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I So Hate … Leaving My #SQLFamily


Leaving

Leaving the station by TJook

The cab driver was waiting for me to get in while my wife and kids are still giving me “the hugs and kisses.” He was commenting on the fact that my kids – ages 9 and 11 – still feel very comfortable of giving us hugs and kisses whereas his 3-year-old can’t even be bothered while playing with his iPad. To which, I responded, “I hate leaving but travelling is part of my job.

This past week puts another PASS Community Summit in the books. This happens to be the world’s largest and most intensive technical training conference for SQL Server and BI professionals. Its amazing how active the members of the SQL Server community have been throughout the week, tweeting and talking about their experiences – even after midnight.  I have had the privilege of volunteering every time I attend this event. I even wrote a series of blog posts for first time attendees on how to maximize their attendance at the event. Part of that preparation is getting assimilated to the #SQLFamily. I talked about building meaningful relationships at the PASS Summit in a previous blog post where the conversation transcends beyond Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn or email. We hang out during events, sometimes even outside of events – #SQLKaraoke, #PASSPrayers, #SQLRun, PhotoWalks, and a whole lot more activities. This brings the community members closer to each other beyond the usual T-SQL conversations and the references to BigData and BI. It is indeed like the biggest and most intimate family reunion you’ve ever experienced.

I’ve asked a lot of first time attendees what they think about the PASS Summit experience. The common responses were “amazing” and “awesome.”  To which, I asked follow-up questions like, “what made it awesome?” One first time attendee commented, “I feel like I’ve found an extended family.” Another one responded, “I feel like I belong here.” I pointed to some of the attendees giving hugs and high-fives and told them that this is a common thing among members of the SQL Server community, especially during events like this. They were a bit shocked at first but slowly have gotten used to it throughout the week. It’s no wonder some of them felt similar to how I did come Friday. It was time to say goodbye.

I spent the entire week catching up with friends and folks that I have met at previous events. Some I have considered very good friends, others like part of my extended family (I always refer to Pinal Dave as my half-brother from a previous life.)  Still, a week is not enough. But it was time well spent.

As I race back to the parking space to grab my rental car, I was stopped more than ten times to say goodbye to my #SQLFamily. I was glad that I had a flight to catch, otherwise, I could have stayed longer. I was coming home to my real family. However, I felt the same way when I was leaving home a couple of days earlier. I hate to leave. But it is part of my job – leaving my family so I could share the love to those who need it in my workplace. When I teach and mentor a junior DBA in my team, that is because I received the same love and care from my newly found family. When I face difficult challenges resolving a database performance issue, I face it with confidence and courage knowing that they’re there to support me. This is not just a SQL Server community. It is “the #SQLFamily.”

This still doesn’t change anything. I so hate leaving my #SQLFamily.

Leadership Lessons from Running a SQLSaturday Event


SQLSaturday Philippines

I’ve been involved with the SQL Server community ever since I can remember. I’ve been both a speaker and a volunteer and I know how it felt like to be on both sides of the fence. However, the one thing I haven’t been is an organizer myself. Until SQLSaturday218. This is the very first SQLSaturday event in the Philippines that was held last 9-Mar-2013.  Attendees, volunteers and speakers all claim that the event was a huge success and that they want it to be an annual event. But what they didn’t realize until the event was finally over was that SUCCESS always comes at a PRICE. The rewards of a champion only comes after the hard work and sacrifice, not before. SQLSaturday218 has reinforced a lot of leadership lessons that I have been practicing and teaching throughout the years.

