Patrick Keisler is a Premier Field Engineer for Microsoft with over 15 years of SQL Server experience working in various fields such as financial, healthcare, and government. He currently holds two MCITP certifications in SQL Server 2008. You can follow him on Twitter or listen to him speak at various SQL Saturdays and user group meetings.
Last week, I attended my very first SQL Saturday event in Washington, DC. Although I don't live anywhere near Washington, I was able to make the short trek from Charlotte, NC. It was well worth the time and effort. I missed the previous one in Charlotte back in October, but I have to say now I really hate that I did. I've been to SQL Connections in Las Vegas, and SQL Saturday reminded me of a one-day version of it. I wish I could have attended every single session, but at least I was able to hear the presentations that I most interested in.
I was able to meet a few of the SQL experts (Mike Walsh, David Klee, Jason Hall, etc.) that I've been following through their blogs and on Twitter. Hearing them speak and being able to converse with them 1-on-1 was surreal.
For any aspiring DBA out there, if SQL Saturday is in your area it should be a mandatory event on your calendar. They are free, except for lunch, and it provides an excellent opportunity to see how others in the industry are using the technology. Beyond listening to the speakers, there is the networking aspect. I met with other attendees, presenters, and of course the vendors to ask questions about SQL or where I could find more information a specific topic. I probably collected a dozen business cards for people and I plan to keep in touch with them.
Check out SQL Saturday's site for a list of all the upcoming events. If there are not any close to you, then check PASS for any local SQL Server user groups in your area. Getting involved in those can provide the same opportunities as SQL Saturday events.