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SQLSaturday 31 Chicago: Recap


Last weekend I had the distinguished pleasure of attending Chicago’s very first SQLSaturday event. Before I begin my recap I’d like to again give a HUGE thanks the organizers of the event: Wendy Pastrick (Blog | Twitter), Aaron Lowe (Blog | Twitter) and Ted Krueger (Blog | Twitter) as well as all of the awesome volunteers that helped out.

My wife Jessica (Blog | Twitter) and I arrived into Chicago Friday afternoon. We had time to catch a bite at Grand Lux Cafe with some friends and my sister. Pretty nice place, kind of like a Cheesecake Factory but a little better. My wife’s a foodie so she was loving it! After lunch I got the pleasure of meeting Brent Ozar (Blog | Twitter), Jeremiah Peschka (Blog | Twitter) and Jeremiah’s friend John Jakubowski (Blog | Twitter) as they picked me up and we headed out to the ‘Burbs for the speaker’s dinner. We had plenty of time in car to talk about all things geek such as NoSQL, Ruby on Rails, PASS and a few other choice subjects not fit for print. Let’s just say I learned some strip clubs in Ohio have free steaks for lunch.

The venue for the dinner was great in that we got our own private side room. Once inside it looked like we were one of the last ones to arrive. Quickly met Jes Borland (Blog | Twitter), Ted, Wendy (who is surprisingly really short btw), Aaron, Bob Pusateri (Twitter), Kevin Kline (Blog | Twitter), Brad McGehee (Blog | Twitter) and many more! Everyone was kind of freely chatting it up with everyone else so I went over and wound up talking with Adam Jorgensen (Blog | Twitter) for a good long while. It’s funny because we’re both from Florida yet we travelled all the way up there to end up chatting it up with each other! Aaron Nelson (Blog | Twitter), whose daughter has an iron grip that shatters wine glasses at will, wasn’t shy in joking with us about the fact that we’re both from Florida and we could chat anytime. I say, a good conversation is a good conversation, doesn’t matter with who or how often you see them so enjoy it. Funny thing is while Adam and I attend many of the same events in Florida that’s the first time he and I have had the chance to sit down and talk at length. Great guy and if you’re in the Business Intelligence field and looking for consulting opportunities with a fantastic organization I suggest you contact him.  Well since I was wrapped up in conversation the whole time I missed the appetizers and was pretty hungry. Some of us placed food orders but they never came so we wound up leaving (sorry Spaghetti Warehouse).

Early the next morning Brent and Jeremiah picked me up at we set out to the event. As per any good presenter I was still working on my slide deck in the car on the way to the event.  The hotel the event was held at had a pretty good setup going for it. I liked the room they placed the vendors in as it was in very central place with easy access in and out of the room. The main room where the opening keynote was held was huge (made up of two large rooms with a pullaway wall pulled back). I really liked this room setup as well as it accomodated everyone beautifully. The only dings I would have against the setup we had was the folks on the left side of the room probably couldn’t see anything from the projector that Kevin and Brent were speaking from since it was so far. Maybe setup a second projector that mirrored the other one so that everyone could see it? I don’t think that was a huge deal but something to consider for next time. After the entertaining keynote by those two clowns, we started straight into our first of many great sessions for the day.

I went to Tim Ford (Blog | Twitter)’s DMV session first as I hadn’t seen Tim present in person before. The room was packed to standing room only (way to go Tim!) so I took a seat on the wall up front. He did a great job with the topic and I even got a chance to pimp the Quest’s DMV posters for a minute during the session. I think I cursed Tim, however, as his fragmentation demo went South but like a good SQLAgentMan he soldiered on. Unfortunately I had to dip out of the room early as I was presenting in the next time slot in another room and I wanted time to get prepared. Also, which is another lesson learned for organizers, there was no transition time between sessions. Leave 10-15 minutes between session start/stop times as it gives presenters time to wrap up, attendees time to transition rooms and possibly visit vendor booths and also the all important bio break.

My first session of the day was SQL University 201: More DBA Fun which delved a little bit deeper than my 101 presentation on basics of SQL Server and its management. Since I wasn’t presenting my 101 that day I gave the audience a choice on hearing either the 101 or the 201 presentation. They overwhelmingly picked the 201. It’s funny because this was the first time I’d done this presentation and for something I had 1) Hadn’t practiced yet 2) Had a general idea of what I was going to talk about but left it “open” it went pretty darn well! I even got a chance to do some giveaways during the session. I contend I pretty much had to since I was going up against Kevin and Brent in the same time slot and they just wrapped up their comedy hour not too long ago so I needed to bribe anyone and everyone!

