Category Archives: Personal Development

Memoirs of SQLSaturday #162 Part II: Speaker Dinner

Probably one of the most over-looked parts of any big or small SQL Event can sometimes be the speaker dinner -which essentially boils down to one thing… the organisers way of showing their appreciation to the speakers who have traveled far and wide usually at their own expense to present expert technical content at no cost to the attendees.

As a fairly regular speaker myself, I have experienced many events who have either made very little effort with the dinner, poorly handled its organization (meaning many speakers aren’t even informed that it is happening) or simply don’t bother arranging one at all. And whilst I don’t want to suggest that by organizing an event you absolutely MUST provide a speaker dinner in order for the event to be regarded as a success, I do personally feel that the speaker meal helps define your event and give it a feel or your stamp -and hopefully one along the lines that you were aiming for.

A great sense of humor to be had in Dublin!

A very good example of this can be found by contrasting a couple of the SQL Saturday events I have attended as a speaker this year -specifically SQLSaturday #115 Lisbon and SQLSaturday #105 Dublin. On the Friday evening in Dublin, they hired a barge that sailed the length and breadth of the Canal whilst serving up the meal. We all ate and drank merrily, chatting as the banks slowly passed by. It was not only a novel and unique idea, but was great fun and made us all feel quite special. This extravagant touch reflected the professional and expensive polish of the Dublin event, and whilst I do not normally enjoy too much fuss I confess I did enjoy it enormously.

In Lisbon, having experienced an incredible attentive touch from the organizers on arrival, and leading up to the Saturday, we effectively had not one but TWO speaker meals! The first was held in a rather incredible ornate building -which as I understand it was once a Palace owned by Portuguese Royalty. Amusingly it had so many dining rooms, myself and Rob Volk (twitter|blog) could not find Niko (twitter|blog) and Crew at first and wandered aimlessly between each room until Niko came hurtling out of one of them to call us in. The second meal was hosted during Saturday lunchtime in a very traditional Seafood restaurant where upon finding out I was presenting directly after, Allan Mitchell (twitter|blog) relentlessly tried to encourage me to drink lots of Red Wine to “settle my nerves” as he put it :).

Lisbon was an incredibly beautiful city

Both meals were enjoyable and each had a very authentic ambiance. So which event meal was best (Dublin or Lisbon)? For me each one of them had its merits and each one set the scene for the SQLSaturday to come. Dublin demonstrated that you were speaking at a very professional well run event and provided a hint and feel of Ireland. Lisbon immersed you into the proud and welcoming Portuguese culture making you feel not only very honored to be there and in the company of friends, but to also gave the impression of being on holiday.

It was with these two events in mind that we would go onto organize and shape our own speaker meal. We wanted to provide a mixture of a relaxed down to earth friendly atmosphere and a very well run organized (and well attended) speaker meal. During the last four weeks leading up to SQLSaturday #162 Cambridge, myself and the event PM (Lorraine) decided that if we were going to provide an evening meal to 30-40 people, we had better make sure we knew beforehand if it will be any good. Initially (and ideally) we wanted to have a very English style meal and ambiance, but the first few restaurants we had tested had not really come up to the bar that we had set. La Strada, our third restaurant, and I am sure you can guess by the name was anything but traditional English gave us a fantastic meal one lunchtime and had been very attentive. They also had the perfect area that could be reserved for us all which was slightly tucked away from the other restaurant goers but not entirely. This meant that we had the best of both worlds in this respect. After chatting with the restaurant manager we knew that this was definitely the best choice for our dinner and booked it up.

Bond: Mr. Woody, do you expect me to talk?
Woody: No Mr. Bond, I *expect* you to eat your pie!

We were very pleased that out of all the speakers, nearly every single one confirmed (apart from one I believe). We did have a couple of speakers coming from Portugal (yep that guy Niko again …and the excellent Bruno Basto) that had indicated that they may be very late and might not be able to attend, but that aside we had an excellent turn out. We had also decided that every Gold and Silver sponsor (should they not already have speakers at the meal) would be given up to two invites for their representatives. We were really happy that every single sponsor took up the invite boosting the numbers further. Finally we were very honored and proud to be able to invite and include a couple of VIP guests (Marjorie, Christina, Magda & Co!). These were friends, family and partners of a few of our dinner guests and I believe this really helped make the atmosphere even more relaxed and friendly.

