I kissed my wife and three boys good-bye, and jumped in my car to begin my 269-mile trek across the border to Madison, Wisconsin. As a Minnesotan, we don't typically cross the border unless we have perfectly good reason. I was pondering my future. In the weeks leading up to this point, I had a few unique opportunities surface and was on the verge of accepting an opportunity to build a Microsoft Data, Analytics and Cloud practice for a company downtown Minneapolis.I had developed a strong belief in the "new Microsoft" under Satya Nadella and Microsoft's Data Analytics ecosystem - featuring products like Azure, Power BI, Machine Learning. I also could sense there was something special about the community of users - but couldn't quite put my finger on it. I mean, on any given Saturday ordinary people are freely giving up their Saturday to spend a day rubbing shoulders with their tech-peers and learning.
PASS SQL Saturday Madison would just be the start of my 2,000+ mile SQL Saturday "Midwest Tour", that would also include stops in Iowa City, Sioux Falls, Wausau, and culminated with 500+ attendees in Minnesota. SQL Saturday's happen all over the globe, and users descend on one place to learn.
"My conclusion is that SQL Saturday is a place where memories are made..."
Listening intently to a presentation from Hortonworks in Iowa City, I had grabbed a seat in the front-row. About halfway through the presentation, my phone began to light-up with frequent calls from wife, and finally a text message that read "EMERGENCY". Instead of leaving my family behind this Saturday, we decided last minute that they would come along and relax at the hotel with plans to catch a Cedar Rapids Kernels baseball game in the evening. The Kernels are a Minnesota Twins A-ball affiliate. Like father, like son, my three boys (ages 1, 3, 6) love baseball. Concerned, I rudely hurried out of the presentation and called my wife. She explained that my 6-yr old son had been playing baseball in the hotel room and ran head-first into the corner of the wall and had blood gushing down his face. I raced 30 minutes back to Cedar Rapids to get them to the ER. Four stitches later and a nice little scar on his forehead it's safe to say, my son will never forget his first SQL Saturday! As I've met people on the Midwest Tour, my conclusion is that SQL Saturday is a place where memories are made and those stories are shared time and time again.
The month prior I had spent the day at SQL Saturday in Madison. I had walked to Starbucks with a couple of the speakers who happened to be Microsoft MVP's. A Microsoft MVP is a special award voted on by the broader community. Collectively these men had probably attended and presented at well over 100 SQL Saturday's. They graciously bought me a cup of coffee, and as I listened to their experiences it occurred to me why they were here. Their entire purpose at these events was to raise up the next wave of Microsoft Data professionals. Both possessed a wealth of knowledge in SQL Server, across many environments and many clients. Anyone could benefit from spending even 5-minutes with one of them. There are 100's of Microsoft MVP's and other brilliant speakers who share this same passion for service and community around the globe. Without these folks, and their heart to share knowledge, SQL Saturday wouldn't exist.
"The spirit of generosity, service, and community is evident the moment you arrive"
One of the more powerful moments of my SQL Saturday "Midwest Tour" was in Wausau during their first ever SQL Saturday. During a conversation with a member on the board, I learned that without the last second gold sponsorship of Beyond Impact LLC, the event was in jeopardy due to lack of sponsorship funds. An event isn't cheap. The cost of the facility, the food, the materials is almost all funded by sponsorships from organizations like Beyond Impact in these communities. It was overwhelming to see how much work goes into getting one of these off the ground. The local PASS Board gets to try out their sales skills, asking and sometimes begging for sponsors. Many of the folks who stopped by our booth were attending their very first SQL Saturday and were in awe of the sense of community and quality of speakers. The tireless effort of the PASS Board, and the generous sponsorship of local technology companies don't go unnoticed. The spirit of generosity, service, and community is evident the moment you arrive. Beyond Impact is committed to investing in the community and these events around the Midwest.
"Their entire purpose... was to raise up the next wave of Microsoft Data professionals"
Everything came down to the last frame, I was facing off against three prominent data architects. If I bowl at least a spare, I seal the victory and end my 15 hour work-day that started with setting up for SQL Saturday Minnesota and was about to end as the sponsor for the after-party at GameWorks at the Mall of America. SQL Saturday Minnesota sold out 500-attendees weeks in advance of the event. Over the years Minnesota has become the melting-pot for people to attend from around the Midwest. Speakers travel from all over the country, to attend this event that's roughly 3-4 times the size of the smaller ones throughout the Midwest. I recognized many of the faces being in my hometown. Yet what was even more familiar was the same spirit of generosity, service, and community. This time of year, that is something I am particularly thankful for. This is just one man's journey, but I'm convinced that the thousands of people who attend these events around the globe are not just looking for SQL training. They're looking for something more, and they've found something worth investing in.
Robert is a Microsoft Data Analytics Solution Strategist at Beyond Impact, a Microsoft Gold Partner based in Minneapolis, MN. As Director of Business Development, he assists companies in their journey with Azure, Power BI, SQL Server, and Big Data. Robert is also the Founder of the Power BI Meetup - Minneapolis Chapter.