The #SQLFamily is amazing, at least I think it is. Like many families, it's welcoming, supportive, and comforting. It's also maddening, frustrating, and exacerbating at times. Like most families, or at least the ones I know, it's not perfect, but it's what we have and at the end of the day, most of us get along with each other.
It's also an open group of people. In general, we welcome people with open arms and smiles. Those of us that are more visible or prominent are willing to listen to, help, and support anyone. I was overjoyed during the recent PASS Data Community Summit, where I had the chance to see so many people that I haven't seen in person in 2-3 years. I met many other interesting people for the first time and enjoyed the experience.
Not everyone feels the same way. I loved seeing Kimberly Tripp and Paul Randal for the first time in years and was honored to share the stage with them for the Community Keynote. I enjoyed the time we spent together, but afterwards Paul wrote about some people not feeling included or welcome.
I understand that feeling. In many ways, much of adult life can mimic teenage years in high school with cliques and pettiness. I won't pretend that doesn't happen in the #SQLFamily, but I find it quite minimized, especially compared with many other communities of which I've been a part in the past. I haven't seen the higher profile speakers and leaders in the SQL Community dismiss someone for asking a question or expressing an opinion. I have, however, seen that in other communities.
It can be intimidating to walk up to someone that you don't know who you might feel is famous or well known. It can be intimidating to just walk up to a group of people who are talking when they appear to know each other. I have that feeling at times even today, so I appreciate feeling like an outsider. In the Summit keynote, I talked about the thrill in meeting Kalen Delaney in 1999 and shaking her hand. I was nervous and intimidated to ask her a question after her presentation. At the time I hadn't delivered a talk in front of anyone outside of school environments and was a fairly introverted geek. It was hard to step up and make that effort, but I'm glad I did.
As Paul writes, anyone is welcome in the #SQLFamily. Anyone can join. You don't have to come shake a hand or say hi, but I'm happy when you do. Will we be best friends right away? Probably not. Will we go out to dinner that night? Maybe. I've certainly met attendees at events and then had dinner with them. I know plenty of other speakers who have as well.
Many of the people who speak, organize, and write/blog/tweet/etc. in our industry are friends. We do value time with each other, and that can feel like a club, but it's not. We enjoy seeing each other and want to catch up, like any group of friends. However, we are also welcoming of newcomers, so feel free to introduce yourself.
Ultimately those of us who engage in these highly visible, extroverted acts are often just like the rest of you. We're a mix of people that are mostly introverted, with a few extroverts thrown in. Some speakers are very smart and talented, some are more like me: we know enough to get the things done that we're asked to do. Some of us love to go out and sing karaoke until all hours of the night and others prefer a small dinner or a little tabletop gaming in a quiet environment.
My encouragement to get people to meet others, network, set up events or meetups, and more isn't to try and convince any of you to join the cool kids club. It's not to get you to change who you are.
It's to help you find your tribe. To find your kind of people.
I'd love to greet all of you with a hug at events, call you by name, and go out to dinner with you. I can't because there isn't enough time in the day. And quite frankly, I really, really value my alone time. What I want more than anything is for you to be successful, find a great job or career you relish, and for you to enjoy spending time with those you enjoy. Whoever and wherever that is. That takes some effort, but it's worth the energy involved.