Community Interview: What’s it like to visit your first SQL Saturday?

SQL Saturday Exeter Community Interviews
This is the first in a series of interviews with real world attendees to SQL Saturday Exeter events.

This time, we speak to Terry McCann, a first time visitor to SQL Saturday Exeter 2013, about his experiences.

Can you tell us a little about yourself, and how you got into working with SQL Server databases?

I had a less conventional route to SQL Server than most. I graduated in 2008 with a degree in Media Studies. I quickly realized there was no jobs in Devon for a media grad so started temping as a data admin. From there I move from assistant data analyst to data analyst to developer then to a senior data analyst (BI developer) where I am now – I didn’t know how much I would like working with databases until I fell into it. Currently developing a data warehouse and reporting suite using Server 2012.

How did you hear about SQL Saturday Exeter?

I work on a really small team and really wanted to understand more about SQL Server so I started reading blogs and trying to learn as much as possible. In my search for blogs I stumbled upon a series of SSIS articles by Annette Allen on SSIS at Simple Talk and from there I found the SQL South West user group (Annette and Jonathan Allen run the Exeter UG). It was here that I first heard about PASS/SQL Saturday and the plethora of other SQL conferences in the UK (SQL Bits, Relay & SQL in the city). I was really excited to learn more and attend.
Seeing/hearing how the conference was developing was brilliant and I don’t think I quite appreciated how much time went in to organizing a conference. I think I was most interested in seeing how others were using the software (Working in BI I wanted to see what was important to a DBA/DEV) as well as meet a group of like-minded people.

Was it anything like you expected?

I don’t really know what to expect, I must have spent days looking over the variety of subjects and sessions not really having a clue what to attend. I knew I wanted to attend as many BI sessions as possible, however reading around online there were suggestions to attend something out of your comfort zone (which I did and I might have actually learnt more from that than another session).
Being relatively new to SQL Server I had expected to sit there not understanding anything however in practice this was quite different. I found the content accessible and the speakers to be really approachable – That being said I did go to one session that left me with a serious headache (That’s PDW for you!). I got to meet people from all over the world (including a few whose blogs I had been reading for a while).

What would you list as the benefits of attending the SQL Saturday?

Aside from the freebies (who doesn’t love freebies!) I personally found hearing how others use the software, listening to their issues and how they or others had overcome them to be the most interesting part. It is a great way to meet new people learn something new and even to teach (you don’t need to be a speaker to help someone who has a query they can’t fix).
Since SQL Saturday Exeter (2013) I have attended both SQL Bits and SQL Saturday Cambridge and plan on attending many more! Conferences have really shown me how far I need to go with my personal development and opened up the path to get me there.
How would you advise someone new to SQL Saturday to go about getting involved?
Attend your local user group! Read blogs from people who have attended. If you’re not on twitter then get on there and follow the conference hash tag (#SQLSatExeter). On the run up to the conference this is a great way to find out more information or find people staying in the same hotel who might want to share a taxi or grab a pint.
When you’re at the conference talk to people! It is really easy to move from one session to another without really talking to anyone. People come from all over to attend these events and many would love to be asked what they do and where they are from. It is a great time to be part of the SQL family.
I look forward to seeing you at a conference soon.

Thanks for your time Terry, and we look forward to seeing you soon too.

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