My experience with TechOutbound 2018 – Caribbean

I am a passionate, regular attendee of Techoutbound (formerly SQLCruise) events. I try to do at least one every year.  This year’s cruise on east coast was to East Caribbean – with an itinerary that was different from original because of hurricane related issues in the area. We were doing Jamaica, Cayman Islands, Grand Stirrup Cay and finally the Bahamas.

Day 0: Miami: Since I am on a telecommute based job now, I was able to spare myself the rigors of last minute travel and head to Miami a good 3 days before the cruise. I booked myself into an airbnb accomodation at North Miami beach – worked out of there for 3 days enjoying the warm Florida sun and was ready in time for cruise on saturday. The only thing I didn’t do right perhaps was to misjudge the options around food in North Miami, which is seriously lower than options in downtown. Even with grubhub, ubereats and stuff like that – finding good food delivery was hard. Note to myself  – if I do this again is to find a more food-friendly part of town.

Day 1:
I headed to the Marriott hotel early in the morning – had breakfast with Kevin Kline(t) and his wife Rachel (whom I met for the first time), new cruisers David McAtee(l) and Nathan Vanden Hook(t). We then proceeded to port. Boarding was quicker than usual and we were able to get to breakfast by 11 30 AM. After a good meal I went to the rooms and took a long nap through departure. In the evening we met up for the welcome party – where I got to say hello to many former cruisers – organizers Tim Ford(b|t), Amy Ford and their son Trevor, Argenis Fernandez (t) and his family, Grant Fritchey(b|t) and his wife, John Martin(t) , Stephanie Locke(t) and her husband, former cruisers Sander Stad. my good friend Joe Sheffield (t) and his family. After some catch-up I retired early.

Day 2:
This was our day at sea. The first class started with Argenis’s class on Linux for the DBA. I learned about history of Linux in general, and how it evolved its way into Microsoft as an alternate OS hosting SQL Server. I enjoyed the class. Following that we had a class on Data Science Fundamentals with Steph Locke. Steph went over basics of data science, what is involved in presenting ideas to management, working with teams, coming up with right algorithms (you need to treat them like ‘cattle’ and have many 🙂 and deployment strategies. As an aspiring data science person, I hugely enjoyed her class. The afternoon was taken with Grant Fritchey explaining Execution Plan basics. Although it was mostly stuff I knew – Grant is a great teacher and enjoyed every bit of the class. The day wound up with formal dinner – I sat at the table with my good friend Argenis and his family – greatly enjoyed chatting and getting to know them better.

Day 3:
This was our day at port at Falmouth, Jamaica. My friend Joe Sheffield had arranged for a group of us to go to Dunn’s River Falls. Joe, by the way, is another frequent cruiser and also an unofficial tour organizer for many cruise events. We loaded ourselves into the bus and made our way to the waterfalls. My thought was just that this would be a visit to a waterfall, and I’ve seen many – but it turned out to be quite different. The waterfalls are layered, with limestone rocks. The water is about 4-5 feet deep at layers, and it makes for a wonderful climbing place. We were split into small groups, each with a guide, and started our climb, through the cool,clean but very forceful water – to the peak of the falls, about 950 feet high. It was an adventure to the say the least, and one that had me panic more than once – mostly because I was the shortest person in the team, and also because am prone to hypothermia with standing in water for too long. But things worked out fine – and with able assistance from Kevin Kline and Jason Brimhall/his family – I made my way to the very top. This is one adventure that I absolutely plan to do again, with a more relaxed state of mind since I know what to expect. We made a brief stop at a beach on the way back and went back to the ship, tired to the bone but very pleased and happy.

Day 4:
This was another day at port at Cayman Islands. I was very tired from the previous excursion and chose to hang mostly on the ship. In the evening, we had a good class with Kevin Kline on how to present ideas to win executive support. Kevin narrated a story from my own previous job (which I had near-forgotten myself!) where I had to present ideas a certain way to win support for standardising maintenance on servers. I personally always take his wise counsel when it comes to people issues – the class was good demonstration of his knowledge and expertise in this area.

Day 5:
This was a full day at sea – beginning with John Martin teaching availability groups on Linux. It was mind boggling to see how much manual work this is to set up, made me personally grateful for ease of doing it on windows. This was followed by Kevin Kline and John Martin talking of future enhancements to SentryOne monitoring product. I use it on a daily basis and really enjoyed the class. Steph Locke did the afternoon session – and taught us how to set up ETL processes with R. I personally find SSIS a big pain, and most shops I’ve worked at can’t afford BIML – so learning this was really useful to me. The last class of the day was with Argenis teaching various storage landscapes again. I unlearned a few assumptions I had around terms like IOPS, using SQL IO and similar tools and also learned several of the new storage devices/methodologies out there , many of which I can’t even pronounce right. It was a great class and a very useful day. During the office hours/networking session – I was able to get very useful tips on salary negotiation, an area am really weak at. Tim Ford and Steph Locke, along with fellow cruiser Nathan Locke helped me understand this way better than I did before. The best part of SQL Cruise is the ability to ask these questions of people who know it better than you do, and get answers that are practical and useful.

Day 6: This was a day at port at Grand Stirrup Cay, a private island owned by the cruise line. It was a clear beach with white sand and azure blue waters, a perfect sunny day like paradise in the Caribbean. I walked the beach for a while and then took an eco boat tour which showed us some of the ecology of  the island and also let us play with some sea animals a bit. I had a very good time and returned to the boat in time in for lunch. In the afternoon, we had a great class with Kevin Kline and John Martin on Proactive Database Administration.

Day 7: The last day was spent at port at Nassau, Bahamas. We spent the morning in class with Grant Fritchey, learning Azure SQL databases. Then I went out for a few hours with Joe Sheffield and his family. We went around victorian part of Nassau, took a few pictures and then headed back to the ship to pack for disembarkment the next day.

It was 7 very productive days of learning, networking and pure fun. Tim made a mention during the cruise, that fun was a very important part of it and that he did not have any issues with anyone highlighting this. I feel the same – you are a better, more productive person if you can relax and have fun, and learn, and why not both in the same week? I highly recommend the next cruise, coming up in Alaska, for anyone who looking to do this. My sincere thanks to Tim and Amy Ford,  SentryOne and RedGate for sponsoring, Mindy Curnett for the swag(handmade soap), speakers and attendees – for making it a great and memorable week.





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