You’re Speaking…and You Don’t Have Slides

I had this dream that other week. I was in the big room at PASS Summit, sitting in the audience. I was relaxed, as I thought I was presenting later in the day, when I quickly realized, due to the lack of speaker on the stage, that I was the next speaker, and the room was full. And I was playing with my laptop and I didn’t have a slide deck. In my dream, this talk was a 300 level session on troubleshooting SQL Server, something I feel like I could do pretty easily, you know with slides. Or a whiteboard.

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http://tse3.mm.bing.net/th?id=OIP.mek7WCJGE_T7QapryUckqQEsDh&pid=15.1

I woke up, before I started speaking. So, I’m not sure how I would have handled it—interpretive dance? I’m a pretty bad dancer. One thing, I will mention, and I saw my friend Allan Hirt (b|t) have to do this last month in Boston—really good (and really well rehearsed) speakers, can do a very good talk without their slides. Slides can be a crutch—one of the common refrains in Speaker Idol judging is don’t read your slides. It is bad form—do I sometimes read my slides? Yeah, everyone does occasionally. But when you want to deliver a solid technical message, the best way to do that is telling stories.

I’m doing a talk next month in Belgium (April 10, in Gent), right before SQL Bits. It’s going to be about what not to do in DR. My slide deck is mostly going to be pictures, and I’m going to tell stories—stories from throughout my career, and some stores from friends. It’s going to be fun, names will be changed to protect the guilty.

So my question and guidance for you dear readers, is to think about what you would do if the projector failed and you did not have a whiteboard. I can think of a number of talks I can do without a whiteboard–in India last year, another instructor and I demonstrated Azure networking by using our bodies as props. What would you do in this situation?

On Presenting—Making Bad Days Good

Last weekend I had the pleasure of speaking at a wonderful technology event, in the Caribbean. Ok, so it wasn’t the Caribbean, it was Cleveland, but a lot of my friends were there, I had a good time and the event was awesome. Thanks Adam (b|t) and crew for running a really fantastic SQL Saturday.

Anyway, on Friday my good friend Erin Stellato (b|t) asked if I could do an additional presentation, that I’ve done frequently in the past (it’s on High Availability and Disaster Recovery in SQL Server—one of my favorite topics). I accepted the offer, but the only issue is that I didn’t have a demo environment, and if there’s anything I’ve learned about SQL Server audiences in my years of speaking, is that they love demos. So I spent a decent amount of time on Friday and Saturday morning getting a virtualization environment built, and didn’t pay too much attention to my other presentation, on columnstore indexes.

The HA and DR went great, but I flustered a little in my columnstore session—I knew the materials, but I hadn’t touched the demos in a while, and I just really didn’t like the general flow of the session. Combining the way I felt, with the attendee feedback (attendees—always give feedback, speakers love it, even if it’s bad), I decided to refactor both my demos and some visualizations in my slides, in an effort to make things clearer. Fortunately, I get to present the session again this week (thanks Edmonton SQL Server UG), so I’ll get to test the new slides.

The moral of this story, is sometimes we have bad days—everyone does. However, getting overly upset about it, doesn’t do a whole lot of good—think about where you can improve and do it.

 

SQL Saturday Richmond Resources

Resources from my presentation in Richmond’s SQL Saturday.

Slides:

SQL Saturday #200 – Philadelphia 2013

It is with great pride that I announce the 200th SQL Saturday today. It’s with even more exuberance that I announce that it will be my user group’s event in Philadelphia (well Malvern to be specific). June 1st 2013, at Microsoft, where we had the event last year.

The webpage is here.

I had a great time running last year’s event, and was really happy with how it went, and I look forward to putting on another great event. We will do something special, since this is #200 and we are in the bicentennial city.

SQL Saturday #173—Washington DC

My Slides for the presentation are here.

Replication Subscribers and AlwaysOn–from Books Online.

Link to Starwind Documentation

Time for Change

As some of you may have seen on my LinkedIn profile, I recently made a job change. This as always was a hard decision, as I really liked the folks I was working with at my old company and getting to work in Europe (Switzerland) was a great career experience.  Here’s a little bit of background.

