Today on twitter, I noticed the following tweet fly-by:
It struck a chord with me. A few years ago I got into an interesting conversation with a Security/Database Architect and a high level Systems Engineer regarding what it means to be a Software (or Systems or Enterprise) Architect. Long-story-short, the Engineer had been burned quite a few times by self-made Architects (think entrenched “Ivory Tower” Architects) while the Security Architect had actually met other Architects with passion, technical know-how, and the desire to truly develop value within their organizations. After a bit of thinking, I came up with the following definition:
Becoming an Architect is an exercise in personal, technical, and professional growth. The role of Architect is multi-faceted and includes disciplines such as: Leadership, Stewardship, Technical Knowledge, Communication, Management, and Planning.
An Architect is a leader, first and foremost. Not a Manager and not a guru. An Architect is someone with the technical knowledge, vision, imagination, and the sense of humor needed to negotiate the difficult path towards the success of a project that may touch every level of an organization.
So, can you be an Architect but not touch the technology? No - there’s a reason doctors in the US must go through a residency period. Can you be an Architect and be a guru? Not necessarily – most of the experts I know are “heads-down” developers.
I still think that is a fairly straight-forward definition and would follow it up with the article from Wikipedia: Software Architect. This article from Ted Neward is an especially excellent outline of what it means to be an Architect.
My advice to those seeking to become Architects? Choose a path: Systems, Integration, Software, Enterprise, Database, among many others. Learn, practice, and understand the technologies you are working with. Share that knowledge and express your passion, but do not do so to the exclusion of others’ opinions. Learn what it takes to be a leader. And finally, keep a sense of humor.
About three years ago, I decided to get into social networking. No, not Facebook or Twitter. I mean real, live, old-school, networking. I’d like to pretend it was an active decision, but we all know the truth (more on this later). Regardless, I set up a meeting with an old friend, Brian Kelley (web | twitter) — who is a community leader in the Sql Server world (as well as security, youth ministry, and a host of other things) — to get his take on how to get started. He recommended looking into Never Eat Alone by Keith Ferrazzi. It’s a great book and a quick read, I’d definitely recommend it. From there, I went on to have a -lot- more lunches, go to more conferences (and host a few), extend a few greetings to people that I’d never have approached in the past.
After while, I realized I needed a little more direction and to set a few goals. I began planning how I would attend a conference and use the resources at-hand. After meeting a few people that I thought I’d never meet in real-life – sometimes completely by accident – I decided to make a list of people that I’d love to have lunch with or otherwise just sit and chat: the Networking Bucket List.
What is a networking bucket list, and why should you care? Anyone who has attended a conference, met with a customer, or even gone to the gym has done some kind of networking. You can’t even go to the store without making contact with at least one person (unless you’re a huge fan of self-checkouts and they -always- work for you). Why not set some goals regarding networking? It’s not hard, and you’d be surprised how something this simple can be incredibly fulfilling and rewarding.
Last weekend I spoke at Sql Saturday #89 in Atlanta, GA. This was my first time speaking at an event like this. Normally, I’m the guys behind the scenes making sure that the volunteers are in place, there are plenty of drinks, and the doors are unlocked the day of the event. This time around it was Tim Radney (blog | twitter), Julie Smith (blog | twitter), Audrey Hammonds (blog | twitter), Aaron Nelson (blog | twitter), and countless others. As a whole, the event went very smoothly. The location was the beautiful Alpharetta location of Georgia State. The facility was very new, with fantastic A/V equipment, seating, and space in general. The vendors were located centrally, but not underfoot. The sessions were split between the first and second floor, but traffic moved smoothly thanks to the excellent volunteers provided by TekSystems. Generally, I frown on having vendors provide help, but the individuals did a fantastic job of focusing on the attendees. Lunch was the standard fare of catered sandwiches, but was fairly good. The speaker dinner was held at Bahama Breeze. The food was great, though it was a bit loud. The after-party was at 5 Seasons Brewery, just around the corner from the event facility.
All-and-all, everything went really well. I heard no complaints from the attendees. There was no speaker room, which made things a bit awkward. Having never spoken before, I’ve always considered the speaker room an after-thought. After my experience this time-around, I’d say that it’s a necessity. Though I always try to encourage my speakers to get out there and mix with the attendees, it’s nice to have a place to sit and just relax for a few minutes. The only other observation I would have is in that the closing ceremonies were a bit awkward. Though it was a beautiful day, and the area outside in which it was held somewhat lent itself to a larger crowd, it was still tough to not only focus on Geoff Hiten (blog | twitter) (note I did not say, “hear” ;) ), but to congregate.
