Preparing for PASS Summit 2019 – Logistics & Survival

It’s time once again to prepare ourselves for the endurance test that is PASS Summit, November 5-8. I’ve participated in the Summit Buddies program the past two years, but am taking this year off from it. Instead, I’m collecting information I’ve sent to to my buddies ahead of past Summits and posting it here on my blog, in hopes that it helps folks out. This is going to be broken down into a couple posts.

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PASS Summit 2018 – A Lesson in Personal Branding

Last year at PASS Summit 2017, I heard a number of comments related to people not recognizing me without the hat in my social media photo/avatar. The linked post started and concluded with the notion that I needed to take a new photo.

That never happened. Instead, I embraced The Hat. And it was totally worth it. I got a bit of ribbing from folks early in the week but it was all friendly. Trying to meet up with people at various points in the week, I’d get messages like “I’m in (location), looking for your hat, where are you?” People introduced themselves when they spotted me doing my PASS Ambassador duties because they recognized the hat from my photo.

A couple people had more fun than I expected:

I met a few people sans hat and they didn’t immediately connect me (the person) with me (the Twitter account). Not a big deal, but I learned an important lesson from it. Apparently, this is how I’m known in a portion of the community now – the guy in the hat. Folks are accustomed to seeing/talking to me on Slack/Twitter with a particular image next to my name. That’s the image of me they have in their mind. Therefore, it’s best if I maintain that appearance offline as well.

I’m OK with this. It sets me apart from the crowd a bit and as time marches on and protecting my head from the elements becomes more important, it becomes a more necessary part of my wardrobe. At big events like this where I’m actively trying to meet people I’ve only spoken with online, I just need to be more consistent about wearing it.

The Hat stays!

PASS Summit 2018 – Photos

My album of people and events at Summit 2018. Somehow a number of photo opportunities were missed!

PASS Summit: Planting Seeds of Knowledge

On the eve of this year’s PASS Summit, I find myself reflecting on my first Summit in 2012. My employer was generous enough to pay for not only Summit itself, but a pre-con session on Tuesday as well.

I was a developer with an interest in SQL Server and PowerShell at the time, not a DBA. Becoming a DBA wasn’t on my radar yet. Regardless, I used the opportunity to attend a full-day class on managing SQL Server with PowerShell, taught by Allen White (blog | twitter). One of the big focal points of the day was the SQL Server Management Objects, aka SMO.

What I learned that day wasn’t immediately usable in my day-to-day job. Parts of it flew way over my head at the time. But the seeds were planted. It’d be several years before I got to the point of really applying it. Initially, my application was limited to some development “DBA-lite” tasks and suggestions for our sysadmins.

After a job change to become a full-time DBA, I started using and then contributing to dbatools, which uses SMO heavily. That previous exposure to SMO proved very beneficial. dbatools provides a lot of functionality, but it doesn’t do “everything.” In my own scripts, I’ve used that knowledge of the SMO object methods and properties to extend that functionality.

As I pore over this year’s schedule, I remind myself and ask you to consider not just what’s applicable to your present work and environment. Catch some sessions just to see what else is out there, or what’s coming. It’ll open doors for you in the future. Being informed about a wider range of topics will help you guide the conversation toward better solutions in the future. You don’t have to become a master of the topic; just know that something exists, what it can be applied to (equally valuable: where it won’t apply), and where to start gathering information if the solution is worth pursuing.

PASS Summit 2018 – Let’s Hang Out! Where to Find Me

In addition to being an amazing opportunity for both technical and professional development, PASS Summit is a #sqlfamily reunion and a huge networking event. Catching up with old friends, meeting new ones, finding out who’s doing what with which technologies, etc.

This is one of the few times each year I’m anything even approaching a social butterfly and I’ve had one or two people ask about my schedule so we can plan meetups. Summit is so huge that you have to plan these things. You can’t count on randomly bumping into people around the convention center or city, and if you happen to spot someone you really want to meet, you have to take advantage of that opportunity the first time it presents itself.

I will have some dbatools badge ribbons with me this year, but I waited too long to re-order so they’ll probably run out early. Get ’em while you can!

