I bet you are half wondering what is the first? Well that would be the birth of my second child which due in March so you could say that SQLBits XI is my most 'professional' eagerly awaited event of 2013.
Last Friday I was just about to head off to get some lunch at around 12 and I just happened to look up at my emails and saw the email that I had been waiting weeks to see. That was the email saying that SQLBits registrations has now opened. I didn't hang around at this point. I had been fortunate to get approval from my company to pay for me to attend the whole event so I wanted to register there and then to make sure I didn't miss out on anything. I contacted the person in accounts who deals with this type of thing and she was on leave. Ok, I thought, who else can I try. I then tried my line manager, who was also on leave that day. I also tried my MD, who was unavailable and no idea when he would be around again. Hmm, this wasn't going to plan and seeing as it was a Friday, I didn't want to leave it until the Monday as that just seemed to risky for me. I don't like risk! I was gutted in missing out on SQLBits X (partly my fault) so I wasn't going to chance missing out again on any part of the event. So at this point I decided to pay upfront myself on a credit card and then claim it back later on. My company is very reasonable and a good place to work so I was fairly relaxed about this and didn't have any concerns about there being a problem trying to claim the training costs back. Which, incidentally, there hasn't been and reimbursement has already been processed. To be honest though, even if the company refused to pay for the training, I'd have found a way to pay for it myself. It is too good to miss and seeing as the early bird rate + vat comes in at under £500 for 2 days of training (+ a free community day so 3 days of training), breakfast/lunch and snacks and evening events too, you'll be hard pushed to find a better value training package.
Anyway I went through the registration process and a few moments later, Wahoo! the confirmation email is back and I'm all registered and this time I'm not a SQLBits newbie. My first (and only) SQLBits event was number 9 in Liverpool. I had such a good time there but I over did it and ran out of steam by Saturday mid-morning. I learnt some valuable lessons as well, one being where you pick the hotel. To try and cut down on costs for my company, I opted to stay at a 'cheap' hotel chain on the edge of Liverpool and chose to get taxi's to & from the event each day. Whilst this itself isn't necessarily a problem, it did mean that I had to allow myself a lot of extra time in the mornings to get a taxi at a busy time and to then get across a busy city. Also it worked out that any savings in hotel prices were actually gobbled up by taxi fares anyway. So those early mornings and late nights courtesy of the night time events (casino night was a heavy night!!) took it's toll on me. This time I've learnt from that and I'm booked into the hotel at the event for 3 nights. The other lesson that I learnt was not to be shrinking violet in the event rooms. I registered for Maciej Pilecki's training day session on execution plan performance but I sat as far away as I could from him and never said a word/asked a question! I'm not suggesting that I should have been as close as possible at the front, rabbiting on every five minutes, but next time I'll be more in the middle and engaged rather than right on the edge at the back.
This year for the training day I've so far gone for Kalen Delaney's (blog) 'Performance tuning with Indexes: Internals and best practice' for a couple of reasons. Firstly, the important one, I'll be able to apply the new found knowledge into my day to day duties pretty much straight away. This is important as from a business and personal point of view it brings an immediate return on investment. It is nice to train on something that you have never used before, but if you have very few opportunities to use that knowledge in the months ahead or no opportunity to convince the powers that be that the new found knowledge is something that the business could benefit from, it could in part go to waste. I intend to go to some sessions on the Friday and Saturday that I don't have much knowledge about to get a taster for that area of SQL instead. Secondly, I believe that the best trouble-shooters/developers are the ones that understand something inside out, back to front etc etc. If you know exactly how something in SQL works to the smallest detail you are going to be able to visualise better what SQL will do in certain situations. When there is a problem, you'll be able to pinpoint it so much faster as you'll understand what it is doing and why things go wrong. When developing you'll know how your code will execute as you write it. As a child I was one of those that preferred to take toys apart to see how the worked rather than to just play with the toy! I have an ok understanding of indexes at the moment, but this training day I hope will take my understanding of the index internals to a whole new level. Another reason for picking this session is that the chance to spend a day with someone who has authored/co-authored a whole list of books on SQL server internals doesn't happen too often. I was really tempted by Klaus Aschenbrenner's (blog) training day as well as his service broker 2005 book became one of my bibles and I love watching his SQL server quickies, but I think for me at this point in time, Kalen's session is the one not to miss. Roll on May 2013!!!!