Why are you going to the PASS Summit?

Colin Stasiuk asked a great question: Why are you going to the PASS Summit? But, more importantly, Colin hits on the all important question: how do you decide which sessions to attend?

This is going to be my second PASS Summit, so I’m not an expert on picking sessions, but I have an idea based on what worked well last year. Last year, I had an exhaustive list of sessions picked out. Then, when I arrived at the Summit I marked them all on my program, which I promptly lost. Brent was kind enough to give me his program. I drew stick people on it. I also didn’t attend a lot of the sessions I was planning on attending.

  1. I grossly underestimated my own abilities and ended up leaving sessions because I thought I could gain a lot. Don’t underestimate yourself.Challenge yourself. Pick sessions that you think there’s no way you can understand them. I attended Jimmy May’s presentation on Disk Partition Alignment with Brent. I thought I would be completely lost. Then I realized that a lot of the low-level disk information bore at least a passing similarity to inode structures in the ext2/ext3 family of file systems on Linux systems. Once I translated that knowledge I was able to follow along, roughly, and be challenged in my thinking.
  2. A lot of very smart, really great people gave me suggestions on sessions to attend. The friends I made at PASS helped me find sessions that would better fit what I wanted to learn about. They were right.

What am I going to different this year to make sure that I get the most out of the Summit? How can you do the same?

  1. Ask someone who has the job you want. Say you’re a database developer and you want to be a database architect. Find one. Ask them which sessions you might benefit from. Better yet, ask them “I want your job. Which of these sessions will help me get there?”
  2. Pick something you don’t know anything about and attend it. If you want to learn about something, learn through a trial by fire. But, like I said earlier, don’t underestimate yourself. If you know even the slightest bit about SSRS, an introduction to Report Builder 2 is probably going to bore you. Take a gamble and go to an intermediate session.
  3. Make a back up list. Make a list of sessions that sound like they would bevery valuable to advancing your career path interesting. Pick things that sound cool. Pick features you haven’t played with. Learn some Business Intelligence mojo.

Honestly, I’m going to do all three of these things. There’s a lot that I want to learn. I know people who are already there. I’m going to pick their brains for how to get there. Just remember that you’re going to the Summit not just to learn, but to interact with your peers. Make sure you socialize, too. I still think I learned more sitting on the floor talking to Brent Ozar, Donald Farmer, and a few other people than I would have if I had gone to whichever session I originally planned to attend.

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