I have been trying to get my blogging going again after a gap of two months. It has been incredibly hard. To warm up, I decided to try some non technical posts. One of them is stuff I have been wanting to write a long time – with this year I will complete attending 14 years of PASS Summit. It has been a while. There are people who have attended every single summit – I am by no means the record holder for that. But attending the same conference and being part of the same community for 14 years is still something to be proud of, and am very proud of it.
For the first 3 years – I could not afford the entire summit. I was a junior DBA cum programmer back then, on a work visa, making about 65K or so per year. Money was hard, and the summit wasn’t cheap. For my very first summit at chicago, I could only afford to pay my way for one day. (I think it was 300 to 400 dollars). The hotels close to the summit were expensive, so I took a Greyhound bus from Louisville. (I do not like to drive long distance on my own , and nobody I knew was going). I landed in Chicago early morning, attended a day’s class and took the bus back same day evening. Most of what was said during the day went above my head. All I did with SQL server back then was backups, restores, attaching and detaching databases, and creating a few DTS jobs. But, I saw many passionate people. I was inspired by their love of what they do, and wanted to be part of them. So, whether I learned anything or not, didn’t matter much. I wanted to come back here, to this community, although I didn’t know a single soul among them. I did this for 2 more years.
The year 2005 was at Grapevine, TX. I had received a modest bonus at work – could afford airfare and two days of hotel. So off I went again, to hang among these very excited strangers and try to understand a wee bit of what they were saying, or doing. During lunch break – I was wandering around and stopped at a table with a bald man and another lady. They seemed very friendly. The bald man was Rushabh Mehta, one of the board members at PASS. He asked me if I had a user group at Louisville. I said no, and he asked me if I was interested in starting one. I was mostly an introverted person. I did not know how to get word around or how to get people to attend a user group, even if I started one. I expressed these concerns. He reassured me that he would help with mailings and would also get the local Microsoft people to help. What he said next made my heart leap – they offered free attendance to entire conference for running a user group!! I decided to go for it. On my way back from TX – I knew one person now. I had Rushabh’s contact information. While sitting at the airport terminal waiting for my flight home – I saw another lady with a PASS backpack. I asked her if she was from Louisville – and she responded , yes. It was just two of us from our little town at the conference. I explained what Rushabh had told me, and asked her if she would help me start up the first meeting for our user group. She was interested. Teresa Mills was the second person in the SQL community whom I got to know, via attending a PASS conference.
The first meeting of Louisville SQL Server user group started in 2006, at the local library, with 12 people in attendance. Some of those folks are still with me as volunteers for SQL Saturday and for the chapter. After that, I started going to the summit every year. Some years, I got my employer to pay the whole way. Some other years, I had to pay for hotel. Or the airfare. In some rare cases, I had to take paid time off to go. I also volunteered for PASS in every capacity I could – I wrote for their newsletter, mentored new attendees, served on selection committee, worked as a Tech Ed volunteer, moderated 24HoP – everything I could in the time I had.
Now, after 15 years, I know a LOT of people in the community. It is many times difficult to find time for all of them. I have never had to look for work the traditional way – all my jobs after I started the user group have been because of referrals – people I know in community telling others that am good at what I do. Last year I was awarded the PASSion award for best volunteer – the highest recognition a volunteer can get. I am sure glad to have boarded the Greyhound bus that night into a city and among people I never knew or understood. I hope you find it in you to take that find step. You never know where it will take you.