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Pass Summit - Lessons Learned Expand / Collapse
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Posted Sunday, November 23, 2008 11:46 AM


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Recommendation #1 - GO!!!! Beg, borrow, steal (well maybe not the last) to make sure you can get there. If you have a training budget, use it on this summit. I have no idea how they can put this on for the price. I hate to use a cliche, but the entire Summit has a value far beyond any price you could put on it.

Recommendation #2 - attend at least one pre-conference seminar, it's worth the extra cost and them some. I attended one with Kalen Delany as the host. A great many of you will have heard of her, and seen her articles around, and maybe even have her books. She’s a fantastic teacher and I gained more from that one day seminar than I could have imagined.

Recommendation #3 - get to your class early, even if it means missing a cup of coffee, bring water with you. The first lesson I wanted to attend was on SQL Server 2008 on SAN: Lessons learned and best practices. So I wandered over to the room after grabbing a soda during the refreshment break. The door was closed and people were being turned away.

Recommendation #4 - plan your week ahead. Get the schedule, select a primary and secondary class for every time period so that you don't get caught out and scrambling to figure out what you are going to do next.

Recommendation #5 - this maybe seems inconsistent with #4, but adjust your schedule if something comes up in a previous seminar that captures your attention. Readjust your class priorities on a nightly basis (or even during lunch) if needs be. Remember, always have a backup (and test your restores).

Recommendation #6 – Look for the SQLCat team, they rock in every respect. From their classes to snagging one in the hallway and asking questions to their attendance in the “Ask the Experts” lounge. The product development team are none to shabby either.

Recommendation #7 – Attend the evening events. I wouldn’t say I am anti-social, but I can write it. That being said they are worth attending, there actually IS a chance that you might speak to someone, or rock out with some folks on Rock Band for a couple of hours.

Recommendation #8 – Book your attendance through the SQL Server Central site. There are perks. It gives you a chance to connect with the immediate community that you are involved in right now. They even had giveaways. A polo shirt, the most recent SQL Central book and spot prizes on the casino tables. I walked away with a Spaceballs dvd, now THAT rules (the guy standing to the right of me hit BlackJack for the camera, he shall never be forgiven.

Recommendation #9 – Bring pens. You’ll be given a pen, however by the end of the week I had gone through the ink on two and was well on the way to draining a third.

Recommendation #10 – Bring a notebook that you can stick in your pocket (or pocketbook) and clip a pen to it. I used this for jotting down questions, this way they didn’t get lost in amongst my session notes, and it was always on hand to ask someone something, or add another question that pops into your head.

Recommendation #11 – keep the notebook next to your bed. I woke at 5am one day, wrote a whole bunch of questions down about filestreams and went back to sleep.

Recommendation #12 – if you have a question ask it. I had several questions that I figured were pretty dumb, but nobody ever treated me like I was a doofus. Everyone had respect for the questions and the patience to answer them.

Recommendation #13 – there is an “Ask the Experts” lounge. It’s there for a reason, use it. Those guys know their stuff, and if you do actually manage to stump one of them with a question they will pull in someone who can. I had a great deal of fun asking questions and getting answers from these guys. Each answer leading me to pose another question. Being able to talk with the SQLCat guys, product developers and program managers, people you wouldn’t normally get access to, is pretty damn awesome.

Recommendation #14 – be there for breakfast and lunch. You’ll sit at a table and talk with a variety of people from different parts of the country, who do different jobs. It’s an interesting way to pass the time while stuffing your mouth, and the foods not bad either.

Recommendation #15 – stay to the end. Don’t skip out early on Friday, there are a lot of nuggets in those afternoon seminars

Recommendation #16 – hit lunch early on Friday if you want to get food, however there’s several eateries in the location and across the road, so not that big of a deal.

Recommendation #17 – talk to the attending vendors, they support the Summit, and it’s how you can attend for such a cheap price. I could see two choices here, either go around, get your card stamped by everyone and enter for a prize, or just go see who you found interesting and talk to them about their products. I spent probably a total of 3 hours with just 5 different vendors, learned great deal about their products, saw demonstrations, all without the hard sell and pressure you would find under normal circumstances (the hard sell is coming, but by then you’ll know whether it’s worth listening to the pitch or not).

