My Latest Adventure – Helping and Learning at SQLBits 2023
Date: Thursday, March 23, 2023
Unlike many conferences, SQLBits is entirely organised by volunteers – the SQL community, committees, and the orange-shirted helpers. I enjoyed last year’s event in London so much that I decided to help pay back their hard work and join the helpers this year.
Being a helper was a really great way of being involved with the SQL community. Here are a few of my highlights…
Tuesday and Wednesday - Training Days
Before starting as a helper, I attended two pre-booked training days.
SQLBits also offers opportunity to master ‘soft skills’ - my first day was a masterclass in presentation skills. Alexander Arvidsson (@arcticdba) covered a wide range of topics, from presentation structure, to psychology, to physical gestures and use of space. We weren’t allowed to get away without some practical exercises of course, essential for getting feedback and learning how to improve.
The second day was an Azure Data Migration Bootcamp with Jens Vestergaard, where we followed along with the creation of a complete environment for data migration, including data lake storage, an azure synapse analytics workspace and pipelines, and a Power BI front end. He also gave us insight into the future of data migration.
On Wednesday evening, we had some fun with a board game evening. It was a great chance to break the ice with other attendees – and very in keeping with this years theme of ‘Dungeons and Dragons’.
Thursday – Start of Main Conference and Volunteering
At the main part of the conference, we attend ‘general sessions’ (20-50 minute talks) chosen on the day. There were an impressive 90 sessions – so choosing wisely is a must!
6:00am wake-up time
I stayed half an hour from the conference at the beautiful historic town of Caerleon, and wanted to give myself plenty of time to get to the conference centre and be ready for my first time as a helper.
I arrived at the conference centre and was welcomed as a new helper, given the famous orange shirt, and shown the most vital piece of equipment for helpers, the coffee machine.
7:30am volunteer briefing
Every morning the volunteers sign in, check which roles they’re assigned to and given any announcements. It also gives us a chance to ask any questions and be given a tour of the conference centre
8am doors open
The doors open and hundreds of delegates and speakers arrive to collect their passes and bag of freebies. As a helper we give directions to anyone who needs it.
9am – Keynote Speech
The first session of the conference is given by legends of the SQL world.
10:30am break time
Coffee, cake and chatting.
11am session continue
I took the opportunity to shadow a more experienced room monitor before my room monitoring this afternoon
The conference had a generous and inclusive menu as always. I got to catch up with friends I met last year in London, and to help newcomers feel welcome.
I was also lucky enough to meet Microsoft’s Principal Architect for their Data Team, Bob Ward, who signed a copy of his book for me.
In the afternoon I had my first opportunity to room monitor a session. With the help of a more experienced helper (all new helpers are paired with someone who has helped before) I introduced myself to the speaker, gave the speakers timing cues, and helped to count the number of attendees. It was great to meet the speakers at the sessions I was a room monitor for – not only were they experts in their fields, but they were very personable and polite.
Being a room monitor didn’t mean I wasn’t able to enjoy the talks, they were so informative.
The end of an intense day of sessions, although the fun didn’t stop there. Each evening has a social – tonight the pub quiz!
Friday and Saturday
Some highlights of the remaining days were an exciting announcement from the Power BI team, announcing a new language for version control, and of course the legendary SQLBits party on Friday evening.
If you ever have the opportunity to attend SQLBits please do. Not only is it a wonderful, community experience, it’s also helped me build my own skills – both the soft skills of confidence and networking, and the hard skills of learning about new features and tools, and the best practices of how to implement them.
The knowledge conference last year helped me to implement solutions that are much more efficient, maintainable and cost-effective, and I’m sure this year will be the same.
And of course, leaving SQLBits you will always be energised and enthused by the community spirit. I’d be more than happy to volunteer next year. Thank you SQLBits – you’ve been great!