‘This community thing is not for me’
I got an answer like this from a long time friend of mine. He was a regular attendee at our user group meets, attended the PASS conference a couple of times, and now was running his own consulting company and doing well. He had had some bad experiences – his speaker submission was turned down once, and there had been some altercation with some celebrities. More than all that his reason was that he was ‘not much of an extrovert’ and ‘he’s already checked out Seattle’.
His reasoning around being an introvert was a little like mine, several years ago. I got into computers for that exact reason – they were lot more easier and predictable than people!! But I didn’t get very far being that way. My friend Andy Warren says he is about being extroverted for professional reasons and a private person otherwise. I think that is the best combination of behaviors I would aim for. If I don’t get out of my comfort zone a little and get to know others, they don’t get to know me. I would lose opportunites that I do not even know existed, and I would not know whom to approach or how if I ever needed help. Now I think majority of us who have the ‘introvert’ reason are just too comfortable with our ‘comfort zones’ or devalue the benefits of getting out of it a little.
The reasons this person had led me to think about the right and wrong reasons to attend a professional conference like PASS community summit.
The right reasons according to me –
1 Learn more – hear what experts have to say, particularly on new/upcoming features,also on explorations into specifics of other features.
2 Make new friends – get to know more people like me, more dba’s, more user group leaders, understand their problems, challenges and successes.
3 Understand the direction the product and technology is evolving – particularly from keynotes and also from content of presentations.
The wrong reasons –
1 Expecting networking to work in magical ways – someone offers you work/a job, a celebrity becomes best friends…these things happen…but normal ways networking works is that it creates an initial familiarity and friendly exchange, that is all. Sometimes that can evolve into deeper friendships, sometimes it just stays as a business card exchange. But the returns are gradual, not instant or magical. To my introverted friend these initial steps itself are a huge effort and he feels disappointed that ‘it is not working out’.
2 Looking for instant answers to some kind of technical problem – it is possible to get solutions to lot of issues, by asking questions at the right session. The microsoft ‘clinic’ at the Summit even allows you to take your laptop in and they work with you through the problem, for free. I once got help on a somewhat difficult replication issue this way. But again, it is not always possible and some answers are really not instant, they require a paid consultant to look deeper into a problem. It is a good idea not to promise your boss or anyone that you will come away with instant answers to some difficult problem – that may or may not happen. You will, however, get plenty of guidelines and pointers to the possible solution(s).
3 Getting priorities in wrong order – I do all my holiday shopping in Seattle. In fact am so used to it that am not sure where to shop when the summit moves elsewhere. But my first priority is the conference, not shopping. I use that as an opportunity to do shopping ,which is fine – but like my friend said if checking out ‘cool’ places is your priority that makes the gains out of the conference secondary.
4 This might seem funny…but looking for information on a really old version…last year i was asked at the user group by someone if the summit would have content related to SQL 2000. We are 3 versions after SQL 2000 and this year into the 4th. Most speakers would be more than happy to say if what they are talking of is SQL 2000 compatable…but to expect content on a product that old is somewhat unreasonable..technology is about staying up to date and most information would be related to newer content, not old.
Check to see if your reasons are in line :)