I was on my way to the next session when I went by the vendor area to check it out and the FusionIO booth called to me like a Siren. It wasn’t until last night’s Tampa Bay SQL User Group meeting that I got to see the full presentation on this product but MAN do I want a FusionIO card. 100K potential IOPs?!?! After that I did the vendor rounds and wound up taking early lunch with Brent and Jeremiah in the restaurant in the hotel. Funnily enough there was some sort of online poker seminar going on in there and they kept trying to get SQLSaturday folks to come play. We DID however find out that the guy’s poker software was powered by…SQL SERVER! After we ate we headed to the main room where the event lunch was going to be as well as vendor sessions during lunch. I think the space worked decently for this. They had a pizza buffet where they setup a long table in the middle and attendees made two lines that wrapped around the room. It seemed a little hectic but seemed to work out.

After lunch I checked out Brent’s session Blitz! 60 Minute Server Takeovers where he shared lots of good insight on things to think about and scripts to run when going into an environment you don’t know and you’re about to manage. He’ll be doing the presentation again online so click the link and sign up for it, definitely worth a watch. I had to leave early to get ready for my second presentation of the and couldn’t make it out of the room without being heckled about doing so. So much love.

My second presentation was on Policy-Based Management. I’ve done this presentation many a time so I was very comfortable with it. Unfortunately I don’t know if I was sidetracked by giving stuff away during session, discussion points that came up in class (which I love, don’t get me wrong) or the the transition time between sessions but I was cut short as I ran out of time during demonstration. I deeply apologize to those who attended and if you ever want to jump on a Ustream session with me sometime and want me to demonstrate something you didn’t see, the offer’s out there.

Next up was Jeremiah’s session on SQL Server Internals which I was very excited about as Brent had been raving in the car about how awesome his slide deck was. Plus, I haven’t had a chance to see Jeremiah present in person so this was defnitely a must. Man, was I glad I stuck around for this session. SQL Server internals isn’t the most exciting topic but for us geeks its defnintely an interesting topic. Plus I think you’re a much more effective DBA if you know the how’s and why’s SQL Server can or can’t do something based on what’s going on under the hood. Jeremiah did a great job explaining some pretty complex stuff and Brent was right, his slide deck is AWESOME. At one point I leaned over and asked if he had a graphic designer do the deck. Afterwards I realized how much my deck sucks. Sad trombone.

After this session my brain was fried and my body was mad at me for running on empty. Somehow or another I wound up in the lobby with Brent, Jeremiah, Aaron Nelson, Paul Randal’s evil twin: Norman Kelm (Blog | Twitter), and quite a few others. The group kept growing as we wound up staying there for the length of two sessions. This is one of those great networking opportunities that always crops up during these events that one should always take advantage of. If you’re an attendee at an event and you see a bunch of speakers just kind of sitting around chatting (and possibly eating ice cream sandwhiches) jump on in! Yes, me might only be discussing Trolololo, LOLCat bibles and iPads at the time but it gives you the opportunity to create new relationships and further your network of resources. Always keep in mind, speakers want to talk to you just as much as you’d like to speak to them. That being said, it’s a two-way street. If you’re a speaker at an event reach out and network with folks. If you see someone by themselves, strike up a conversation! I challenge EVERYONE (both speakers and attendees alike) to meet and talk to 5 people they don’t know at an event. You can thank Andy Warren (Blog | Twitter) for this networking mindset that has been drilled into me!

Finally we wrapped up the day with a pretty cool ‘Ask the Experts’ panel which I was invited to participate in for some reason. This was cool in that each person on the panel had a specific “specialty” announced and the audience could ask the panel anything they wanted. For instance I was answering questions relating to virtualization, Brent on performance tuning, etc. This was held in conjunction with the raffle giveaways which went pretty well. Jes Borland acted as Vanna White as she Wendy read off tickets. All in all I think this event was fantastically successful as there were easily over 250 people present. Another thing that struck me was the diversity in the crowd. At the events I’ve gone to thus far the proportion of women attendees has been somewhere in the 10-15% range. I don’t know what’s in the water in the Midewest but women attendees I would put easily in the 20-30% category! Very cool, hopefully that number keeps growing as the Women in Technology movement keeps gaining momentum. For those interested in Women in Technology group, check out the PASS Virtual Chapter for WIT. After the event there was a karaoke afterparty that I unfortunately couldn’t make due to prior plans but you can check out the pictures over at Pat Wright’s (Blog | Twitter) links below. Also I’ve included a Flickr gallery below of the pictures I took from my iPhone during the weekend. Thank you again to the organizers and sponsors for giving me the opportunity to be a part of your first of many successful events!


Posted by Pat Wright SQLAsylum

Posted by Michael Kappel

Posted by Eli (@Tarwn)


Ted Krueger

John Magnabosco

Tim Ford

Wendy Pastrick

Jes Borland

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