"The Best Thing I Learned at PASS Summit" Contest is now on Facebook

Check out our new Facebook fan page for our "The Best Thing I Learned at PASS" Contest. Visit the page to join discussions, receive updates, and have a legitimate excuse to be on Facebook during work hours.

Remember, the contest closes at midnight on June 30, 2009. You could win free registration or free hotel at PASS Summit so make sure you enter! For more info on the contest, visit the PASS Summit Contest page.

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ENTRIES up to June 15 (Part 2 of 2)


I went to my first Professional Association for SQL Server Summit in 2007. I’d gone to a few local SQL gatherings, talked to other area DBAs, and worked on some pretty cool projects. I really liked what I was doing, and I thought I was doing a decent job. I knew I wasn’t a rocket scientist, but I kept the trains running on time.

At the PASS Summit, though, it was as if a giant light bulb clicked on above my head.

I learned that the stuff you really need to know isn’t in Books Online.

You wanna learn the stuff that makes your server fly, the stuff that saves your rear when the database is suspect, the stuff that makes you look like a genius amongst your peers, the stuff that makes the developers’ eyes get big, the stuff that makes you wave your hands in the air and shout “I’M KING OF THE WORLD, FOR TINYINT VALUES OF WORLD!”

Everybody knows the stuff in Books Online – that stuff ain’t enough. You wanna learn the secret tips, the undocumented goodies, the up-up-down-down-left-right-left-right-B-A cheat codes. They say there’s no /faster switch for SQL Server, and they’re wrong. The SQL Server world is chock full of sorta-kinda-barely-official things that don’t get enough press, yet make a very real performance difference. The classic example from last year was Jimmy May’s session on partition alignment.

- by Brent Ozar
- blog post here


I attended my first PASS summit in 2006 and remember the experience as one that shaped my career as a DBA. I was new to SQL 2005 and my company tasked me with security and performance.

I remember meeting SQL MVP Erland Sommarskog in one of the all day pre-con security sessions asking some very good questions about the new security features in SQL 2005 to one of the Microsoft developers who wrote much of the security for SQL 2005. There is nothing like learning real-time with a dialog between a MVP and the developer who wrote the tool. This experienced helped me to secure our web hosting environment.

We had just migrated to SQL 2005 and were seeing blocking on a SPID labeled -4. So, I asked Bob Ward who happened to be manning the CSS area. The question even stumped him, but not for long with his resources back at Microsoft, he gave me his email and said he would look into it. After short email dialog he found that TEMPDB was having contention problems, so we increased the number of files and upgraded to latest cumulative patch and all was good.

Nothing like getting tons of information to help you with your job, getting free support help from CSS, and meeting tons of people in your line of work struggling with exact same thing as you!

- by Chuck Lathrope
- blog post here


I attended my first PASS Summit in 2004. I also attended a pre-conference (pre-con) led by Kalen Delaney. It was awesome! Kalen's pre-con focused on performance tuning, and I learned a lot about both SQL Server 2000 and SQL Server 2005.

The most important thing I learned was: I was not alone! There's a whole lot of us out there, lurking in corner and basement cubicles, automating process monitors, reviewing job logs.

I learned most database professionals are "accidental DBAs" - most of us didn't ever plan to enter the field. We decided to do database work sometime after starting in IT, or (like me) were standing closest to the server when a database position became available.

In short, I discovered I was part of a community.

And so it has remained the past five years - I am part of a community.

That's the cool part of PASS for me. At the Summit, I get to see folks I haven't seen for a year. I learn as much at the events and networking with new and old friends as I do during the sessions.

And that's saying something - the sessions are awesome!

- by Andy Leonard
- blog post here


Let’s start at the beginning. I wanted to learn more about SQL Server, and found a local User Group, and attended.

After a few meetings, I got to know a few people, including the President. Having these contacts, and being able to ask questions of these local ‘knowledge stores’ when I needed help was priceless. If the story ended there, it would already be a success story. I had networked and learned. I was a better DBA for it.

But that’s not the end. The President told me that I should go to PASS. Since I trusted him already, I went. My family came with me to Florida, and went to DisneyWorld, as I went to PASS. I remember being alone with people all around me. But I soon noticed tons of people, just like me, wanting to learn. During the conference, I saw a few people that I knew, and recognized some names from books I had read. Soon, I realized that all the people attending and speaking, were just like me. This is the 1st great thing that I learned; there are no experts that are better than me, they are people just like me, they just learned this stuff earlier. Now they are sharing with the rest of us. I too can learn what they know. The quantity of knowledge and contacts I have gained because I attended PASS cannot be measured. And that’s why we are all here at PASS. To learn and to network.

