Untapped Benefit?

(Cross-posted from my SQLblog.com blog)

Are you using your benefits to further your SQL Server skills? The other day, the company I work for (Scalability Experts) had a benefits meeting where open enrollment for insurance and other similar things were discussed. Since we are a small company, we outsource HR/Payroll/Benefits, and I discovered a new benefit that I was unaware of previously. Perhaps you have it too.

There is an Educational Assistance Benefit of $1500/year to help with courses that count towards a degree. I was somewhat familiar with that one. There is also an Educational Assistance Benefit that is geared for attending seminars (especially those offered by a Professional Association). The benefit offered through our plan is $500/year to spend on educational seminars. There is some criteria the seminar must meet under our benefit structure such as: helping develop skills that you use in your line of work and it can't be in-house or custom training.

That sounds like a perfect fit for a PASS Summit Pre-Con! Of course your organization may have different criteria and/or benefit amounts, but don't let that education benefit go to waste. There is a great selection of Pre-Cons to choose from (see the lineup below) that offer a full day of learning for only $395! Tap into your benefits and receive some great learning practically for free!
--Rick Heiges

Monday, October 10:

Tuesday, October 11


2011 PASS Summit Pre-Con Preview - Simon Sabin

Today's post is from Simon Sabin who will be presenting "Advanced Reporting Services".  You can read more about his session here: http://www.sqlpass.org/summit/2011/Speakers/CallForSpeakers/SessionDetail.aspx?sid=1659.

Is there an audience that would benefit especially from this session?
Are any of these familiar

  • You’ve been asked to make your reports more interactive.
  • You’ve got 100 reports to develop and you want to avoid doing the same thing 100 times.
  • You’ve got a system that is used by 200 clients how can you use reporting services to deliver reports for them securely.
  • You’ve seen crescent and would like some of that goodness.
  • You know reporting services can do more but you just don’t know how.
  • You’ve been sitting at your desk and you’ve got no hair left because you’ve been trying to get reporting services to do something that looks easy.

If any of them are familiar then you need to attend the advanced reporting services precon at SQL PASS
After having attended your seminar, what are two or three things that an attendee will be able to take back to the office and put to use right away?
After attending you will know how to tackle the common problems that on the surface look easy but in practice are very difficult. Like how do you combine data from different sources, how do you display parent child data, how do you add interactivity to your report.
Not only will you learn how, but you will also learn why certain options are better than others. I’ve done the hard work figuring these things out so you don’t have to.

What background should attendees ideally have to be fully prepared for your seminar?
Before attending you should have some experience of reporting services. We will assume you know your way around management studio and BIDS. Some knowledge of VB.Net would be helpful but we will be covering that at a fairly basic level.

What experience are you, as a speaker, bringing to this session?
I’ve got 14 years experience with SQL Server and have worked with reporting services from its first incarnation with SQL Server 2000. I’ve worked on large installations with 100s of reports as well as hosted services where we had to deliver reports for individual clients.
I regularly teach companies on how to use SQL Server and Reporting Services and my experience means I know the pitfalls to avoid and the ways to work around some of the limitations of reporting services.
I’ve been and MVP for 6 years, I’m one of the founders of SQLBits and I am a Microsoft Certified Master in SQL Server 2008.

Go here to register for the 2011 PASS Summit.

Enhancing First-Timers’ Summit Experience

I attended my first PASS Summit in 2004. Why did I go? Because of two words: professional association. I wanted to grow my professional skills as a DBA, and I knew that meant more than just technical knowledge. I knew I needed to join a network of like-minded individuals where we could learn and grow together.

The first morning there I met Pat Wright (blog | @SQLAsylum). Well, more like he met me, as he lumbered over and sat down at my table during breakfast. We ended up attending Kimberly Tripp’s (blog | @KimberlyLTripp) pre-conference seminar together and met Allen Kinsel (blog | @sqlinsaneo) there. The three of us hung out together all week, sharing meals and talking about our shops. We came to the Summit knowing nobody but were fortunate to have met each other. We left the Summit and stayed in touch, returning the next year, and every year since.

