SQL Tact

pointers, solutions and scripts for the SQL DBA
not intended to replace msdn, common sense or oxford commas


SQL UG Leaders: Reach Out to Your .NET Friends

In Baton Rouge we make no secret that our user groups and our 578-person SQLSaturday combines the volunteers and attendees of our local PASS chapter with our neighborly Baton Rouge .NET User Group. It's not just SQL folks attending our monthly meetings and annual event.

When discussing this, I've always been very honest and enthusiastic that holding joint events of local technical communities really works.

We all joke that developers and database administrators don't get along. The playful banter back and forth between devs and DBA's in Baton Rouge is never mean spirited, and is actually embraced (see image to the right). I personally work with 20+ developers every day and enjoy the dialogue and camaraderie, at both a technical and social level.

I'd recommend collaborating with your local .NET UG community to any PASS user group looking to
1) increase the number of folks available for networking at monthly/annual events
2) increase the ROI to sponsors of monthly/annual events.

If your SQL Server User Group isn't reaching a critical mass of folks at your monthly user group meetings or annual SQLSaturday events, reach out to your .NET group. They might be in the same boat. 

Gaining a critical mass of attendees is important. That doesn't mean they all have to do the same job. That critical mass of attendees each month makes the room feel full, it makes folks want to invest in becoming a technical speaker, user community leader, and recruiter for future user group attendees. IT professionals are far more likely to recommend to their friends and colleagues a meeting that monthly gathers twice as many people.

Here's how we meet in Baton Rouge with both .NET and SQL User Groups:

5:45pm: Meet in one room for professional networking, dinner (usually pizza)
6:15pm: Introduce the user groups and each group's leadership. Give out announcements about upcoming events applicable to both groups, facility information, etc.
6:20pm: Announce the sponsor for the meeting. (Thank them for the pizza!) If present, the sponsor can give a demo or a talk or a giveaway.
  • Also allow for your host facility, whatever it may be, to talk briefly about their mission/purpose as well. In our case, the Louisiana Technology Park sometimes sends us a representative (or CEO!) to give a short pitch on what the Tech Park does and the kind of companies they foster.
6:30pm: Sometimes, a member of the user group will give a lightning round (10-15 minute presentation) on a topic that applies to both .NET and SQL crowds.
  • Past examples: SQL Server Reporting Services, Power BI, source control, professional development, communication skills, tools and utility applications, Visual Studio tips and tricks, security, cool upcoming tech gifts for holiday shopping.  
6:45pm: The crowd splits up into different rooms for their main .NET and SQL presentations
6:50pm: Once separated, sometimes each user group will have its own Lightning round and announcements.
  • For example, the Baton Rouge SQL group shows the monthly PASS slidedeck now, not to the combined crowd.
8pm: The crowd gets back together in the big room for raffle giveaways, see-you-next-time, more professional networking.
9pm: Usually, folks are still networking and chatting in the facility by the time we need to kick them out! Sometimes, they'll continue the tech talk and networking at a nearby bar or restaurant.

You may find that technology professionals will attend your joint SQL+.NET meeting, then decide which one to attend based on the topic. Many .NET coders know and work with SQL Server, and vice versa. In practice, we very rarely hear the complaint that they cannot attend both meetings. It hasn't happened in recent memory. User group presenters frequently make their presentation slidedecks available for download after the fact, or have the content recorded otherwise. Attendees can still visit with presenters from both presentations, regardless of what room they choose.

Here's what you may need to invite the .NET folks:

  1. Find a two-room venue, typically with one big room and one smaller room. Already have a meeting venue for your monthly meetings? Ask if they have another room you can use.

