Fall is my favorite time of the year for a lot of reasons. I love the cooling temperatures and the falling leaves. I enjoy the fall sports and school activities of my kids. And, perhaps best of all, I get to enjoy the yearly high-point for SQL Server professionals, the annual Community Summit put on by the Professional Association for SQL Server (www.sqlpass.org).
For a technologist, the reasons to attend the annual conference of your profession should be self-evident. At the PASS 2012 Summit, there are nearly 200 technical sessions from beginner to advanced level over the duration of the week of November 5. The attendance is huge, last year hitting almost 6,000 persons. The Summit itself lasts for three days, but you can load up a couple of extra days with full-day and half-day seminars for a small additional fee. These sessions are incredibly informative and deeply technical.
To check out all event sessions in the traditional format for browsing, go to http://www.sqlpass.org/summit/2012/Sessions.aspx. There’s also a snazzy Schedule Builder available at http://www.sqlpass.org/summit/2012/Sessions/BuildSchedule.aspx. The Schedule Builder enables you to target specific types of content, for example business intelligence sessions, so that you can tailor your time at the event more readily to your educational needs. I also really like the eye-catching Metro-style schedule app at http://pivot.lobsterpot.com.au/pass2012.htm, put together by Rob Farley, a PASS board member and Microsoft MVP, and his team in Australia at Lobsterpot.com.
Personally, I’ll be participating in four sessions: one professional development session, one hard-core technology session, and two panel discussions. One panel discussion I always look forward to is the WIT (Women In Technology) session. As the dad and step-day to six girls, this is a topic I’m passionate about. And I’m proud to say that PASS has put in more work on WIT issues than any other IT community that I’m aware of. PASS has a number of WIT programs, including the monthly virtual chapter meeting (http://wit.sqlpass.org/) and the annual in-person WIT meetings where the organization continues to build a culture of support and caring for one another. The details are here: http://www.sqlpass.org/summit/2012/Connect/Luncheons/WomeninTechnologyLuncheon.aspx.
I’m really proud of how PASS has consciously constructed its culture around the idea of “SQLFamily”. And that’s one of the things that makes PASS such a fantastic event to attend. Whereas many IT events are staid affairs with little happening in the afterhours, PASS is like a great big family reunion where everyone is catching up since the last time they saw their good friends. There are plenty of parties to attend and events to enjoy throughout the week.
And if you don’t already have a bunch of friends going to the event, you’ll be sure to make new friends when you attend the First-Timers’ Orientation (http://www.sqlpass.org/summit/2012/Connect/FirstTimers.aspx). Last year, nearly 800 people made new friends and connections at the First-Timers’ Orientation.
As a long-time IT manager, one thing I like about good quality, specialty conferences is that I can see all of the vendors whose products I might consider using in my enterprise. It’s great to be able to see the various vendors and compare their products in just an hour or two in the exhibit hall, compared to a few weeks spent trying to figure out all of the features, differences and pricing gimmicks that are out there. If there’s a vendor selling a product or service for SQL Server, you’re going to see them at the PASS Community Summit.
And just in case you can’t make it, that doesn’t mean you’re left out in the cold. PASS is streaming more of their content than ever before for free to members of the association. PASS will be posting more details about steaming their Summit media, so stay on the lookout for registering for the on-line sessions as they become available. And just like with the in-person event, those streaming media events can also sell out. So jump on the opportunity right away!