The PASS Professional Development Virtual Group is a resource for information and conversation on the professional development topics for people in the technology industry.

An Interview with SQLRally Speaker, Scott Shaw

Scott Shaw was recently selected to speak at SQLRally. He has published articles at MSSQL Tips and is working on a book project. Kathi spent some time with Scott to learn about his journey from teaching English in grad school to SQL Server DBA. 

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March 10 Meeting Canceled

Due to major connectivity issues, I am unable to host the webinar scheduled for today.  Please stay tuned for a rescheduled day and time.

February Meeting Postponed to March 10

Don Gabor’s webinar Neworking to Build Your Professional Connections has been postponed to March 10.

An Interview with Malathi Mahadevan

Malathi Mahadevan, Louisville, KY chapter leader, grew up in India. Mala has been associated with PASS for eight years and has been a Regional Mentor for Asia. I recently spent some time with her to learn how cultural differences affect IT careers.

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An Interview with PASS Summit First-Timer, David Taylor

David Taylor (Twitter: @dyfhid), leader of the PASS App Dev Virtual Chapter (http://appdev.sqlpass.org/), attended the PASS Summit for the first time in 2010! Read about how he managed to get to the Summit and what he found once he arrived.

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An Interview with PASSion Award Winner, Wendy Pastrick

Wendy Pastrick (Blog: http://www.wendyverse.blogspot.com/ Twitter: @wendy_dance) is the winner of the 2010 PASSion Award. The PASSion award is given each year to the volunteer who shows the most dedication and enthusiasm for the organization.  I spent some time with Wendy to find out about the award and her plans.

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Successful Teams Series

K. Brian Kelley (blog | twitter) has started a great series on attributes of Successful Teams.  His latest entry, Successful Teams: Knowing When to Step Out of Your Role really struck a chord at my work, as I explain in my latest entry over here.

I encourage you to read his stuff.  Here are a couple other entries in the series:

Interview with SQL Saturday #53 Organizer, Bill Fellows

I recently attended SQL Saturday #53 held in Kansas City, MO. I decided to get the inside scoop from organizer Bill Fellows about what it takes to put on a first-class SQL Server event.

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Benefit From the Summit Even if You Cannot Attend

If your chosen career path involves Microsoft SQL Server in any way, then one of the best moves you can make in terms of Professional Development is to attend the PASS Summit (either North American or European edition).  Yes, the Summit is as valuable for developers as it is for DBAs, and the Summit is the largest training event for Microsoft SQL Server, bar none.  Thomas LaRock (@SQLRockstar) posted a very funny preview for this year’s North American Summit.

Now, for some of you, this may be coming a little late as the North American Summit starts in just a couple of days, which may not be quite enough lead time for you to get funding and schedule flights, hotels, coverage, and all that.  But, just because you cannot attend in person does not mean that you cannot benefit from the Summit.  For the first time in Summit history, the daily Keynote addresses are being streamed live at no cost to you, and I just discovered that so is the Women in Technology Luncheon Panel.  (Don’t be a social luddite and think to yourself that the Women in Technology Luncheon is just for women.  I have attended it each of the last several years and can tell you from experience that it always provides valuable information and insight.)

Another way to benefit from the Summit even if you cannot be there in person is to purchase the DVD set of recorded sessions.  Here is a link to last year’s DVD set which included all 168 sessions plus David DeWitt’s Keynote.  Keep your eyes on the PASS site for information about this year’s DVDs, too.  And this is valuable for people who do attend the Summit, too, because there is so much good training, and you can’t be in every session.  It is common for me to have three or four different sessions that I want to attend that are all going on at the same time.  The DVD set is the next best thing to being there (to borrow a tagline).

Speakers, Please Check Your Time

Woodrow Wilson was once asked how long it would take him to prepare for a 10 minute speech. He replied "Two weeks". He was then asked how long it would take for a 1 hour speech. "One week", he replied. 2 hour speech? "I'm ready right now," he replied.  Whether that is a true story or an urban legend, I don’t really know, but either way, it is a poignant reminder for all speakers, and particularly apropos this week leading up to the PASS Community Summit.

(Cross-posted to the Ajarn’s SQL Corner on SQLTeam.com.)

What’s the point of that story?  Simply this…if you have plenty of time to do your presentation, you don’t need to prepare much because it is easy to throw in more and more material to stretch out to your allotted time.  But if you are on a tight time constraint, then it will take significant preparation to distill your talk down to only the essential points.

I have attended seven of the last eight North American Summit events, and every one of them has been fantastic.  The speakers are great, the material is timely and relevant, and the networking opportunities are awesome.  And every year, there is one little thing that just bugs me…speakers going over their allotted time.  Why does it bother me so?  Well, if you look at a typical schedule for a Summit, you’ll see that there are six or more sessions going on at the same time, and only 15 minutes to move from one to another.  If you’re trying to maximize your training dollar by attending something during every session time slot, and you don’t want to be the last guy trying to squeeze into the middle of the row, then those 15 minutes can be critical.  All the more so if you need to stop and use the bathroom or if you have to hike to the opposite end of the convention center.  It is really a bad position to find yourself having to choose between learning the last key points of Speaker A who is going over time, and getting over to Speaker B on time so you don’t miss her key opening remarks.

And frankly, I think it is just rude.  Yes, the speakers are the function, after all they are bringing the content that the rest of us are paying to learn.  But it is also an honor to be given the opportunity to speak at a conference like this, and no one speaker is so important that the conference would be a disaster without him.  Speakers know when they submit their abstract, long before the conference, how much time they will have.  It has been the same pattern at the Summit for at least the last eight years.  Program Sessions are 75 minutes long.  Some speakers who have a good track record, and meet other qualifying criteria, are extended an invitation to present a Spotlight Session which is 90 minutes (a 20% increase).  So there really is no excuse.  It’s not like you were promised a 2-hour segment and then discovered when you got here that it was only 75 minutes.  In fact, it’s not like PASS advertised 90-minute sessions for everyone and then a select few were cut back to only 75.  As a speaker, you know well before you get here which type of session you are doing and how long it is, so as a professional, you should plan accordingly.

Now you might think that this only happens to rookies, but I’ll tell you that some of the worst offenders are big-name veterans who draw huge attendance numbers for their sessions.  Some attendees blow this off as, “Hey, it’s so-and-so, and I’d stay here for hours and listen to him/her talk.”  To which I would reply, “Then they should have submitted for a pre- or post-conference day-long seminar instead, but don’t try to squeeze your day-long talk into a 90-minute session.”  Now I don’t really believe that these speakers are being malicious or just selfishly trying to extend their time in the spotlight.  I think that most of them are merely being undisciplined and did not trim their presentation sufficiently, or allowed themselves to get off-track (often in a generous attempt to help someone in the audience with a question or problem that really should have been noted for further discussion after the session).

So here is my recommendation…my plea, even.  TRIM THE FAT!  Now.  Before it’s too late.  Before you even get on the airplane, take a long, hard look at your presentation and eliminate some of the points that you originally thought you had to make, but in reality are not truly crucial to your main topic.  Delete a few slides.  Test your demos and have them already scripted rather than typing them during your talk.  It is better to cut out too much and end up with plenty of time at the end for Questions & Answers.  And you can always keep some notes on the stuff that you cut out so that you could fill it back in at the end as bonus material if you really do end up with a whole bunch of time on your hands.  But I don’t think you will.  And if you do, that will look even better to the audience as it will look like you’re giving them something extra that not every audience gets.  And they will thank you for that.

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