SQL Saturday Orlando

September 14, 2013 was a busy SQLSaturday day with 6 events across the globe.  I happened to find myself in Orlando Floria–the home of SQLSaturday events and I admit I wanted to check out what the originators had planned.  With the increased number of SQLSaturday events, there is an increased awareness of what people like and what people don’t like and I figured the Orlando event would be completely rock’in.  With an organization team of Karla Landrum, Andy Warren, and Kendel Van-Dyke–all superstars in their own right, I was anxious to see their handiwork.  I have to admit I have developed somewhat of a complex at the attitude of some of the speakers and participants about what is and what is not at some events and makes me worried about my own RVA event.  I just knew the Orlando event would be THE event.

A last minute cancellation gave me a presentation spot and I was happy to take it.  I gave my fair or foul presentation and I may have to pick a different analogy.  Not too many sports fan in that session.  🙂

There was a good turnout for the event, and when you have Mickey Mouse in your backyard, there is a lot of competition for your Saturday hours.  The event was at the Seminole State College and while it was roomy and let lots of light into the building, it was wasn’t ornate.  The vendor area was cozy, but each vendor had a tablecloth and the familiar basket to deposit your SpeedPass.  We used three floors of the school and while the school had a normal layout, it took a little trial and error to find your way to your session.

Lunch was served outside as was the end of day raffle.  All the speakers were friendly and were asked to help serve lunch.  I enjoyed catching up with folks I had seen during the day and serving food provided another opportunity to visit and get to know them.  Andy Warren is one of a kind and always one to speak his mind and he was true to form that day as well.

It occurred to me as we were wrapping up, that I have been thinking a little too much about what everyone will think about my event when I know if I put my effort into providing a nice environment for a free day of training, everyone will enjoy it and the community will be better for it.  I am so happy to have been had the opportunity to be at #SQLSat232 and for the reminder of why we put these events on.

SQLSaturday #254 EL Salvador


The University banner.

On October 5th, I had the opportunity to go to San Salvador, the capital of El Salvador, to attend SQLSaturday #254 organized by César Oviedo.  This was the first SQLSaturday in that country and the event has hosted by the Universidad Tecnológica de El Salvador, a private university that offers various degrees–not exclusively technology related.  The university welcomed us with open arms and welcomed us like foreign dignitaries making an official visit.  As the technology sector has been weak in El Salvador, the university was amazed that professionals from outside of country would come on their own dime to speak about technology.  The event was in the national paper and a radio interview was arranged with the school and the organizers.  With schools in Nicaragua and Honduras, the university is considering having events at those locations as well.

Everyone was very excited and the excitement was palpable.  There was a formal introduction with the president of the school and the technology director.  There were several people taking pictures and I hope to put some up soon.

We came to understand the university offers classes 7 days a week, so in addition to our being there, we were able to see some of the other classes going on at the same time.  We had three tracks, down one due to some last-minute changes, and each speaker was asked to give two sessions.  As always, those who attended were exposed to new concepts and ideas and there was an earnest desire to learn.

The food was very good--yucca con chicharones

The food was very good–yucca con chicharones

With Wayne Sheffield’s b|t permission, I modified his Temp Tables–What you need to know session to Spanish and gave my Fair or foul presentation as well.  The sessions were well received and students asked some good questions.  I had modified my presentation to include a game of sorts where I asked the audience their thoughts on certain syntax and put a correct or incorrect image on the screen after they answered.  Before I started setting up, they asked me if they could have my presentation as the room had computers for each student.  I said yes, without thinking and it was not until the second question was answered immediately I knew the ‘game’ was up as they each had my presentation.  🙂  One of the words I always have saying is stored procedures (procedimientos almacenados) and the students had a chuckle when I got tongue-tied.

The organizer of the event was César Oviedo t, who is from Costa Rica.  I was impressed that he was able to organize the event remotely and the way everything came together.  The SQL community never ceases to amaze me at their willingness to share and help others.  I hope those who attend and speak will continue to appreciate the efforts required to put on these types of events and will be slow to criticize an organizer. (Especially other speakers)  At the event, I met Adrian Miranda t, Ahias Lopez t, and Jose Redondo t for the first time and they are great folks.  If you get a chance to meet them, don’t pass it up.

