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Sunday, November 18, 2012

PASS Summit 2012 Hangover

November has always been my favourite month of the year though I don’t really have a clear cut reason for that. Maybe it is because that my birthday falls in this month and I look forward to opening all those lovely gifts that I usually get. Or maybe because it is the time of the year when you get to see nature in her splendid fall colours and her transition to winter. Or could it be the simple reason that you get 50% off Halloween candy? (in case you didn’t know, I have a BIG sweet tooth) Anyways, I always look forward to November eagerly. Moreover, this year’s November was extra special -  I was going to attend my first PASS Summit.

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I started my baby steps in Microsoft BI six years back although I was blissfully ignorant of whatever community activities was happening then. I have always been an inquisitive mind (or a heckler, depends on whom you ask) and used to ask a lot of questions. Usually, my technical doubts were answered by the senior consultants in my company, and it was by chance that I got redirected to the MSDN forums (the truth is, they were tired of my constant questions). I think that was when I started getting cognizant of the SQL world and the community. I asked more questions, started recognizing the big names in the BI world, read more blogs by them and before I knew it, I was hooked onto this technology. I started answering questions in the forums apart from just asking them and I really enjoyed the kick that you get out of helping people. It also fuelled my personal growth and soon, I decided to share my learning by starting a blog. Fortunately for me, that was the time I moved to London, UK and I got a first real taste of user groups. I started attending the bi-annual SQLBits conference and it sort of inspired me to start speaking. However, I had never given a talk before (not even in my company) and my bouts of stage fright were legendary in my friend circles. But when you wish for something really hard, the entire universe conspires to make it happen. I decided to mail Chris Webb (Blog | Twitter) asking him if I could speak on one of the user groups and he set me up for my first talk (I don’t think I would have ever had the guts to ask again if I was rejected then). He also encouraged me to submit my abstract for SQLBits (which eventually got picked) and I slowly started getting a little more confident about public speaking. This was one of the many pushes forward that I got from my #sqlfamily (oh yes, that is what they are to me now, not just a community). When I moved to the US, I started submitting to the SQL Saturdays with the encouragement of many people in the community, and I am proud to say that the Washington DC one is going to be my 10th SQL Saturday this year (and this is apart from the user group, code camp and virtual chapter talks that I gave). For a person who would have his knees shake if he was standing and speaking in front of 4 people, this definitely was a big achievement and I have my #sqlfamily to thank for. For me, this cooperation and mutual encouragement was best epitomised in SQL Saturday New York City. I was the next speaker after Kevin Kline (Blog | Twitter) and just when I was setting up my laptop, I realized that I didn’t have my HDMI-to-VGA connector for projecting (and I could have sworn that I had checked it before leaving the speaker room, must have dropped it somewhere). I was totally freaked out - none in the speaker room had a converter and I had the demos only on my laptop. I was almost on the verge of cancelling my session. As a last try, I asked Kevin, who was on his way out, whether he could lend me his laptop so that I could try to use his laptop (which had a VGA port) for setting up a live meeting between mine and his laptops, and then projecting the demos from his laptop. Not only did he agree, but he came to my room to calm down my nerves, helped me in setting up the laptops and was throughout my side for the entire session. The session went great and I had lots of my attendees saying that it was really good. If it wasn’t for Kevin, I would have had an embarrassing situation and he saved my day (and to put things to perspective, he barely knew me!!!). I couldn’t even say thanks properly to him because he was already late for some other appointment and had too rush off. That is how selfless people in the #sqlfamily are and I really wanted to be a part of the biggest family reunion of the #sqlfamily – the PASS Summit.

I reached Seattle on Tuesday afternoon and straightaway went to the Chapter Leaders meeting where we discussed on how we can make our user groups more effective. It was very useful to hear from other chapter leaders on how they are organizing their user groups in terms of finance, attendees, marketing, speakers, etc. I also made sure to attend the #sqlFirstTimers meeting where all of the first time attendees were given advice on how to network and make the most of the PASS Summit.

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Over the next three days, all the attendees were presented with a rich selection of sessions across all tracks and difficulty levels. I chose the Intermediate to Advanced topics for Business Intelligence and was truly happy with the results. It was great to attend sessions by Chris Webb, Marco Russo, Alberto Ferrari, Stacia Misner, Allan Folting & Akshai Mirchandani, Paul Turley, Melissa Coates, etc and I learned a lot from these great speakers. It was very difficult making a choice between all the great sessions and I hope to catch up with the rest of the sessions through the recordings.

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As I mentioned before, the PASS Summit was also a place to meet my #sqlfamily. There were a lot of people I had met over twitter and it was a fabulous opportunity to associate faces to those twitter handles. I was also able to reconnect with my friends from UK and India and it was so much like meeting your family again after a long interval.

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The various parties after the sessions kept me busy in the night too. It was awesome getting my first dose of #sqlkaraoke and I was up all the 4 nights – thanks to the Quizball event by SQL Sentry, Hard Rock Cafe event by Pragmatic Works, the Experience Music Project event by Microsoft and of course, the traditional #sqlkaraoke event at Bush Gardens.

PASS Party Photos

I also made sure to stay a couple of days after the event to explore the city as it was my first time in Seattle. I must say the weather gods took mercy on us and we had some nice sunshine, so unlike Seattle Smile.

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All in all, it was a great trip and it was hard to bid goodbye to the city when it all ended. People usually say that when you go somewhere with a lot of expectations, you usually end up with disappointment. However, the PASS Summit 2012 was above my expectations and I really savoured every moment of it. Guess it is time to end my long post. Hope to see all of you guys for the next PASS Summit, which will be held in the beautiful city of Charlotte. It will be much easier for me as I am based out of Charlotte and I will be there to welcome all of you guys to our annual family reunion!

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