  1. Find a higher purpose. I’ve blogged about this before and I’ve taught others about finding a higher purpose for things that we do.  SQLSaturday218 for me is more than just a SQL Server community event. It’s an attempt to express my patriotism in ways that I can do best. While most SQLSaturday organizers talk about technical education, I talk about loving my country. With the upcoming national elections in the Philippines, political candidates talk about bringing about change. I just made change happen thru SQLSaturday218. This wasn’t my original idea. Marlon Ribunal (blog | Twitter) and Justin Dearing (blog | Twitter) came up with the idea of running a SQLSaturday event in the Philippines. They included me in the conversation because they knew I was a die-hard FILIPINO. And the rest was history. My higher purpose helped me pursue even when the times are tough.
  2. Find allies, ignore detractors.  Every noble goal will have both. I always say that only fruitful trees get picked on. Nobody picks fruits on trees that don’t bear any. And, so be ready to have both allies and detractors. I heard a lot of folks tell me this is an insane idea. Nobody has ever organized a SQLSaturday event without physically being there. I was in Canada planning and organizing an event that was thousands of miles away from where I am, not to mention with a 12-hour time zone difference. I only knew (and have met) a handful of the volunteers. Regular SQLSaturday sponsors won’t fly to the Philippines just for this event. The odds are stacked up against me. I expected to have detractors. I was willing to take the stones that will get thrown at me. But I also did find allies. Niko Neugebauer  (blog | Twitter,) a fellow SQL Server MVP and PASS Community Evangelist was my greatest ally. He was the one who told me that it is possible and that I can make it happen because he was able to do it before. Allies will help you raise your shield when the detractors start throwing stones at you.
  3. Build a GREAT, UNITED team. People are what make things happen. That’s why you need to build a GREAT team. I’ve enlisted the help of people I knew who had the same passion for the community as I have. Culture is very important to me. That’s why I made sure that members of my team share the same values. They all went the extra mile to do things that I can’t because I wasn’t physically available. Some of my allies ended up being a part of the team.  And that’s why I brag about the people in my team who made SQLSaturday218 a huge success. But a great team will only go so far. A GREAT, UNITED team is unstoppable. In order to build a united team, they need to feel that they are a part of it in the first place. And building relationships is what makes that possible. Talk to team members. Understand what matters to them. Make them feel that they are special. Be willing to go the extra mile for them. If we are willing to do this for them now, imagine what they will be willing to do for you in the future.
  4. Over communicate.  It’s the leader’s job to keep the team informed. But sometimes, the same message has to be communicated several times in order for every one to get it. Over communication breeds clarity. It also addresses misunderstandings among those who receive the message. SQLSaturday has a website that organizers can use to do whatever they need to organize and run the event. While I maximized the use of the feature to send email communications to speakers, volunteers and registered attendees, I went the extra mile of sending personal emails. Every week for the past 6 weeks, I sent event updates to the registered attendees and those on the wait list. I also sent emails to the volunteers, giving them a picture of what to expect and what is expected of them. I also sent emails to my team about things that matter to us in order to make this event a success. I responded to emails, answered questions on instant messenger, did Skype calls, etc. in order to properly deliver the message.
  5. Ask for help but operate with a bootstrap mindset. My idea was to run SQLSaturday218 with very minimal to no sponsorship. That’s is because I wanted to create a mindset of creativity and resourcefulness. Plus, I also understand the challenges that most of the SQLSaturday sponsors have. It’s hard to spend money on sponsorships without the possibility of having immediate returns on their investments. I call myself the “self-proclaimed marketing guy” and I try to practice what I preach. I didn’t just go around asking for sponsorships. I only asked those who I believe will benefit from doing so. I even turned down several potential sponsors and explained why this would not benefit them. However, I didn’t just turn them down without offering them a long-term perspective of their marketing initiatives. And because we kept the bootstrap mindset, we operated as if we didn’t have resources. It’s amazing to see how people come up with creative ideas just because we don’t have the resources. So, when the resources became available, they were used to reward those who came up with creative ideas that got implemented.
  6. Have a detailed plan but be flexible enough when things don’t go as planned. I had a detailed project plan in place from start to finish. I shared it with my team and allowed them to make suggestions and modify it as necessary. But everyone knows that nobody can prepare and implement a perfect plan. Being flexible when things don’t go as planned is necessary for success.  We had delays with some of our deliverables. There were changes in the room assignments that affected the schedule and the signs that we printed out. But because everyone on the team understood what was expected, they all made things possible outside of the plan.
  7. Step back when necessary. Leaders have the tendency to do everything because they believe that success (and failure) lie in them. What they don’t realize is that not stepping back prevents potential rockstars to shine. At the day of the event, I knew exactly what I needed to do. Same thing with the volunteers. What’s really surprising is that I didn’t even have the chance to do a briefing session before we start doing the real work. All I did was shake their hands and introduced myself to them. Now, understand that these are people whom I haven’t personally met. But it’s as if they knew me very well and knew exactly what I expected of them. The volunteers were running on auto-pilot. That kept me focused on what I can do best. Had I not stepped back, I could have ruined the creative ideas that they were able to pull off and possibly discouraged them from trying again.
  8. Give as much A.I.R. as you possibly can. I blogged about giving appreciation, inspiration and recognition. As attendees were commenting on how great the event turned out to be, I took that opportunity to thank the sponsors, volunteers and speakers for making the event a huge success. At the volunteers’ and speakers’ dinner, I commented on the fact that I felt like having a great team from heaven. I sent emails to my contacts about how the event turned out to be, again, mentioning the fact that I had the best volunteers and speakers ever. I sent emails to the local sponsors, highlighting some of their staff who did a great job of volunteering at the event. I kept telling others, even sending personal emails and instant messages to the volunteers and speakers after the dinner, and constantly appreciating and recognizing their contributions. All of them wanted to be a part of next year’s SQLSaturday Philippines.