So, with less than two weeks until we’re all together in Seattle, where will I be found? Here’s my schedule thus far for “extracurriculars” – non-session, non-keynote time. Keep in mind that this is just what I have booked right now – I’ve purposely kept time open as I know other things will pop up, plus I like to see where the breeze takes me

Note: I’m an early(ish) riser and while I’m not out until 3 AM at #SQLKaraoke, I don’t turn in at 9 PM either. I’m always ready for a late-night snack & beer or if you want to grab breakfast, we can probably make that happen Thursday or Friday.

Tuesday

  • 12:00 – My flight is scheduled to arrive in Seattle
  • 13:30 – 13:30 – PASS Local User Group Leader meeting. I’ll probably arrive late and I expect to catch some flak from Grant for that.
  • 16:00 – 18:30 – SQL Trail Mix
  • 18:00 – 19:30 – v.20 Celebration
  • 19:30 – 22:30 – I’ll be at an event off-site.

Wednesday

  • Breakfast with my Summit Buddies crew
  • 11:30 – 12:30 – Hosting the Development & Administration Tools Birds of a Feather table in the Quest Dining Hall
  • 15:00 – 18:00 – Community Zone US East Spotlight hours. I won’t be there the full 3 hours but as I’m in the US East region, I’ll be there for a while meeting folks.
  • 19:00 – 21:00 – I’ll be at an event off-site.
  • 20:30 – 22:30 – I’ll be at a different event off-site.

Thursday

  • Sometime – I need to find a geocache so I can get one day closer to having a find recorded on each day of the calendar year. Fortunately, there are a couple very close to the convention center
  • 11:00 – 12:00 – The Apress booth will be hosting a signing for Malathi Mahadevan’s (b|t) book Data Professionals at Work, along with a SentryOne giveaway. Looking forward to picking up a copy of the book and getting it signed by the contributors, high school yearbook style!
  • 11:30 – 12:30 – Lunch
  • 12:45 – 13:45 – I’ll be posted as a PASS Ambassador in the 6ABC Lobby helping people find their rooms and sessions. I’ll be wearing a red PASS vest for visibility.
  • 17:00 – 18:00 – PASS Board Q&A
  • 19:00 – 22:30 – Games Night in Ballroom 6A. If you aren’t signed up for one of these (they’re happening both Wednesday and Thursday nights), it’s really a good time to unwind and have a relaxing evening talking with people over a board or card game.

Friday

  • 12:00 – 13:00 – Hosting the Migrating SQL Server Birds of a Feather table in the Quest Dining Hall
  • 13:00 – 14:00 – I’ll be posted as a PASS Ambassador on the Skybridge, once again in the red PASS vest
  • 22:15 – Plane leaves Seattle. If you’re flying out on JetBlue, hang out with Matt (b|t) & me in the terminal!

Please ping me on Twitter or the SQL Community Slack (@alevyinroc there too) if you want to meet up during the week, whether it’s to grab a bite to eat, attend a session together, get a beer, trade badge ribbons, or just say hi!

I Will See You in Seattle!

A few weeks ago, I teased good news.

One person hypothesized that I’m joining Microsoft (it seems to be the thing to do lately) and another jumped to the conclusion that I must be pregnant. Both creative responses, but not quite correct.

I’ll be at PASS Summit 2018!

So much to do!

  • Pick some sessions
  • Make my checklist of #sqlfamily I need to see
  • Find a way to pack lighter (I think the iPad will stay home this time)
  • Up my selfie game
  • Get back into shape for #sqlrun
  • Print up some more dbatools ribbons
  • Figure out the social media photo situation (see above, “Up my selfie game”)

If you’re attending Summit, let’s meet up! I’ll be on Twitter, Slack, and Instagram (@alevyinroc across the board) all week and roaming the convention center & various evening events so ping me there to find out where I am.

Because Summit starts on Election Day here in the USA, be sure to either get to your local polling place that morning or follow your state’s process to request & submit an absentee ballot. Every election is more important than the one before it (that’s the most political I’ll get on this blog, I swear).

PASS Summit 2017 Wrap-Up – The People!

I need a new social media profile picture.

