I've been active in the wider data and database management industry for over 20 years. In that time, I’ve attended multiple DBMS vendor conferences. But my favorite is always the PASS Summit, put on each fall by the Professional Association for SQL Server (www.sqlpass.org). (Full disclosure: I was one of the founders of the organization and president for two terms from 2004 to 2008.) It’s the biggest SQL Server specific event in the world and it brings in many thousands of people from around the world. The secret ingredient that makes it my favorite such conferences is the remarkable sense of comradery and overall friendliness of this professional association. This community knows about and actively promotes that sense of community under the hashtag #sqlfamily.
Want a free preview of the PASS Summit? Register and attend the 24 Hours of PASS webinar taking place on September 9th, presenting a Summit 2014 session every hour for the 24 hours around the clock! And you can see popular PASS Summit 2013 sessions, interviews, and more on PASStv.
In terms of content, this is a very large event with more than 200 sessions delivered over three days. In addition, the event offers more than two dozen full- and half-day pre-conference seminars for those attendees who want a deep dive into specific areas of SQL Server, such as high-availability, performance tuning, deep internals, Azure-based cloud computing, and many business intelligence topics. For more details on the specific sessions of the event, look here: PASS Sessions.
Five Topic Tracks
The PASS Summit delivers sessions organized into five topic tracks: Application & Database Development, BI Information Delivery, BI Platform Architecture, Development & Administration; Enterprise Database Administration & Deployment, and Professional Development. (I’m delivering a professional development session this year). In addition, since the event takes place in Microsoft’s own back yard, you can attend any of over 60 sessions from Microsoft’s own R&D staff who work directly on SQL Server. All of the sessions are also recorded, so attendees can watch and learn from Summit sessions long after attending the event.
An interesting new offering from PASS are the Learning Paths that are highlighted on the left-side of the PASS Sessions page. By clicking one or more of these filters, you can quickly and easily get a listing of sessions specific to a specific area of interest, i.e. a curriculum if you will. The new Learning Paths include: Beginner, Big Data, Hardware Virtualization, High Availability / Disaster Recovery, Cloud, Performance, Power BI, Security, and new features of SQL Server 2014. And one aspect of the PASS Summit that I encourage you to investigate is the Community Zone, a hang-out area where you can relax and speak with both Microsoft and independent SQL Server experts and community leaders.
Strong Attention to First Timers and New SQL Server Professionionals
Another aspect of the PASS Summit is their strong attention to First Timers and those who are new to SQL Server in general and the SQL Server community specifically. Many SQL Server IT professionals come into their job accidentally, perhaps as the smartest SQL developer in a company that’s never had a DBA before. Consequently, they do not know a lot about the profession, let alone the technology itself. So PASS provides a variety of Orientation Meetings and “Get to Know Your Community” sessions to help acclimate first-time attendees and to encourage them to remain connected and active outside of the conference itself. There are quite a few opportunities to network, from the widely popular Women in Technology luncheon (with over 700 attendees last year) to the Birds of a Feather luncheon, connecting practitioners with experts in the specific topics they find most interesting.
Even if you can’t attend this fall’s conference, I encourage you to get involved with PASS where you are by connecting with their local SQL Server communities through various PASS Chapters around the world and make use of their on-line Virtual Chapters, SQLSaturdays mini-conferences, and other free channels.
Kevin Kline, a longtime Microsoft SQL Server MVP, is a founder and former president of PASS and the author of SQL in a Nutshell. Kline tweets at @kekline and blogs at http://kevinekline.com.
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