Last December, my company was in the midst of a big hiring spree for our global SAP implementation–it was a big project, and it was obviously where most of our IT resources were going to be going for the next several years. It also meant leaving my comfort zone–databases, to be the Infrastructure lead for the project. I decided to do it–the ERP experience would be great, and my backup plan was that I would continue presenting on SQL, I could always go back to being a DBA.

The project kicked off in February, and one of key early decisions was to outsource the hosting of the Infrastructure–this would, in theory make my job easier, as it would limit me to connectivity, and relationship management activities. However, things didn’t work out well with the hosting (the vendor was awful, and we weren’t much better), so in April, when we were coming up against some project deadlines, I jetted off to Switzerland to build the development and sandbox environments with my consultant. The Swiss had some excess hardware, and the plan was for this to be a temporary environment until we got the hosting worked out–it wasn’t, and the VMs we built then, laid the groundwork for development.

From my perspective, this was good and bad at the same time. It tested every part of my technical skills, I did SQL, Oracle, Windows, Linux, VMWare and a bit of SAN. I even was fairly involved in the network and remote access pieces of the project. The bad side of this, was my team hadn’t expanded–it was two of us, and we were beginning to get overwhelmed with requests, both from the development team and the project management stuff I was having to do. (A common week was 6 hours of meetings a day, all while trying to work). After Switzerland (pt 1), I took a few days to go speak at SQL Rally, and relax a bit.

One interesting tidbit I didn’t mention, was that during my trip to Switzerland, it was announced that my company was being acquired by a much larger health care firm. I think I would be safe, but that’s always a big place for concern.

I was talking with some really smart folks John Sterrett (blog|twitter), Kevin Kline (blog|twitter), and Jen McCown (blog|twitter) at Rally, and they suggested I start looking for another role. I only applied to two jobs, and I heard back from both of them–one of them was at a very prominent company in the Philadelphia area, where a couple of my Microsoft friends had worked. I interviewed there in late May–everything went great, the process took forever, but their HR recruiting did an excellent job of staying touch with me, and letting me know that they were still interested.

The project progressed, things only got crazier. SAP has a crazy number of modules, each which have their own inter and cross dependencies, additionally there are a decent number of ancillary systems that also require support. I’m looking at you Business Objects Data Services.  So needless to say free time was at a premium. May-July consisted of a lot of 60 hour weeks–we finally decided to dump the hosting guys, and do it ourselves, so the end of July had another trip to Switzerland (this  would be our vacation for the year, it was fun), this time to build the QA environment.

The day before I left for Switzerland (and SQL Saturday Wheeling), I got a call from the big company I had interviewed with, with a great offer, pending a drug test (I passed, woo hoo!) . While, I was in Switzerland, I began hearing rumors that the SAP project may be cancelled, as the company is trying to save cash in advance of the merger. This along with a couple of other things that happened in the US during that trip, lead me to accept the offer. I do have to thank Erin Stellato (blog|twitter) and Karen Lopez (blog|twitter) for helping me with advice during that trip. Thanks ladies!!!

So, the epilogue of this story is that two days after I started my new role, the project was cancelled, and everyone was reassigned into either their old roles or something else. I felt pretty awful for my colleagues, but like I said on twitter, I felt like I hit the lottery.

Now, that I’m in a different role, you should see some more blogs here. Later this week, I’ll talk about how the community can help your career!

Upcoming Events

I have the good fortune to be presenting at upcoming events in Philadelphia, Boston, and Orlando.

This weekend at SQL Saturday #69 I will be presenting the following:

10:00 AM Building your first SQL Cluster

12:30 PM (Along with Mark Kromer from Microsoft) Migrate SQL Server Apps to SQL Azure Cloud DB

3:45 PM Deploying SQL Data Tier Applications using SQL 2008R2 and Visual Studio 2010

In Boston at SQL Saturday #71, on April 2, I will be presenting on Building your first SQL Cluster, again..

More details to come later on my presentation at SQL Rally Orlando!

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