Leadership expert Dr. John C. Maxwell once said that “Everything rises and falls on leadership.” It’s one of the reasons why I’ve been a student of leadership for the past decade.  The lessons I’ve learned help make me become a much better leader and also inspires others to do the same. With the outcome of SQLSaturday218, I think this will become an annual event with the help of the local SQL Server user group.

Be Consistent With Your Brand


More Broken Glass

More Broken Glass by autowitch

Black baseball cap with a fashionable army jacket. That’s the image that people who know me recognize when they hear my name. When I started speaking at conferences and events here in North America, I became intentional about the image that I project. Let’s just say that everything started with a profile photo I gave Microsoft Singapore for use in their marketing collaterals. I couldn’t find a professional-looking profile photo when they asked for one back in 2007 for a conference I’m scheduled to speak at. So I gave them one that I have. I was wearing a baseball cap. That photo instantly became my official profile photo – from the book chapters I wrote to the case study documents from Microsoft Learning. And so I’ve decided to maintain that image and became very intentional about its consistency. I’ve also taught professionals how brand consistency helps in improving their career. A simple test that I do is perform a Google search on my name and check the results. If I get the results that I want consistently – be it the profile photos or keyword combinations – that means I have done a good job in creating the brand that I want.

I like doing experiments. I always like to try something new to test a hypothesis or just to break away from the rut. Several days ago at an event where I am supposed to speak at, I’ve decided to do a social experiment. I’ve decided to abandon the “baseball cap and the army jacket” image and just stick with my good old fashion self, the one where you can barely see hair on my head. On top of that, I’ve decided to include my new personal assistant – my eyeglasses – as part of my image. I wanted to test if I have successfully created a personal brand throughout these years. I knew the side effects of being inconsistent with my personal brand when I’ve decided to rename my LinkedIn and Twitter profiles several months ago. And so I went on with the experiment. The people who knew me well didn’t have much problems recognizing me. They were confused at first but have gotten over it. Moving on. I walked among the crowd. I heard people saying they wanted to attend my session. That’s not surprising since I knew many people wanted to learn more about the topic that I’m going to present on. What’s really surprising is what happened next. I heard people asking if they’ve already seen me. Some of the event organizers are starting to become restless because they couldn’t find me anywhere. Somebody told them that I was already at the venue. They just couldn’t find me. Or maybe they were looking for somebody else. Maybe they were looking for the guy wearing a baseball cap and the army jacket.

