Speaking at PASS Summit and why you need to think about submitting….

This post is about the honor and experience of speaking at PASS Summit not once (2016) but twice (2017).

I recently received an email from PASS HQ that asked past speakers to share our success stories – to help others consider submitting for PASS Summit as a speaker.

This is an easy one for me – as I loved speaking at PASS Summit a lot.
Both times I learnt so many different things that helped me grow not only as a speaker but as a data platform technologist.

This is the first thing that I want to pass onto others who are considering submitting.

You will learn a lot:

When preparing a presentation you learn a lot when you prepare a presentation. You want to be ready to have questions. When selecting a topic I want to know as much about it to answer the questions attendees might have. Not just the basic questions but the more advanced ones that will help them implement/change the setup of whatever technology I am talking about.

The flow on effect of this was one particular area I was talking on (SQL Server on Linux) helped the company I was working at as it changed our direction and usage of the product. Now that is definitely a win | win situation!!

As a speaker I learnt a lot about speaking to crowds of people who are engaged and also want to learn from you.  This helped me grow as a speaker as I spent more time on preparation – so that I could deliver the content really well at an event like PASS Summit.

Disclaimer: I personally think I have a way to go before I’m a really effective speaker – but I speak about Continuous Improvement with technology so happy to embrace this with my speaking craft.

Here is your chance to pay it forward:

For years I had been a consumer of content, whenever I had an issue there were people who had written resolutions which had helped me with just about every part of our technology stack. I had also attended free conferences like SQLSaturday and Code Camp and had learnt so much that helped me manage/deploy/tune SQL Server.

By standing up in front of people I was replaying all the kindness of those people who had given up their time to help me. My tag line has always been “I speak so that I can help at least one person in the crowd learn..”.

The great thing has been after both my PASS Summit sessions I’ve had people stay behind and ask questions – which is great as it means that people were engaged and got something out of my session.

You are now part of a group of people who really care:

My first ever speaking engagement was with my good friend Martin Catherall, for years I had seen him speak and he was good enough to put in a co-speaking session for us both at SQLSaturday Oregon in October 2015. It was brilliant as it allowed me to try my hand at speaking with my good mate next to me for support.

By being part of the speaker group I then met some of the most awesome caring people, who really care about the community.

Start small and achieve greatness:

So let’s say you want to start speaking and giving back to the community, a great place to start and practice for speaking at PASS Summit is to support your local user group.

For a couple of reasons:

  1. It allows you to become an expert of your material and to grow in confidence as a speaker. Speaking to a room of 20 people whom I knew was a very rewarding experience and allowed me to get feedback on my material before going large.
  2. I run a user group and am always on the lookout for grass roots speakers and will support them by offering a slot at my SQL Server User Group. Because one of the hardest parts of running a User Group is finding speakers.
    So you know — win | win.

After speaking at a local user group — submit to your local SQLSaturday. I also run one and for the past 3 years I have offered new speakers the chance to speak in front of a larger more disparate crowd than their local User Groups.

So go ahead — think of a topic, write an abstract and submit!!

We need speakers like you in the community and PASS Summit needs more speakers to submit — so please take the plunge.  If nothing else — you now have a subject that you can support your local user groups and community conferences with.

The ultimate is that you get picked for PASS Summit and in a year or two write about your own experiences to help incubate another person to make a positive difference in our vibrant community.



Why I am leaving a role/company I loved

This non-technical post is about why I am leaving a technical company after working there for 17 + years.

If you are thinking this will be a post that will resemble this:

DevOPs is never about burning bridges

then I’m sorry but you will be sadly disappointed.

My reasons for leaving are about doing new things rather than hating on the old things…

I resigned from my position as Operations Manager at Jade Software on 22nd December 2017, it was the 6,311th day that I had worked there. It was also the 6,969th day of my IT career — it seemed the right kind of day to do something huge.

Some people would say — but you didn’t work 6,311 days there — you’re counting weekends too!! To which I’d reply that when you work for a company that is energetic about doing things — it is infectious to be thinking about work on the weekends or writing emails/planning future work/projects.