Recommendation #18 – Attend the keynotes. I had thought about ditching the first one and hitting the Microsoft Labs that were open from 8am to 8pm every day. Keynotes are boring. Yeah, that was yet another thing that I was totally wrong about. It was fascinating, awesome, funny. It drew in the crowd of people sitting in the huge conference room and left every one of them awestruck. If they weren't then they either knew what was going to be in that keynote, or had their Zunes playing in their ears (seriously, we can't have iPods, this is a Microsoft product centric Summit). If you get the chance to view the keynote online or talk to anyone about it, I am sure that you will hear the sheer enthusiasm about the future of the SQL product. Kilimanjaro, Madison and Gemini. Each drew massive applause and wows from the crowd. At one point, right in the middle of the Madison presentation a refresh button was hit, goose bumps raised on my arms and the entire room erupted. If you were there, you know, if you weren't I cannot explain it better than that, sorry.

Recommendation #19 – start saving now for next year. I was fortunate enough to attend on a training budget this year, I don’t think that’s going to be the case next year, so a side savings account is being opened for the “Pass Fund”.


I walked into the Summit, my first, thinking that I knew quite a lot about being a DBA. I'm not a developer, however can create sufficient T-SQL code to get me through my admin duties. As for BI, that's far out of my reach. As such I went in with the intention of focusing on the DBA focused classes.

As I mentioned, I thought I knew a lot. Boy was I wrong.

The days pass by very quickly, and before you know if the last seminar is over.

This was my first year, it won’t be my last for sure.

Thanks to the Pass people who put the gig together, and to Steve Jones and co for the after party. For this community that over the years they have built. And with their enthusiasm for the entire event year after year, finally persuading me to attend.




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Post #607215
Posted Sunday, November 23, 2008 1:23 PM


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Very good summary.

I hope I'll get another chance next year.


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Post #607217
Posted Monday, November 24, 2008 4:44 PM
SSCrazy

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This was my first PASS also. Good recommendations, I seem to have followed most of them. Except maybe #16, but there were some vegetarian lunches left when I got there.

The SSC party was excellent; I am now the proud owner of a digital picture keychain. Thanks to Steve for the planning and execution of some great fun and for donating his PASS “finder’s fees” for the party and prizes.

Brian Knight’s pre-con on SSIS cleared up a lot of questions I had. Either teaching me the right way to do something or confirming that ‘that is how Microsoft designed it’.

Kimberly and Paul’s pre-con was good. They make a good teaching team.

One recommendation I would add:
Recommendation #20 – Bring your backpack/courier bag or whatever. No matter how many times you’ve seen your co-workers come home from PASS with a cool backpack etc., this may be the year they decide to give out an 89 cent shopping bag instead. I purposely left my backpack at home and relied on the fact that PASS has always given out a nice bag/backpack. As a result I had to carry this thing everywhere I went, envious of everyone who brought their own, sometimes almost tripping over it because the long handles put it right near my feet.



Post #607953
Posted Tuesday, November 25, 2008 11:48 AM


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Couple more recommendations

Chat with other people between sessions. Everyone has something that they can teach you, and you can make friends that you can chat with long after the conference
Chat with the speakers. None of them bite.
Chat with the MVPs, PASS directors, Microsoft staff, and anyone else that has special ribbons on their badge. They don't bite either.
Don't be afraid to skip a session and visit the CSS engineers, the vendors, the 'ask the experts', the CAT room, etc. All conference attendees get online access to the session recordings (and you can pay extra for a DVD) so you can still watch sessions missed. Chats with the MS people are invaluable.



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Post #608590
Posted Tuesday, November 25, 2008 12:01 PM


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Great summary and I'll be writing one to post as well.

Talk to everyone. Sit next to new people at lunch, get to know them, ask them what they do. I had some great conversations in hallways, riding the escalator, etc. That is what the biggest benefits from the conference are: talking to people.







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Post #608600
Posted Tuesday, November 25, 2008 12:07 PM


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Too bad for me ... I wasn't there this year but hope that I will be there next year...have you any information for the next summit !?



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Post #608605
Posted Tuesday, November 25, 2008 12:10 PM


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Nov 3-6 2009, Seattle.


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Posted Tuesday, November 25, 2008 1:17 PM


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One more thing I might mention here.

Don't feel bad about missing a session. If you get busy or get into good conversations with people, especially MS people, skip a session. It's good to get a break here and there. Don't forget that most sessions are recorded.

Also, if you have questions after a session, follow the speaker outside. Most will be happy to spend 5-10 minutes answering afterwards.

Keep business cards handy. If someone can't answer your question, give them a card. And get one from them.







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Post #608662
Posted Thursday, November 27, 2008 7:39 PM


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That's how I wound up missing Kevin Klines seminar on Friday :D



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Post #610030
Posted Thursday, November 27, 2008 7:54 PM


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Great tips, Nicholas! This was my first year too, but I have been to many conferences and was pretty savvy about the tricks.

I will say that a good Laptop/Backpack is a life-saver though. I bought an excellent one before my trip and it totally ruled.


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