Let me tell you a story…
It is a drizzly night in November and I am sat with a bunch of people I have never met before. They are all eating and I am not (one too many Whiskys the night before). They all appear to know each other and are vigorously moving from subject to subject with enthusiasm and I am listening intently to the conversation but not really saying too much. I am probably the only Englishman in the entire bar -or at least, if I am not alone, there can’t be many of us there. To be honest I am not even sure whether that would really make a difference, for I am still relatively poor at introducing myself to strangers and, as I sit there feeling a little bit like a fish out of water everyone else is a fish in water. The date is Sunday 7th November 2010 and I am sitting in a bar called Lowell’s in a place known as Pike’s Place Market in a city called Seattle for a convention called the PASS Summit.
The fact that I am even sat here is a minor miracle, and really completely out of character but this is going to be the start of something I tell myself -the new me, and I am going to start to learn to socialize (like a human being) -like everyone else seems to do …effortlessly. I had registered for the “Sunday Night Meetup” hosted by Andy Warren (blog|twitter) and am intent on using the opportunity for a new beginning and actually making the effort to meet new people rather than let them be the ones to approach me whilst I hide behind my hard exterior. As Sunday evening drew nearer I started to get cold feet. ‘Why it’s only an Eventbrite ticket, it doesn’t really matter to anyone if I don’t come’ I told myself -’Besides, I’d have an even better time by myself stuck at the hotel bar on my own (at worst) or have a talkative stranger drop by and chat for a bit (hopefully)’.
The depressing reality of that sunk in. ‘NO I AM GOING!’ I decided. I will go, have something to eat, maybe have a couple of drinks and perhaps even learn the skills of communication like I always wished I could. In the worst case scenario, if it didn’t really go to plan, I could make my excuses and leave early with the added bonus that I would have eaten and had a drink… So I went.
Whilst sat there listening, on my right I had a young lady called Jessica Moss (blog|twitter) and on my opposite right a lady called Pam Shaw (blog|twitter). Pam was talking about the SQLSaturday movement, how it all began, where it is all going and what things need to change. Her enthusiasm and passion for SQLSaturdays immediately raised my interest and I soaked up the conversation. Whilst I sat there my mind wandered and I started to wonder if this could ever work in the U.K. and decided there and then that I wanted to host one. However there was only one small problem in my eyes. Even though several weeks ago I had just given my first ever presentation to a major event prior to heading off to the PASS Summit, for me the experience was a rather insular and miserable affair in that I didn’t really know anyone and they didn’t know me. In short I felt very lost as a speaker. I didn’t really know what to expect and the way the events work from a speaker’s perspective. I remember walking into the “Speaker room” for the very first time and it felt very much like I had entered the Slaughtered Lamb (from the American Werewolf in London film) and felt very much like the person I really was – a nobody. I digress slightly, but the point is that in Seattle, having listened to the conversation for a while I realised that in order for me to really be able to host one of these events I would have to have a slightly bigger profile than I had (something > zero) and so on my return back to the U.K. I didn’t mention my ambitions again to anyone and patiently waited.
Over the next year or so I worked very hard on my “social self” and made it my goal to present as much as possible to work on this side of me, share knowledge with others and to gain knowledge in the process. It was a win-win situation all around. I have since gone on to present at many major and small events over the last couple of years and now feel completely at home just arriving in a new City of a new Country, giving a presentation, talking and socialising with people and returning home again. My self-development is certainly not fait accompli but I believe I have made significant progress. Even more importantly I have got to know who are the right people to ask for things and I eventually submitted my desire to host a SQLSaturday for Cambridge. Unfortunately when I did so the timing was not quite right it and I was asked to patiently wait on the wings until it would be possible to give it the green light. I will confess that at this stage I gave up all hope and as months passed by I believed it would not happen.
Then… joy of joys… several months ago an email arrived in my Inbox asking me if I still wanted to host an event. The reply probably took me around 10 seconds to send. It was of course a massive ‘YES!’.
I want you to know that by one simple action (going to Lowell’s) set off a chain of events and you could do the same. I am no longer “afraid” to approach you if you are a stranger and say hello or talk about the Weather, I have realised that ambitions can be fulfilled and today feel like almost anything is possible if you work hard enough for it.
If you are able to, I really hope to see you at SQLSaturday #162 Cambridge and if not then please make sure you say hello to me at SQLRally Dallas, the SQL 2012 Summit in Seattle, SQLBits or many of the other SQLSaturdays and user groups that I hope to be at. I would also like to extend a huge thank you Pam Shaw whose enthusiasm and continued support for the SQL Community has been the spark for something new and exciting and to Niko Neugebauer (blog|twitter) and his SQLSaturday #115 Lisbon team for giving me a huge welcome and amazing insight into the running of his event which inspired me and provided a template model that I hope to replicate where possible. I would also like to thank SQLSaturday and SQLPASS for allowing me to do this, but most of all I want to thank Karla Landrum (twitter|blog) for her unwavering support and dedication to the task in hand. Thank you all!
Remember that everything you do, everything you say, everyone you meet and everywhere you go has the power to touch and change your and other peoples lives. Be mindful of this and once in a while try to change a little!