I'm a firm believer in keeping your tech skills up to date, as well as your social skills, What better way than attending or presenting at a conference or group meeting.
The reason to attend an event
I'm very fortunate that my company allows me training days and time for personal development, covering all expenses (within reason). They have the opinion that a happy and well trained employee is a good employee.
Recently, I've been to a few events and gotten to speak to some amazing people, a few of which have inspired me for years and kept me from switching from DBA to developer. But it's not only about all your DBA heroes that you can meet, It's all about the other guys in the audience that have the same problems as you, especially the guys that share a lunch table with you.
Here's how it works
A few weeks ago I had an amazing day at the SQL in the City Summit with my colleague. Getting to know the other presenters was an absolute blast. But getting to know the audience was even better. People saying "hey I have that problem too, we tried this..."
Networking is in my opinion is more valuable than the lessons and methodologies you learn at events (apart from the one that Grant Fritchey did on GDPR, that was super cool).
The SQL in the City Summit has a really nice electronic nametag system from Blendology where you just "bump" your tags together and your contact details are shared. This is a great way to meet suppliers, customers or likeminded DBAs. I made so many contacts on that day that could be future employees or employers, but some of them also showed me new ways too do things.
Where to start
I'd suggest for the new DBA, get stuck into the forums first, start researching other peoples problems then do a "show and tell" to your colleagues. Within months you'll be itching to show some of the old guard DBA what you can do. After that we'll be looking to see what kind of SQL superhero you become.
I'm still hoping that I have more time to speak at events (if they have me) and I'm hoping to bump into a few people that I haven't met yet, I'd love to meet Jeff Moden, Gail Shaw, Joe Celk0 (who I'm told is a lovely guy), and if Kalen Delaney ever steps foot in the UK then I'll be at the airport waving a flag and driving her to the hotel.
These are the guys you'll become if you start being inspired by us old guys.
What to take away from an event
Without sounding greedy, there are lots of freebies at events (I have 2 pairs of Redgate socks, a mug and a leather notebook). But pay attention in the sessions and figure out new angles for the problems you have and write down your thoughts (I forget when I go to sleep). Do not be afraid to ask questions, In fact asking questions will prompt others to ask more questions, these will drive your learning.
Finally, go and talk to people and don't be afraid of the guys who put a huge amount of effort into a 60 minute session (they are human). I remember the time I met one of those guys at a conference (one of my aforementioned heroes) and had to use the urinals in a bathroom next to him. I ran back to my colleagues squealing like a child, but it reignited my DBA delight. which is what conferences can do for you