Myself and Lorraine had discussed at great length about producing a seating plan for everyone, but at the last minute decided to “go with the flow” and let people sit with the people they really wanted to. Again I think this generally worked really well and contributed to the atmosphere.

So what went wrong?
Personally I felt that the evening meal was a huge success. There were however, a couple of points of note. The first problem was that we delayed the order until everybody had arrived. Whilst we had given around 30 minutes gap between seating and serving the order, we still had several people arriving slightly later. After another 10 minutes we decided that we couldn’t wait any longer and gave the word for the Chef to get his groove on. Thankfully by this stage, we were only around three people down (and two of those were the expected delays). At the time I was really conscious that the delay was slightly longer than people would have liked but it did give them time to chat, relax and drink wine -and certainly nobody had revolted at this point. 🙂

Another area of difficulty was encountered when the food was being served up. Since no one was sat in allocated seats, somebody needed to direct the (pretty!) waitresses to the right people/ tables. Yes it was a dirty job, but someone had to do it, so I volunteered. 😉

Despite my ineffective direction, they did a fantastic job of serving up, and learnt very quickly to ignore my help. Once the dishes started rolling, they kept coming at a pace and everyone seemed to be very happy with the food.

Bleary eyed and bushy tailed, Moi and PM Lorraine starting to think about tomorrow and an early start!

My two Portuguese buddies arrived just as desert was being served and I asked Bruno whether they wanted something to eat to which he replied “of course!”. So after I managed to get them both seated, the restaurant staff did an excellent job serving them with vigor so that they were not waiting too long between courses.

Finally by the end of the night, the time came to settle the bill. Whilst it was rather large (four figures) it was almost exactly what I had expected and what we had budgeted for. Just as I was settling up, Lorraine reminded me about a tip. I’d totally forgotten about that, but they had certainly earned it. She told me that she probably had £10 in her purse, completely forgetting the size of the bill! 🙂 After instructing the waitress to add on the correct percentage (yes it was much larger than £10), we departed for a relatively early night in preparation for the UK’s FIRST EVER SQLSATURDAY the following day!

The next post in this series will be “Memoirs of SQLSaturday #162 Part III: The SQLSaturday”. The previous post “Memoirs of SQLSaturday #162 Part I: Pre-Cons” can be found by clicking on that url.

Memoirs of SQLSaturday #162 Part I: Pre-Cons

Days have passed since we closed the first ever SQLSaturday to hit the shores of the UK and I write with an element of sadness that it is over, relief that my time can start to be more of my own again for other projects, and optimism of what may come.

When I first set out on the path of recording what I view as very much a mixture of personal and technical journal in the pages of this blog (and hopefully at times a good resource for others), I always intended to write at least one post per month. I always viewed it as a cardinal sin to let things slip, but unfortunately I truly underestimated the enormity of the work involved in planning, implementing and executing a major IT event. Now it is almost over (there are still many small administrative issues to complete) I think it is fair to say that Team SQLSaturday #162 Cambridge are able to take a deep breath and be proud of what we did.

Buck Woody giving some sage career advice

In my last post “Change and make a difference”  I told my story of how I first had the idea of bringing SQLSaturday’s to the UK -which could so easily have been missed had I not made the effort to improve my social self and turn up to one single social evening at the PASS Summit in 2010. It demonstrates if anything ever could, that through the help and knowledge of others we can do beautiful things.

In this post I really want to start to review and celebrate the two days of this momentous event and we shall first begin by looking at the fantastic pre-cons on the Friday. I believed that if we were going to host a Friday training day as a pre cursor to the main Saturday community day, it was important to get some very talented people to present them.

We were first fortunate enough to land the services of one of the most well known and highly respected Microsoft employees -a certain Mr. Buck Woody (blog|twitter). After a lot of discussion with Buck about which pre-con to choose (yes he has several!) we decided to go with a rather fun idea and called it “Buck Woody’s Ragtime DBA Workshop”. I wanted this to be aimed not just at novice SQL Server DBAs, but wished to corner the market for Developers and Oracle DBAs who want to learn more SQL and perhaps even to help more experienced SQL DBAs. This really was a tall order to fill since we were trying to span a very wide audience skill range, but if anyone could manage it, Buck could.