    Don't have a venue?
    • Reach out to universities, specifically the alumni coordinators or faculty members who are interested in connecting students with professionals in the field. Ask for a consistent, scheduled-in-advance location, don't get moved around every semester, it will hurt attendance.
    • Reach out to technology parks or incubators who cater to tech startups - tell them that your attendees are their target audience for future startup tenants.
    • Reach out to local consulting firms or training providers who have conference rooms in use during the day but vacant at night.
    • Reach out to local Microsoft offices or facilities.
  2. Don't get caught up in leadership competition, don't propose merging the user groups or taking away group sovereignty. That's not the idea. Figure out which folks among the user group leadership can emcee the meetings, remembering that it doesn't have to be one person.
  3. Recruit sponsors using the edge that you have a wide audience of technology professionals on the front end and back end of application development. Consider sharing finances between the two user groups for the purpose of user group sponsorship and supplies instead of splitting the sponsorship income and the food bill and arguing over "who pays for who". This is very similar to a marriage. :) If one user group has already incorporated as a not-for-profit, this means the other group doesn't need to go through this expense and hassle to enjoy the benefits.
  4. Order more pizza :) and drinks, make sure you have space and supplies to serve more folks. Combine resources when it comes to bulk purchases of cups, paper plates, napkins, etc.
  5. You don't have to combine main topic presentations, but sometimes it's possible. We've had the SQL and .NET groups stay together for topics like Database Performance tuning for Entity Framework, or SQL Server security and permissions.
  6. Host everyone-invited events like Networking Nights, Speaker Idols or Holiday Parties, where multiple speakers from both groups can give soft-skills, non-technical or highly-entertaining presentations, or no presentations at all.
    • Our Networking Night is the July meeting preceding our annual SQL Saturday event in August. It's our largest meeting every year, features short-format (<10 minute) entertaining presentations on career topics. It's part of the SQLSaturday sponsorship package too, giving a Career Night speaking opportunity to Gold and Platinum sponsors. 
    • Our Speaker Idol nights are entertaining and informative "competitions" where speakers create short (<10 minute) demos or "tips and tricks" presentations. "Celebrity judges" can include local CIO's or IT professionals who are witty with a talent for giving constructive feedback, congenial heckling and creating a fun, positive atmosphere. 
    • Holiday Parties are really tricky to schedule in December because of all the conflicts every night of the week. But we have in the past tried and had success with hosting a User Groups Holiday party. No main presentations at all, just networking. Perhaps do a "white elephant" or "sneaky santa" gift exchange. Find a restaurant with a low rental fee for a private room. Find a sponsor interested in connecting with the groups on a less formal level, like consulting companies or recruiters. (For liability purposes, don't have any of the user group funds pay for alcohol.)
  7. Add and recruit .NET tracks to your local annual SQLSaturday and ask .NET UG leadership to help recruit and select speaker sessions for the event. Expanding your tent can attract more folks, helping the event get a critical mass of attendees and greatly increasing the ROI for sponsors.
  8. Adding a partner group your PASS Chapter is not just for .NET by the way. You may find a lot of topical crossover and technical interest with a local Windows Server, PowerShell, virtualization platform, or IT Pro User Group, or perhaps with a SharePoint user community. 
    • Regardless, reach out to leadership of other user groups and introduce yourself. At your user group meetings, evangelize for other groups in the area, even non-Microsoft ones.

In summary, try reaching that important critical mass of attendees by making a bigger, wider tent. Yes, this will have much more appeal to sponsors, especially recruiters and staffing agencies, and this isn't an insignificant reality. 

But it will also incentivize attendance by exponentially increasing the monthly opportunities for:
knowledge transfer,
cross-technical training, 
professional and social networking, 
development of new local technical speakers,
fostering leadership enthusiasm in user group leadership, 
and fun.

If you'd like to discuss this more, please do not hesitate to ask via Twitter, LinkedIn or the comment section of this blog post.


SQLSaturday Baton Rouge 2016!

Free SQL Server, SharePoint and .NET training

SQLSaturday is a global event to bring Information Technology speakers and professionals together for a community-driven, community-attended free day of technical training. The Baton Rouge SQLSaturday event is sponsored by the Baton Rouge SQL Server and .NET User Groups, and will be our annual event on campus at LSU. We expect 600+ regional IT professionals and national speakers to join us. This free conference is open to the public and is perfect for students, CIO's, database administrators, developers, IT managers, server admins and job-seekers. 


An all day FREE training event with SQL Server, Development and SharePoint related sessions spread out over multiple tracks of Business Intelligence, Database Administration, SQL Development, SharePoint, IT Pro and .NET development. 