It is nice to see the LATAM region growing and I hope to be able to participate in more community events.  See you on the SQL trail.

SQL Saturday Presentations

I have had the opportunity to attend several SQL Saturdays this year and have enjoyed each one.  My summer was taken up with work, the Boy Scout Jamboree, and family so it has been several months since I have been to one; however, I am super excited to go to Orlando this weekend and be a part of #SQLSATORLANDO.

Originally not on the lineup, I was asked to speak due to a speaker cancellation.  I will be presenting “Your SQL Server–Fair or Foul”.  Florida is the home of the original SQL Saturday events and I will enjoy seeing what they do in their event.

Next month, I will be going to El Salvador to present in their SQL Saturday.  I have been trying to break my way into the Spanish countries as I hope to be able to work in that area at some point.

First SQL Saturday Presentation

sqlsat189_webOn April 13th, I had the opportunity to present at my first SQL Saturday event in beautiful San José, Costa Rica.  I also presented in Spanish, which was a challenge for me as I do not have much experience working with Spanish technical lingo.  I would like to do more in the Spanish community and I thought this was a good way to get started.  My father is also from Costa Rica and I could think of no better reason to go down and visit with him and get some technical training to boot.

My presentation was entitled fair or foul (on side or offside) and used the soccer analogy of being offside to determine our system perform–either you are in or out and if you are out, we have to make a change.  We reviewed the SQL Profiler, Pal Tool, and several DMVs and discussed how we can collect performance information from SQL Server.  I was in a great slot just before lunch, but had what I thought was the toughest lineup of the day–Eduardo Castro, the organizer and holder of a PhD in databases, Andy Leonard, and Kenneth Urena–a local speaker who is one of the more active members of the community all at the same time as my session.

475997_589177391101038_1820429765_oI was pleasantly surprised by the attendance and glad I gave the presentation in Spanish.  I did stumble a few times, but I would simply say the word in English and the entire audience would respond in Spanish.  The biggest soccer rivalry in the country would take place on Sunday so we had a little fun talking about it and fanning the fanatic’s flames.  I had one of my daughters with me (pictured at right) and let me assure you the other attendees appreciated the material more than she did.

903085_589172027768241_440006347_oIn addition to meeting Eduardo, I also got to meet Russell Fustino of Component One and he even convinced me to be on the Russ Cam! I can’t wait to see how it turns out.  It was my first interview on camera and made me realize I need to practice that another time or two.

My goals for going to this SQL Saturday were two fold–first, give a presentation in Spanish and become more familiar with the tool sets in Spanish.  Second, to meet the community members and see how I can become more involved.  I was able to meet both of these goals and I hope to present a webcast in one of Eduardo’s sessions shortly.  !Pura Vida!

Organizing SQL Saturday RVA

SQLsat_richmondCroppedThis is a little late in coming; however, I wanted to document my experience planning and putting on a SQLSaturday event.  While officially put on by the Richmond SQL Server Users Group, ‘my’ event took place March 9th, 2013 at the University of Richmond.  The work was challenging and sometimes painful, but I am already thinking about organizing another–even better event next year.

Start with Vision

It is sometimes amazing to think that Andy Warren and company were sitting around one day and said–You know, we ought to put on a free Saturday training event . . . and it spread like wild-fire.  I had attended a handful of user group meetings when I started attending regularly in December of 2011.  It was there I learned about SQLSaturday, although I wouldn’t attend my first until June of 2012 in Philadelphia.  I was impressed with the content and winning a book didn’t hurt my experience.  I started talking with other members of the Richmond user group and there seemed to be enough interest in putting one on, so we jumped in.There would be two main objectives–grow the pool of local speakers by encouraging them to speak and provide a well-organized day of training for the Richmond Community.  We always focused on the latter as it was the big fish to fry, but we tried to circled back to supporting the user group.