This was my first time speaking in this type of forum. As a consultant, I speak with clients and co-workers daily – individually and in groups. I have spoken in front of hundreds as well as been interviewed on camera. Training in a seminar format is a bit of a different vein for me, though.
This time I decided to talk about something that is very close to my heart: professional development. I developed a fairly thorough outline as well as a nice story in slides. After thinking about it a bit, I decided to ditch the slides. In nearly every presentation that I have attended, unless the subject is the slide (i.e. a specific spreadsheet, diagram, or chart), they tend to act as more of a distraction. Considering the focus of my talk was on individuals and interacting with others, I felt it more important to focusing on the individuals in the audience. The talk went well, I felt, but there was room for improvement:
- Bring slides. You do not need to have slides for every point that you are making. The rule of thumb I have heard is one slide for every 6 – 10 minutes. In my talk, it would have been nice to have an introductory slide, a slide with the references I specified (a few books that I usually recommend), and a closing slide reiterating the important bits.
- Practice! I practiced a bit the week-of and night before, but every little bit counts.
- There is no Fourth Wall! This might not be as important during technical sessions; however, in non-technical settings, it is very important to realize that your audience is there to learn. Learning does not always mean regurgitating information and sometimes might mean not being afraid to talk to the people in front of you. I tried to keep the interaction and energy high during my session. Next time, I might kick it up a notch.
I was very lucky to be invited by Brian Moran (twitter) to speak on a panel focusing on topics introduced by Seth Godin’s (blog) book, LinchPin. Along with myself, there was Julie Smith, Audrey Hammond, Mark Tabladillo (blog | twitter), and Jen Underwood (blog | twitter). There was a lot of great ideas flying around and some fantastic interaction with the audience. I would highly recommend catching this or any professional development presentation by Brian. He has a passion for people and love of the community.
Overall, I had a great time. It was good to get out of town and hang out with a few old friends, and make some new ones. If you have the opportunity, check out a Sql Saturday in your area. They are great events run by great people and I guarantee you will make a few new friends.
It’s been a week now since we closed the doors on Sql Saturday 70. This year Columbia put on a great event. We had just over 200 attendees, including: around 20 volunteers, 40 speakers, 20 sponsors, 4 coordinators, and a handful of very understanding and patient significant others. This year we hosted the event in the airport campus of Midlands Technical College. We were very lucky to yet again have absolutely beautiful weather and a great crowd. There were much fewer technical problems, and though we ran into one or two logistical bumps, things went very well.
Everything went great and exceeded our expectations. We had some great attendees, including a decent number of first-timers and those getting their feet wet in the deep-end of the pond. I saw a handful of fellow developers that seemed somewhat skeptical in the beginning who had huge smiles and were brimming with ideas by the end of the day.
The speakers were fantastic. In particular, I’d like to thank Stuart Ainsworth (blog | twitter) who managed to make it out despite a fairly nasty head-cold, and the handful of speakers who traveled quite a ways to make this event. We had a few new speakers make one of their first appearances at our event. A final note on speakers: there were a few individuals who were so inspired they mentioned that they plan on speaking at a future event, so look out for a few new names to appear in a city near you.
This time-around, I took some time to sit and talk with some of the sponsors. Some of them traveled quite a ways to make it to the event and had some really wild technology to demonstrate. Honestly, without them we could not put on such a great event. The next time you find yourself walking down “vendor alley”, carefully avoiding eye-contact and staring at your feet, stop and think for a minute: these guys not only contribute in a variety of ways to the community (money, advice, time, travel, free books, etc.), they take the time to visit and discuss some of the most cutting-edge tools, practices, and trends. No one is going to force you to buy into what they are selling, but think about where they are coming from — most of the sponsor representatives come from a technical background (I managed to meet one of the developers of the .Net 64-bit JIT compiler, who happened to be one of our vendors at the event) and are so excited about technology that they decided to get personally involved with the tools they love so much.
Yet again, we had some great volunteers. From the session proctors, to registration, to those helping out with lunch — they were a fantastic group. Without them, I doubt I would be able to hold onto sanity throughout the day. I would like to extend a special thanks to James and Dmitry, two 13 year olds who ensured all of the equipment was working properly. I hope to see you around next time (by the way, I have a TV that might need setting up)!
