Roll on, 2013: PASS SQLSaturday Continues to Grow!

March 26, 2013 – It’s hard to believe we’re just one week away from the end of Q1 2013, and the PASS SQLSaturday “firsts” just keep coming all over the world.

At this point last year, we had 12 SQLSaturdays, compared to 13 this year. And even though there’s only one more in comparison, several of last year’s hosting cities have moved to later months in 2013, opening up space for some new locations to join in. This year, Q1 has seen two new countries (Mexico and the Philippines), two new North American states (New Mexico and Connecticut), and two new cities (Detroit in the US and Exeter in the UK). It’s so exciting to see these events continue to grow and provide free, quality SQL Server training - in many cases, in communities that rarely if ever get such an opportunity.

In addition to new events, we’ve welcomed several new sponsors to the SQLSaturday arena already this year. It’s rewarding as a mentor to see organizers get better each year at marketing and getting support for their events, especially at the local level. The skills it takes to show that a SQLSaturday is a good investment will cross over into other areas for these organizers, such as being better able to negotiate a higher salary or convince their employers to provide more training opportunities as part of their annual increase.

Of course, “selling” a SQLSaturday isn’t easy for everyone, especially first-timers, which brings me to something I’ve seen less of these past several months: SQLSaturday blog recaps by organizers, speakers, and attendees. And that’s too bad, because the lessons learned by others have been invaluable to SQLSaturday newcomers for years now.

I encourage the community to get back to blogging their experiences at these events. Organizers recapping the lessons they’ve learned in hosting a SQLSaturday help every volunteer team and event coming up, particularly those considering hosting one for the very first time. Speakers can provide some great feedback and tips to organizers, especially since they often participate in so many of these and other training events. And each attendee has his/her own unique experience at a SQLSaturday.

Everyone can provide some insight as to what worked, what could have been better, and ideas for the next time. For SQLSaturdays in particular, the sharing of these experiences has been key to the growth of one of the most recognizable “grassroots” events in our community. Let’s not stop now!

PASS Summit 2013 Program Survey Results

March 19, 2013 – Last month we asked the community about the sessions, content and speakers they want to see in the line-up for PASS Summit 2013. The results of the survey provided some interesting insights: a ranking of session types indicated that content on tips & tricks and best practices were the top choice and that tracks on Application and Development, Administration and Deployment and Business Intelligence tracks were what people were most looking forward to; the community was also divided 50/50 as to whether a NoSQL/Big Data track should be added.

A PDF of the survey results is available here.

Business Analytics? There’s a Virtual Chapter for That

Cross-posted from the BA Conference blog

March 6, 2013 – As the new PASS Business Analytics Virtual Chapter prepares for its third meeting – a gentle, business-focused introduction to Big Data – you can catch up on February’s presentations and plan to make this free training part of your monthly schedule.

Stacia Misner will take the VC’s webcast stage March 14 for “A Big Data Primer” (noon ET/16:00 GMT) to demystify Big Data, look at its implications for traditional data warehousing and reporting, and explore the technology and skill sets you need to successfully implement a Big Data strategy.

“This is going to be a great real-world session,” notes VC leader Melissa Demsak. “You’ll definitely leave with some inspiration and practical steps for tackling your first Big Data project.”

With a mission to provide quality virtual training to business analysts, BA/BI practitioners and architects, and data scientists, the VC’s focus is on creating a community for shared learning and enabling the creation of world-class business analytics solutions based on the Microsoft platform, Melissa explains.

“Our topics will naturally intersect with those presented by several of our sister VCs – Business Intelligence, Big Data, Data Architecture, and Master Data/Data Quality – but we’ll be covering them from an analytics perspective,” she adds. “We’ll also include non-Microsoft solutions and topics outside the traditional SQL Server and BI community, such as data visualization, analytics, and data science.”

The BA VC meetings, scheduled for the second and/or fourth Thursday of every month, will all be recorded and archived for on-demand viewing. Recordings of the group’s first two meetings – Mark Tabladillo’s “A Case for Business Analytics Learning” and Chris Webb’s “What’s New for BI in Excel 2013” – will be available soon.

You can become a member of the BA VC by simply clicking Join next to Business Analytics in the list of VCs on the PASS Virtual Chapters page. “We'll keep you posted of all upcoming meetings, learning opportunities, and the latest and greatest information from Microsoft,” Melissa says. “We also have a special $200 discount code for the PASS Business Analytics Conference coming up in April – if you haven't signed up yet, just use the code BAC941VC when you register for some nice savings."

Interested in speaking at an upcoming BA VC webinar? Email your ideas to passbavc@sqlpass.org, and make sure you follow the VC on Twitter at @passbavc.

PASS Summit 2013: Get Ready

March 5, 2013 – It’s never too early to start thinking about PASS Summit. This year Charlotte, North Carolina – the home of NASCAR and an abundance of outdoor activities, a lively nightlife and restaurant scene, and a vibrant arts and cultural center – will welcome over 5,000 SQL Server and BI professionals for PASS Summit 2013.

The process is already underway to create the best lineup yet of world-class sessions and speakers. The Community Call for Speakers – your invitation to help shape and participate in the Summit 2013 program – is open until April 3. Thinking about submitting a session (or four)? Check out the FAQs and get started today.

Thank you to everyone who submitted responses for the PASS Summit 2013 Program Survey – we appreciate your feedback and ideas on the sessions and speakers you want to see. Members of the soon-to-be-announced volunteer Program Committee will be reviewing your responses as they work to build an educational program designed to meet the needs of today’s data pros. Congratulations to SQL Server DBA Dana Stevenson from California, who won a Microsoft Surface for her participation in the survey.

Full-day pre-conference sessions will kick off the event Oct. 14-15, with the main conference beginning with the evening Welcome Reception Oct. 15 and featuring over 190 sessions Oct. 16-18.

If you’re thinking about attending PASS Summit 2013 but haven’t registered yet, you can still take advantage of the discounted rate when you register by April 15. Already registered? Make sure you tell your friends that you’ll be at PASS Summit for the first time or as a proud alumni by adding an attendee Twibbon to your Twitter account.

See you in Charlotte!