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Notes on SQL Saturday New Jersey 2022

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I was honored to attend the first SQL Saturday in New Jersey last weekend. I consulted with and helped the organizers get the event going and executed. I made a few notes and got some pictures, some of which I’ve added to the SQL Saturday Instagram account.

I’ve broken this down into a few areas, no particular order, but those things that occurred to me.

Travel

Lots of travel concerns and questions in July 2022. A fellow speaker had a flight delayed hours and arrived late at night a couple days before the event. Another had planned to leave late Sat and had two flights cancelled that night and one the next morning. Hopefully they made it the next day.

I fly United, and both Denver and Newark are hubs. My flight left on time and arrived early on Friday. Everything was smooth. The return was similar, slightly late leaving, but made it back on time.

Getting around the Newark area, in Iselin and other towns was mostly with rides for me. I got a taxi in from the airport, which was slightly pricey. A fuel surcharge added. I used Uber to get from my hotel to the event, and then a speaker gave me a ride to the airport Sat night. All in all, this was a smooth trip for me.

No upgrades, but hub->hub flights usually have lots of people with more status than me. I did grab a shot as we got to NJ, with NYC in the distant background. I love flying into some cities, and the NJ/NY area is one.

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Note: I didn’t check a bag, and recommend you avoid that if you can for the current times.

Speaker Dinner

Many events do a speaker event the night before. It’s not required, and I don’t think any events should feel they need to pay for dinner. That being said, it’s nice, and we all met at the Kona Grill, which was a nice mix of a variety of foods, including sushi.

We had a great dinner and good conversation on all sorts of topics. Afterwards, a few of us went to get ice cream.

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The group shot:

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Event Setup

This SQL Saturday was hosted by Microsoft at their Iselin office. As expected, at 7am on a Saturday, the parking lot was deserted. The organizers were there setting up. One thing every event usually needs is coolers and drinks.

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We started coffee brewing, but it was slow. Eventually we determined that the circuit on the table above couldn’t support the load of multiple pots. Fortunately, we moved a few to other spots.

Signs matter, so I took the job of setting up signs around the parking lots of direct people to the office. This is a large, 10 story building, and MS only has part of one floor.

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I set up signs into the lots and then one in front of the building. I also taped a few on doors and walls.

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I took a few pictures so I’d remember where the 7 or 8 signs were. These were generic SQL Saturday signs, from previous events. Always good to not put a year or location on these and save them. I remembered this job because even at 730a is was getting hot. When I took them down at 3pm, it was really hot. Probably 95F/35C.

The rooms were mostly set up as these are conference rooms that MS uses and there were projectors, seats, and plugs.

The speaker room had a few nice gifts for speakers. Not necessary, but appreciated. We each got a shirt of dry fit material

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Also a soft cooler we can use in the hot summer

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Sessions and Attendance

There were 4 rooms and a variety of different sessions. This is a smaller office, and attendance was limited to around 120. It seemed we had just over 100 people from the check-ins and there was no shortage of people walking around.

The were 4 or 5 vendors set up along the main hallway and plenty of engagement from attendees. It’s always good to see people interacting as vendors pay for a lot of the events and they usually have good solutions.

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Lunch was sandwiches and sweet treats. Most of the food was eaten, except the sweets. There were a lot of them and I saw a few people take them away. There were three vendor sessions: Microsoft, Solarwinds, and AWS. All were well attended.

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In the morning, I was preparing and talking with a few people. My session was before lunch, and it was well attended. About 40 people talking DevOps with me and we had some good discussions and questions.

After lunch I had a math class. Risk models in nuclear power and finance. The slide brought me back to University. This was presented by Dr. Yajuan Li, local professor, and while the nuclear power drew me in (I worked at a plant), but this was mostly about taking some models and applying them to determining which approach one would take towards a problem.

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I’m not sure I completely get the approach, but I get the idea. This uses the Monte Carlo simulations to help a business decide what risk level they have based on their approach.

The last session for me was about finding a new job. Ray Kim (a friend), presented this one, and it’s a good one. I think a good portion of why people come to SQL Saturday is to grow their career. Often by learning new technical skills (or getting inspired to learn). However, the soft skills, the resumes, the interviews, networking, etc. are important.

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Ray has taken his recent experiences in finding a job and produced a nice presentation to help you. He’s done this a few times and is presenting in Seattle in November. Worth an hour of your time to watch this one.

Keynotes

After a brief opening from Jean Joseph, and a couple minutes of my promoting SQL Saturday, Linda Zhang of Microsoft had the opening keynote.

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She took a neat approach of talking about the history of SQL Server. She asked if people remember new features from old versions of SQL Server (2000, 2005, 2008, etc.) with a slide listing a few recent additions.

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She gave out prizes to people who answered, and it was a fun engaging way to open the day.

The end of the day had Jamie Fox of Microsoft and Ed Pollack thanking people and drawing names from tickets for prizes. This was a lot of fun, as it always is with people winning a variety of things from the sponsors. One the parts of SQL Saturday that makes me smile a lot.

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I sat and watched with Jean. We enjoyed the day, and I was very happy to be able to hang out with him. He’s quite the community person, having run two events this year. A virtual SQL Saturday in French for Haiti and now New Jersey. He also runs Future Data Driven, coming in September.

A little photobomb from his son on the right.

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I miss these events, and I’m looking forward to a few more this year. Hopefully we’ll see SQL Saturday continue to grow in 2023 as well and come back to more cities and get data professionals together to grow our careers and skills.

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