Wednesday, November 13, 2019

What's New in SQL 2019? at BRSSUG

Thanks to everyone who joined the BRSSUG for a night all about SQL Server 2019! We got off into tangents and use cases for Big Data Clusters, columnstore, graph databases. We reviewed cool new syntax and patterns when they'll be used. We laughed at developers who use GUIDs as their clustered indexes. We discussed why it's a B+tree not a B-tree. Overall a great time!

Slidedeck here:'s%20New%20in%20SQL%202019.pptx

Any referenced "toolbox" labs here:

Thanks for all the kudos and great feedback on the presentation, will be incorporating it for as long as this presentation is topical!

Tuesday, November 05, 2019

Tips to build a your-departure-proof leadership team in your tech community

This is a fairly poignant issue for many technical community leaders who feel alone in what can be a thankless job. Let's talk about some guidance and tips for fostering and farming fellow volunteers from the user community. As a user group leader for 10+ years myself, and also the spouse of the leader of a successful local activism startup, I hope to share some wisdom here. I welcome any additional feedback from the host of technical user group leaders as well.

I presented these ideas at PASS Summit's Local Group leaders meeting on 11/5/2019.
  1. What to look for in a volunteer
    Baton Rouge UG meeting
    • Enthusiasm is the primary job qualification. Period.
      • For any nonprofit, for any volunteer organization, enthusiasm is always the number one criteria.
    • Nice to haves: 
      • Good written and verbal communication skills.
      • Reliable transportation and attendance. 
      • Willingness to spend time sending emails and following up. 
      • Someone with a network of connections in the technical or local community.
      • But really, without enthusiasm, this all falls apart.
    • Understand that people get involved in nonprofits for different reasons.
      • Some people just want to help, not lead.
      • Some people will want to eventually lead. Both are OK and you should encourage either.
      • Some people will want to volunteer to meet, to network, to further their career. That's ok too.
    • Some folks may be too shy to ask to be involved, or not sure of the protocol. Make sure you regularly announce that you're looking to add more volunteer leaders to the organization, and if necessary, reach out and ask someone. They may be honored to be asked!
  2. How to best delegate
    Baton Rouge UG meeting
    • Creative, heuristic work is more motivational than strict directions. You don't have to provide detailed, step by step instructions or standard operating procedures to people. In fact, you shouldn't. That can actually be stifling to enthusiasm.
      • Provide details on outcomes and maybe things like frequency or timing. 
      • Give volunteers tasks, let them own it. Make sure everyone knows what they should do, but let them create, with support and followup and encouragement on your part.
    • A leader in a volunteer organization doesn't bark orders. Again, ask volunteers do tasks where they can feel ownership, so that they can feel empowered. Creative, even.
    • As a leader, you are setting the norms for board membership, setting the bar for what leadership looks like. This looks like hounding sponsors, speakers, sending emails, updating websites, proactively planning, etc., the things you're already been doing.
      • When you lead by example cleaning up garbage or a spill, enthusiastic volunteers will see this and follow suit. You've defined the behavior of a leader in this org.
    • When it's something easy, simple, or right in front of you, don't delegate it, do it yourself. 
      • For example, everyone's job is garbage cleanup duty afterwards, or clean up a spill. Everyone's job is to get their own coffee and lunch. Everyone's job is to move things with a hand truck.
    • Stop using any personal or work emails to conduct User Group business. Get organized with shared online tools like a shared group accounts for sending emails, online docs, shared calendars.
      • Share relationship contact info for food vendors, facility contacts. Communicate regularly.
    • Part of that empowering of your volunteers is going to include listening to their suggestions to change the way things are done, the way things YOU have been doing them. Part of leading a volunteer org is trying out their ideas, and part of fostering fellow volunteer leaders is allowing their ideas to come to fruition.
  3. Some anti-patterns and caveats
  4. Some of the Baton Rouge UG Organizers at SQLSatBR
    • Someone who thinks they're too cool to show enthusiasm, either doesn't have enthusiasm, or hasn't been prompted to show it. Make sure you show enthusiasm that is contagious.
    • People who want to lead after their first meeting... great enthusiasm! But maybe don't assign critical group tasks until they have participated regularly.
    • Anyone familiar with the term "slackivist"? The social media sharer and retweeter makes for a great member, but generating that content and showing up to the meetings is what makes for a great future user group leader. A good future user group leader attends, speaks, volunteers, helps move things and be places in addition to being a social media megaphone.  
    • Don't throw too much at a new volunteer, regardless of enthusiasm level. Make sure they feel part of a team, not that you are dumping all the workload on them. The internal and external perception should be that a new volunteer is joining the team, with all the benefits of teamwork therein.

