SQL Saturday and How it Changed My Life

SQL Saturdays - The early years

February 9, 2013 - SQL Saturday #183 Albuquerque...that was the day. I don't remember exactly how I found out about the event, but I remember thinking how cool it was that I was going to get a free day of training on SQL Server, which I had just started working with. I didn't know anyone there and didn't know who any of the speakers were in the pantheon of SQL celebrity. I learned something in every session I attended. Now, some of what I learned wasn't applicable to the work I did but it was enlightening and expanded my knowledge of what SQL Server could do. Some of the sessions were not technical but had the most impact, like Steve Jones' session on Branding Yourself (which he still presents!!). I left that session with a much clearer idea of how to grow my career and public identity and a book! During the end of day raffle I won two gift cards and a course from the sponsoring technical school - total haul was about $3000! I decided that this was the best training EVER!!

After that I attended the monthly events sporadically and in 2014 I went to SQL Saturday #271 Albuquerque. Again, the sessions were great and I learned a lot but I didn't win anything - I was very sad about that.

In August 2014 I started working at a company where one of the organizers of our event worked and I became much more involved in the monthly meetings. I also submitted my first presentation for SQL Saturday #358 Albuquerque. It was called "Why be Normal" and was about normalization and why transactional systems should use a model normalized to 3rdNF. That was 2015 and I also submitted that session and was accepted to present at SQL Saturday #415 Colorado Springs and SQL Saturday #441 Denver. It was at those events that I first met Gabe Villa, Carlos Bossy, Leslie Weed, Jonathan Stewart and a ton of other people. I am pretty sure that most of them don't recall meeting me (well maybe Leslie does because she came to my session since she was in the room after me and we usually remember people who have our own name) but they all made an impact on me. Sadly, I didn't win anything at any of the raffles at these three events.

But I felt like I hadn't really made any difference with my presentations. There were not many attendees and the feedback was discouraging. Recently there was a tweet about how seasoned speakers could be assigned to first timers to help mentor them - I think that may have been something that would have helped me not give up but wasn't something I was comfortable asking for either. I also stopped working with the organizer. But I continued to attend the monthly meetings when there was a topic that interested me.

PASS Summit 2017

In the summer of 2017 I mentioned to my boss that I wanted to attend the PASS Summit. I had wanted to for several years but my employers weren't springing and I was not in a financial position to send myself. My boss said for me to send him the details and I told him that if I got to go I might stop bugging him for a raise...for a minute. A couple of days later he told me he had submitted the request and that I should plan my trip!

I went to Summit last year for the first time! I was not able to attend the session for first timers and felt the lack. As an introvert it was very overwhelming to be around so many people, few of whom I knew and not being able to find the courage to approach strangers and interject myself. I attended many technical sessions but again the sessions that had the biggest impact were non-technical. The first was the WIT Panel on the book "Voices from the Data Platform" with Melody Zacharias, Rie Irish, Cathrine Wilhelmsen, Jen McCown, Kathi Kellenberger, Mindy Curnutt, and Meagan Longoria. They became my SQL Summit heroes. The other was Eddie Wuerch's session 'So You Want to be the Next Great Speaker' - another professional development presentation. These had the most impact because, YES, I did want to be a great speaker AND I wanted to be on a panel like that someday and be someone's hero!

So while I was sitting there in Eddie's session listening and taking notes, I thought, there has to be a tech conference for police (because I worked for a police department) and so I googled it. Sure enough, the International Association of Chief's of Police (IACP) has an annual tech conference and the call for speakers closed the NEXT Friday. I decided right then to submit!

The next week when I returned I wrote an abstract and description for "The Complete Beginners Data Warehouse Kit" using the tips and information that I learned from Eddie and I submitted! Then I started working on a draft of the presentation, some ideas for slides, rehearsing in my head and then just waiting until January to find out if I was selected!!

How it Changed my Life

January 2018 - I got an email that my submission to the IACP Tech Conference was selected and I was going to Providence in May. I was beyond excited AND I had a deer in the headlights moment. I was now expected to have a full presentation in a few months! I also didn't want my first time actually presenting it to be at the IACP. I wanted to have some real world presenting practice and where better than at a SQL Saturday. I submitted for the SQL Saturday Phoenix & Colorado Springs in March 2018, I presented at our local user group April monthly meeting and SQL Saturday Albuquerque May 2018.

I believe that I was better prepared for Phoenix than I was in 2012 when I first presented. I actually practiced my speech out loud in my living room many times which I didn't do previously. Before I thought that how it sounded in my head would be how it came out live but that was not the case. So I practiced speaking the words out loud, I modified the talk so it flowed better. After Phoenix SQL Saturday I modified it even more so it flowed even better. My biggest presentation blooper happened at our monthly user group meeting, but I learned something that I needed to know to guarantee that my "big" presentation went smoothly.

At each of those venues I was fortunate enough to be presenting with women from the Voices panel and other twitterverse heroes. I was able to hang out in the speaker room with people I watched on stage at Summit the prior year. Steve Jones was a permanent fixture at almost every event I attended. I met TJay Belt and Ginger Grant in Phoenix; Kevin Kline and Marsha Pierce in Colorado Springs; Kathy Kellenberger, John Morehouse and Jamey Johnston in Albuquerque (TJay also came to Albuquerque and we had the first #SQLClimber event!!); Angela Tidwell, Tracy Boggiano and Alex Yates in Louisville; and, Rie Irish and Angela Henry in Baton Rouge.

In May 2018, I presented at the IACP and you can see my previous blog post for details about that. Then I decided I should continue to submit for other SQL Saturdays, increase my exposure, become one of the influential women that inspired me on the Voices from the Data Platform panel. I submitted to Louisville and was selected, and Baton Rouge which is the largest event I have ever attended, and I will be presenting at Sioux Falls, Denver and Atlanta in the next few weeks. I submitted for Summit 2018 and was sad, but not surprised, that I wasn't selected.

My goal is to have clients and be a successful consulting company. My plan is that by continuing to speak and blog it will increase the chances that I will be successful in my goal. I am on the leadership board of the newly formed Big Data Peer group of the NM Tech Council. I have been attending the Girls who Code club meetings. I hope to continue to meet and interact in person and through social media with all the amazing people I have met and will meet in the next few months.

In closing, I want to thank the Albuquerque SQL User Group for organizing that first SQL Saturday that I attended in 2013. Thanks to all the organizers that have selected my presentations. Thanks to all the amazing people I have met this year, speakers, organizers, attendees and volunteers. Special thanks to Angela Tidwell for inspiring me to be brave. Thanks SQL Saturday for making such a huge impact on my professional life - I wouldn't be where I am now with out it.

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