Database professional principal consultant at sqlskills, sql server mvp, author, blogger, speaker, husband, father and chicken farmer

My first involvement with community was in 2008 when I attended my first SQL PASS Chapter meeting, the Columbus GA SQL Server Users Group started by Ken Simmons. A couple of months later I was asked if I wanted to attend the PASS Summit since training budget was opened up. This was on Oct 28th 2008 (my birthday as well as that of Aunt Kathi and Kevin Kline). I then attended my first PASS Summit. My first ever session was that of Grant Fritchey. At the beginning of his session he shared about these smaller events called SQL Saturdays. Later that night I looked up SQL Saturday and found out more about them. Later I attended my first SQL Saturday #33 in Charlotte NC. Fast forward a bit and I was encouraged by @sqlchicken to start blogging.


That blog turned into @sqljoe telling me to turn that post into a session and submit to SQL Saturday #62 in Tampa. I did, and presented at my first ever SQL Saturday. I was hooked. During an upcoming event, I was asked by the Atlanta SQL Saturday crew if I would consider volunteering for the next SQL Saturday ATL. Since I had then become the chapter leader for the Columbus GA SQL Server Users Group, I was told that maybe I should submit the paperwork for SQL Saturday #89. Just like that I was the event organizer (thanks AtlantaMDF).

After SQL Saturday 89, I continued running my local group, was nominated for the PASSion award, awarded Outstanding PASS Volunteer, wrote a few books, blogged a lot more, became a Friend of Redgate, Idera ACE, PASS Regional Mentor, was awarded the Microsoft MVP, became a business partner with Andy Leonard, Brian Moran, and Mike Walsh at Linchpin People, and later offered a position with SQLskills. After joining SQLskills I became at author at Pluralsight.com and SQLPerformance.com which was really cool.

Everything I’ve done, all the great opportunities I’ve jumped on, the late nights, time away from home, all the sacrifice has been worth it when you get that random tweet, email, or in person encounter and someone tells you that you’ve had a profound impact on their career. Years ago at a PASS Summit, there was a wall put up in the Community Zone asking people to write the name of someone that has had a positive impact on them. A co-worker of mine was at the Summit and came up to me saying Tim, I saw your name on the wall. We go to look and sure enough, there it was, and then again, and again, and again. I was incredibly humbled. To see my name there because of others who encouraged me and I just paid it forward. I shared that story on twitter and Paul Randal saw it and it spawned an article in the SQLskills Insider newsletter and a blog post on the Butterfly Effect, which in turn introduced me to Tom Roush (RIP).

I’ve met so many great friends, friends that I now call family through the SQL Community. There are WAY TO MANY to attempt to name. You all know who you are. I am closer to people in the SQL Community than I am blood relatives. The outpouring of love from this community when one of our own are impacted proves that. I wouldn’t be who I am now without this community. Not just where I am career wise, but who I am as a person.

There has been some recent controversy over SQL Saturdays after PASS HQ announced some new changes. The changes introduced a new 600 mile radius for SQL Saturdays on the same day, an expansion from the previous 400 mile rule as well as reducing the PASS sponsorship from $500 per event to $250 per event and only for those that are in financial need. Originally the new rules also imposed a 600 mile rule and extended that to the Saturday before and after the event. The community was quick to point out how that would have impacted previous events and PASS HQ has removed the week before and after restriction.

With the popularity of the SQL Saturdays in the US, some event locations are finding it difficult to find sponsors for the event. I can understand this issue. I have helped organize numerous SQL Saturdays ranging from 100 attendees to upwards of 700. In the early days, there were fewer events and it seemed like every sponsor wanted to be at each one. That enabled organizers to be able to offer speakers and organizers event shirts, host a speaker dinner, and provide various other swag for the event. As popularity of the events grew, sponsors realized they couldn’t keep sending people to each one and that their budgets could only stretch so far. Organizers have started feeling the impact and are having to start looking elsewhere for sponsors as well as looking at their budgets.

Something that current and new organizers should consider is that all that extra stuff is just stuff. The main purpose of a SQL Saturday is to provide training to your local area, grow your local user group, and to help grow new speakers. As a speaker at nearly 40 SQL Saturdays, I have always enjoyed the speaker dinner as a way of networking and hanging out with other speakers, I would gladly pay for my own dinner at those events, the event organizer should not feel any pressure to feed the speakers the night before. If they would like to organize a place for us to all meet for dinner, which would be fantastic. Speaker shirts have been a big deal to many speakers, especially for new speakers starting out. If the budget allows for these, then great, if not, then do not feel obligated to provide a shirt. Many organizers feel they should get the speakers a gift, that is not necessary either, a hand written thank you note is more meaningful than a shirt, coffee mug, or Amazon gift card.

I organize and run SQL Saturday Columbus GA and have helped organize SQL Saturday Atlanta since 2011. Atlanta is a great market and we have been very fortunate with sponsors year after year, in Columbus GA, things are very much different. Sponsorship dollars are much more difficult in Columbus and as a result, we keep things more “grass roots”. In Columbus GA, our event provides:

I hope more organizers will realize that they can put on a great event on a very small budget. SQL Saturday Columbus GA is fortunate to have a free venue and attract around 100 attendee’s year over year and to have the support of the Atlanta MDF. Our event cost just over $1500 and also generates a slight surplus in funds to fund our user group for the year.

In 2017 an approach I plan to do for sponsors is to have a $100 Community sponsor level. This will be for local businesses to help support the IT initiative without having to spend a lot of money. This will be for those to show support, get their name out there, but for those who really don’t need or care for the opt-in list or a table at the event. If I can sell 5 to 10 at that level, it will cover the majority of my event cost.