SQL Johannesburg User Group Meeting – 10th March 2015

Second user group meeting of 2015, nice to start the year with lots of energy and dreams that need to get converted into reality!

It was our first of two SQLSkills webinars for this year and Erin did a fantastic job.

I personally learnt a lot about the wide application of the DBCC command. I believe that was Erin’s opening statement, she wanted to ensure that we all understand that DBCC is not just about fixing database corruptions.

Veronica and I have spent quite a bit of time discussing the interaction we had with Erin and this has spurred me to write about the SQL User Group and our professional development.

When we booked the two sessions with SQLSkills there were several points of view that we need to take into consideration:

  1. Development of local speakers
  2. Applicability to our audience which is made up of 3 major categories BI, DEV and DBA
  3. Effective use of our time

Development of Local speakers

This one is the most difficult, so let’s tackle it first. The session with Erin took the entire meeting which meant that we couldn’t have the other people speaking. This basically means that 2 out of the 11 sessions for 2015 will exclude local speakers. We have a general structure of 3 sessions per event. One SQL 101 session to spend time on the basics. One session on Tools and patterns that focusses on the tools of our trade and recognizing good and bad solutions. And one long session that attempts of add real detail value to our community.

In our first session of 2015 we had 2 new speakers (Veronica and Donavan) which was impressive as during the 2014 session I believe we had around 4 or 5 regular speakers. So whilst I agree that we are removing available slots we have a more fundamental problem and that is we are not doing a great job in growing the local speakers and it is certainly something we need to manage.

We are committed to this process this year and have tackled it slightly differently, we are appealing to our sponsors to play a more dedicated role in this regard by idenfying people that they would to grow in this regard. As contractors and consultants that are providing customers with services, we all need to be stretched in the area of presentations.

Just this week I made an effort in this area and watched the presentation by Boris. It really got me thinking about how lazy we are when it comes to presentation preparation. Basically our presentations are repeating us and doing a bad job at that. It is up to us to ensure understanding and comprehension of the subject we are presenting on. Sales people realize very quickly that if you don’t connect with your customer you are not going to get the business – fortunately for them they get instant and direct feedback as to their performance, unfortunately techies don’t see and feel the impact of bad presentations.

PASS Boris presentation

Applicability to our audience

Once again Erin’s session only directly addresses the DBA and as a DBA this understanding is vital. I can vouch for that as one of my customers was sitting with a corrupt table and I had to go back that evening / morning and make use of what I had learnt.

In discussion with Veronica who is not a DBA and spends her time on SQL training, I realized something important, she enjoyed the session for several reasons:

  1. Another woman presenting who did a fantastic job (Women In Tech)
  2. Presentation with passion
  3. An area of understanding she would never had got to if all she did was focus on SQL language training

Whilst the first two are very important, it was the third one that struck me. We can’t afford to restrict or govern our fundamental understanding of the technologies we are working with every day! Yes we are all busy and we have to make tough decisions on where we spend our time but if for example we are BI practitioners and one day we issue a SQL query and we get the dreaded error, do we spend the next hour trying all sorts of clever tricks to get around the issue or do we with understanding notify the appropriate DBAs or fix it if there are no DBAs?

The hour that we spent listening was well worth it even if we can’t say it was directly career related. The world is certainly moving into a more focussed career direction but that does not mean that we don’t understand what our peers are going through. We will and can switch our careers more regularly these days so none of this time will be wasted.

Erin Stellato’s slidedeck


Effective use of our time

At this stage, the number of free and globally available webinars is unlimited and if you are like me, I cannot watch all the amazing webinars that are available. So I need to be very careful about my choice of learning. Basically what this concern is saying that if all I am doing is listening to a remote speaker I could be doing this at home.

Well, to be honest, I have never interacted so much with a Remote Webinar as I did on Tuesday night. This may have been because I felt that Erin and SQLSkills had given up their time for us / me but that wasn’t the major reason. I believe we are interacting more because Erin invited the interaction and was able to answer most of our questions immediately which is not always possible with a global presentation. Typically this interaction is done after the presentation. In South Africa we typically watch these webinars during after hours, which means we are compromising important family time, so by the time the webinar is finished I am done and can’t wait to switch off my PC.

In Summary

Yes, we did reduce the number of opportunities for local speakers and it was not directly related to everybody and YES, we could have watched a global presentation but NO it was certainly not a waste of time and the value that most of our community got out of this interaction far outweighed the downside.

I feel like I haven’t addressed other benefits like external relationships and input but that can take into another discussion altogether.

I did a quick check with the people at the end of the night and the response was favourable. So well done to all those who contributed and helped make the evening a success and a special thanks to SQLSkills, Erin Stellato and Michael Johnson.

Until next month!

Howard Diesel

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