The REAL value of attending SQLRally

(This post was written primarily whilst travelling back from SQLRally and subsequently edited, amended and added to where necessary before publishing)

I’m currently sat here at Orlando Airport and I am able to reflect a little bit whilst waiting to board my plane back to the U.K. after having spent the last 5 days of preparation, learning and socialising at SQLRally and I need to ask myself “was it worth the expense?”. I’m not too sure how many attendees or indeed speakers were from Europe but I am pretty sure I was one of a very small number and therefore the cost to myself was indeed far more than it would have cost for the majority of the attendees. It is therefore important that I look at the return on investment of not just my attending the event, but also of me speaking. One key thing to remember about going to conferences, is that the knowledge retained is usually very little of what you have actually heard but hopefully with the efforts of the presenters, the materials provided will help to reinforce the important parts of this knowledge. It is true that I went to some excellent presentations but was sadly unable to attend many of them due to the amount of work I felt I needed to do on the preparation of my own session since I was really not quite happy where I was at. This particular point is a key take home for me, and I *must* now ensure that I am far more prepared going forward. Unfortunately due to working commitments, family and other events it is sometimes easier said than done.

So learning for me in terms of sessions was restricted, but I have to admit to learning lots of new stuff towards my “prep” although most of this material was unfortunately not used but *will* hopefully be mentally retained. Strictly speaking, from a knowledge perspective, the biggest benefit to myself was understanding some key areas that I need to learn more about, and knowing this about yourself is fantastic value in itself -as long as I can go on to do something about it. From a socialising perspective I again missed out on all of the outside events in the evenings again purely down to the fact I needed to work! From a financial angle I have paid out what has come to a rather large bill, not helped by the fact that I thought I wouldn’t need a hire car and ended up seemingly living in a Taxi …and they really weren’t that cheap :( .

The tree of knowledge needs sturdy roots

So if you are reading this, you really must by now be wondering what on earth was the REAL value of attending SQLRally for me and I can tell you straight away without any hesitation …PEOPLE. Usually during events (if you are lucky) you will meet one or more people who from that point you will remain friendly and supportive with for your dying days in IT. If you are lucky to do this then now try and think of a value you would place on that kind of support network.

Sometimes of course you might just meet someone in passing and it is really at the next event that you cement this friendship, but the point therefore is that you really don’t know when something is going to happen. Considering the fact that I have been restricted this time from a socialising perspective, I have really been very lucky in that I have helped to nurture several relationships that I hope over time they can be mutually beneficial from not just a social level but also from a technical level.

So I ask myself again for one last time, “SQLRally…was it REALLY worth it?” and the answer is a resounding “OH YEAH!”

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8 Responses to The REAL value of attending SQLRally

  1. stuco says:

    Thank you for these thoughts. They are helping to make a decision to attend such events, especially as someone who is returning to the database community.

    • retracement says:

      Hi Stuart, thanks for the comment and let me give you further encouragement for these events. They are *really* not just about the learning, in fact the learning aspect is a fringe benefit. They really are about the meeting the one, two, three or more people that WILL mean all the difference to your career development. Alone we are weak, together we are POWERFUL. If you make it to the SQLPASS Summit this year then feel free to drop me a tweet and I will be more than happy to say hello and share a drink with you.

      Good luck with your future database career going forward, its an even more fantastic community than when you took your long break.

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  3. Edwin Sarmiento says:

    I was asking the same question to the organizers while at SQLRally. And while I did not spend as much as you did (I’ve learned a lot from my previous experiences on how to really cut down on cost, especially if the total cost amounts to more than your month’s salary), you still have to quantify unbillable hours like travel and the entire conference duration. Bottom line is, you cannot quantify what cannot be measured in terms of numbers. Meeting great people like you and building relationships do not count as entries in balance sheets. Return on investment is overrated. This is investment, period. The return is how you make the most out of the investment. Is it worth it? Only the person who has made the investment can answer that. I’m pretty sure it has been for me.

    Thank you for giving me the opportunity to be your friend

  4. retracement says:

    Thanks Edwin! I need to take more control of my expenses but you are right that making the most of that investment is paramount to the whole exercise. Meeting you is always an enjoyable experience and I just love your positivity and insightful knowledge so thank you too and I really look forward to meeting up with you again as soon as possible :)

  5. Jim Murphy says:

    Mark,

    We didn’t get a chance to talk at SQLRally, but I do look forward to meeting you in future events, like The Summit.

    • retracement says:

      Thanks. I’ll keep an eye out for you at the Summit, I can be an elusive fish sometimes. I’ll probably be keeping a stool warm at the Taphouse in Seattle, hope to see you there :)

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