We're breaking with our standard Problem/Solution format for this tip as we highlight the perspective, recommendations, and recollections of a veteran member of PASS as he looks towards the next Summit.
I've been attending the PASS Summit since 2002 and have been a volunteer in some capacity since the closing days of that first Summit thanks to the likes of Nancy Hidy-Wilson, Wayne Snyder, and Kevin Kline. Progressing from the back row of the general session room to a member of the PASS Board of Directors was not a leap of epic proportions; it just required me to say yes to volunteering for one small project. In the intervening 12+ years I've experienced a great deal at (and thanks to) the PASS Summit. I've found early on that attending sessions and then returning with take-out food to my hotel room was not going to make me a well-rounded technology professional. As an introvert it was difficult to step out and interact with strangers, albeit with common interests, but I did. Keep in mind that sharpening one side of a knife doesn't make for an effective cutting tool. Therefore, when I attend the Summit each year I am looking as much at the technical content as I am the networking and social aspects to the event. The more Summits I attend, the more time I spend interacting with my peers than I do in the structured class atmosphere. For me,
the Summit is very much like a coloring book. The technical sessions give the hard, black lines on the paper. The networking and social interactions with my peers add color to the page and allow me to see how others like me are using our common technology to accomplish great things for our companies and customers back home. To carry the analogy forward I'd also then say it's up to me to determine when it's then appropriate to color outside the lines. That skill comes with age and experience. Therefore, with this mindset understood, let me take a few minutes of your time to provide you with my insights, expectations, and recommendations for this year's PASS Summit.
So why am I attending?
Certainly some aspects to my attendance that correspond to being elected to the Board of Directors last month and speaking at the event as well. However, my main interest continues to be strengthening my skillset in the ever-evolving aspects of SQL Server and database technology in general. There are so many aspects of SQL Server that I never get to touch during the normal course of my day. However, it's learning about these varying features of SQL Server that leads to professional growth and value. Otherwise you may end up with twelve versions of one year's worth of experience instead of a dozen years of experience. Hekaton, Availability Groups, and enhancements sure to be discussed concerning SQL Server 2014 will be high on my agenda.
What am I excited about?
The expected release of SQL Server 2014 is going to be the highlight of the
Summit for the majority of the attendees. As an MVP I've been able to have a
sneak peek of the product over the last couple years so my excitement is that of
a parent on Christmas Day when I get to watch the reactions on the kids' faces.
I'm also interested in seeing how the different venue plays out as well. I'm not
one of those clamoring for the Summit to move periodically from Seattle. I love
The Emerald City and think it's proximity to the Microsoft Campus is key for
driving interactions with the product group. There is always the argument that
the majority of attendees don't take advantage of those opportunities, but
regardless, for those of us who do they are integral for us to continue to excel
at what we do and advance our knowledge for ourselves (as well as our
What is my preparation for the PASS Summit?
Plenty of sleep. The days are long; the nights are just as long. You don't want to short-change either your learning experience or your social experience at Summit. No matter how much rest I get leading up to Summit I've ended up coming home sick the last four Summits in a row. Other than that I highly recommend reviewing the published schedule and building your schedule ahead of time. Sure there are going to be changes - usually I end up with multiple sessions at any one time I want to attend, but since I make sure to get the recorded sessions that PASS offers as an extra I always opt for the speaker that is the most-dynamic and interactive in person. I also make sure my packing list includes the following items:
Business cards - You're making connections to (hopefully) last your career.
Notebook / notes with issues from work - Odds are you'll be able to get the help you need to solve difficult issues back home.
Granola bars or some other healthy snack. This isn't a server engineers' conference; keep the Monster energy drinks at home.
Surface / iPad / Zune / Mac Air - Yep, I carry them all. Each serves there own purpose. Don't forget the cell phone while you're at it. This isn't SQL Cruise so you can't completely shut yourself off from the office.
Good shoes - You're going to be on your feet all day long, when you're not sitting in a session of one kind or another.
Dress for the cold air of a convention center and whatever the weather is going to be in Charlotte.
What I'll be speaking on
My first "session" per-se is a fun one. I will once again be hosting the Virtual Chapter Quizbowl on Tuesday night at the opening reception. For those not familiar with the event, I have invited four teams of two notable SQL "personalities" to join a contestant that we'll select from the audience to answer questions in a Jeopardy-esque manner. Each contestant wins prizes from this year's sponsor, SQL Sentry.
On Wednesday, October 16th from 4:45pm - 6:00pm in room 218A-B my actual speaking engagement takes place. It expands on my Periodic Table of Dynamic Management Objects I originally created in 2011. I've updated both the table (here) and the session for the SQL 2012 DMOs and will be explaining how you can use the DMOs for baselining performance on your SQL Servers. I'll be covering the "Big Three" (RAM, CPU, and I/O baselines.)
Official Abstract: SQL Server 2012 exposes a host of new dynamic management objects. Come navigate Tim Ford's updated DMO Periodic Table, examining new and updated DMOs for gaining a better understanding of what's happening under the covers in your servers. You'll see how to baseline performance, identify activity, plan SQL Server migrations and consolidations, and performance-tune your instances using an assortment of DMOs and SQL Server system views. You'll walk out of the session with a clear understanding of how the DMOs are organized and how you can use them to make your life easier... at least as it pertains to SQL Server.
Favorite memories from PASS Summits past
There have been plenty of fond memories over the last twelve years at Summit.
There was my first time getting up on stage for Quizbowl and speaking in front of a group. Until then I, like so many others, had a fear of public speaking. Unfortunately (then) but fortunately for all that came from it, our speaker backed-out the day before the event and I had to take his place. Since then I've gone on to become a speaker and facilitator and I don't think that any of the things that led to me doing these things or ultimately becoming an MVP would have happened if I had not stepped up on the stage that first time in Orlando.
I also have great recollections of speaking at Summit my first time in a technical session to a full room. Before then I had only presented at a couple local user groups. To that extent I need to thank Andy Leonard for giving me my first speaking gig at the Richmond SQL Server User Group meeting. It was a disastrous presentation - three times too much content and my sitting down the entire time. I had no idea what I was doing, but I knew the subject. I've learned so much since then!
There were many occasions simply sitting with other attendees and "spitballing" ideas that led to some great things back at the office. It's amazing how many ideas you can come up with just talking with your peers in a relaxed setting.
The keynotes by Dr. David DeWitt at recent Summits are memorable as well. He has a talent for simplifying complex concepts and making them entertaining at the same time. This year's keynote he's delivering on Hekaton is sure to be another high point. If I want anyone explaining complex concepts to me, it's Dr. DeWitt.
There were also sessions from Bob Ward, Conor Cunningham, Grant Fritchey, Kimberly Tripp-Randal, Aaron Bertrand, Adam Machanic, Stacia Misner, Allen White, and Kevin Kline. All of whom are speaking at this year's Summit.
Finally there is the exhibition floor. Our company made a decision to purchase SQL Sentry as a platform for performance analysis in-part due to a visit to their booth in 2008.
Most-importantly, however, are the friendships I've made due directly to my participation at the PASS Summit. These are not just casual acquaintances either. These are true friends who stay in our home, invite us to family events, join me on cruise ships to talk about SQL Server and Professional Development without blinking. I've been able to find these friends new positions and they have supported me when I've been looking for professional changes. SQL Family may sound like a sappy marketing ploy, but I can vouch for it's existence.
My professional aptitude and attitudes have been strengthened because I've regularly attended PASS events. My personal life has been enhanced. I've had new opportunities as a direct result as well. It's not necessarily the memories of what has happened at
the Summit that I cherish as much as what has come from my experiences at