Category Archives: SQLRally

#SQLRally Women in Technology Panel of WIN AND AWESOMENESS

Best. Luncheon. EVAR.

I just finished up moderating this year’s Women in Technology panel here at SQLRally, and it was fantastic.  SQLSentry sponsored (thanks!), and our panelists were SQL notables Erin Welker (@sqlbigirl), Jen Stirrup (@jenstirrup), and Wes Brown (@SQLServerIO)*.

The topic was absolutely brilliant: Negotiation. The abstract:

Whether you are searching for a new job or simply needing to relocate your desk, you need the right tools to make your request effective. Come hear how our Women in Technology (WIT) panel of experts have tackled these issues, and learn how you can give yourself the best opportunity to negotiate for what you want.

 Man, did they deliver. Among the points discussed…

When negotiating, presentation is key

  • You can be too polite. You can polite yourself right out of big raises.  (Ask. What’s the worst that can happen?)
  • We universally undervalue ourselves.  IT folk are reclusive and accommodating.
  • On dealing with resume gaps: Don’t be apologetic. You “took a sabbatical” (whether you did so to raise kids, or whatever, it’s still a great way to phrase it.)

Arm yourself with help and information

  • Get coaching from those who’ve done negotiations.
  • How do you know what rate to ask? How do you know how to value yourself?  Maybe we just need to be better educated. Answer: the internet!

Have goals

  • “Money is the means to the end, not the end.”
  • On balancing salary against intangibles and “rate per hour” (higher salary may mean more hours). “It depends.” And, ask! Ask about work environment, especially if you know people on the inside.
  • Write down what you want, and use that as a reference when you’re fielding offers.
  • Ask why the last person left, how many people have gone in the last year.
  • Website recommendation: – People anonymously review places of employment. Cool!

Protect yourself!

  • Business is business; businesses watch out for themselves, not you!
  • Know and use basic negotiating tactics.

Final thoughts and notes

We have a few more notes that came out of the question and answer period:

  • and
  • Don’t negotiate from a point of weakness
  • Careful about contracts, especially IP
  • Consider having a lawyer review your contract
  • Review your state laws

 And finally, my own thoughts:

  • Wes was an excellent choice. He has a ton of solid career advice.
  • So was Erin. She’s an experienced SQL professional, and one of my favorite people to speak to about career issues.
  • And so was Jen. I particularly was pleased that she was able to pull up statistics specific to what we were speaking on!**

 A final thanks to everyone, and see you next time. Happy days!
Jen McCown

* Alphabetized by first name, so there.
** And no, that wasn’t scripted…none of the session was.

Thanks to @SQLBalls and @SQLChicken for the pix!

Picking Technical Conference Sessions (#SQLRally Edition)

Conferences are awesome. They are full of people and sessions. Almost…TOO many sessions. How on Earth do you get in the “right” ones?

I can see this problem from both sides of the fence. On the one hand, it can be very difficult to understand what content a session may have, just by reading the abstract and title.  On the other hand, it’s very frustrating as a speaker to put together a 200 level session, and get 20 comment cards back that only say “not enough advanced material”.

So! Here is your handy dandy guide to choosing sessions at conferences! We’ll go from general to specific: track, level, title, abstract/keywords, and speaker.


Let’s take the SQLRally regular sessions as the example, since that’s what’s happening this week. We have the following tracks to consider:

  • Top Picks – Clearly, the most popular of the voted-in sessions.
  • DBA – Administration related topics.
  • Dev/PD (Professional Development) – This is a bit of a mixed bag. Look for both T-SQL and career related sessions.
  • BI (Busineses Intelligence) – Here you’ll find your reporting an analysis services sessions.

Tracks are very general, and a great place to start narrowing down your choices. (I’m not a big BI guy personally, but I do like the occasional reporting or 100/200 level SSAS course.)


