Tell us the story of how attending an IT conference or event resulted in an amazing career or life opportunity.
This seemed like an easy thing for me to write about when I first sat down. It should be simple enough. But it feels a lot harder because it’s not been a straight line or a single event.
When I think about conferences or events, the one that everything seems to revolve around for PASS Summit, with SQL Saturdays running close behind. I have been to some virtual events but of the in-person conferences, I’ve only made it to those and they seem to stand out to me. But is there really one that was a game changer?
Looking back at attending conferences, I think about what are obvious moment that many would think of something they could pinpoint. An obvious one could be winning Speaker Idol at PASS Summit 2019. I know – we’re all tired of me mentioning this, including me. But I worked really hard on that presentation and to be honest, it gave me a needed distraction from some personal stuff going on at the time. Plus it’s a concrete moment that seemed like it should be a game changer at the time. But did it translate to changing the speaking game for me? Let’s see, I got at least one SQL Saturday rejection after winning and before the pandemic hit. Almost 4 months later, everything else in-person was being canceled and my presentations were all moved to virtual. My session for this upcoming Summit is still going to be pre-recorded\virtual as part of a Learning Path (my in-person abstracts were not selected), which means I have to wait longer to present at Summit in person. So it didn’t feel like an avalanche of speaking opportunities came with the title; it felt like “business as usual”. Do not misunderstand me – I’m so grateful for all of the presentations I have been selected to do and I really do love presenting. But in this context, I’m not sure I can claim winning Speaker Idol as a career or life changing event.
But on the other hand, I became engaged in what I was doing by attending Summit, SQL Saturdays, and the other virtual events that have popped up over the years. I learned how to be better at my job. I learned how to share what I was learning with my coworkers so we could see how we could do better. By blogging and speaking at SQL Saturdays and other events, I started getting involved in the community and have expanded my involvement when I’ve gotten the chance. I’ve been able to be a mentor and moderator at virtual events like New Stars of Data, which I know have been game changers for so many others. All of these activities together helped in the interview process for new jobs because my future employer knew who I was and what I had to offer before I entered the door – physical or virtual. It was all the little things that added up to be the game changer in my career and not a single event.
On a personal note, the connections that I have made to different people have meant the most. Whether it was a SQL Saturday or PASS Summit, I was able to connect to other members in the #sqlfamily community. I would meet someone at one event and get to know them better at the next one. And yes, I even married someone I met through this community. There are still some people that I’ve only really gotten to know virtually over the past couple of years. In some ways, it’s been harder to create these connections virtually, yet many have still been able to happen in spite of and because of it. But if I have questions, I know I can reach out to with questions or get feedback on something I’m working on. But more importantly, so many of these people I can now call “friends” and I hope they know they can say the same about me. And that means more to me than anything else. Which, by itself, is a true game changer.
But can I really claim any of these connections as stemming from a single event? Connections take time to develop so I don’t feel as if I can.
I guess if I did have to focus on one, it would be PASS Summit 2016. This was the conference where I started making the connections to people in the community and understood how to make the most of these events in terms of what I needed to bring back to my day job. It’s where I found my passion for this community, which led to everything else that I’m doing. I’ve written about this before and I still feel the same way. One of the things I’m looking forward to by attending Summit this year in person is that I can get back to what made this such an important conference to me to begin with – focusing on learning the things I need to learn and re-connecting with this community where I feel at home.
Thanks to Kevin for hosting this month! Looking forward to reading everyone’s contributions!