A Few Differences
We made a few changes this time-around. First, we decided to charge for attendee lunches. Doing so allowed us to be more flexible with our offerings for speakers, lunch, etc. I also like the idea that by paying a few dollars ($10 in our case), our attendees have made a commitment to the event. Rather than simply place the event on their calendars and flag it “Tentative”, they have made an investment in not only a great community function, but to their personal and professional growth.
We also decided to provide an attendee gift. We explored t-shirt, water bottles, and coffee mugs. I happen to be a sucker for pen & paper, which led us to the jotters that we were able to provide. Not only were they made of recyclable materials and matched the speaker shirts, but they came fully equipped with a “Sql Saturday 70″ logo — where else are you going to get one of those? These came courtesy of 4impact – who really came through for us in a pinch.
Bumps in the Road
I would be remiss of me not to mention that we had a few hiccups throughout the day. Thanks to a great group of coordinators and some very understanding volunteers, we managed to steer clear of the shoals and make the event everything it could be.
Due to illness as well as a few other unforeseen incidences, we had a handful of speakers drop out. Brian Kelley (homepage| twitter), our speaker coordinator, did a great job of jumping in and re-arranging the schedule. Juggling 48 balls (8 tracks and 6 sessions) is a tough act. Luckily Brian is quick with an e-mail and quicker with a revision.
Registration / Food
Two events caused us a bit of grief. In-and-of-themselves they are fairly minor, but together they caused somewhat of a problem. First, our order had to be in to the caterer by the Wednesday before the event. Second, not only were we charging for lunch this time around, we were unable to stop charging for lunch at a specific time. So, on Friday night and Saturday morning we had a flurry of registrations and lunch confirmations. We ordered enough food for a roughly 10% uptake in orders, but the jump we saw was a decent amount over that. Luckily, we had a contingency plan in place. We send one of our volunteers out to pick up about a dozen pizzas. This allowed us to fulfill two goals: offering variety to those who paid for lunch and filling in the gap left by the registration overage. By the end of the day, there were roughly three slices of pizzas and one boxed lunch left. Everyone seemed very pleased by the offerings and all-in-all, it worked out great. In the future, we will find a way to cut-off registration earlier. We might still order pizza, that seemed to be a hit with the attendees.
Many of the sponsors did not know they needed to register separately in order to receive badges and get a lunch ticket. Next time around, we are going to handle sponsor registration separately from attendee registration — much like we already do for speakers and attendees. We currently have the sponsors check-in with the Sponsor Coordinator, but I feel this will be a nice step above-and-beyond the norm.
… I’m really happy with how things turned out. I have heard very little criticism and what little I have heard will be easy to reconcile next time. I doubt anyone has a “perfect” event, but I have to say that we (the community as a whole) are getting close to the mark every time. Thanks again to everyone who made time in their busy schedule to come by. If I didn’t have a chance to meet you, I hope that I get to at a future event. We are planning on doing it again next year, we’ll see you then!
South Carolina is not necessarily the tech-hub of the Southeast. That being said, it’s also not quite the backwater that some people make it out to be. Between Blue Cross Blue Shield of South Carolina’s over 2,500 IT employees, SCANA’s 400+ ITS professionals, various colleges, and other enterprises there is a growing community of IT professionals and technologists. This growth has spurred awareness of and the need to develop and nurture the budding community. Efforts (Innoventure Southeast, the CESM, and others) have already seen some success in bringing in entrepreneurs and obtaining the attention of many high technology companies, including Google and Boeing. On the heels of these successes and in an effort to build a grassroots effort to provide training, professional development, and networking opportunities to those individuals in the field, certain community leaders stepped up to provide a venue in the form of Code Camps and Sql Saturdays. With the help of other successful community leaders, this group was able to have a fantastic opening year in 2010. Moving into 2011, we plan on doing it again, only bigger and better!
Sql Saturday #70 is planned for March 19th, 2011 – the weekend following St. Patrick’s Day. As with last year, we plan on holding this event at the airport campus of Midlands Tech. This venue worked out really well last year and everyone seemed to really enjoy it there.
Putting on an event like this is tough, but with the right team, a great pool of speakers, and gracious sponsors, it does not have to be as hard as you might imagine. There is a great deal of planning and preparation involved in putting these events together. Luckily, once you have one or two under your belt, it gets – well, not necessarily easier, but less stressful.
