I had the opportunity to go on yet another SQL Cruise in 2013. This time our trip was to the Carribean Isles – St Maarten, US Virgin Islands and the Bahamas. In addition to some great opportunities for training and networking the cruise was a relaxing and enriching experience with great food and great opportunities for sightseeing in new land(s). Below is my summary of the experience – if you want to skip my rambling notes and get to what I got out of it please scroll at the way down to the last paragraph :)
Day 0- 25th January 2012: I landed at Miami late Friday evening. The cruise crowd met up with local sql server user group members and had a small get together by the pool at the hotel where we stayed.We were also given our sql cruise swag (big bag of goodies from various sponsors).It was a good opportunity to warm up to the cruise and get to know fellow cruisers.
Day 1 – The first day was marked by a breakfast get-together at the hotel we stayed in. It was a good meal and an opportunity to get to know new cruiser Mickey Stuewe and also catch up with Kevin Kline, Bruce Sacrisante and several others. Kevin was also kind to sponsor our ride to the dock in a taxi. The check in was crowded and the ship was much larger than the one I had been in Alaska. We were finally in by noon and met up again for lunch. That was followed by room check in. I took the evening off to nap and settle in – and missed the ‘search the ship’ contest which is a lot of fun. But I simply could not find energy to do it after a long day.
Day 2 – The first day at sea was marked by breakfast followed by Kevin Kline’s class on communication ‘Influence vs Authority’. Kevin has always been one of my favorite teachers in the community particularly in areas of professional growth and this class was no exception. I learnt a lot about using different styles of communication with different people (so different from the default same cut for all that most techies are used to).I was also impressed by Kevin’s suggestion to keep a printout of various styles so that one may refer to them constantly and make it a habit. That is something I have adopted and has helped in atleast two situations so far.After a great lunch the afternoon session was Allen White’s ‘Powershell 101′. I have attended this session a couple of times before but always find it uniformly interesting and inspiring to get to learn Powershell. This session was followed by ‘How to be an Enterprise DBA – Part I’ by Sean Mccown. Sean discussed automation strategies, communication strategies and various situations faced by DBAs who handle several servers in large shops. I found it very interesting and useful. The evening was marked by networking hour on the deck followed by formal dinner. The dinner discussion at the table I was centered around mid life challenges with finding jobs, and being a generalist versus a specialist. It provided many insights.
Day 3 – This day was again at sea and marked by a continuation of Sean Mccown’s session on being an Enterprise DBA. It was accompanied by an invigorating discussion on many challenges faced in handling DBA work in enterprise shops. After lunch the class continued with Ryan Adams teaching Active Directory terminologies and usage as applicable to SQL Server. I learnt more on many terms that I did not know in great detail about. The evening was again marked by networking – also called ‘Office Hour’. I was impressed and happy with the fact that cruisers had some time to themselves in the evening to network on their own or explore the huge ship at leisure.
Day 4 – We docked at St Maarten today. I took a guided tour to a Butterfly Farm followed by a short exploration of the beach and some shopping. The Butterfly farm was the backyard of a canadian scientist – a sunny garden full of flowers, with only a thin mosquito net for protection and hundreds of butterflies gracing the space. It was a truly spectacular and interesting visit. The multi cultural nature of the tiny island (partly owned by the French and partly by the Dutch), and the lifestyle of the local people (very little fresh water or agriculture, tourism main industry) was interesting to observe. After a long day we met up for networking again and then retired early.
Day 5: We docked at St John’s, an island part of the US Virgin Islands today. It was a gorgeously beautiful summer day. I was torn between joining the group on their trip to a private beach or going on the tour I planned — the eco hike of the island, and finally ended up doing the latter. The hike was a short 3 mile walk through the rocky island landscape, with many gorgeous views of the beaches. We also spent two hours at Honeymoon beach, a small beach with smooth white sand and the bluest beautiful waters ever. I regretfully made my way back to the boat around 2 pm. St John’s is definitely among the most beautiful scenic places I have seen in my lifetime. We met up again for networking and dinner in the evening, most conversation centered around our sightseeing experiences that day.
Day 6: This was a day at sea. Our class started with Neil Hambly teaching Memory Management. I liked Neil’s style of teaching and learnt many tips from the presentation. It was followed by Kevin Kline’s session on SQL Server Internals. Although I have attended the session before it was a great refresher on things one needs to know. This was followed by Ryan Adams teaching Policy Based Management. In the evening we met up for a semi formal dinner at the same restaurant. My memories of the dinner center around the gluten free, sugar free peach cobbler ordered by Mickey Stuewe and shared by some of us. It was truly a memorable guilt free dessert experience :)
Day 7: Our last day of the cruise began with Allen White teaching ‘Powershell for Performance’. I was very impressed by scripts he used to do performance monitoring and display graphs as reports. The ship docked at the Bahamas for the afternoon. I spent the afternoon on a swimming experience with dolphins at the resort we were close to. It was truly unforgettable but left little time for anything else. The weather at the Bahamas was also chilly due to a storm front coming in. Our last evening was marked by a great get together after dinner with plenty of jokes and good humor. I took leave of the party with many warm feelings, friendships made and gratitude for a great week of learning and networking.
There are a few things I learnt from the cruise. First of them perhaps is that it has given me an opportunity to make friends easily – I am one of those people who is often perceived as a strong introvert, although am really not that much of a shy or reserved person. My personality type is more of an ‘ambivert’ or ‘centrovert’ as they call it – I take time to warm up to people though and am not an ‘instant mixer’. To add to that is all the complexities of having spent half a lifetime in another culture and the strong stereotype around asian women. I would probably not have much to contribute in a conversation that centers strongly around american food, or alcohol or music but I do like jokes of any kind and enjoy conversations where people give room for differences and have time to listen. SQL Cruise allows for that, and has helped me make many good friends among the people I have cruised with so far. I have been enriched by their stories and their experiences and hopefully they learnt some from mine too. I am also always someone up for checking out new lands and exploring new places – it is just the trip for someone interested in all that .I was able to add 3 new places to my list and that makes me greatly thrilled. Lastly is the invaluable experience of technical learning and being around people who have been successful and good at what they do, for extended periods of time. There are many conferences/sql saturdays and various events but none that give you the opportunity to do all of this in one week.
I would highly encourage any person interested in growing their career in SQL Server to try SQL Cruise. You will want to come back for more, I promise. I want to thank the sponsors – SQL Sentry, Idera, Red Gate and Confio for making this possible for the SQL Community – in addition to Tim and Amy Ford, for their great organizing skills and also for the fun and enriching company of their entire family.