My next choice for a pre-con was a very clever speaker from Denmark called Mark Rasmussen (blog|twitter) who has reverse engineered the SQL Server Storage format for a SQL Server MDF File Parser called OrcaMDF -it can read and query the data files without SQL Server! I have been privileged to get to know Mark quite well over the last 12 months or more having spent a lot of time with him at SQLBits and SQLPASS and knew from the very beginning of pre-con planning that he was someone I wanted to present. Whilst the topic is quite specialised and knew the market for the material was perhaps smaller than other more “in demand” mainstream subjects, it was really due to my desire to sit in his pre-con (having already missed at least one opportunity to do so) and interest in the subject matter, that convinced me. If I wanted to attend, there would be many others -and that proved to be the case.

The feel of SQLSaturday #162 was always aimed at being very much an inclusive community affair and I was very happy that all pre-con speakers told me from the start that being part of the event was the most important thing.

Marco was sad he missed the Pre-Cons

One the day itself, I had a few minor hiccups with the venue, which with the help of two of our team and like me, fellow pre-con registrants John Martin (blog|twitter) and Mark Pryce-Maher (blog|twitter) we resolved these problems very quickly before people started attending. I think without John and Mark we would have struggled and I was very grateful to them for getting so involved when they had also paid to attend the sessions. I was also disappointed and surprised that we had three people who did not turn up to the pre-cons having fully paid up. I did not receive any advance notification, and strangely enough have still not received any word of what happened -but it introduced a problem in that I felt someone needed to wait on the registration desk for several hours to make sure that they were not coming. That person obviously had to be me (missing a large part of Mark’s session). I also needed to oversee a few minor administrative issues during the afternoon and I had to miss the last part of his pre-con. Whilst that was personally disappointing, it was probably no big surprise.

On the whole, the day went really well and everybody that spoke to me were very pleased with the Friday pre-cons and personally thanked us for putting them on.

In the next post of this series I will talk about the successful SQLSaturday #162 speaker dinner…

Change and make a difference

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.

Going to Lowell’s

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!

Schedule so far

Don’t forget to say Hi!

Recently I have been starting to get a little stressed about whether or not I have a speaking engagement coming up.

Whilst I use Google Calendar and most recently have set up a premium Remember the Milk account to organise my life a little better, I thought it was probably a good idea to see where I am with my past and forth coming presentations for the first half of this year.

I was quite surprised that I’ve already equalled the number of my presentations for the whole of last year…

If you are visiting any of these events please make sure to say hello, probably one of the biggest benefits of speaking at them is getting to know, meet and become friends with new people. I would just love to add you to my list!

Moves Like Jagger – my 24HOP baptism

It is now nearly one week since my début on 24 Hours Of PASS and I thought it would be useful for people considering presenting on 24HOP themselves that I write my thoughts on the whole experience. I have also taken the liberty to publish in advance my slide deck (here) whilst I have managed to catch a rare quiet period.

I have been very lucky over the last couple of years to have presented many times to a selection of large and small events around the world and yet as nearly all presenters will tell you, we are always still learning the craft. Every event is a new experience, every delivery is different and perfection is always a distant and impossible dream. So although the prospect of talking to an audience was in itself not a particular problem, the difference in delivery medium, scale and truly International audience meant that the whole ball-game had totally changed.

My biggest concern leading up to the event had been that I would not make a mess of the IBTalk delivery platform. Whilst we had been given an on-line introduction to the interface several days before the date of destiny, I still did not feel confident that I fully understood its intricacies . Luckily, my ominous doubts that things were not going to work meant that I stumbled into my presentation interface several hours beforehand and realised that I could practice (in particular) switching between presentation and demo until I was comfortable. I came across one issue where I couldn’t switch back into my presentation so I ensured that I appreciated how I had gone wrong way ahead of time.

My next concern -and this is always my ongoing and forever permanent worry is that my content was not good enough. Probably for the first time ever for me, before delivering this presentation to a major event I had given derivations of this to a couple of UK user groups. This not only helped me practice what I was going to say to a live audience, but (for me) more importantly let me gauge the importance of certain sections of that material. Whilst I still believe that more changes can be made to improve the presentation, I was now fairly confident that the material would have value to someone.