That’s one of the most important (non-technical) conclusions I drew from my week at PASS Summit 2017. It seemed like everywhere I went, I heard “I didn’t recognize you without the hat!” The picture I use on Slack, Twitter and Instagram is the same one I use here on my About Me page. This photo was taken in 2014 at the West Bend, WI Cache Bash and it’s one of the few photos of myself that I actually like (harsh shadows aside). I nearly did bring The Hat with me, but decided against it as it’s big, heavy, and not really an “indoor” hat.

But I digress. The point is, a lot of the people who I met at Summit only previously knew me with The Hat. But that also means that I was meeting a lot of people in person for the first time. And meeting new people is my second-favorite thing to do at PASS events – my favorite being catching up with everyone I already know.

Once I was registered for Summit, I told myself that I was going to make every after-hours event I could and meet everyone I could all over Summit & the associated events. I even signed up for the Summit Buddy program to meet people while helping them navigate their first Summit.

Monday

I didn’t even get through the hotel lobby in before spotting my first SQLFamily. En route from the front desk to the elevator, I crossed paths with Chrissy LeMaire (b|t), Rob Sewell (b|t), Constantine Kokkinos (b|t), and (I think – memory’s fuzzy here) Sander Stad (b|t)! I immediately introduced myself (with The Hat, no introductions would have been needed). We chatted for a moment but they had dinner plans they needed to get to, and I needed a bit of a rest from my trek before heading out to the networking dinner at Yard House.

I arrived at the Networking Dinner hosted by Lisa Bohm (though I didn’t meet her until Tuesday evening) and all the tables were full. I was early for my seating but after a short wait I was able to get a seat at a table with Jeremy Marx (t), whom I’d spoken with on Slack but we didn’t realize it for a few minutes (again, The Hat). A few moments later, we were joined by George Anderson (t), and then finally Kiril Kravstov (b|t) – another dbatools contributor!

Monday was over and I’d already met a half-dozen people. Incredible. I also managed to track down my friend Bill Schultz (t). We worked together a several years ago, and now despite living only an hour away from one another, we only see each other at Summit.

Tuesday

I had an early start as I needed to meet up with Chrissy to give her the badge ribbons I finally found buried in my backpack (not the first time I’ve lost things in its various pockets). Along the way, I bumped into another dbatools team member, Shawn Melton (b|t), who was awarded MVP status by Microsoft the following day.

A bunch of us hung out in the precon classroom and helped with setup, but as I was neither registered for the precon nor running it, I had to take off. I needed breakfast anyway. At the Daily Grille, I spotted Mike Fal (b|t), Rie Irish (b|t) and Monica Rathbun (b|t) at another booth and when I was finished with my meal, I stopped over to say hi. I worked with Mike when we were both at previous jobs, but I’d only spoken with Rie and Monica via Twitter previously.

I spent much of Tuesday in meetings for User Group leaders and SQL Saturday Organizers, but that just meant more new people to meet! On the lunch break, I walked down to Beecher’s with William Assaf (b|t) and Adrian Aucoin (b. Later in the day was the First Timers Orientation and Speed Networking. I attempted to arrange a meeting of my first-timers group just before that event but was only able to find half of them, Kathy & Jasper. The event is set up as a way to get you talking to new people, but unfortunately when you have a couple hundred people all in one room in pairs, all trying to have the same conversation, it gets very loud and a number of people left early. By chance, I found myself sitting next to James Livingston (t), a fellow Rochestarian!

After Orientation was the Welcome Reception. They had a live band! But wow was it loud. I hung out with Kiril and we managed to chat with a number of people including Luis Gonzales (t), Lisa, and Allen White (b|t) before making our way toward the exit with Chrissy and Rob to head over to Tap House for the dbatools team gathering. At Tap House, I met Amanda Crisp (b|t), whom I’d spoken with a few times on Twitter. I don’t recall what it was that put us each others’ respective radars, but it was good to finally meet!

Wednesday

As is tradition, Wednesday started with #SQLRun at 6 AM. 2017 was a bad year for me with regard to running, but the cool weather and good company like Nick Harshberger (t), Allen, Jen McCown (t) and James (who I ended up running with the whole time with) make it lots of fun. James and I clocked about 3 1/2 miles at a relaxed pace, though I had to take a bit of a breather coming up out of Pike’s Market (the ascent from Alaskan Way is tough).

