Summit reflections

November 13, 2012

So far, my three PASS Summit experiences have been notably different to each other.

My first, I wasn’t on the board and I gave two regular sessions and a Lightning Talk in which I told jokes.

My second, I was a board advisor, and I delivered a precon, a spotlight and a Lightning Talk in which I sang.

My third (last week), I was a full board director, and I didn’t present at all.

Let’s not talk about next year. I’m not sure there are many options left.

This year, I noticed that a lot more people recognised me and said hello. I guess that’s potentially because of the singing last year, but could also be because board elections can bring a fair bit of attention, and because of the effort I’ve put in through things like 24HOP… Yeah, ok. It’d be the singing.

My approach was very different though. I was watching things through different eyes. I looked for the things that seemed to be working and the things that didn’t. I had staff there again, and was curious to know how their things were working out. I knew a lot more about what was going on behind the scenes to make various things happen, and although very little about the Summit was actually my responsibility (based on not having that portfolio), my perspective had moved considerably.

photoBefore the Summit started, Board Members had been given notebooks – an idea Tom (who heads up PASS’ marketing) had come up with after being inspired by seeing Bill walk around with a notebook. The plan was to take notes about feedback we got from people. It was a good thing, and the notebook forms a nice pair with the SQLBits one I got a couple of years ago when I last spoke there. I think one of the biggest impacts of this was that during the first keynote, Bill told everyone present about the notebooks. This set a tone of “we’re listening”, and a number of people were definitely keen to tell us things that would cause us to pull out our notebooks.

PASSTV was a new thing this year. Justin, the host, featured on the couch and talked a lot of people about a lot of things, including me (he talked to me about a lot of things, I don’t think he talked to a lot people about me). Reaching people through online methods is something which interests me a lot – it has huge potential, and I love the idea of being able to broadcast to people who are unable to attend in person. I’m keen to see how this medium can be developed over time.

People who know me will know that I’m a keen advocate of certification – I’ve been SQL certified since version 6.5, and have even been involved in creating exams. However, I don’t believe in studying for exams. I think training is worthwhile for learning new skills, but the goal should be on learning those skills, not on passing an exam. Exams should be for proving that the skills are there, not a goal in themselves. The PASS Summit is an excellent place to take exams though, and with an attitude of professional development throughout the event, why not?

So I did. I wasn’t expecting to take one, but I was persuaded and took the MCM Knowledge Exam. I hadn’t even looked at the syllabus, but tried it anyway. I was very tired, and even fell asleep at one point during it. I’ll find out my result at some point in the future – the Prometric site just says “Tested” at the moment. As I said, it wasn’t something I was expecting to do, but it was good to have something unexpected during the week.

Of course it was good to catch up with old friends and make new ones. I feel like every time I’m in the US I see things develop a bit more, with more and more people knowing who I am, who my staff are, and recognising the LobsterPot brand. I missed being a presenter, but I definitely enjoyed seeing many friends on the list of presenters. I won’t try to list them, because there are so many these days that people might feel sad if I don’t mention them. For those that I managed to see, I was pleased to see that the majority of them have lifted their presentation skills since I last saw them, and I happily told them as much. One person who I will mention was Paul White, who travelled from New Zealand to his first PASS Summit. He gave two sessions (a regular session and a half-day), packed large rooms of people, and had everyone buzzing with enthusiasm. I spoke to him after the event, and he told me that his expectations were blown away. Paul isn’t normally a fan of crowds, and the thought of 4000 people would have been scary. But he told me he had no idea that people would welcome him so well, be so friendly and so down to earth. He’s seen the significance of the SQL Server community, and says he’ll be back.

It’ll be good to see him there. Will you be there too?

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. john walker

    On your note about ‘studying for the exam’. I think you need to highlight the difference between ‘studying for the exam’ and ‘studying the exam material’ in order to learn the product.
    Personally, I find structured learning to be the best approach for me when covering new material, once i have a good base i then branch out and learn via hands-on experimenting (hyper v is making this much less painful).
    With this in mind i find working through the msPress certification material works well for me as it forces me to touch on all areas of the product, exposing me to new ways of working that i may not see in my day to day professional work due to time/need/environment constraints. Setting a date for the exam then gives me the motivation to work through the material and cover all areas as nobody likes failing an exam.
    Once the exam is complete i then review both the results and the stuff i found interesting/useful to really bed down the knowledge.

  2. Rob Farley

    Hi John,
    Yeah – do what works for you. For me, I don’t like studying to pass an exam at all. I also find that a lot of exam-focused learning material misses the point. I prefer to learn what I need to learn to be effective on a particular tool, not with a plan to pass an exam. I’ll be a little torn over the lab exam I think.

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