SQLSaturday #103 Curaçao Recap – Planting Seeds

(Condensed from my Community Pollination blog – read the full version here.)

This past weekend, there were two SQLSaturday events: #108 in Redmond and #103 in Curaçao. I heard all the “Oh sure, tough choice there” comments, but my plans early on were to attend the Curaçao event.

The original vision for my new role as PASS Community Evangelist was to get to one first-time venue each month to talk to attendees who might not be familiar with PASS. My being onsite to assist with some logistics and last-minute details at these events helps out the first-time organizers as well. Plus, I can see what areas I need to make sure I’m mentoring on before event day. 

This trip was only 3 hours from Miami. I was greeted at the airport by event leader and local PASS chapter leader Roy Ernest [blog|twitter]. Roy went out of his way to not only pick me up, but to also pick up each speaker who came from over from the US. None of us arrived at the same time, so it wasn’t exactly convenient for someone already with so much stress of his approaching event. SQLSat #103 had three non- local speakers - Bill Pearson [blog|twitter], Rob Volk [blog|twitter], and Tim Radney [blog|twitter] - and two local presenters: Roy and volunteer and co-worker Rohan Joackhim [twitter].

Friday evening’s speaker appreciation dinner was at a great Indian restaurant - one of many in a renovated fort called Rif Fort. From the outside, it looked like a castle, but when you walked in, there were all kinds of restaurants on several levels, all with open seating. You could look out in one direction and see the beautiful crystal-clear, aqua-colored ocean and then look inward around the fort at all the entertainment, from drummers and bands to folks dancing in the open center area. It was really a unique setting; the only downfall was that the band was so loud, it was hard to hear even someone sitting directly across from you.
 
The event had two tracks, DBA and BI, and was held at the University of the Netherlands Antilles, courtesy of the head instructor, Rinnus Felipa. It’s always nice to meet those who help make a SQLSaturday happen, and kudos to universities such as this, which offer their venues for free to the IT community. It was obvious that the success of this day was important to Rinnus - he was onsite all day and meticulous about details that the university was responsible for, such as lunch. On the lunch menu was “Steak de Wea,” a local combination of rice and steak covered in a savory sauce, with fresh green beans and salad. It was delicious, and I enjoy trying something local and new to my taste buds. SQLSat #103 didn’t charge attendees for lunch, and the university kept the cost very reasonable (I believe each plate was around $7 per person).
 
The morning of the event, there were 95 registrants, including those who opted out the week prior. Actual attendance ended up being around 60 - so as typically seen at SQLSaturdays, about a 30%-35% drop-off. The event had only three sponsors: PASS, Redgate, and O’Reilly. But even with the little budget he had to work with, Roy managed to put on a great event for his community. As I talked with attendees during breaks and addressed the group as a whole at the end, many comments rang a common tune - they want to see another SQLSaturday… and most don’t want to wait another year for it (hint, hint, Roy!). As always, I stressed to the attendees that they should work on becoming presenters themselves for the next SQLSaturday event, and they could start sharpening their SQL and presentation skills by speaking at their local user group.

This post would not be complete if I failed to mention another key Curaçao volunteer: Surenda Djaoen [twitter], another of Roy’s co-workers and someone he is mentoring to become the new leader of the Curaçao SQL Server User Group. With Roy doing so much running around on Friday, and still prepping his own presentation for the big day, Surenda took on a lot of the last-minute details for the SQLSaturday. One of the highlights of the trip for me was getting time to talk with her about running a user group and some tips on growing the local speaker pool. It’s always rewarding to see volunteers’ eyes light up with excitement as their minds start racing with ideas. That’s all it takes - just plant a few seeds, and watch them grow!