The experiment highlights few key points regarding branding:

  1. You/We are a brand. Whether we like it or not, our personalities are our brand. Same is true with companies, products and services. Quit avoiding the fact. You might as well do something about it and…
  2. Be intentional. Don’t wait for others to define your brand for you. You do not have control over that. Instead, define it for them. If you don’t define your brand, others will do it for you. I chose to be intentional about the brand that I have built over the years and I expect the results I’m getting.
  3. Know thy self. It’s hard to define something if you don’t even understand what it is. Whether it’s a person or a product, we need to know what it i and hat it stands for. Knowing one’s self takes time but it is key to successfully creating a brand.
  4. Be consistent. Imagine seeing a Coca-Cola logo with an orange colour. I can’t. That’s because I’m used to seeing it with the colour red. It becomes confusing when a brand is inconsistent. That’s the main point of my experiment. If we are inconsistent with our brand and our personality, others will be confused. Worst, they will eventually forget who you are.

If there’s one key point to consider when it comes to branding, that’s CONSISTENCY. And it doesn’t just work for branding. It does so too with leadership. You’ll earn the trust and respect of the people you lead.

PASS Summit and The Value Of Building A Community

November 13, 2012 1 comment

Photo courtesy of Sheryl’s Boys

I’m a community person. I’ve built my career around the value of communities. It all started when I was in high school and wanted to raise funds that will help the student community by improving our sports facility. We wanted to host a dance party within the school premises and invite students to participate. When the school didn’t approve of our proposal, I was disappointed. So disappointed that I gathered all of my close friends and proposed the idea of running the party outside of the school premises but within the jurisdiction of the local community for safety reasons. We had a noble goal (help the students in our school,) a business plan (host a dance party to raise funds,) and a handful of volunteers (my close friends.) I guess everyone was passionate about the idea that it started spreading throughout the different schools within our community. Soon, everybody was asking us how they can participate. We’ve expanded our fund raising efforts to include other schools in the project. It was a success and the rest was history. We won the hearts of the school administration staff that they let us do another fundraising project for the next year. I’ll never forget that experience.

Last week, the SQL Server community was all hyped up on Twitter and other social networking sites talking about the PASS Community Summit. This happens to be the world’s largest and most intensive technical training conference for SQL Server and BI professionals. There were some major announcements made last week which are considered highlights of the event. If you ask attendees, new and old, about why they made the investment in attending the event, you will get different responses. But there’s one constant theme that resonates among the different responses: PEOPLE. Communities are social units built by people for people. Seth Godin talks about building Tribes, Brian Allain talks about how community wins, social networking sites have become successful because of the idea of communities.  Successful businesses know how to build and leverage communities. In fact, many would agree with me on this that, Microsoft has leveraged the SQL Server community to build the product to what it is today. But setting aside the marketing and business aspects of building and/or being a part of a community, the real value comes from meeting some of our basic human needs – RCGC:

  1. Relationships. Along the corridors of the conference center, I see people giving hugs and high fives. Who would ever think that these are a bunch of geeks hammering on their keyboards solving the toughest SQL Server problems? But they connect on a personal level, telling stories about the travels they’ve made, the previous events that they have attended, the next one that they will go to, the parties that they need to attend, etc. I’ve given and received hugs myself throughout the week. One that really stood out for me was meeting up (and hugging) a good friend of mine – a former SQL Server MVP – who joined the Microsoft SQL Server Integration Services team back in 2008. It’s like a family reunion since I haven’t seen him for more than 4 years.
  2. Comfort. During a conversation I had with a database administrator in a large gaming company last week, he mentioned about feeling one with the community. Back at work, he felt like he was all alone and that no one understood nor appreciated what he was doing. Being around and talking to people who share the same passion as he has made him feel secure, knowing that there are others who feel the same pain that he feels, enjoying the same successes that he experiences and speaking the same language. He immediately blended in even though it was his first time attending the conference.
  3. Growth. We all came to the conference knowing that we will learn something new – whether by attending sessions or simply joining a conversation. I asked questions about the next version of SQL Server and the recently released Microsoft HDInsight. I’ve learned a thing or two about deploying SQL Server using PowerShell and a little bit of PowerView on Excel. We all desire growth in more than one aspect of our lives. The event provided an opportunity for growth for those of us who made the investment.
  4. Contribution. One speaker commented on the fact that he feels the satisfaction of seeing people’s face light up when he talks about a solution or feature that will help solve their problems. I got a kick out of the experience myself when people I don’t know approached and thanked me last week for the articles I’ve written on MSSQLTips.com. We are wired to have a desire to contribute and make the world a better place. Most of the community leaders I know have been doing this – volunteering and speaking at events – for decades and they still feel that they need to do more. My hats are off to the wonderful people in the SQL Server community that made the PASS Community Summit 2012 a successful one – from volunteers, speakers, chapter leaders, the members of the board, etc.

