I have attended PASS Summit for the past three years in a row and I am planning to attend this year as well. I often get asked if it is worth it to attend PASS Summit. The schedule for this year has been released. The sessions cover a wide range of topics at different levels (see schedule here) and I have always learned from them in the past, but some may think that the material presented will eventually make it to internet or local conferences in some shape or form, so they question the value of attending PASS Summit.
First, the main value of attending PASS Summit for me, has been the networking opportunities that it brings, and the connections made with members of SQL and data community. Over the years, I have been fortunate to get to know many of the speakers, MVPS, members of Microsoft Product teams, and many data professionals from all over the world. If I am really stuck solving a technical problem or if I just need overall architecture advice, I know who I can reach to get guidance for each area. This by itself is extremely valuable to me.
Second, there is something to be said about being able to focus on learning for several days in a row without having to get interrupted for work or life.
Finally here are some of the things I like about attending PASS Summit:
- There are so many in-depth technical sessions to choose from. You can learn from fundamentals to the in-depth topics on newest advances in the areas of SQL Server, Business Intelligence, Azure Cloud Services, Power BI and more. One concern that I hear from some people who have not attended in the last couple of years, is that they are worried they won’t be able to get to see the sessions that they are interested to see because rooms might be full. This has not happened to me in the last 3 years that I have attended in a row. I have always been able to attend any session I was interested in. PASS has done a great job of managing room sizes. They sometimes move rooms during the conference to accommodate more interest based on how many people sign up for sessions on their personal schedule.
- You will have direct access to speakers and Microsoft MVPS. There is a great community of speakers and field specialists that love to share their experiences and provide guidance.
- Talk to Microsoft Product teams. These are the engineers behind different products. You can take your technical questions or even a mockup of a problem to them and get answers on the spot. I was able to mock up a DAX problem I was working on for a client using the AdventureWorks sample database and get answers from the Power BI/SSAS team on site. Make sure you leave room between sessions to visit the product teams.
- You can network and learn from people in your field in the Community Zone, at breakfast and lunch tables, and after conference events. Here are some of the great events for networking that happened in previous Summits:
1) Birds of a Feather lunch tables: where you can join speakers, MVPS, community members, and SQL/data professionals in your area of interest. Often you can hear from other data professional about some of the real-life challenges they face as they implement new technologies and the solutions they have come up with.
2) Women in Technology Lunch: Provides a wealth of information about challenges that women in technology face and processes that have made a difference in closing the gender gap at workplace. This is a very educational presentation, for not just women but anyone who is interested to learn about increasing diversity at workplace and how to support women at work.
3) Community events such as Game Night. It is usually held at the conference center at the end of one of the conference days. If you are into board games, this is a fun event. There has also been a SQL Run group, Photography group, hiking group, and many more. These have previously been posted on PASS’s website as it gets closer to the event.
4) Vendor dinners: Many vendors have dinner events. These have been listed on PASS’s web site in previous years. You must register for these to get a ticket. These have been free to attend in the past. Of course, by signing up you are agreeing to share your email with them so they can follow up about their products. Register early as some do fill up.
5) Welcome reception and vendors reception: Held at the conference center where you can network and have some light food.
- Volunteer and make a ton of connections while having fun. In your PASS profile, you can indicate that you are interested in volunteering. There are plenty of opportunities available from holding a Welcome sign to hosting one of the Birds of a Feather tables. A fun perk of volunteering is that you get to attend a volunteer only reception.
- Speaker Idol: Community speakers who have not spoken at PASS Summit before, get to compete for the coveted prize of a guaranteed session in the next year’s PASS Summit. This is very fun event to watch these speakers compete by presenting short sessions. Judges can be “judgy” at times (think Simon from American Idol) but you will learn a lot about making great presentations even if you are not a public speaker and intend to only make presentations at work. See this post from my experience competing in 2016.
I hope that you can attend PASS Summit. You can register from here: https://www.pass.org/summit/2019/RegisterNow.asp
Finally follow me on Twitter at @shbWatson for more news about PASS Summit 2019.