It’s funny looking back at my time there — I originally was only going to work 23 months but I found after a year that I loved working there.

If you look at the longevity of the people that work there — there are people who’ve worked there over 30 years. It is that kind of company where people who are passionate about technology and stuff — stay. And they’re good people too!!

These people could easily leave and get really good money elsewhere. But they don’t because we believed in what we were doing there, that a lot of other things at Jade outweighed more money.

I was very lucky during my time at Jade to be part of a team of guys who were passionate, brilliant and committed to what we were doing. We socialised together and shared a love of getting the work done and having a beer, and eating hot n spicy food.

I think there is some saying that goes “why do do you go to work each day?” and the answer is “the people”. The reason I stayed so long at Jade was the people and the fact that every 5-8 years the company reinvented itself and/or did a stepwise change. It was exciting to be part of that. The culture at Jade was one of striving for excellence and also having fun along the way.

In some respects I used to think of Jade as this beautiful woman who was like a fickle mistress…. As at times I would drop everything to do things for my job. And have to explain to those dear to me why I was doing such things. Because it was awesome brilliant times making things – that others struggled with – work.

In a sense for those who loved this Jade woman – she consumed us, was at time a jealous lover but rewarded us well. As all fickle mistresses should.

On the day I resigned I bought 6 bottles of the wine below which inspired the above sentence (Note: I did not drink all 6 bottles at once to come up with the sentence above)

Jade – the most enjoyable yet fickle of all mistresses….

So why leave?

One of the reasons I am leaving is so that there is a breath of fresh air within Operations.  16 years ago today (7/1/2002) I started as the Operations Team Leader – a newly created role and so I’ve led my team through new technologies, company-wide redundancies, introduction of SQL Server, NT4 —-> Windows 2016, removal of everyone being oncall and even PowerShell.

My aim over those years was to manage as I’d want to be managed. That we were a team which meant that my staff’s opinions mattered more than my own and that I wanted to be told if I was wrong – but I fully expected an answer/solution to what I was doing that was wrong. My staff knew that at 3am they could call me if they were stuck and if necessary I’d drive into work — because I expected the same. I didn’t like the word ‘manager’ as that just reminded me of David Brent like paper shufflers. I wanted to lead my team and for them to actively participate in the direction we’d go.

As a team.

BTW – telling my team I was resigning was hard.

Really hard.

The other reason I am leaving is around the fact that I left home when I was 18, I went to university to study Chemical Engineering in another city.

Leaving my (small) home town of Napier was hard at the time, in fact the first year was hell. But worth it — as it made me the man I am today.

And that in lies the analogy I’m using for leaving Jade, I learnt so many wondrous cool things whilst working there, my talent was incubated by some of the most technically brilliant people I’ve met. I matured as a person both technically and socially and now is time to leave ‘home’ again. To leave the confines and security of a job I loved and go out into the real world again.


I want to try my hand at consulting (and contracting) — some exciting news soon…

I want to help companies achieve some of the awesome stuff we did at Jade around DevOPs and specifically with databases.

I want to continue to make a difference in the community and help people learn (and laugh).

I want to make a fair bit of money so I can (finally) upgrade my car.

This next part of my career will be exciting, I am a little nervous about what the first few years will be like, but I feel it is time to leave. That nervousness BTW is what I use to drive myself, I thrive on energy whether it is good energy and not-so-good energy like stress. Before I speak — around 2 hours before I look like I’m going to throw up and a mess. But that is my way of centering myself and getting ready to make people laugh and learn.

So for the past 2 weeks — each day I have confronted the nervousness that I feel and remember how I felt on 11th September 2000 when I drove to my first day at Jade — I wrote a list of things I wanted to learn in the first 3 months…. because I was nervous I didn’t know enough. Thanks to some guys who would later become senior members of my team I’d learnt those things within 2 weeks.

That is the special kind of place Jade was — where the right kind of people would help you out, would go out of their way and also make you feel like ‘family’.  If I ever employ enough staff to have a team again I want to emulate what I did and the culture we had at Jade.

I’ll be sad to leave but so glad I stayed.