The whole idea of having free events, bringing learning to people locally wasn't something that I was thrilled with. It's a lot of energy and effort, and there have been more than a few times that I questioned the wisdom of putting resources into these events. However once I've attended one I think this is a good thing for the community and while it might not pay back in terms of direct ROI at the event, I'm hoping the karma will do us good down the road.
It hasn't taken much of my time, other than a few hours over the last year talking on the phone, or often, listening to Andy talk about the event and the details, hassles, and difficulties. It's a strange role for me, someone usually working on details. Here I have to listen and offer suggestions, think strategically, examine things with a more critical eye. I've learned a few things while doing it and to some extent it's rounded out my business experience and knowledge a bit more.
The idea of a free event is interesting. My concern was that we were delving too far into the conference arena with 5-6 tracks per event and not getting any of the payback. It seems that building a local event that's free is a lot of work for relatively little payback. To some extent I still believe that, but I was amazed how many people Genuinely stopped by and thanked Andy for the event. More than a few of them really appreciated the effort, thanks speakers after sessions, and wanted to come learn. Taking time out of their Saturday to come learn a bit more about SQL. The speakers also seemed to appreciate the chance to speak and interact with people. In some ways I really think this gets closer to the community than any of the other events I've seen.
And that's what it's about. Most people, or most IT workers never get to go to a conference. Quite a few go once or twice in their careers, but it's the few that get to go somewhere every year. I've been lucky, attending 1 conference most years, 2 quite often, and even 3 or 4 major conferences in some years. That's unusual and I appreciate that I've been very lucky.
So SQLSaturday provides a great chance for many people to get some training, some learning, at no cost to their company. It gives them a chance to experience a bit of the conference atmosphere and meet some of the professionals that work hard to lead the way and help others. I don't think that these events will displace conferences and large scale events, but I think they can really help more people get a chance to get motivated and excited about their career.
I enjoyed it, and while I'm not big on the travel, I'm sure I'll get to a few more of these events next year.