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SQLAndy

I'm Andy Warren, currently a SQL Server trainer with End to End Training. Over the past few years I've been a developer, DBA, and IT Director. I was one of the original founders of SQLServerCentral.com and helped grow that community from zero to about 300k members before deciding to move on to other ventures.

Looking Back at SQLRally Orlando

It’s been almost two weeks since we wrapped up our first SQLRally, and in some ways it hasn’t quite sunk in that it’s done, and done successfully. It was a long project, one that started with the PASS Board of Directors wanting to do more to serve our members, especially those on the East coast. It was also a chance to fill in what I saw as a gap in our event framework in terms of size and price. Looking deeper, it was also the event we needed to give our speakers a clear path – though no guarantees – to becoming a Summit level speaker.

We started with an idea. No name, no logo, just the idea of roughly splitting the difference between SQLSaturday and the PASS Summit. Easy to say, a bit harder to do. What things make a difference? Is it the cost, or the number of speakers, or the number of attendees, or something else? Or all of the above? We discussed and argued and finally drew up a list that helped drive the rest of the decisions we would have to make. Picking a name was hard,and then we needed a logo. All of that just to get to the point of working on the event!

Once we got going we realized,slowly and painfully, that we as an organization wasn’t prepared to market more than one event at once. We were used to being ‘on message’ about the PASS Summit and we struggled to work SQLRally into the message calendar, and we delayed speaker selection as part of that as well. Hard lessons, but healthy ones, and ones that I believe will help to redefine PASS.

Eventually things started to move along more smoothly. For months we did a call every other week, then about three months out we moved to weekly calls. Some weeks it was a challenge to be up for another call, but the calls kept us moving, especially with the distributed team we had in place. Having PASS HQ involved definitely made it easier to keep things moving, and really paid off in the area of logistics, it was nice to not worry about tables, chairs, meals, and all the rest.

Looking back I realize that the time that Jack Corbett, and Kendal Van Dyke, and myself (and most of our volunteers as well) spent learning lessons at SQLSaturday made all the difference. We understood most of the challenges and had a good idea of what we wanted to accomplish. This really hit home for me during the event. I was participating in an on-site Board meeting and left it to Jack and Kendal to manage things, and while I was eager for breaks to go walk around and check on things, I knew that they would make it work. It reaffirmed for me that SQLSaturday is more than just a local event, it’s training our next generation of leaders.

For me the event was just about perfect. The side by side rooms made for a relaxed and convenient event. Instead of minutes spent walking, it was spent talking. I saw people sitting outside in the Florida sun eating their box lunch – just like we do at SQLSaturday Orlando, taking a break to relax and recharge. The after hours events went well. In particular the party at Buffalo Wild Wings was a huge success. There is magic when you get enough of our community in the same room for a while and I saw it again here. Lots and lots of conversations and introductions and laughing. Community at it’s best.

We didn’t get it perfect, but we did pretty good. We took minutes at every meeting and did everything we could think to do to help define the formula so that the second one in the US (in Nashville or Dallas or Denver) can put more energy into the fun stuff (though there will still be plenty of work!). I’m glad I got the chance to build something new, and I’m glad that so many of you attended and had a good time. It was a long journey, but the good ones always are.

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