The unfortunate truth, however, is that many of our first-time attendees arrive at the Summit knowing nobody. They meet no one, they eat alone, they leave, and we don't see them again. How do I know this? Because every year, we have roughly 800 people at our Summit for the first time. If those 800 came back every year, we would be over 7,000 attendees by now.

Clearly, we need to improve our customer retention. That's what led me to think about putting together an Orientation Committee (OC) to help first-time attendees get connected, share experiences, and learn from each other. I believe this will translate into more repeat attendees, which will result in more knowledge, more sharing, and better growth opportunities for everyone.

We launched the orientation program for first-time Summit attendees last year at PASS Summit, and we are doing it again this year. That means we need Summit alumni to volunteer to serve as "Big Brothers/Sisters" for a group of new members – and we need new attendees to sign up to participate.

We are thinking most groups will have about 9 people (8 newbies and 1 alumni). The Big Brothers/Sisters will help the first-timers feel welcome, introduce them around, help facilitate discussions, answer questions, etc. The alumni volunteers will be in contact with their assigned group well ahead of Summit and ideally will arrange a meeting with their group before the Welcome Reception. In case that is not possible, we are going to reserve a room at the Convention Center so that all Big Brothers/Sisters can meet with their groups just prior to the Welcome Reception

If you are interested in serving as a Big Brother/Sister, drop us an email at OC_DL@sqlpass.org. And if you are attending the Summit for the first time and want to participate in the program, I encourage you to sign up – just email newcomer@sqlpass.org. Watch for updates on Twitter as we finalize the details, and participate in the discussion by using the #sqlpass #firsttimers hashtags.

See you in Seattle!
-- Thomas LaRock

2011 Pass Summit Pre-Con Preview - Gail Shaw and Grant Fritchey

Today's post is from Gail Shaw and Grant Fritchey who will be presenting "All About Execution Plans".  You can read more about their session here: http://www.sqlpass.org/summit/2011/Speakers/CallForSpeakers/SessionDetail.aspx?sid=1245.

Is there an audience that would benefit especially from this session?
Grant Fritchey
:  Everybody. Seriously, anyone that has to understand what decisions the optimizer has made with the queries they write. That pretty much covers, database administrators, database developers and report writers, in short, most of the SQL Server community.
Gail Shaw: Anybody who’s ever looked at an execution plan and wondered what it means. Anyone who’s ever wondered how SQL was running a particular query and if they can change that. Anyone who’s sat cursing SQL for picking the wrong index or wrong join. Anyone who’s wondered which of some query patterns were more efficient than others and how to tell that. Basically, anyone who seriously writes queries.

After having attended your seminar, what are two or three things that an attendee will be able to take back to the office and put to use right away?
Grant Fritchey
: Only two or three things? I think everyone will be able to go back to their office and immediately gain access to execution plans they were not previously able to open. Further, I think the attendees will be motivated to go back to the office and look at their execution plans. We're going to be showing how to identify many common problems that evidence themselves within execution plans and we'll be showing how to fix some of those problems. If the attendees have issues such as slow running queries, blocking, or parameter sniffing, I'm pretty sure they'll have something new to use to help with those problems immediately on their return to the office.
Gail Shaw: They’ll know how to read execution plans, what some of the signs of a bad plan is, and they’ll have several options for getting those plans from SQL. That should be enough for them to dig into problems that have been nagging for months and start solving them.

What background should attendees ideally have to be fully prepared for your seminar?
Grant Fritchey
: They should have a reasonably good understanding of what SQL Server is and what it does. They absolutely should already understand TSQL. This is not an introductory course where we'll walk everyone through fundamental things like connecting to the database. But, it's not a doctorate level course either. This is a middle of the road type of technical course that's going to assume fundamental working knowledge of SQL Server.
Gail Shaw: Of course it’s not a doctorate level course, SQL qualifications only go up to master level. ;-) Seriously though, as long as they understand how SQL works in general, don’t panic at the sight of complex queries and know that execution plans and the plan cache exists, they should be fine. I won’t promise that there won’t be the occasional deep dive into internals, sometimes digging deep is necessary and fun.