Being a part of a community meets our basic human needs. But it certainly goes beyond that. I’ve gotten contracts and  job offers in the past from people in the community. In fact, the community has definitely helped me grow my career in one way or another. But let’s leave the topic about the business value of building and/or being a part of a community for a future blog post.

Question: Fill in the blank. “The one thing I love the most about the SQL Server community is _______ ?” You can leave a comment by clicking here.

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UPDATE: I realized that the T-SQL Tuesday theme for this month is all about the SQL Server Community and is being hosted by Chris Yates (BlogTwitter) so I decided to join the conversation.

Watch Out For Tweet-Pick


If you’ve been following my blog, you may have noticed that there has been some inactivity for the past year, primarily because I was toying around the idea of moving to a different blog platform (from Blogger to WordPress) as well as getting a feel of what Twitter is and how to use it.

I’ve only started using Twitter in the middle of 2009 and used it as a platform for sifting thru different ideas and lessons learned, mostly about leadership and practical Christianity. It’s been two years now and I’ve managed to have a number of followers, about 116 as of date. And while business people and marketing professionals will argue that numbers matter in such a platform as social media, gaining thousands of followers has not been my goal when I started. For me, building and having a platform and a message are more important. It’s like telling a story. If the story is worth telling, people will gather around to listen. It doesn’t matter if there is only one or a few people listening, what matters is that those who hear it will be compelled to spread the word. That’s how I saw Twitter play a role in my involvement in social media. In fact, even though a lot of people know me as an expert in the SQL Server community,  I try to stay away from posting anything technical on my Twitter account. I get tempted every once in a while but that’s roughly less than 2% of my total posts.I want my Twitter posts to be focused around leadership lessons and practical Christianity.

Having said that, I’d be sifting thru my Twitter posts from way back 2009 and blow up the mini-lessons contained in them into full blog posts. I’m excited to revisit the ideas that came thru my mind as I was writing those posts. Stay tuned

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Making Social Networking Work




While I am not an avid fan of social networking, its a fact that even businesses use it for their advantage – hiring people, getting potential business contacts, marketing, etc. Many people just use it for fun while others are reaping the benefits of maximizing their use. Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn to name a few of these social networking sites have become popular due to increased usage. In fact, even Pizza Hut hired a “Twintern” to promote their brand to their Twitter followers. While it has become a hype, making it work for you requires a lot of work. An article in NetworkWorld highlights 10 keys for making social networking work for your advantage. One thing I learned thoughout my experience with people is that whatever works with them works in just about any media. Think about it. Do you remember your classmates from decades ago unless you’ve initiated contact with them on a regular basis? What about the very first job you had? Do the people still remember who you are? How did you know about your current job? It’s all about others – not you. If you jump into the social networking bandwagon thinking you want to be connected to others, first, think about what’s in it for them. I see a lot of posts on these sites promoting products and services without even reading the code of conduct on the usage of the service. A lot of people find this pretty annoying and, hence, simply ignore them. But when people find out that you are there to help them out, they bring down their barriers and are more open to what you have to offer or your need.

Bottom line – if you want social networking to work for you, remember that it is not about you