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My Evolving Goals for Attending Conferences

The first conference I went to back in 1999 I attended every session, the bonus sessions, the breakfasts, everything. It wasn’t a desire to get the maximum value for the registration cost as much as a desire to get the maximum value. I was new to IT and this was a gold plated chance to learn. I did learn, a lot. By the end of the week I was exhausted, but more knowledgeable. Aside from co-workers who also attended I had a handful of interesting conversations, mostly at meals.

I’ve gone to at least one major conference a year since then, often more. In those early years I kept going to a session every hour, every day, hungry for learning, but also wanting to treat it like work. Sessions are there, I should be attending – I’m getting paid to attend. It took a while,but I got to the point of understanding that missing a session,whether to explore the city, handle a problem at work, or just talk to someone interesting, was ok.

For the past couple years at the PASS Summit I don’t think I’ve sat through more than a handful of presentations over the three day event. It’s not that I know everything, far from it. Part of it is that I get some technical learning through out the year at SQLSaturday. Part of it is I know that I can watch it later on the DVD’s. Most of it is preferring to spend time chatting with people. That’s quite a shift from where I started.

That shift feels ok. I’ve gradually become more interested in the people side of work, and just a bit less interested in the technical details. Not that my interest in technology has waned, it’s just not enough by itself, more it is that I feel like I need to balance my portfolio, make the same kind of investment in people and networking that I have made in technology.

If I were to change careers tomorrow, I’d be writing checks to go to events, and I’d be soaking up the sessions. But I wouldn’t just be going to the presentations, I’d be reading the blogs, cataloging the speakers, figuring out who was who, and who I should meet. More of a balance from the start? Perhaps.

Lots for me to think on, then I’ll write some more.


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.


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