PASS Summit 2019 Takeaways

I attended my 16th PASS Summit this November 6th, 2019 at Seattle. It was a wonderful week of learning and networking. Below are my takeaways for key days.

The keynotes by Rohan Kumar from Microsoft on wednesday, and Tarah Wheeler, Cyber Security Expert on Thursday were not ‘among the best’, they were ‘THE BEST’ i’ve seen in 16 years. I’ve summarized Rohan’s keynote here.
Tarah’s was basically a warning and an overview on the highly complex terrain of data security, with its many contradictions and ethical struggles.Tarah herself was a role model speaker, who did not bat an eyelid when power went down briefly on her on stage. Her slides were excellently done and her talk precise,crisp, and had us on the edge through every minute of it.
I had the privilege of joining some other ladies in community for a private dinner with our WIT Panel guest Lashana Lewis. I have not had a trivial number of challenges myself but I was amazed at how much she had to face as a black woman in tech to break through. Her work and her words had a huge impact on the listeners at the luncheon on Thursday. I must not fail to mention here that SentryOne has been a sponsor of these luncheons for a several years now(thank you!). The quality of lunch is extra good as well.
The recordings are available here, and will include these keynotes. I highly recommend ordering them if you haven’t already.

The other technical sessions I attended were as below. The recordings include these too.
1 Intelligent Query Processing (taught excellently by Hugo Kornelis)
2 Batch processing mode on Row Store (learned how this works from Niko Neugebauer)
3 Accelerated Database Recovery (Pam Lahoud did a great job showing how this works)
4 Azure Data Studio and Notebooks (New tools made by my dear friend Vicky Harp and her team)
5 How to design and maintain a cloud friendly data warehouse (brilliant session by Ike Ellis)
6 SQL Server on Linux (there were many sessions on this, but being a beginner to Linux I found Randolph West’s session the best)

In addition to this, I re-learned execution plans from Erin Stellato, how to avoid RBAR processing from Jonathan Kehayias, and irreverant ways of enforcing best practices on SQL Server from Rob Volk. There were a couple of vendor sessions which I went into accidentally and had to leave half way.

I cannot possibly write a summit overview without the benefits of networking. Networking is by far the key benefit of attending a conference like this. As a repeat attendee, I have learned to reach out to friends I already know beforehand and make sure I have a meeting with them on my calender. It is really easy to get busy and forget all about priorities. My friends are my priorities and I was glad I look care of that. I was also able to meet several people who are new or perhaps less known, and was able to add them to my network.

I’d like to complete this overview with a few lessons on making the most of the summit:

1 Get there a day before if possible – if you are on a different time zone. In today’s world it is possible to work remotely. It takes time for our bodies to adjust and also to adapt to a crazy schedule ahead. I usually take a day off and get myself acclamatised to what is to come. I know this may not be possible for many people – but I would recommend doing it if possible.
2 Pay attention to keynotes – especially microsoft keynotes. The days are gone when we could sleep in through what used to be mostly commercial and somewhat dry presentations – there are a lot of new terminologies to get familiar with. It also helps to understand how SQL Server is a product is evolving/growing in the market. It also helps to stay on twitter and follow what people say on keynotes. I’ve gotten some really cool insights from tweet feedback.
3 Make a schedule before hand, don’t try to wing it. There are too many sessions and just walking into something randomly can be a miss on a great in person session that would have given much value. Yes, recordings exist, but are a tad below a real class taught live by an expert. Besides, you get to introduce yourself to the speaker and add value to your network. I was glad to have spent time picking sessions I wanted to attend.
4 Reach out to people you know and set up time to talk to them. Sometimes encounters happen by chance, many times we can totally miss talking to people we rarely see. Intentional networking has high benefits.
5 Last but not the least, never neglect self care. Getting flu shots before, taking whatever makes one comfortable (I carry my fleece blanket wherever I go),staying in touch with loved ones, retiring when the body says ‘am done’, are hugely important. Well known author Stephen Covey talks of driving without having time for getting gas – neglecting self care is exactly this.

That is it for this year. Below are some pictures from my experience. Look forward to Summit 2020 at Houston, Texas. Thank you to everyone who made this year’s event valuable and worth attending.

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