After the run, I got cleaned up and braced myself for the madness that is Day One. On my way up the escalator to breakfast, I spotted someone I’ve wanted to meet for a while at one of the coffee shops and decided it was now or never. Summit is so large that if there’s someone you want to meet for the first time or someone you already know and want to catch up with, you have to do it the first time you’re anywhere near them. You may not get a second chance.

So, I detoured from my path to breakfast, apologized for interrupting his breakfast, and introduced myself to Brent Ozar (b|t). We chatted for about 5 minutes, he gave me a suggestion for mitigating some SQL Server performance issues I was dealing with at work (which I immediately texted to my colleague back at the office), and then he gave me a few Query Bucks and was gracious enough to pose for a selfie. Terrific start to the day.

After breakfast I meandered to the ballroom for the Keynote and found myself a prime seat right behind the blogger table. Closest to me was Kevin Kline (b|t), and we got to catch up for a few minutes before he had to get ready to liveblog the keynote. While we were talking Gail Shaw (b|t) arrived and I got to meet her as well!

Post-keynote, I found my way to the exhibitor hall. After checking in with a few folks, I bumped into Justin Whaley (b|t), who I discovered was working on some PowerShell functions for Red Gate tools just before Summit. We chatted a bit and decided to catch up later on to discuss his work.

One of the best things that happens at Summit is the chance encounters. As I started down the buffet table to get lunch, I looked up and discovered Deborah Melkin (b|t) across the table from me! Deborah spoke at SQL Saturday Albany last summer and had I been able to attend the event, her session was on my must-see list.

Wednesday evening was the big night for events. As an avid listener of the SQL Data Partners Podcast, I signed up for Carlos & Steve’s SQL Trail Mix event as soon as I heard about it. In their post-Summit podcast, I learned that they had a very limited number of tickets available for this event, so I’m glad I didn’t wait. Right away I saw Kathi Kellenberger (b|t) and Sheila Acker (t) (trivia: Sheila’s one of the first people I met & talked to for more than 5 seconds at my first Summit in 2012). Later, I’d find out that there were several people at this event whom I’d run into later in the week or I wanted to meet up with, but didn’t see.

As I left, I chatted with Carlos & Steve for a bit about Scouting; all three of us are currently or previously have been involved with Cub Scouts and/or Boy Scouts over the years (something I’ve noticed across SQL Family for a while).

Up next was Pike Brewing Company and the Sentry One party. The place was packed and I immediately found myself catching up with Kirsten Benzel (t) (we never got a chance to geek out about our watches though 🙁 ), Argenis Fernandez (b|t) (whom I saw briefly at SQL Trail Mix) and Monica, plus I got to meet a few more folks milling around the bar. This was also the event where Lou talked me into trying out the 5X Stout Float, a custom concoction presented by one of the bartenders. I was skeptical at first, but wow. I’m going to have to try this one at home sometime.

Thursday

Thursday tends to be my “easy” day at Summit. It’s the “down” day between “gotta meet everyone I can ASAP” on Wednesday and “gotta catch everyone to say goodbye” on Friday. The big daytime event was the PowerShell panel hosted by Chrissy & Rob. We put out the call on Twitter and Slack to get as many dbatools contributors in the room so that we could get a group photo. By my count we had thirteen! At least one other team member had been at Summit but due to other obligations, he wasn’t able to make it for the photo. We’ll just ‘shop him later, right? I finally got meet John Hohengarten (t) and Jess Pomfret (t) there too (we snuck in a photobomb on Chrissy & Nic Cain (b|t)). I’ve spoken with John a lot on Slack, and Jess is another person with whom I’ve crossed paths on Twitter but never gotten to meet.

Thursday evening there were a few more sponsor parties but I was already signed up for Game Night hosted by Kevin Hill (b|t) at the convention center. Three years ago, I attended a small game night hosted by a sponsor in a shop a few blocks from the convention center, but it’s now a semi-official event with PASS backing – PASS even has a collection of tabletop games they bring to Summit for us! I don’t play a lot of board games (beyond the classics) at home but I’m looking to branch out, so I was really looking forward to this event. And it didn’t disappoint! It’s a small, quiet, laid-back gathering so you can chat with people while figuring out how to play the game you’ve picked out. Some welcome downtime.