What experience are you, as a speaker, bringing to this session?
Grant Fritchey
: I wrote a book. Isn't that enough? OK. 
I've been working in development and databases for more than 20 years. During that time, I really have focused on trying to make my code better. In SQL Server, one of the best ways to improve your code is to understand what it is doing. Understanding what your code is doing requires looking at execution plans and learning how to read them. It's all this time working on real world problems that made me start posting answers on various user group forums, especially SQL Server Central. That's how I began to understand what were common problems and what were rare problems. This time and knowledge was applied to writing, and currently rewriting, a book on nothing but execution plans.
Gail Shaw: Why are you asking me? Grant wrote the book on this. Ok, enough joking. I’ve been doing SQL performance tuning for over 6 years now, databases in general for a fair bit longer (though nowhere near as long as Grant. 20 years ago I was still in high school). I’ve been solely responsible for the performance of a critical banking system (and if you think your users are bad, try stock market dealers 20 minutes before the market closes), both in tuning existing code and in helping the development team write well performing code. I’ve been helping out on the SQLServerCentral forums for over 4 years, answering many performance-related questions with just schema definitions and execution plan to work from. Execution plans are one of the things I blog frequently about.

Go here to register for the 2011 PASS Summit.

2011 PASS Summit Pre-Con Preview - Brian and Devin Knight

Today's post is from Brian Knight who, along with Devin Knight, will be presenting "Building a Microsoft Business Intelligence Platform".  You can read more about his session here: http://www.sqlpass.org/summit/2011/Speakers/CallForSpeakers/SessionDetail.aspx?sid=1468.

Is there an audience that would benefit especially from this session? 
Someone who has a beginner to novice experience in some of the BI suite will gain a huge amount from the real-world experience we’re going to bring to the table. If you’re a beginner, you’ll also gain quite a bit from the interactive style of the session. During the day, we’re going to build an end-to-end BI solution using SSRS, SSIS and SSAS. Attendees should bring their own laptops to build the solution with us and get the most out of the session. 
After having attended your seminar, what are two or three things that an attendee will be able to take back to the office and put to use right away?
An attendee will have the broad knowledge to build an end-to-end BI solution at his or her company.  This includes designing and loading the data warehouse, building a cube on the warehouse and building a presentation-layer.  
What background should attendees ideally have to be fully prepared for your seminar?
The session is interactive. Because of this, for the attendee to get the most out of the session, he or she should know how to navigate around the Business Intelligence Development Studio (BIDS) environment. The attendee should also have a good understanding of T-SQL and a fundamental knowledge of the BI tools.
What experience are you, as a speaker, bringing to this session?
Devin and I have created BI solutions across the globe for more than a hundred different companies. In 2011, we trained more than 3,000 people in a fun and interactive way that will make the day fly by. You’ll hear tons of information about real-world examples that we can provide from the field.

Go here to register for the 2011 PASS Summit.


Partner. Not Sponsor.

PASS has great brand and name recognition in the technical community, and of course we host the largest annual SQL Server-focused technical education conference in the world.  A lot of companies consider PASS as a critical part of their marketing efforts —whether it be through sqlpass.org or at a local, global, or virtual event. 

 PASS truly appreciates companies that sponsor our activities but PASS is not only looking for sponsors, we are looking for partners. The difference may be subtle to some or dramatic to others. We want the companies interested in reaching out to PASS members to immerse themselves in the community and establish a presence within multiple programs and events, encouraging their subject matter experts to share and learn with the community. PASS hopes that our sponsors—both large and small—transition to be partners.

This brings me to our unique relationship with Dell. Dell has been a top-tier sponsor for years, and Andrew Hargett from Dell keeps asking how they can get more involved with PASS and help the community more substantially. In addition to strong PASS Summit sponsorship, Dell has stepped up to support newer initiatives: 24 Hours of PASS, PASS SQLRally and PASS SQLSaturday.  In June, Dell provided a new SAN to PASS, refreshing the Dell SAN already in use. All PASS Hyper-V servers run on Dell and the new Dell SAN makes SQLPASS.org, our Exchange email, and all our Chapter and Virtual Chapter webhosting and media hosting possible.