Why should you go?
Why shouldn’t you go? Ok, cliche’s aside, there are a lot of great reasons to go:
- Business Intelligence (BI) is huge. Gartner forecasts a 9.7% growth in the BI industry, reaching $10.8 billion this year. We will be having 3 tracks dedicated to this particular area. Each of our speakers are recognized industry leaders, authors, and consultants.
- For those of you wishing to grow your network, check out the networking page (http://sqlsaturday.com/70/networking.aspx). If you are just getting started, I would suggest choosing two people from the list, doing a little research (twitter, blogs, etc.), then geting to know them. If you need an introduction come find me and I would be more than happy to provide one or two.
- For those who prefer to remain anonymous and simply want to take in some great sessions – stop in and expand your horizons by getting to know a new technology. A few speakers will be doing “deep-dives” into some of the more obscure (but no less critical) capabilities of information management technology.
I was planning on doing a run-down on some of the great speakers we have coming in for the event. But with over 40 speakers submitting sessions, I would rather redirect you to the great run-down of what it took to make our schedule happen written by Brian Kelley, Speaker Chair for Sql Saturday #70: http://www.sqlservercentral.com/blogs/brian_kelley/archive/2011/02.aspx.
Our sponsors really came through for us this year. Redgate, Quest, Confio, PASS, SqlSentry, Fusion-IO, Intellinet, CozyRoc, and Mariner – just to name a few are doing their part to make this a great event. Stop by their tables and talk to them for a bit. You would be amazed by what you can learn about what and who’s hot in IT by speaking with the vendors.
I really do look forward to seeing everyone there. I always make new friends when I attend an event like this and I look forward to making some more on March 19, see you there!
Off to See the Sun!
Last Saturday I had the pleasure of attending my third Sql Saturday. This time around, I was destined for Tampa, FL. Rather than flying down, I hitched a ride with John Welch (twitter | blog). The ride down and back was great. Although I have only met John once or twice in the past, I decided to take a chance and get to know an accomplished professional and who is well respected in the Sql Server community. The ride down and back was great! I learned a bit about Sql Saturday and am proud to say that I have a new friend.
- John brought to my attention that speakers were given the option of receiving a shirt for the event. I love getting stuff at these events — especially something I can use, and a shirt definitely ranks up there. However, many speakers have a closet full of shirts and the last thing they want is yet another shirt; incurring an expense for the event (speakers shirts are a fairly large expense) and wasting resources.
- The venue was clean, fairly open, and good. There were sessions in a building about a block away, but I did not have the opportunity to attend them.
- The speaker shirts looks really nice. They were a yellow and orange floral pattern that looked really fitting for the event.
- The foyer was large, open, and provided enough space for registration and vendor booths. Access to the vendors was open and easy.
- Registration seemed to be missing a dedicated speaker sign-in. Albeit, I arrived late and it could be that I missed it. Generally, this kind of thing is not required, but is a nice benefit to the speakers — especially considering they often need special instructions and receive addition things (shirts, swag, etc.).
- There were no session moderators. Again, this is not something that is required for an event of this size; however, one session I attended went over by more than 15 minutes, causing me to miss the first part of the closing ceremonies.
- There were no maps or volunteers to direct attendees. The venue was not very spread-out, so this was not a huge issue, but it was difficult to locate some of the rooms. Better sign-age (a problem I often face) would have been a good workaround.
- The volunteers were not obvious. I tend to at least ask my volunteers to wear matching colors (black shirts with blue jeans). I also insist that they walk around and make themselves available should anyone have any questions.
- In speaking with a few of the speakers, I found a few missed having speaker evaluations. Creative criticism is one of the fastest ways to improve and often evaluations provide that one-on-one that speakers lack mid-session.
What I learned:
- You don’t have to be a speaker to speak. Nothing beats an impromptu discussion between attendees about common practices and real-world problems.
- Networking is hard. I have a really difficult time walking up to a stranger and saying, “Hi, I’m Bobby! I write code!” After thinking about it a bit, I approached one or two people I knew and had them start introducing me to people. This broke-down those initial barriers and opened up ways to really getting to know people.
- Get personal cards printed. I currently only have business cards. They are pretty nice, but do not communicate how to get in touch with me. A few people I ran into had these and most places will print them for free. I might see if I can get a designer friend of mind to help me put something together.