Who Attends SQLSaturday? 
Folks with the following skillsets are drawn to SQL Saturday Baton Rouge because of the professional networking, free training, and giveaways:
  • SQL Server Administrators
  • Business Intelligence Developers
  • Data Analysts
  • ETL Developers
  • C#/VB.NET Developers
  • Mobile Developers
  • Windows Server Admins
  • SharePoint Architects
  • SharePoint Developers
  • Network Administrators
  • Quality Assurance Analysts
  • IT Managers
  • Students
  • Project Managers
  • Hiring Managers
  • Jobseekers of all levels of experience
  • Students
  • CIO's
  • CEO's

At the end of 2015, we polled our user group membership and got this amazing feedback on SQLSaturday Baton Rouge #423 in August of 2015:

"As a former speaker and attendee at Sql Saturday, I must say you guys knock the ball out of the park with SQL Saturday. You guys put on a top notch event for both presenters and attendees."
"SQL Saturday is always top-notch!"
"SQL Saturday is always on point. Love this event and always promote it to other groups."
"I am happy that the talks are open to more topics than just .Net and MSSQL"

Saturday, August 6, 2016. Online registration is now open, but it is filling up fast so reserve your spot now. Attendee check-in will begin at 8:00 AM first sessions beginning at 9:15 AM. A full list of session tracks and schedule is available.


Training To-Do List for New DBA

Are you an entry-level DBA, or looking to make the career switch? Feel like you are looking up from the bottom of a very tall ladder? Don't have much of a budget for training?

Here's a list of resources I'd recommend, in no particular order.

EDIT: I presented this content, along with a bunch of other content and some lame jokes, at the Baton Rouge User Groups Networking Night on July 13. You can download the slidedeck here.

Register for PASS and join your local SQL Server User Group and also some Virtual Chapters. Pay special attention to:
o DBA Fundamentals - http://fundamentals.sqlpass.org/
o Database Administration - http://dba.sqlpass.org/
o Security - http://security.sqlpass.org/

Register for SQLSaturday Baton Rouge on Aug 6, or the nearest SQLSaturday to your location. Somewhere in the world, a free SQLSaturday community event is held almost every week.
o Register to volunteer too: http://www.sqlsaturday.com/515/Volunteers.aspx 
o Check out the pre-cons before this SQLSaturday and others like it - they are a bargain for the quality and quantity of training.

Register at SQL Server Central and look into some of the "Stairways". Pay special attention to:
o Stairway to Integration Services: http://www.sqlservercentral.com/stairway/72494/
o Stairway to SQL Server Indexes: http://www.sqlservercentral.com/stairway/72399/
o Stairway to SQL Server Security: http://www.sqlservercentral.com/stairway/110890/
o Stairway to Transaction Logs: http://www.sqlservercentral.com/stairway/73776/

Register for the Microsoft Virtual Academy. Pay special attention to:
o Database Fundamentals: https://mva.microsoft.com/en-US/training-courses/database-fundamentals-8243
o Updating your Skillset to SQL 2014: https://mva.microsoft.com/en-US/training-courses/updating-your-database-management-skills-to-sql-server-2014-8313?l=S3j693Yy_704984382

Codecademy.com free online learning labs for various languages including non-vendor specific tutorials on the SQL language standard:

Pluralsight.com contains many hours of high quality instructional videos for many, many technical platforms.
o Look for Pluralsight coupons at your SQL Server user group via giveaways, they're a big sponsor of user groups
o Pluralsight will give free access to recently unemployed and military, email unemployed@pluralsight.com 
o MSDN subscriptions come with some access

• There are a ton of books out there for SQL Server and the goal of this blog post isn't to do a book review any of them in particular. I don't intend to rank or rate any of them here, as my first-hand experience with the breadth of SQL books is limited.
o But, here's an incomplete, not-exhaustive list to check out first. If you want, please add some to this list in the comments of this blog post. Special emphasis on free here.
o An excellent ground-floor introduction to being a SQL Server DBA is the SQL Server 2012 Step by Step book by Patrick Leblanc from Microsoft Press. Full disclosure: I was a technical editor and writer for this book but do not collect any sales residual.
o SQL Sentry eBooks series: High Performance Techniques for SQL Server (free)
o SQL Server eBooks from Microsoft Press (free)
o SQL Server PDF's from Red-Gate (free)
o SQL Server Execution Plans (PDF) by Grant Fritchey (free)

Got additions and suggestions? Please add them to the comments in this blog post.