I am not allowed to go this year, it’s such a valuable conference 🙁 Have fun!

    • ThomasLaRock

      Sorry to hear this, you will be missed!

      • Teresa Lebel

        I am so bummed! Can I hide in your suitcase? lol

        • ThomasLaRock

          Absolutely! Meet me at the BDL!

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