- Don’t skimp on the hotel. This is a rule I generally follow when traveling for pleasure. I usually try to make it a point to stay in 4+ star hotels. This is fairly easy and affordable with websites out there like Priceline and Kayak. This time-around, I decided to stay in one of the conference-recommended hotels. This hotel was easily 2-stars.
Well, 2010 is over , but it was a fairly decent year. Here’s a quick run-down:
- Columbia Code Camp 2010 (Coordinator)
- The official release of the Exo framework (ExoGraph, ExoWeb, etc)
- Sql Saturday #48 (Coordinator)
- Passed my first Microsoft Certification exam (70-515), thus becoming a MCP
- Starting my new blog!
At the face of it, I don’t imagine it sounds like a lot, but taken individually, these are all huge accomplishments. I hope to at some point write-up a post on professional development and the steps I have been taking to move things forward – this has been a huge focus of my life over the past two years.
Looking forward, it seems like 2011 is going to be a big year:
- Complete my tests and achieve my MCPD: Web 4
- Sql Saturday #70 (Coordinator)
- Columbia Code Camp 2011 (Coordinator)
- Develop a specialization in SOA
- Learn more about Sql Server internals
- Learn more about the Cloud (Azure, etc)
- Get some more blog posts out there and put the finishing-touches on the site
- Build up my personal and professional network
- Attend and possibly speak at a community event
In addition to the above, I hope to do some posts on the following topics:
- SharePoint integration with Single Sign-On solutions
- Custom STS’s for use in Single-SignOn scenarios
- Breaking out of your shell to grow personally and professionally
- Running a successful community event
Well, after much goading and prodding, I have finally set up my first blog! I’m not sure how this is going to go, but I’m going to give it my best. So, as a bit of an introduction and a preview of things to come, a bit about myself:
I grew up in the Lowcountry of South Carolina (yes, the place where they made that movie, amongst others) in a house on the river, at the end of a dirt road, in the middle of the woods. I didn’t have a huge family, or heating, or A/C, but we made-by with what we had and each other. I had a fairly standard childhood, all-in-all. Eventually it was time to move on and I made my way to college. After paying my way through school as a contract software developer, I graduated into one of the largest economic down-turns to-date. I went full-time with one of my contracts and from there moved on to bigger things. At the moment, I am a full-time software developer/architect with VC3, Inc. I build solutions ranging from specialized e-commerce sites to large-scale, multi-state enterprise solutions.
I love technology. I wrote my first program when I was six; competed at the regional, state, and national level in computer programming competitions; and championed best-practices in the realms of software development, database management, ALM, and enterprise architecture. Lately, I have been very interested in personal and professional growth and development as well as developing a solid community of IT professionals in the Midlands of South Carolina.
I love to travel. I have been to many very interesting locations in North America and Southeast Asia. I try to take advantage of every opportunity to travel to new locales. Sometimes this means a trip to a new store, and other times to small towns in Guangdong, China. There truly is no thrill quite like total immersion in a completely foreign culture. From language, to food, to simple day-to-day life – this world is like no other!
I love my family. I have a beautiful wife and son. We live in a small suburb of Columbia, South Carolina where we focus on enjoying and learning something new every day.
This is something I am constantly developing and refining. In the grand-scheme of things, I just want to have fun and be happy. I try to make my love of what I do and how I do it as infectious as possible in sharing these things with my family, friends, and innocent by-standers.
Finally, I plan on this blog being a combination of things:
- A collection of notes, articles, and interesting bits that I have run across or discovered in the course of my day-to-day work.
- A platform for sharing interesting news and things that I believe to be of interest to the community in general.
- A means of outreach to those that I have not yet had an opportunity to meet. There are a lot of great people out there – both in this industry and in others.
So, expect things to evolve, devolve, and revolve as life changes and we grow. It’s a trip that we’re all on together, so hold on and buckle-up, this is going to be an interesting ride!
- @MidnightDBA sorry, you looked super-busy.. no worries, ill try to make a show sometime soon [#]
- Had a great talk on consulting with @MidnightDBA last night.. Tried (and nearly failed) to stay out of trouble with @mrdenny#sqlsatatl [#]
- RT @SQLGator: What time is it? #SQLSatATL time! [#]
- #sqlhottubparty in a few hours! [#]
- @Jorriss no running away from this.. already ran into @SQLvariant and only in town 5 minutes [#]
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