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!