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Advice from Aunt Kathi

Kathi Kellenberger is a Sr. Consultant with Pragmatic Works. She is an author, speaker and trainer.

SQLSaturday #50 Report

I attended my first SQLSaturday yesterday in Iowa City, Iowa.  I spoke on two topics: “What’s New with Reporting Services” and “Designing a Data Mart 101.” I also was a member of the Women in Technology (WIT) panel – more about that later.

First of all, congratulations to the organizers and volunteers for hosting a professional and well run event. The event was held in the University Capitol Center, part of the University of Iowa. There were about 150 people attending and 19 technical sessions.  I spent the time when I wasn’t speaking talking with old friends Sheila Ackerman, Wendy Pastrick, Michelle Ufford, Louis Davidson and Jason Strate and meeting new friends like Keith Dahlby, Kendra Little, Ted Krueger, Arie Jones, Jes Borland and too many more to list. It’s really cool to talk to the attendees after my sessions who tell me that they have my book or that I was the first person who was able to explain the topic in a way they could understand.

The best thing about SQL Saturdays is that, even though they are locally organized, free events, they attract speakers from around the country. You are likely to see MVPs, authors, Microsoft employees and other SQL Server experts presenting. So, what’s in it for these speakers since they are often taking vacation time or missing out on billable hours and are paying their own way to attend? It’s the chance to meet new people, catch up with friends and spread the word about SQL Server.    

After Jessica Moss and I led a WIT session in May at IndyTechFest, I decided that I would organize the same at a couple of SQL Saturdays.  So, I recruited Jes Borland, Wendy Pastrick and Michelle Ufford for the WIT panel at SQL Saturday #50 in Iowa City. Michelle moderated the discussion, and Jes, Wendy and I made up the panel.  Our topic was a discussion about encouraging more young women (and men!) to consider careers in technology. After Michelle introduced the topic and the panel, we each talked about what led us to our careers.  Then the audience joined in asking questions and making comments.   

I’m not sure how many the room held, but the room was packed.  The discussion was lively with both men and women participating.

One interesting question concerned the impact of all-girl schools or classes. Do teenage girls feel more comfortable excelling in math and science if no boys are around? One woman in the audience did in fact attend an all-girls high school and felt that it really did make an impact especially in leadership.

Other interesting comments concerned the work environment and are women technologists taken less seriously than their male counterparts. One women in the audience said that she has to tell a male co-worker her opinions and have him voice them in meetings to get them heard.  This is 21st century America so why is this happening?  Maybe I have just been lucky by working for the right companies, because I feel like I have always enjoyed respect for my technical abilities.

The craziest thing that happened at SQLSaturday for me was when I met Kendra Little. She mentioned that she was going to PASS this year but was intimidated by the Karaoke. This is nuts. She had no idea that I was the person who started the Karaoke craze at PASS so why would she make such a comment? I guess that Karaoke is a big part of the conversation now when PASS is discussed. One person can make a difference!  

 

Comments

Posted by chrisleonard on 19 September 2010

Kathi, I just wanted to say thanks for coming to our SQL Saturday!  I had no idea it was your first.

One interesting comment I heard in the "hall lounge" after the WIT panel discussion came from Jes Borland (@grrl_geek). She mentioned that some studies have shown that if you approach programming as "problem-solving," then boys will generally be more OK with it than girls, but if you approach it as "story-telling," then the girls like it more. It's just a generality, of course, but I think that emphasizing stories when teaching technology (even just at the level of why X matters / what X will do / etc.) might help increase students for some students.

Thanks again for making the trip to Iowa!  It was a pleasure meeting you.

-Chris Leonard

Posted by Steve Jones on 20 September 2010

Glad you enjoyed it, and sorry I missed you. Hopefully I'll catch up with Aunt Kathi soon.

Posted by Andy Warren on 20 September 2010

Nice write up Kathi, and glad you had fun. The WIT comments are useful, I'm curious about how to fix systemic problems and all of this helps better define the challenges.

Posted by Julie Breutzmann on 22 September 2010

It was my first SQL Saturday, too -- but as an attendee. I was at both your sessions and the lunch panel, too. Thanks for all you hard work, it was greatly appreciated! As far as the woman who had a man propose her ideas, I had another thought. First, I am so NOT into blame the victim. But what if she approached one of the people who dismissed her idea and asked "How can I improve my presentation of my idea so that it is given consideration?" That doesn't blame the man (although it could bring about some change on his part) and has him become a partner in her efforts. If she can get this to work with one of the men involved, she should start to gain more respect. Anyways, I think it's worth a try.

Posted by zach.eagle on 22 September 2010

Kathi,

This was the first SQL Saturday that I have attended and I would never have guessed that it was your first.  I attended your Reporting Services session and thought it was great.  It was exactly what I was hoping it would be.  In general, I thought the entire day was put together well.  The next time there is one within driving distance, I'll be there.  Thank you presenters, organizers, sponsors and volunteers!

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