Plan the Work, Work the plan

I am unsure how the early adopters managed to pull it off–I am not sure what I would have done without Karla Landrum.  While she won’t find sponsors or ask people to speak at your event, the invaluable experience of being battle tested is so important.  We would bounce ideas off of her and she directed us in what steps to take at certain times and every time we took her advice it was the right decision.  In fact there was one area with the SpeedPass we did NOT take her advice and it bit us in the butt.

Never to early

While doing these every year will reduce the time an organizer/user group needs to put on an event, I am surprised at how many events go up with only 3-4 months notice.  Our event went ‘live’ about 6 months in advance and I thought we needed all of that time to prepare.  Occasionally, we just needed some time for an idea or concept to marinate until we felt comfortable as a group.  Other times, we need time to find someone to assist us with a task.  Starting early also helped in the coordination with the venue.  UofRContinuingStudiesWe were lucky to have a gracious host in the University of Richmond and the School of Continuing Studies; however, this type of event was new to them and we needed time to work out details and ensure we met the requirements of the University.  As I mentioned, I am already thinking about next year and I think by July we will need to start putting together the team if we hold the event in March.

Help is out there

Team RVAThe best compliment I received about the event was “You had lots of people helping and it showed.”  While others have organized an event outside of a user group, my thoughts are you should take it to the user group (assuming there is one) and get buy in from them.  Sure, not everyone will help; however, the leaders normally help or provide input on organizing an event, getting local sponsors, and speakers as they have to do this on a regular basis for the user group.  Also members that have been to a SQL Saturday are normally easy pickings for at least the medium level tasks.  Local business sponsors can help promote the activity as they can show their involvement in the community, so don’t be afraid to approach them with a request to send out an email to their network and put some verbiage on their website.  After a successful event they are eager to help again and hopefully in an increased capacity.


Volunteer Heroes

I had the privilege of working with a small core team.  Between us we share the load of the largest responsibilities and brought in others for day/week of needs.  Wayne Sheffield b|t and Geoff Johnson b|t were my two biggest supporters.  Many hands make light work and it was no exception with this.  Having a team around you lets you share experiences and increases the number of reviews an idea gets.  While the men represented the core organizing team, I had another team of ladies made up of mostly of spouses that helped with day of needs.  It was impressive to seem them work and immediately resolve issues that came up.

Speaker Dinner and gift

Nothing made me more nervous than the speaker’s dinner and gift.  We had a great line up of A list speakers–and I was scared to death of what they would think.  It didn’t help that someone had volunteered to organize that part and then fell of the face of the planet.  Richmond is a big small city and there are limited spaces for a party of 35 on a Friday evening.  While unintentional, there is also some pressure to come up with an original gift or idea because many of the speakers have been around for a while and each event is publicized about the good and not so good things that happen.  At the end of the day, what makes the SQL community so great is the willingness to help each other and while our dinner had a few issues, everyone enjoyed getting together and talking.  I had heard it before, but the speakers really are there to help out the community and this was my experience.  While they all seemed to enjoy our gift, they truly appreciated the organization of the event, the preparation of the room they were in, and the people in their sessions.

Day of the Event

We did not have a pre-con before the event, so I had taken most of the day Friday to review everything and get the items I needed to bring to the event.  Because we had user group buy in, we had put together all the programs/swag bags the Thursday prior.  Geoff was the volunteer coordinator and had the registration items and Wayne had the speaker items.  I had a van load of kids so it was good that I didn’t have too many items to bring.
We were the first to arrive that day at about 6:30 AM.  The school was such a big help and the tables were already set up so there was minor physical arrangements to make.  We had made assignments beforehand for the coffee pickup, sign posting, and registration needs.  I shouldn’t have been surprised–after all this is the SQL Community, but several people got there soon after me and offered to help.  We soon had people unpacking cars and bringing in needed items.

The rest of the day passed quickly.  We had a few problems with Standby attendees so attending a morning session was out of the question; however, I did take the advice of some other organizers and squeezed in parts of a couple of afternoon sessions.

