This year I had the amazing opportunity to attend SQL Cruise Caribbean 2015. I found out about it from a blog post by David Klee (@kleegeek) (who posted his recap of the cruise here) and immediately talked to my boss about it. I was lucky because he had seen references to this in the past and had asked his boss, at the time, for permission to attend. However, he was shot down on the spot and laughed at. I imagine it went something like this…
DBA Manager: Good morning Director. I came across this amazing opportunity to learn SQL and network with some of the greatest minds in the field. The presenters are SQL Server MVPs, founders of PASS, and real contributors to the community!
Director: What’s PASS? Sounds good, how much does it cost and where is it?
DBA Manager: Well, it is really inexpensive and takes place on a cruise sh–
Director (cutting off DBA Manager, laughing): ARE YOU JOKING? I’m not paying for you to go on a cruise!
I’ll admit, when I saw the words “SQL Cruise Caribbean” I was thinking about sipping on a mojito while enjoying the sun on the pool deck. I was not thinking about all of the things I could learn and the people I could learn from.
I did a quick write up to my boss that focused on the cost and the value of this experience. I told him about all of the knowledge I could put to use when I returned from Jes Borland‘s sessions on restore methods and automation. The skills I could use to improve our infrastrucure and virtualization configuration that I would learn from David Klee. The questions I would ask Grant Fritchey and Kevin Kline about execution plans and performance tuning. I really sold this thing, but I really didn’t understand the true value until I arrived at the Bon Voyage event in Ft. Lauderdale the night before embarkation.
I was a little shy at first because I really didn’t know anybody (except David Klee) and was even a bit nervous about meeting some of the greats. I mean, I read these peoples’ books and blog posts on a daily basis. They are like celebrities to a SQL geek like myself! Tim and Amy Ford introduced themselves right away and made my wife and I feel very comfortable. We sat down and started talking to people right away. I could see that some of the people had met before this and had been on the previous cruises. They seemed like a family; catching up on the events of the year, talking about future endeavors, and (of course) plenty of SQL talk.
Training started immediately aboard the ship on Saturday, even before we left the port. Jeff Lehmann from Slalom Consulting kicked off the trip by teaching us about the offerings of the Amazon Cloud and how it could benefit SQL Server implementations. Almost immediately, I realized that this training was going to be different from any other. The room was small and people were asking lots of questions. Nobody, even the “experts”, held back. This was a group that would share knowledge, test theories, question standards and best practices, and do so all with the selfless intent of making the SQL community stronger. Not only in their knowledge of technology, but also in terms of professional advancement.
I spent 40 hours of scheduled time with this community throughout the week. I spent a total of over 50 hours combined with this new family of mine. I gained months of knowledge in a week. I gained years of networking within a week. I made friends. My wife made friends. I was inspired: to write, to present, to volunteer, to teach, and to inspire others!
During the trip, I made my deposit with the cruise line for the future. I returned from the cruise on February 14th and signed up for SQL Cruise Caribbean 2016 on February 28th because I know that this yearly training/networking is not only beneficial to my company, but also for my personal career.
So, what will your company get out of this? Why should they pay for it? The first is that the training you will receive is hands-on and by far the best training I have ever received. It is small group which allows for very pointed and specific questions to be asked. Even more specific questions can be asked during office hours and normal conversation outside of the formal sessions. The second is the cost of this training. It is significantly less than any training I have seen. Especially when you look at the quality of the training and the ability to tailor a lot of it to your own specific needs. Lastly, the networking is invaluable to you and your company. When you bring in a consultant, you typically have to get an MSA signed, SOW put together, and a minimum amount of hours contracted for. However, after this training you will have a family that you can pose issues and questions to. These people LOVE a puzzle and also love to help you, a friend, solve and learn from them. Ultimately, this does not only help you, but also your company.
In closing, this was the most valuable experience for my career and I intend to attend every year regardless of my company paying for it. Thanks to all those who made it a memorable experience. Also, thanks to all of the sponsors who make this a great value and give us the coveted swag: Amazon Web Services, redgate, SQLSentry, and SQLAgentman.