But between the sessions and the games, we had some open time and needed to find food. Fortunately, Charlie Brown (t) was in the same boat but he’d heard about a good place nearby to get something quick. Charlie & I had talked a bit on Slack in the weeks leading up to Summit but hadn’t met yet, so we got to close that loop. As we waited in line for our food, Kathy and Bert Wagner (b|t) arrived unexpectedly so we all ate together, then several of us walked back to the convention center.

I teamed up with Kathy, Karin (another first-timer) and Swan Web (t) to learn/play Pandemic. Only Karin had played before so the game moved a little slower than with four experienced players, but the we had good time learning how it worked. A 100% collaborative game (as opposed to competitive) was a new experience for me and I ended up buying it to play at home! As things wound down I chatted with a couple of people including Kevin and Matt Cushing (b|t), once again being reminded that I was missing The Hat.

I thought this would be an early night, but making my way through the Sheraton I saw Justin hanging out in the lounge and stopped to catch up about his PowerShell functions for Red Gate tools. What might have been a 20-minute conversation ended up being several hours as we talked about anything and everything.

Friday

Friday’s kind of a sad day because it means having to say goodbye to everyone. I caught a couple of sessions but also spent a bit of time hanging out in the Community Zone. I also made sure to stop by the last few sponsors I needed to talk to, entered a few more of their drawings, and actually won one of them!

Earlier in the week I saw #SQLFamily badge ribbons and I was determined to find out where those came from. Turns out they were brought by ArcticDBA (b|t) and he wanted a dbatools ribbon, so we managed to finally meet up just before lunch and make an exchange.

Closing down the week, I made sure to attend Carlos L. Cachon’s session on baselining, something that I’m not doing a great job of right now. I discussed the highlight (for me) of that session in an earlier post. After the session, having outed myself as a member of the dbatools team, someone approached me with a question about installing the module, as he was having difficulty with one workstation. Unfortunately he’d already tried everything I could think of, so I suggested that he get onto Slack and ask the folks there. Shortly after Summit, he was there and got a solution to the problem.

The official festivities over, I grabbed my luggage and made my way to Tap House. Kevin mentioned that he was getting a bunch of people together there for dinner and drinks and while I had made plans to go to Crab Pot, I had time to pop in for a drink on the way. We quickly took over the billiards room in the back and by this point in the week, it was almost all familiar faces. I chatted with Shane O’Neill (b|t) for a while and he commented that he’d been to New York to visit family somewhat recently. We got to talking about it and I learned that on that trip, he was actually in my town. Incredible! Hopefully on a return visit we can meet up and maybe even schedule our local user group meeting so he can attend.

On to Crab Pot! I’ve heard about this dinner over the years, hosted by Tim Mitchell (b|t), and decided that since I had to do something besides sit in the airport terminal for five hours, I’d go. I don’t know how many people were there but it had to be at least 50 and it was very busy.

Recap

One thing that really struck me about the week was how little time I spent on social media looking for things to do. Instead, I was talking to people and finding or even making those things happen. I ended up turning the notifications from Slack and Twitter up to eleven to make sure that I didn’t miss anything critical there. As it turned out, my inattention to Twitter resulted in me missing an informal talk at the Microsoft booth about the new SQL Operations Studio, but oh well. On the other hand, I still got the notifications from people I was talking to.

At my past two Summits, I found myself completely drained and exhausted by the time Friday came around. Surprisingly, it didn’t happen this time around despite feeling like I did a lot more. I think I just paced myself better. Or maybe I’m becoming less introverted and talking to people is energizing me more.

I heard “I was hoping to meet you here” a few times outside the folks I’d pre-arranged seeing and that was a completely unexpected, but really awesome, experience.

Things I Did Well

  • Get up the gumption to introduce myself to new people
  • Stay off social media/my phone except where necessary
  • Find lunch tables with the fewest empty seats and join in the conversation, even/especially with strangers
  • Renewed connections with people I knew from past events
  • Not get completely exhausted

Things I Need to Work On

  • Step up the selfie game (including getting the courage to ask people for selfies)
  • Talk to more people at the booths in the exhibitor hall
  • Coordinate with my group if I join the Summit Buddies program
  • Get to a couple more sessions. I bought the session recordings so I can catch up, but sessions are still a good place to meet people

Now, to find that new social media profile photo…