SQL PASS Summit 2015

Another amazing PASS Summit week is complete and I am sitting in SEA-TAC airport, waiting for my flight back to the east coast (at the time I wrote this). I am going to hop on the red-eye in about an hour so that I will make it home in time to take my daughters, Kayla and Paige, out for trick-or-treating tomorrow evening. I am excited to return home but also cannot believe how quickly this week flew by.

Last year was my first PASS Summit experience. I hit the ground running and tried to fill my limited cup to the brim with as much community immersion a possible. It was extremely rewarding but also exhausting (read about it here). This year, I set out to refine my Summit approach.

Seattle, not PASS

One of my regrets from the PASS Summit 2014 was that I failed to enjoy Seattle enough. Last year was my first trip to Seattle and I walled myself up in the convention center for the entire week. I ate convention food or generic fast food the entire week and only saw the EMP Museum because the Community Appreciation Party was hosted there.

This year I made a small step forward by trying out some local eateries, a flat rate pizza joint named Mod Pizza and a great food truck named Now Make Me a Sandwich.

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Next year I hope to be able to come up for the full week and maybe skip one of the pre-con days so that I can hit up Pike Place Market and a few other Seattle high-lights, suggestions appreciated.

Giving back

Every month PASS provides our chapter leaders with a few slides of information that the leaders can choose to present at the user group meetings. Consistently PASS has reached out for volunteers. Our #SQLFamily is built by volunteers and members who give back to the community. In that spirit I sought out as many opportunities to volunteer as I could. I highly recommend that future attendees look into volunteering, individual opportunities only take 30-45 mins and most are schedule when there are no sessions that you need to attend. For example, I helped bring people’s attention to open seats before the key notes and spent some time before the welcome reception answering questions and directing them to the correct ballroom.

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Quality, not quantity

I arrived on Tuesday afternoon with my metaphorical cup empty and vowed not to overfill it. If I was not going to push myself to meet as many people as possible, I needed to define what a quality action was. Without that definition, I would simply be doing less and not better.

There are certain actions which I immediately ruled out because they are low quality engagements, even though they are likely high priority goals for many attendees.

  • Seek out MVPs, MCMs, and other famous community members.
  • Seek out private parties, assuming that the partiers would be of a more important status than the open parties.
  • Attend sessions that I do not care about just so that I can meet the speaker at the end.

Meeting new #SQLFamily members

I decided to define quality networking as, “a networking engagement which is likely to turn into a future relationship.” I met many new people this year but I focused on trying to extend my conversations beyond the initial, “Hi, how are you? Did you like the conference so far? What do you do?” Those are great ice breakers but, in my opinion, conversations that end at that level are not likely to convert into relationships. Those are the people who either will not remember you next year or you will not remember them.

I also embraced every opportunity to talk to people about non-SQL topics. A few times I noticed surprised faces when I brought up the closing of my new house, which is coming up in two weeks. I enjoyed the opportunity to shift the topic to children, Halloween plans, or anything of that type.

While seeking out new relationships, I also took care to renew existing relationships. I made a list of #sqlfamily members who I have met before in person or have interacted with via digital means and set goals for me to nail them down and strengthen our connection. We all have so little time as we transition between sessions and are sucked into crowds which is why I enjoyed seeing the same people repeatedly through-out the week, allowing us to pickup our conversations where we left off.

Take-aways

I once heard a story by an unknown author.

A professor stood up in front of a mass of students and held up an empty glass cup. He then pointed to a bowl of sand and said, “this sand represents fun, pleasure, and instance gratification.” He then filled the cup with the sand. “Man that was fun,” he said. With a smile he moved over and picked up a bowl of rocks. He poured the rocks over the glass and watched them all fall to the ground, not one staying in the cup. “Those represented family, friends, and other meaning full relationships.” Finally, he put the cup down and picked up a new, and empty, glass. He filled the cup with rocks then began pouring the sand over the rocks. Several rocks fit in the cup and then the sand poured around the rocks, filling in all the gaps.

Make certain that you take every opportunity available to immerse yourself in the community but take care to set goals and focus on what you should be filling your cup with.

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