Benefits of Attending SQL Saturday Events

SQL Saturday Tampa occurred a little over a week ago in Tampa and was a very successful event. The weather was great once again and attendance was strong. Over the last week, I’ve been giving it some thought, I would have to say that one major takeaway I got from that day was the growing interest by attendees in all things related to BI (Business Intelligence for those whose imagination may be wandering). From pivot tables and charts built in SSAS to the using PowerPivot with Excel. Even the Iron Chef competition included the use of dashboards within SharePoint.

Of course the second major takeaway and the big question is whether all the interest is just because the attendees were BI curious (again, don’t go there) or if they are just trying to expand their knowledge. Perhaps (and I hope this is true) the tools have now become so easy to use that you don’t need to be a super geek to figure out how to make BI work. The tools truly do make it possible for the average DBA or even the power user to use the tools to perform useful analysis on their corporate data to help management and project trends, avoid catastrophes, and maybe even improve their company’s bottom line.

In fact, I believe Andy Warren said it best during his session, although I suspect we all know it to be true in the back of our minds, ‘You need to plan where you want to be next year and even in five years. Interestingly, that may not necessarily be the same as asking where your company wants you to be in that same time period.’ You don’t want to be stuck in the rut of supporting the same technology you work with today while the new hires get to play with all of the new fun toys, get more recognition, and perhaps even earn more money than you. Furthermore, given enough time (is that 5 years?) if you don’t adapt and adopt the newest technologies, you could find yourself to be unemployable because your skills have not kept up with the industry? He proposes that we all need to dedicate the time, and not just time at work, as well as the money, even when your company does not reimburse you, to reach the goal of where you want to be. Often you can get a major part of the way toward learning new technologies through books, trial software, and on-line labs. It does not take a lot of time each day or week. In fact, Andy challenged people to spend 100 hours or more a year to learn something new. That’s only 2 hours a week. For the past 6 months, I’ve been spending at least that if not more learning more about BI in SharePoint and PowerPivot. I’m not done yet, but when I feel satisfied with what I’ve learned, my next task to tackle will be to learn how to use Microsoft Project, not just as a standalone tool, but also how to use it with Project Server and SharePoint.

Andy’s comments reminded me of the times when I taught some evening classes at Valencia Community College and told the students that a career in IT requires a life-long dedication to learning. Don’t think that you can learn all you will ever need to know in college and never have to pick up a book again. Furthermore, I warned them that while their Valencia education may help them get that first job, in order to get their next job or even to just remain relevant at their first job for more than a few years, they would need to plan for their own continuing professional learning.

In any case, it was great to see so many people taking their professional growth into their own hands in Tampa and I hope to see many more of these folks at future SQL Saturday Events in the Florida area.

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