Check out my fond memories of SQL PASS and be on the lookout for me this year in Charlotte...
Why you are attending?
This year my colleague and I were given a choice between Dev Connections in Vegas or the PASS Summit in Charlotte. As we're key individuals for managing our platform we're never allowed to both be away at the same time. My colleague is more dev focused and enjoys gambling and I'm more admin focused and enjoy travelling so it seemed natural that he took the Dev Connections and I took the PASS Summit.
This will be my 5th PASS Summit. If my memory serves me well having attended 2002/2003/2009/2011. All of the Summits were in Seattle and each time I flew over from London or Shanghai to attend. Sometimes paying my own way, other times my employer paid. Once I was lucky enough to have a vendor pay in exchange for some work. I've had a long history with PASS - having attending Summits and PASS events in Seattle and Europe. The 2004 PASS Academy in Dubrovnik, Croatia, was particularly memorable. I also helped found the London Finance Chapter of PASS many years ago.
Even though I relocated to Seattle last year I was really upset to miss PASS Summit 2012 due to work commitments with massive SAN migrations and server upgrades to prepare for the 2012 Holiday traffic. This year our platform is better prepared and stable so I'm grateful for this time away from the pressures of work.
What you are excited about?
I'm really excited with PASS being in a new city. I've only lived in the US for 1 year so this trip to Charlotte will be my first. I'm not looking forward to the long flight from the West Coast, but I'm always excited to visit a new city. It will be interesting to see what the attendance numbers are in Charlotte compared to Seattle. Judging by the fact that all the special hotel discounts have sold out I expect a good turnout. I've been forced to book a hotel miles away from the Convention Center... but that's what you get for leaving things till the last minute. Being away from the MS HQ and on the other side of America should attract a different crowd especially with the large financial industry presence in Charlotte.
I'm looking forward to getting some industry and insider information on SQL 2014 and SQL Azure and how industry experts are tackling the explosion of data and storage, the security implications and trends and all that goes with managing large SQL Server infrastructure.
Your preparation for the conference.
I've never been one to dwell over training plans and sessions. For me, it's all about just being at PASS not necessarily the sessions themselves. I usually make my session choices on the day based on feedback, buzz and how I feel that morning. Once you get an idea of the conference room numbers you'll see that Sessions with larger conference rooms are predicted to be more popular and as a beginner you can't go wrong with them. If you're beginner then you can't go wrong with a Kimberley Tripp, Paul Randall or Thomas Grohser session - you will be enlightened, inspired and entertained. If you're looking for something more advanced or niche then do your research on the speakers and sessions.
Previously, I've always been interested in High Availability, performance tuning and Enterprise database administration. As I've gotten older and moved into management I start enjoying the personal development tracks more and the soft skills sessions are a lot of fun. I'll even attend a developer session to keep up to date on developer lingo and thinking. I have to admit I've been a slow adopter of Twitter, but if you want to get the most up to date info on what's happening at the conference you need to be on it. I'm @SQL_EXPAT - I seldom tweet, but I do lurk...
Print out that program now - start circling the sessions you're interested in. Don't be shy to contact the speaker direct if you're not clear on the session content. Session time at PASS is valuable. Don't waste it in a session that does not apply to your current role or future career direction. Having said that don't feel that you have to cut short a valuable conversation because a session is starting... often the networking and information sharing is worth more than the session. Good speakers and popular topics will always have a larger crowd. Make sure you get to popular sessions early as they fill up fast.
Why you think community members should attend the conference.
PASS Summit is your chance to get top training and information from industry experts, top speakers, hardware and software vendors. Where also do you get to chat 1 on 1 with hardware and software vendors over a beer in a great environment like a SQL PASS Summit?
I always catch up with some of the hardware vendors whose products we depend on every day - HP, EMC, Hitachi, Fusion-IO. Those guys on the floor at the Exhibitor Show know their stuff. Make sure you spend some time with them to learn their products - be it server, SAN, SSD, network, IDS.
Software vendors are always eager to show off their latest tools and utilities. I'll be making an effort to provide feedback to the software vendors whose products I use on a daily basis e.g. Confio, Idera, RedGate... And I always like to take to check what other cool SQL Server software is on the market.
Favorite memories from previous SQL PASS events.
I have some good memories of previous PASS Summits - like smoking late night cigars with Mike Hotek, the replication guru, in the Hotel bar back at the first PASS....The best steak I've ever had at the Metropolitan Grill courtesy of a vendor... Co-presenting with the SQL CAT team in 2011..
Finally, you need to make friends with the speakers and exhibitors. Introduce yourself and join the parties. Some parties are publicized and some are private or ‘members-only'. Needless to say the private parties are the best... be on the lookout for invitations....