The session level is easily overlooked, but it is key for setting your expectations.  These definitions were yanked handily from Paul Randal’s SQL Connections Fall 2012 call for abstracts (consider submitting an abstract!):

Level Number Level Name Example
100 Beginner what does ‘corruption’ mean?
200 Intermediate what do I do when corruption is detected?
300 Advanced how do I do take advantage of partial database availability and online piecemeal restore?
400 Master how can I fix broken system tables using the DAC and server single-user mode?
500 SQL Server Internals how does the read-ahead in DBCC CHECKDB differ from regular adaptive range-scan read-ahead?

So, as an example: If you attend a 200 level class, you’re not going to get in-depth knowledge. You may learn something very useful, of course, even at your very advanced level, good sir.  This class is geared toward people who are only partially familiar with the subject matter!


Titles are really supposed to give you a good clue to the session underneath, though occasionally you get a few that are a bit too cutesy for their own good.

At the very least, you should get the subject: sequence objects. Backups. Reporting Services. Compression. Constraints. TempDB. Troubleshooting. You dig?

Download: SQLRally Session Title Word Cloud

Abstract and keywords

Once you’ve narrowed the contenders down to a few, look over the abstracts.  At a minimum, you’ll get a better idea of the session content.  Some abstracts tell you outright: “You will learn ___ in this session.” (Sean’s 100 level Understanding Backups abstract says “I will take you through basic backup syntax and fully explain how things work the way they do and why.” Very specific!)

Sometimes, you can get the tone of the session from the tone of the abstract, too. (My own Unraveling Tangled Code session abstract is supposed to make you smile, and be intrigued. Much like the session itself.)

Keywords like “demo” and “example” tell you that you’re going to see some usable code or GUI work. “Troubleshoot” and “avoid mistakes” means you’ll get some real world problem avoidance advice.  “In-depth”, “detail”, “internals”, and “advanced” = time to dig deep.

You get the idea.


Of course, you may have your favorite speakers, or that one speaker you’ve been meaning to see for some time. This can be a tiebreaker, or sometimes the entire session-picking criteria.  (I have a few favorite speakers, but I always pay mighty big attention if Joe Celko is speaking; you’ll see me in his Advanced DDL Constraints session this week!)

In short…

  • Consider the track – Are you more interested in DBA sessions, or BI?
  • Pay attention to the level – Session level is key for setting your expectations
  • Titles are only clues – Session titles should at least communicate the subject.
  • Abstracts communiate session content – The abstract tells you the content. As a bonus, the tone of the abstract will often be the tone of the session.
  • Speakers – Sometimes a known speaker will convince you to go (or, to stay away!), regardless of content.

Finally, GIVE FEEDBACK. Speakers want both positive and negative feedback, as long as it’s constructive.  (“You rock!” and “You suck!” are what we call “minimally constructive comments” in our kinder moments. :)

Happy days,
Jen McCown

Check out – The best career advice you’ve never heard!

There is awesomeness to be had at #SQLRally

Two days of precons.
60 regular sessions over two days.
The now-famous Women in Technology luncheon.
Open access to Microsoft Customer Service and Support engineers and the SQL Server Customer Advisory Team.

And you’re not GOING? Are you SERIOUS?!?  Do you have any idea how easy it is to fly to Dallas? We have TWO major airports! TWO!  The hotels here are cheap, the freeways easy, the weather warm and cozy.

AND-AND-AND, our major signature thing is to have Paciugo gelato* for one part of the event! No other city in the WORLD gives you Paciugo as a standard part of their SQL event planning, and that’s a fact, Jack.

Rally is cheaper than Summit, closer (for a lot of you) than any other conference, and more awesome than ZZ Top in concert**.  Go register online today.

Happy days,
Jen McCown***

*Gelato is ice cream, only awesome.
** Assuming you’re a ZZ Top fan.  Okay, maybe Rally is as awesome AS ZZ Top in concert. Note: ZZ Top is from Texas.
*** I made it all the way to the end of my blog before mentioning my session, and Sean’s TWO sessions at Rally!