WIT Forum

WIT Forum

I had my family there and I made my oldest daughter, 10, attend the Women In Technology forum with me during lunch.  It might be a few years before she appreciates it.  🙂

It always amazes me how many people stay for the entire day, but I guess that is why we save the prizes for the end.  We had a good assortment of prizes and we are so grateful to the sponsors for helping us to make it happen.

Lessons Learned

SponsorsImageThere are a few areas in which we can improve, but they are dwarfed by the goodwill of the attendees, sponsors, and speakers.  If you are willing to put in the time (and emails) it is a worthy en devour.  Don’t forget about listening to Karla.  Don’t forget to have the coffee there early–even if it means two trips, one of the first rush and one of the rest of the morning.

I am glad I was able to play a small role and I hope to see you on the SQL trail.

SQL Saturday RVA

SQL Saturday RVA is just under two weeks away and we have been busy trying to get everything in place.  I have had a great team with Wayne Sheffield (b|t) and Geoff Johnson (t) doing some heavy lifting.  Our event will be at the University of Richmond, hosted by the school for continuing studies.  Tammy Alexander has been wonderful to work with and has opened a couple of doors where we thought we had hit a dead-end.

I thought I was familiar with the work required to pull off an event like this; however, it has been a challenge.  PASS has been wonderful and it has been nice to work with Karla Landrum (t).  Our event opened about 6 months ago and I am glad we did, we needed almost every day of it.  I am unsure how some of these events can go up in less than 3 months.

If you are planning to attend the event, I am sure you will have a good time.  We have a great speaker lineup and it continues to amaze me that people will give up their weekend to come and help others learn.  I am excited about being at the University of Richmond and I hope the area we are in fosters conversation and networking.    We will have several items to raffle off and some of our sponsors have free items for every attendee!  I hope to see you there.

SQL Server en Español

While I was born in the United States, my father is from Costa Rica and it was always a little weird being the only Carlos Chacón that didn’t speak Spanish–especially because I am the oldest on my dad’s side.  Luckily the rebellion of my youth didn’t entirely destroy my opportunity to learn Spanish as I spent two years in the Provincia de Buenos Aires (Buenos Aires Province) of Argentina as missionary for my church in the late 90’s.  !Aguante Lanus!

I have a goal in 2013 to start making presentations in Spanish and until now, never had a need to install SQL Server in anything but English.  Written translations are a bit tricky, but didn’t give two seconds thought to the SQL Install untill I came across this . . .


My first presentation will hopefully be in Costa Rica this April at a SQL Saturday so I had set all my language/local settings to there.  Turns out, SQL Server en Español want Spanish from the motherland-Spain.  Setting the language to show option and the region option to Spain did the trick.  Now on to translate my slide decks . . . .

SQL Saturday 168 Tampa Florida

Saturday November 17th found me in Tampa Florida for SQL Saturday 168, a BI focused conference.  I have had limited opportunities to work in the BI space so I was anxious to learn more and see what the learning curve would be.  I have a client that would like to do BI project and I wanted to see if I could get a better idea of what it would take.  My family and I had been vacationing in Florida that week and I almost considered cutting our trip short and not going–I am glad I went.  It was a good event.

The presentations were good, but they were ALMOST overshadowed by the food!  They had a homemade spread of chicken, rice, beans and veggies and it was excellent.  My conference attendance is somewhat limited, but this was hands down the best food I have eaten at a conference.

My big take aways from the conference were

  1. Self service BI is pretty cool.  The new tools in Excel, DataViewer, and SSAS and pretty need and I hope to be able to get more access to these tools.
  2. Big data is not as scary to me now as it was before the conference.  I was concerned about all the focus on big data and how that would affect me as a DBA.  There is still quite a bit of ramp up; however, it was to my great surprise that Adam Jorgensen said you could be up and running on https://www.hadooponazure.com/ in 2 hours and change.  Course, I haven’t put that statement to the test yet, but let’s just say it is on my to do list.