My first PASS summit was 7 years ago,at Gaylord,Texas. I was an accidental DBA of 3 years, back then. I was not in a happy place, career wise. I had worked very hard to develop good DBA skills and was doing well managing their database servers. They had assigned me another role that was unrelated to my skillsets… The writing on the wall was clear, for me and several others… ‘Leave if you don’t like it’…
I was not sure of finding a job too quickly, and did not want to end up fired..It was in this situation that I accidentally clicked on a link to PASS from the Microsoft technet website. I saw this conference happening near Dallas. I thought it would help me to atleast go and find out the type of careers and future available with SQL Server experience. Dallas was not expensive in terms of airfare. The entire conference fee was not affordable to me, but I could take a small loan from the bank and manage two days. So I took two days off and went to attend the conference, entirely on my own.
Most of the things I learnt were way above the basic features I used..but it encouraged me to know that there was so much to this product and I could get ahead if I put in effort and time into learning it. On the last day I was wandering the hallways, feeling tired and fed up at the thought of getting back to work. There were two people sitting at a table, a bald guy with a friendly smile and another lady. They had some fliers and information on volunteering for the community, that looked interesting. I picked up courage to walk up to them and said ‘Excuse me, am new, could tell me more on what you do’. They asked me where I was from, and I told them. The bald guy asked me if I knew of a user group for SQL Server in that area. I had done my research on this and knew for a fact that there was none. So I nodded ‘no’. ‘It might be a good idea for you to start one’, he said without hesitation. A big crowd of negative thoughts filled my mind…‘Me, start a user group? Why… I did not know anyone in town aside from the people I worked with, I was an immigrant, not terribly extroverted by nature…so I was not sure where to go with the idea. But atleast he seemed to think I could do it. At a time when my morale was particularly low that was in itself encouraging. He gave me an application to fill out, along with his business card and asked me to call if I had any questions. I shoved the papers into my bag and didn’t think about it until I got home.
When I got home I put together some of the things I knew and some of the things I had learnt…into a resume’. In 10 days I had landed a new job as a DBA at another place. In the gap between the two jobs I looked at the paperwork and the business card again. Purely out of instinct I filled in the information and faxed the paper work to PASS Office at Chicago. PASS offered to do the first mailing for me, and our first UG meet was set to happen at the local public library.I picked up courage to call the guy who had given me the business card – he gave me 3 MVP’s contacts. I wrote to them and one of them agreed to speak. So started the first UG meet – with about 10 people in the room. Then meetings started happening regularly, and we moved from the library into a conference room at an office. Membership slowly went up to 100 people or so.
To cut a long story short, I landed my present job with the aide of someone who came to my UG meeting.He was impressed by the questions I asked a certain speaker, and gave me his boss’s email to write to. I was asked to come in to talk to his boss and two days later, offered a job with considerably more money and allowances than what I had. I was not the speaker, I was not an MVP , or a blogger, any kind of celebrity – just an ordinary person in the audience who asked some smart questions, that is all. And a user group lead who organized some meetings and helped him find some community.
At every conference I end up meeting more smart people…and more people who inspire me to succeed with their humility, tenacity and hard work. Brent Ozar sat at a breakfast table with several others at the conference in Denver..introducing himself just as a ‘sql guy from Chicago’. Kathie Kellenberger did her first session on ‘how to do efficient meetings’ with only 10 people or so in the class room, was one of them…. Andy Warren took several hours of his time to inspire us to start SQL Saturdays..and now we are into SQL Saturday #3…Kevin Kline was the first ever celebrity who cared to speak for a small user group like ours, driving all the way from Nashville. And not enough can be said ’bout the smiling bald guy – Rushabh Mehta – because of whom we have a thriving user community where I live. The list is long..and never fails to inspire. At every conference I meet and come away with more contacts and more experiences to learn and grow from.
As Arnie Rowland rightly said the really important word is ‘Community’. There is a lot one can learn technically, there is also a lot of fun one can have in a city like Seattle. But the real benefit of the conference comes with community..the people you meet..who inspire you, support you and encourage you towards your goals. At every conference I look for people like me, standing by with the line ‘excuse me, I am new’…this time am really happy to be guiding new comers in a more organized way…and also share more on how to get the best, and learning more in the process myself. And am really happy to start my new blog with a post honoring the great community that am proud to be part of.