As the time of my event drew ever nearer I started to worry that I would have connectivity issues and drop out of IBTalk. This was a particularly relevant fear since it had affected at least one of the sessions earlier in the day. In order to minimize this risk I decided to cement all those possible holes of potential failure such as tying back cables so they couldn’t get accidentally pulled or kicked, securing my home hub (again out of my clumsy reach) and banning the use of our broadband for the day for TV streaming and other non 24HOP use. This latter point was very important to eliminate the nefarious and secretive throttling of my network bandwidth by my supplier.

A  very good tip that I have picked up simply by watching the mistakes of other on-line presentations in the past is to watch your own presentation on another screen to avoid those occasions where you could speak for minutes on a demo and still be stuck on a slide. I checked first with the IBTalk platform experts to ensure that this would not cause me bandwidth and quality of service issues and was told that it would be fine. Doing this allowed me to realise the times I was going too fast with my talking, slides and demos due to lag but also gave me confidence that I was not making a mistake in the IBTalk interface.

In the end, everything went fairly smoothly and I was very grateful to all the Twitterati for their messages of support and encouragement and hope I am lucky enough that one day I will be presenting another 24HOP session.

If you are interested, my session scores are included at the bottom of this post -I would just like to say a huge THANK YOU to you all since they were far better than I would ever dared imagine.

I can speak English, I learn it from a book

Many many years ago when I was still in short trousers I started to take an interest in Movies. My parents had completely different sleeping patterns and my Father was an irritatingly early riser -a fact that would irritate me right into my adolescence and beyond. My mother was the opposite and (like me) very much a night owl. This resulted in there being a period of around 3 to 4 hours before my Mother went to bed, where the Television would be switched to whatever channel she wanted to watch -in other words not Sport.

I come from Barcelona!

As I approached the age that staying up beyond 9 pm. was acceptable I tended to sit with her and watch whatever she was watching. Her tastes were very varied and cosmopolitan and we would tend to watch different film genres over seasons. One of the first genres that I remember watching with her were the 1930s and 1940s horror Movies where together we absorbed every Frankenstein (starring Boris Karloff), every Dracula (starring Bela Lugosi) and every Wolfman (starring Lon Chaney Jr.) not to mention the sequels starring Abbott and Costello!

Over a very long time we watched an enormous and varied collection of films and since her tastes where not just limited to English language films; we watched films from France, Belgium, Germany, Japan and any other country we could get on our Gogglebox. Over time reading the subtitles whilst watching each film became as natural as the spoken word to us.

To this very day I meet people who refuse to watch anything that is not spoken in their own language (for whatever reason) and fail to realise just how many amazing films they are missing out on. A long time before Japanese Horror film remakes by Hollywood was the “norm”, I sat with a friend who held the believe that subtitled films were impossible to watch but convinced them to join me for the evening to watch a certain Japanese Horror Classic. The evening was a rather scarily enjoyable experience and the film in question was called Ringu -you will by now know its remake as “The Ring”. Let me tell you that even if you have seen the somewhat half-hearted Hollywood effort, the original film in its natural form is quite something to behold. Possibly one of the scariest films of all time and guess what? I watched it years and years before most Westerners (and perhaps even now the majority will not have watched the subtleties of the original).

Time to start running

I am sure by now you have been asking yourself “What is the point to all this?”  and “How does it relate to SQL Server?”. Well let me tell you…

I have just been speaking privately with Rob Farley (blog|twitter) and have found out about the plans for the next iteration of 24 Hours of PASS. What he has told me is that each session will have Live Closed Captioning in 15 different languages!!! Can you believe that? This means that all the sessions will be accessible to people who speak other languages other than English and makes 24 Hour of PASS a truly international event for the very first time. As Rob put it “if someone in China asks you a question in Chinese… you’ll be able to read it in English and they’ll read your answer in Chinese”.

If you are one of those non-English language SQL professionals that has ’till now not been able to view the English language 24HOP (you are obviously reading this blog using Google Translate:)) and want to have access to valuable, technical, up to date material -then come and join the party. And remember my story, please don’t forget to introduce a friend!

To register for all 24 sessions go click here without delay, and don’t forget to join me for my session “Moves like Jagger – Upgrading to SQL Server 2012“. You should also check out Rob’s post about these excellent changes by clicking here.

SQLRally and beyond

I am almost ashamed to say that I have let over a month pass since my last post and truth be told I have come close a few times without never actually pressing that submit button.

I shan’t bore you with my excuses or reasons for my inactivity but what matters is I’m back!