- by Tjay Belt
- blog post here

(Thoughts? Comments? Suggestions? Memories? Go to our Facebook discussion! http://tinyurl.com/passdiscuss)

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ENTRIES up to June 15 (Part 1 of 2)


In 2007, I attended a session on security debugging taught by Ruslan Ovechkin. This class, which I had to cut short because of my flight home, made a big difference on my job.

I work as the lead DBA for a product development team. Our application was repeatedly throwing login errors when trying to connect to SQL Server. Specifically, errors 18452 and 18456. Prior to the Summit, I had been researching these errors in vain on the web. So when I saw this session on the Summit agenda I decided to attend.

Ruslan was a very efficient presenter, and he got right to the point. Eight slides into his PowerPoint presentation, he gave us a list of the common states that throw Error 18456. Right away, I knew that our problem was with our SQL Server service accounts, so I knew what I had to do when I came home.

That wasn't all. He laid out detailed instructions about the various security caches in SQL Server and showed us how to navigate and query them. He also gave us an application to assist with security debugging.

I got a lot out of this session, even considering that I couldn't stay until the end. I still keep the presentation on my workstation since it's a great reference in and of itself and also provides links to the SQL Server security blogs. My team also benefitted, since I was able to educate our developers about the nuances of SQL Server security.

- by Ken Powers


I went to my first PASS Summit many many months ago in November of 2008. I didn’t know many people in the SQL Server community, but I knew a few people. Throughout the PASS Summit, I spent time getting to know people. I met a lot of great people at the Summit and I’ve stayed in touch and become friends with many of them.

But, the best thing I learned at PASS was that there’s always something to learn from everyone. We’re all part of a community and we get better by learning from each other.

- by Jeremiah Peschka
- blog post here


I attended my first PASS conference in 2007 in Denver and I didn't know exactly what to expect. I signed up for the two pre-sessions prior to the conference and was able to sit through a full day training session with Itzik Ben-Gan the first day and Kalen Delaney on the second. Needles to say, I learned more about T-SQL and SQL Internals in two days than I thought was humanly possible. Just when I thought my brain couldn't hold anymore, I went to several sessions the next three days listening to some of the best minds in the business speak about any SQL topic you can imagine. I think this is one of the areas that make attending the PASS Summit invaluable (it spawns ideas that you can take with you and apply in your environment). You may not remember everything from every presentation, but you can remember enough to know that you need to research a little more on certain topics when you get back to work. But, I think the best thing I took away from the PASS Summit was not something I learned; it was motivation. We tend to get stuck in our daily routines and every now and then we need something like the PASS Summit to recharge our batteries and rejuvenate our outlook on our jobs. When you combine all this with the great networking opportunities and after parties the PASS Summit is one of the best SQL events that you'll ever attend.

- by Ken Simmons
- blog post here


The best thing I learned at PASS 2008 was in regards to the SQL Server Upgrade Assistant. I wasn't alone in the people that didn't know this tool existed. When the presenter asked for the hands of those who had used or knew of the tool, not many were raised. I knew of and had used the SQL Server Upgrade Advisor before, but this tool was the real deal and helped us get approval sign offs in record times. This tool saved my organization SAIC a great deal of time an effort in staging and testing for our upgrades from SQL Server 2000 to SQL Server 2005. We plan to make use of the tool again when we go from SQL Server 2005 to SQL Server 2008 sometime in the future.

- by Rob Spellman
- blog post here


I attended my first PASS Conference in 2007 and was blown away. The presentations were so amazing and insightful; I practically begged my boss to allow me to attend the 2008 Conference. The most valuable thing I learned from both of these conferences is that there is no replacement for networking with your peers and being able to communicate situations and solutions to each other. After the 2007 Conference, I rushed back to the office to begin sharing all that I had learned. I stressed to my teammates that we needed to get more active in the PASS community as there was an extremely broad base of people that were always more than willing to help answer questions and offer advice when needed.

I took PASS as an opportunity to be able to meet some of the people I only had been able to read their blog posts or articles in SQL Server Magazine. I was going to get a chance listen and learn from people like Kalen Delaney, Itzik Ben-Gan and Kevin Kline. Not to say that the technical aspect of it all wasn’t amazing and it sounds a little corny but for me it was the people at PASS that made it worth it for me. I would never trade the experience of going to PASS and I encourage everyone to try their hardest to go!

- by Sheldon M. Williams

(Thoughts? Comments? Suggestions? Memories? Go to our Facebook discussion! http://tinyurl.com/passdiscuss)

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And now for something completely different... like our leading ENTRIES!

This year's maiden PASS Summit contest is shifting into full gear this week. There are two weeks left to get YOUR entry in. It's only 250 words. What have you got to lose?

If you're not sure how to go about it, here are our leading entries so far. Feel free to comment here or visit our Facebook page to join in on the discussion!

As Monty Python said, "And now for something completely different..."

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