As one of the largest IT users of SQL Server, Dell sells more SQL Server software than anyone…period! Dell is committed to support PASS and the SQL Server community and as Andrew has conveyed to me, taking our partnership to the next level will allow Dell to better understand the challenges and needs of our users and help deliver the right solutions to meet the demands of customers from across the globe.

Thank you Dell for partnering with PASS. We look forward to many more successful years together.


2011 PASS Summit Pre-Con Preview - Brent Ozar

Today's post is from Brent Ozar who will be presenting "Virtualization and SAN Basics for DBAs".  You can read more about his session here: http://www.sqlpass.org/summit/2011/Speakers/CallForSpeakers/SessionDetail.aspx?sid=1122.

Is there an audience that would benefit especially from this session?
Database administrators hate hearing, "It's a SQL problem."  It's probably not - there are some basic storage and virtualization configuration issues that keep popping up again and again in my consulting work.  This session helps you understand how to ask the right questions and prove that it's not the database's problem.

After having attended your seminar, what are two or three things that an attendee will be able to take back to the office and put to use right away?
I'll show you what questions to ask, what metrics to monitor, and how to improve 'em.  Everything is designed around giving you the right words and the right proof to go toe-to-toe with the guys who keep saying it's SQL's fault.

What background should attendees ideally have to be fully prepared for your seminar?
Absolutely none.  I take you from zero virtualization & storage knowledge to the point where you can start asking tough questions to your sysadmins.

What experience are you, as a speaker, bringing to this session?
I've been working with SQL Server for over a decade, and when my SAN admin quit, I offered to take his duties on.  I wanted to know what was going on inside the black box.  I was shocked at how easy it was to understand, but also horrified by just how badly the SAN was configured.  When our virtualization guy quit, same deal - I kicked down the door and took over.  You really can get great performance from shared storage and shared hardware, but it sure isn't set up that way by default, and I learned that the hard way.

Go here to register for the 2011 PASS Summit.

2011 PASS Summit Pre-Con Preview - Andy Leonard and Tim Mitchell

Today's post is from Andy Leonard who, along with Tim Mitchell, will be presenting "A Day of SSIS in the Enterprise".  You can read more about his session here: http://www.sqlpass.org/summit/2011/Speakers/CallForSpeakers/SessionDetail.aspx?sid=1508.

Is there an audience that would benefit especially from this session?
Yep. Those getting started in SQL Server Integration Services development will get a jump start from topics presented by Matt Masson of the SSIS Developers Team at Microsoft, Tim Mitchell, SQL Server MVP, and me. Experienced SSIS developers are sure to pick up a tip or eight. And we'll be talking about features in SSIS Denali!
After having attended your seminar, what are two or three things that an attendee will be able to take back to the office and put to use right away?
Best Practices has to top that list. Tim, Matt, and I share from years of experience building solutions using SSIS. We three are also 60% of the author team of the upcoming book: SSIS Design Patterns, and we will be demonstrating patterns from the book. Finally, we'll be talking a lot about managing SSIS in the enterprise. After deploying SSIS solutions, developers often realize maintenance and support challenges. Some design decisions facilitate SSIS care and feeding, and we'll cover those!
What background should attendees ideally have to be fully prepared for your seminar? 
Ideally, the attendee should have experience with SQL Server and a thirst for more data integration knowledge.
What experience are you, as a speaker, bringing to this session?
Tim , Matt, and I have decades of database integration experience. As a developer on the SIS Team at Microsoft, Matt has visibility into myriad data integration use cases. As a consultant and trainer, Tim has delivered SSIS solutions to enterprises large and small. My experience spans consulting and managing a team of SSIS developers as we built a multi-year SSIS solution. I understand the challenges unique to developer teams that are part of an enterprise.

Go here to register for the 2011 PASS Summit.