I’ve been seeing an increasing amount of noise about SQLRally Dallas and I felt that I wanted to share my own personal experience with you about this rather unique event (in Orlando) -for it quite literary changed my life.

Six years or so ago I joined a company with big hopes and promises and after starting a small family (and growing it further after joining) I was looking for a period of stability and a platform to learn, improve and share my skills. In short, I knew that come what may, as good or bad as things might get, I was there for the long haul.

Not long after joining, my skills and talent for other technologies were recognised and when the need for a specialized “crack” team supporting a critical troublesome in-house application, I was identified as their man. This position (I was told) would be permanent and was absolutely vital to the running of the company operation. There was one small problem -I didn’t want it and regretfully declined. My reasons were many but I had joined the company as a SQL Server SME and saw the very broad set of skills required to support one single application platform as a regression in my ever growing expertise in SQL Server (and increasing knowledge in Oracle) and did my best to explain this.

Unfortunately for me, the Technical Director at the time (let’s give him a fictitious name of Dennis) told me in no uncertain terms that this would be the last time I ever refused him. Three months into my new job, everything had turned sour overnight simply due to me being good at what I do.

Years would pass and with each new year would bring a new job offer somewhere else for an ever increasing Salary, but I would always find a reason not to take it -probably the thought of repeating the same mistakes again was always the biggest reason to avoid saying yes.

Then something happened.

Although I have been helping in forums and the like on and off for a long period of time which you can read a little more about in this post (Standing upon the shoulders of Giants) I always felt that I had more to give, more to share, more to say and more to learn. I decided to submit my first ever public presentation to SQLBits 7 and surprisingly managed to secure a speaking slot! As daunting as the whole thing was, I think I managed to pull it off -and if nothing else I know that I learned LOADS during my weeks and weeks of hard graft of preparation putting it all together.

About a month or so later I took a week off work and self-financed a trip to the SQLPASS 2010 Summit (my very first time) and met some absolutely amazingly talented people which is probably another story for another time.

Whilst in Seattle I decided that should the opportunity arise, I wanted to attempt a presentation in America and would submit and hope for the best. SQLRally Orlando was announced and my submissions went in. Although I didn’t make the first cut, my submission received the joint highest votes for the runners up and quite incredibly I was eventually selected as a wildcard! Totally brilliant and I was thrilled!

This time (unlike Seattle) I thought I would approach Dennis and see if my company would like to contribute in any way since there would be obvious technical benefits to the organization. The response did not surprise me. He said that my speaking and attending sessions at SQLRally (or anywhere else) had absolutely no benefit to the company at all. I have never forgotten the impact that sentence made upon me. The situation was made even more ironic when a few days later I was assigned to an important scalability project (for someone had personally requested that I should be the resource).

…… The title of my presentation : “Orders of magnitude-Scaling your SQL Server Data“.

Like the SQLPASS Summit, I fully financed my trip to SQLRally and used a week of my holiday entitlement and came to a decision. I realised that however much I tried to improve myself socially and technically (and help others), Dennis would never support my efforts in any way. A few days later I received a permanent job offer from another firm offering a substantial salary increase (almost double) and I ……….turned it down!

SQLRally helped me realize that the only person holding me back was myself and It was time for me make the jump. I quit and left for Orlando to give my presentation. On my return, I secured work and now when I need to finance any speaking or training events, the only person I need to convince is myself.

But what of SQLRally? I loved giving my presentation, it was very hard work preparing for it but I learned more than I can put into words at hopefully managed to communicate some of that knowledge across. From a non-speaking perspective, if you have never been to a SQL Server event and can get to Dallas then you are going to LOVE it. SQLRally is smaller than the Summit and full of lots of first timers and many regulars who will embrace you and make you feel completely at home.

Attending SQLRally could be your first steps towards something amazing. I hope you take them, and if you do, I look forward to meeting you someday soon and hopefully share a nice cold beer.

You can read more about my exploits at SQLRally here and here.

What has happened to me since my return?

Going forward I am currently :-

Dennis, I think you made a mistake with me but I know you would never be able to admit it. I sincerely thank you for every single day I spent praying for deliverance. You made me realize that if I wanted something strong enough I could go out there and get it. Through your neglect, you encouraged me to meet people LIKE me. You have given me hope and for that, I will never forget you.