Blog Post

To Those Who Cannot Go To #SQLSummit


Can’t make it to the #SQLSummit? I know EXACTLY how you feel. Maybe not at the depths or level of understanding as I think I can. Allow me to share some of what I have experienced. I’ll save some specific details for another story.

I have only been to the annual PASS Summit a limited number of times: 2007 in Denver, 2012 in Seattle, 2015 in Seattle, and this year.

2007: The ONLY reason I was allowed to go was I live in the Denver area. So my employer didn’t have to pay for airfare and hotel. True story: the sessions were held in the lower section of the fairly new Colorado Convention Center and my cell phone and Blackberry did NOT have reception. Guess what? My boss actually told me that if he knew he would not be able to get a hold of me during the day, he would not have let me go. How in the hell am I supposed to mitigate against that? FedEx my devices to the Colorado Convention Center and ask for a reception test in all of the possible rooms I could be in? The only thing I could do was literally “pop-up” outside every break I could and check in. It made me feel like a child and not a data professional. My first PASS conference and I could not enjoy and learn as much as I wanted to as I had this silly technological limitation and the fear of pissing my boss off if he couldn’t contact me. Today cell coverage is better and there is wifi.

2012: I worked for a few different companies since 2007. Asking to go to PASS every year seemed to cause me a lot of stress, pain and heartache. I asked my employer every single year since 2007 and even before my first Summit too. Some were contracting companies and they don’t pay for training unless the client wants to pay for it. Good luck with that! Even if I wanted to simply go at my own cost, I could not afford the vacation time off work (also read if you do not work billable hours- you do NOT get paid) and to pay for it myself. It was just too expensive. As best as I tried to sell them on it and share what I have learned with others, explore all of the technical content post conference via DVD, in the end employers have their reasons but it just killed me inside every time they said NO. In 2012 I got to go but when I wanted to go in 2013 I was told some else had to go on the SQL team- even though somebody else was not working on the same client as I was. It was a cost thing. Same sad song at other employers too.

2015: New job and new possibilities! I told them going to PASS was a requirement to hire me. That was not written down anywhere and I really felt like I was going to completely blow the job offer by kindly asking to go to PASS less than a month after getting hired. They agreed and I went! First chance to participate at Speaker Idol too. I told my wife earlier in the year we would simply have to find a way to pay for it if my employer couldn’t pay for it. Letting your feelings drive a financial decision? In most circles that is a bad decision but that is just how strong I felt that I wanted to go. So many of my local peers and people I admire and respect were going YET AGAIN and I just wanted to go so strongly. Like a salmon swimming upstream I guess ?? I had a great time and connected with a ton of people. It was the most productive Summit I had ever been to!

2016: One year anniversary just rolled around with my current employer. Going to PASS for the second consecutive year and for the first time in my professional career I have been able to go to a technical conference back to back. As President of the Denver SQL Server Group, I do get a free registration for the main conference from PASS (THANK YOU!!!) but still have to pay for airfare, hotel, etc. To say that I am looking forward to it is an understatement. I’ll be the guy taking old fashioned notes, recording with GoPro and phone and soaking it all in. Because I know I might not be back.

Sometimes I feel like holding my head in shame whenever I hear people say, “Oh, this is my umpteenth PASS conference. And I’ve been to many other conferences too.” I’m really not jealous and those of you who know me believe me when I say that. It is just when I hear comments like that either in person or on social media it stings.

It stings because maybe I should have done a better job on selling the benefits of going to the PASS Summit (or any other expensive technical training for that matter). Maybe in the past I should have found an employer who sees people who want to better themselves and advance their job and career as an investment and not a cost.

Going to PASS is an extreme privilege. How about some informal numbers. The number of members of About two million. The number of members of PASS? About 200,000. The number of people who get to go to the PASS Summit in person this year? About 6000. Think about that for a minute. Rough numbers: 2M / 6k = ~333. For every 333 people who use SQL Server, only 1 will make it to the PASS Summit. True not everyone who uses SQL Server wants to go to ‘Summit (!) but I think you get the idea. I would like to see the number of people who would love to go to Summit but who either themselves or their employers cannot afford to do so. And figure out the cost thing. We would need a bigger venue and that’s a good problem to have.

With the rise of affordable virtual reality (VR), the things I have seen, the social VR stuff recently announced and demonstrated, I have a new sense of hope for those who cannot physically make it to Summit for one reason or another. Decent VR and a connection to the Internet will open many exciting and different possibilities for technical training like Summit.

So for those physically unable to go, medically unable to go, financially unable to go, all I can say is there is hope in VR. Crazy as that sounds I believe it in the days and years to come.

And for those who were told “NO” yet again and will not make it to Summit this year for one reason or another all I can say is to keep trying! Don’t feel like you risk losing your job by asking for something expensive to help your job and your career. YOU are in charge and responsible for your career. No one else. You can still buy the PASS Summit sessions post conference. Connect with the speakers via social media or send them an e-mail and just say hi. Take advantage of all of the free stuff PASS membership already provides for you. Not a member? It is free- what are you waiting for? Join! Fill up your 2017 calendar with virtual training. Volunteer in your local user group. Stay plugged in! You are not in this community alone. You are part of the #SQLFamily.




You rated this post out of 5. Change rating




You rated this post out of 5. Change rating