My Future as a Speaker & SQL Saturday Madison After Action Report

Another SQL Saturday has come and gone for me.  Yesterday though, I gave my first SQL Saturday session.  It didn’t go terribly wrong, but it didn’t go amazing as well.  Sure, a lot of my audience members learned what they came to learn (assuming they were honest on their evaluations) but I felt I delivered a sub-par presentation.  Fair warning:  these post is going to give a lot more attention to the negatives rather than the positives.  However, the experience was overall very positive, and I have a lot of people to thank for that (skip to the end for the gratitude).

The Stats

Audience Size:  17 (based on the session evals submitted)

Average Quality Rating (out of 5): 4.6

Average Speaker Expertise Rating (out of 5): 4.6

Given that the two ratings are exactly the same, it’s possible that people where just marking down the same numbers for both but I did see some variance between the two questions so I don’t think the data has issues.  I do think my audience might be being a bit generous because I told them it was my first time presenting.

The Biggest Mistake

The biggest mistake I made was not having enough confidence in my presentation.  Earlier that morning, I was in the speaker room and I mentioned my topic to a few of the other speakers there.  “In my presentation, I am going to show my audience how to build a T-SQL based data warehouse in an hour”.  The response was laughter, and then a question asking if 45 minutes of that hour was waiting for the ETL to run.  Needless to say, it left me without a lot of confidence in my solution, and I ended up hedging my presentation.

“In a production environment, you are going to want to use an ETL tool such as SSIS for better execution times”

And the demo proceeds to demo T-SQL based ETL.

Is Data Warehousing Really Your Passion?

This question probably shook me the most.  I never really did the self-reflection thing to find my life’s calling or true passion or whatever it’s called.  I just followed a path through life subconsciously.  As a child, I was really into computer programming and I really enjoyed figuring out how to persist data in qbasic.  In fact, I ended up using arrays to act as a database system in some of my early programs.  As I aged, I moved away from computer programming because it was a high stress job and I thought it would be too boring, but lo and behold, I am in my early 30’s and am developing software for a living.

Without going too deep into self-reflection I would say that I really enjoy what I do, but if it is my passion or not, I am not sure I even know what passion is or how to evaluate if something is my passion.  Yes, when I am at work I am talking a mile a minute, waving my hands in the air, and infecting everyone around with me excitement about business intelligence and data analytics.  I enjoy working with data and figuring out the best way to model it and present it to analytical tools to develop stunning and actionable reports and dashboards.  When I am not at work though, I barely even look at SQL Server or data or any of that stuff.  Instead I look at other interests:  cooking, weight lifting, learning about other skills (my most recent interest is trading foreign currency).

It also doesn’t help that I grew up as a very reserved person.  It’s going to take me a lot of work to overcome that obstacle, but I have been through challenges before and they haven’t stopped me yet.

Am I good enough to do this, or am I just wasting people’s time?

This question was on my mind five minutes before my presentation, and on the drive home last night.  The only difference between those two times was that I got to see my session evaluations so I know what the audience said they thought.  However, I also got some feedback from experienced speakers that were in my session as well and in my head, it seems that the two sets of feedback canceled each other out and leave me wondering.  Of course, these doubts could just be my imposter syndrome flaring up again.

The Thank You Section

One year ago I went to my very first SQL Saturday, and I met a few people who have led me to the events of yesterday.

First, Jes Borland (@grrl_geek) planted a few seeds in my head.  First was starting a local group in the Wausau area and second was becoming a speaker at SQL Saturday.

Second, Doug Lane (@thedouglane) and I sat at the same table for lunch and ended up talking about getting started as a speaker.  If Jes planted the seed, Doug covered it in soil and watered it.

Third, the entirety of the #sqlfamily supported and encouraged me through Twitter to start as a speaker.  I don’t think the flower that was planted last year at #sqlsatMadison 2016 would have thrived without the #sqlfamily support.

Finally, the organizers of #sqlsatmadison 2017 who selected my session.  As a first time speaker, they had no idea what kind of quality I would bring to the table, and if it would help or hurt the event.  These free events survive only for as long as they continue to deliver quality and value for the attendees.  If you have a bunch of bad speakers, it can really hurt the event for the following year as fewer people will be willing to give up a Saturday for crappy speakers.  They took a chance on me, and I hope that I didn’t let them down.

So for my future as a speaker… I want to keep doing it, but I don’t know that I will ever be good enough.

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