I have been a PASS summit attendee for 14 years now. This year is my 15th. Every year is different – some years are better than others, some make you feel it wasn’t as good as usual. This year was an odd experience for me. Quite a number of my friends were not attending for various reasons, and there was a lot of content that I thought was not in my line of work. In short, I went because I always do but didn’t expect a whole lot. But, it didn’t quite turn out that way. Some of my highlights are as below:
Dressing up for Halloween: Had a good day at precon on Data Science essentials followed by a quiet dinner with a good friend and headed home to the airbnb which I shared with two other friends.I had bought a halloween costume along.Now, am not normally much of a costume person – I bought this costume (‘Maleficient’ the evil queen from Sleeping Beauty) at the very last minute – because I had some amazon points left and amazon in its own clever way thought I’d like this costume because I like Disney movies. I thought this summit was going to be very low key and decided that dressing up would probably make it more fun.So in went the costume in my suitcase, literally with prime wrapping intact.In the lodging – I saw my good friend Mickey dress up for halloween. She looked fantastic and the girl in me wanted to dress up as well. So I put on the costume, which actually fitted me right, and came with a lovely glowing staff. And off I went, first to the WIT dinner and then to the opening event. Everyone I met loved the costume and by the time evening ended I was beginning to tire of how many photos I had to pose for. The part of me that looks for attention had gotten more than her fair share during this one evening.
Making new friends: I am normally a somewhat reserved person. It takes me time to warm up and make new friends – part of the reason why I love the summit is because I know so many people there and they know me just by virtue of attending. There is no extra effort to stretch out and make friends. This year, I just decided to push the part of me that sinks into this comfort zone. I went out and made friends with people who I felt were worthy being friends with, and especially those who were looking to be part of the community. Those worthy contacts include Miyo Yuk, a data scientist from MIT, Swagatika Sarangi, immigrant from my home country and new speaker, and several others. I also met with new comers I was mentoring and had a very good conversation.
Asking for help/being mentored: Also a very difficult thing for me – when I do it I do it in very awkward ways that do not get desired result. This time I think I got it right. I got some awesome mentoring advice from two gracious ladies I have great regard for – Kathi Kellenberger on writing books, and Jen Stirrup on WIT related issues. I am glad to have reached out to both of them.
Learning data science: I have been blogging a while on some basics of data science. At the summit I attended some excellent sessions on how the data world is changing and evolving, what are the areas I can specifically focus on as a SQL Server professional looking to do more of data science related work, and who are the people I need to follow for getting there. I felt more energized than I ever thought I would that going in this direction would be the right thing for me, although it does involve a steep learning curve.
For all the reasons cited above and for many others, this summit was special. It has always been special but this year I felt a sense of true belonging with people in a very obvious way. The feeling was strongly like ‘this was it’. These are the people I am going to be with and grow old with through the rest of my career and my life. I am grateful and glad to know so many of them so very well. I am grateful that we are linked by a common worthy cause. If you are like me and reading this – looking for a community to belong and friends who support you/care for you – take heart, you have arrived. Just give it time and give it your whole hearted commitment. It will pay off.
True belonging is not something you negotiate externally, it’s what you carry in your heart. It’s finding the sacredness in being a part of something. – Brene Brown