The SQLSaturday pitch to host facilities

Not being able to find a good, affordable venue to host a SQLSaturday is a show-stopping problem that is common to a lot of events, especially SQLSaturdays getting started or having to relocate in their city. Let's talk about the sales pitch that we as SQLSaturday organizers can give during initial introductions and conversations with a new potential host venue.

I presented these ideas at PASS Summit's SQLSaturday leaders meeting on 11/5/2019.
  1. First off, to review typical meeting facilities:
    LSU Business Education Complex atrium, home of SQLSatBR
    • community colleges and universities, technical/trade colleges
    • training or conference centers
    • technology parks or business incubators
    • Microsoft Technology Centers
    • hotels as a last resort, because of the typically high cost
  2. Leverage PASS
    • Mention how PASS is an international organization that has hosted over a thousand of these events, include a link. This is a large, leading professional organization for data platform professionals.
    • Mention that SQLSaturdays around the world are hosted at major universities, include some that have happened in nearby cities, similar-sized markets, or their competitors!
    • Put an emphasis on engaging with the local community of potential students, clients, tech enthusiasts. SQLSaturdays are authentic opportunities to get involved in the local tech community, something that many public institutions of higher education desire.
    • Mention the local and (inter)national sponsors at nearby or recent events, and what locations hosted them.
  3. Pitching to universities
    SQLSatBR sponsor lineup, including facility host LSU
    and our monthly UG hosts, LTP and ASC
    • If going after a university or college, try first reaching out directly to faculty, especially faculty who teach databases, business intelligence, or analytics. By leveraging them internally, you can cut through a lot of bureaucracy if the event becomes internally-sponsored.
      • Many universities have master's or certificate programs in data analytics and cybersecurity these days. Try to reach out to that program's faculty personally.
      • Of course, use your alumni/alumnae relationship, or that of a fellow SQLSaturday organizer, to work inside the academic institution, bypassing red tape.
      • Now, if you're talking to someone who manages the facilities for rental, they probably don't care about any of that. They're probably just thinking in terms of rooms, fees, cleaning staff, etc. Try to talk to someone on the instruction or academic side.
    • Make sure to state that everyone can attend, not just user group members. The general public, including faculty and students, is welcomed, and that it is free. 
      • Universities, especially public institutions, will balk at charging admission.
    • Make sure to offer an opportunity for the host facility's faculty, staff, instructors, or experts can get involved to speak with guaranteed slots on the schedule. Worth it if you can get the facility for free!
      • Again, maybe don't talk to facilities or building management. If you're an alumni, or know an alumni, work that relationship for a meeting.
    • Mention that some other (admittedly, not many) get facilities for free because of the benefit to the academic institution for hosting such an event.
      • Being organized as a non-profit entity may help...
    • Operating or representing a nonprofit org cannot hurt. In the United States, this is a 501c3 or 501c6. Some organizations only give free space to nonprofits, for example, many public university systems only work with nonprofits, and public libraries do this too.
      • Incorporating as a non-profit is a different topic altogether with differences but if you can't figure out your local bureaucracy yourself, for help forming the organization, consider going to a law clinic at a University, or local services that specialize in forming and servicing nonprofits.
    • Gilda Alvarez added a great addition to this topic right after I spoke at the SQLSaturday organizer meeting: Work a relationship with a large company's recruiting as an in to the university. In Orlando, Gilda's organizers worked through Deloitte's recruiting arm to convince a university to host a SQLSaturday event, and it worked out very well.
    • Use your experience in the field to offer to speak to University clubs, such as AITP or ACM, or Women in Technology groups, or just as a guest lecturer. Consider also contacting and trying to get involved in departmental advisory committees. These are ways to meet faculty and start working on strategic partnership between the school and the SQLSaturday. 
  4. Get them involved directly
  5. LSU's booth at SQLSaturday Baton Rouge
    • Offer a top-level sponsorship and table to your host organization, free of charge, to help your host facility attract new students or clients.
    • Feature them and their message just like any other sponsor.
    • Offer a spot on your schedule to any host faculty.
    • Offer to put their students on the schedule to give a project showcase of their work.
      • Consider scheduling when students are on campus and can attend.
    • Mention that your event can help showcase their building, draw community attention to it. Especially if the building or a part of campus is new.
  6. Tips for good host relationship
    • Bring your own free-standing folding cardboard garbage bins and bags, making garbage cleanup fast and easy, and without overfilling the host venue's small trash cans.
      • If possible, haul the garbage directly to a dumpster for the venue, and recycling to the appropriate place.
    • Make sure your volunteers team knows that everyone's job is to pick up trash and clean up at the end of the day, and sweep all the classrooms for trash.
    • Be sure to thank the host facility at the end of day raffle, publicly, and invite them to join. 
    • Use easels or free-standing signage instead of taping signage to walls, doors, or glass. In general, don't tape anything to walls or doors!