SQL Saturdays and Why We Have Them

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.

Smaller events can be held on a very small budget, especially if you can secure the venue for free.

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:

  • A venue – Free
  • Lanyards and name badge holders – $100
  • A nice variety of sessions thanks to our amazing speakers – Free
  • Lunch to our volunteers and the attendees opt to pay for lunch – $400
  • Coffee and donuts in the morning – $300
  • Speaker dinner – $500
  • Random snacks and drinks – $300

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.

About me:

  • Attended my first SQL Saturday in 2010
  • Started speaking in 2011
  • Spoken at 38 SQL Saturdays
  • Helped organize 12 SQL Saturdays
  • Chapter Leader – Columbus GA SQL Server Users Group
  • PASS Regional Mentor


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SQL Server: Consolidation Tactics and Best Practices

My very first course has been published on Pluralsight – SQL Server: Consolidation Tactics and Best Practices. In this course I spend just over two hours sharing my experiences and knowledge of consolidating numerous clients over the years.

I had a lot of fun working on this course and owe so much to Paul Randal and my team for their help and guidance as I learned the process of recording for Pluralsight. A big thanks to my editor Jason as well.

The course modules are:

  • Introduction
  • General Considerations
  • Consolidation Candidates
  • Large Single Instance
  • Multiple Instance
  • Virtualization
  • Migration Strategies

You can view the course here.

The next course I am working on is SQL Server: Understanding and Using Azure SQL Database which should be available later this year.

<WOW> SQLskills now has more than 145 hours of online training available on Pluralsight. You can see all of our courses here.

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Microsoft SQL Server MVP


Today I received an email notifying me that I have been awarded the Microsoft “MVP” award for my second year. An excerpt from Microsoft’s website states

“The Microsoft Most Valuable Professional (MVP) Award is our way of saying thank you to exceptional, independent community leaders who share their passion, technical expertise, and real-world knowledge of Microsoft products with others.”  reference

Since being awarded MVP last year I have had a number of changes in my life. I left IT with the bank I worked at to join the Information Security team and in January 2015 I joined SQLskills.com as a principal consultant. The past 12 months have been a whirlwind of excitement, learning, and new challenges and I am proud and humbled to be part of such an amazing community known as the #sqlfamily.

Congratulations to all new and renewed MVP’s.

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I am joining SQLskills

IMG_0603 (2)I am no longer just a SQLskills Insider, I am now a SQLskills employee. I have accepted an offer to join an incredible team of SQL Server professionals and continue growing in my SQL career.  I am very excited to be working with some of the best in the industry and a bit nervous to leave a job I have had for the past 17 years.

I started with my current day job employer 17 years ago and have served numerous roles there. Working for this employer has been good for me. I have grown so much in my IT career, had the opportunity to attend lots of good training, travel, and work with state of the art technology, lead teams of technical people, manage multiple teams of technical people and meet the woman who became my wife. It has been a good ride, however I love working with SQL server and have found the only way for me to really continue increasing that skill set is consulting.

I am super blessed to have been a part of Linchpin People for the past 2 1/2 years. During that time I have been able to work with an awesome team and be able to work with numerous customers helping to solve their SQL related issues. In working with Linchpin People I grew to love being able to work in various environments and help people with complex issues.

I have shared with friends for years that the next logical move for me would be full time consulting. The past two years has solidified that for me. I have been asked by so many people over the past few years why I am still at my day job. Honestly, the place is a good place to work, during my employment for several years we were listed on Forbes top places to work. In 1998 we were listed as #1. When people would make those comments I would joke and list out the attributes of what the job would have to consist of to get me to leave. Well, I am leaving so you can safely assume that my dream job found me.

As luck, fate, destiny (chose your word) would have it, I ran into Paul Randal at a social event and we started catching up on the past year. During the conversation Paul said some things, I said some things and after some follow up conversations I was accepting an offer to become a SQLskills employee. <how awesome is that>

It will be sad to be leaving behind friends at my day job and to be leaving Linchpin People, however I have not been able to wipe the smile off of my face to be having the opportunity to live out a dream of becoming a full time consultant and taking my skill set to the next level.

I would like to thank Andy Leonard, Brian Moran and Mike Walsh for all their support over the past few years. Their love, support and mentoring has helped me grow into who I am today.

Read Paul Randal’s post announcing it here.

Posted in SQLServerPedia Syndication, Training/Events | 10 Comments

Getting Your Worth the Struggles with Moving Ahead

I often get asked for advice on how to get started in a career as a DBA or in IT in general. I make the often regurgitated information such as getting a few good books, a copy of SQL Server Developer Edition, watch webinars, attend user groups and SQL Saturdays, ask to do some free work for a local charity or ask to help out on a project from someone else in the field to get some real world experience, etc.

Once someone gets their start in the IT field there is still much mentoring that needs to occur. Two of the major things I have found newbie’s need to work on is continuing education and on negotiating their worth.  I recently put together a chart to use as an illustration to show some discrepancies I have seen.  I have several friends in the HR field and I have requested some round numbers on entry level salaries for a DBA I, DBA II, Senior DBA and Lead DBA.

The following numbers may not be true for your area, however the delta’s between the positions should be similar.  The numbers I got averaged from 45k, 53k, 70k, and 83k.  When asking what are the difference in requirements between the positions it really came down to time and experience in the field. DBA I = 1-2 years, DBA II 3-5 years, Senior DBA 5+ years and Lead DBA was 7+ with some discretion on what makes a lead.

With that being said, lets break down the entry level positions and see how many years working in each role you would have to spend in order to increase your salary to reach the next level position. DBARaises

Based on the numbers to the left, a level one DBA would have to spend 6 years working with a 3% raise in order to earn the same beginning wage as a level two DBA, 15 years to earn that of a Sr and 21 years for that of a Lead.

For a level two DBA, they would have to work 10 years to earn the starting pay of a Sr and nearly 15 years for that of a Lead. For a Sr level DBA, they would have to work 6 years to earn the starting pay for a Lead DBA.

What does this mean for those entry and mid level people starting out in IT?

The reason I am writing this is to show that very early into your career your knowledge gain will outpace your salary gain. As IT professionals how do we address this issue?  It is a tough spot to be in. For one your company has invested in you to get this knowledge as most of it is probably from on the job training, possibly getting to go to some paid training events, etc.  Chances are you have also given of your personal time to attend free weekend training events, purchased books on your own dime, spent your personal time reading blogs, watching webinars, reading books etc.

You have proven yourself, you have proven your loyalty to your company and are working hard to do the best you can for them right? What can/do you do to address the money situation? Often times I see individuals that will job hop. An article on Forbes even addressed the job hoping situation. “Employees Who Stay In Companies Longer Than Two Years Get Paid 50% Less” There are some very valid points to Cameron’s logic in his article however there are a lot of miss truths in his article. The point I am trying to make here is that highly skilled workers such as those in IT are often times finding they have to job hop in order to get decent raises.

Several years ago I was told that IT Professionals should be interviewing every two years if for nothing else to keep your interview skills up. During this same talk I heard a statistic that the average tenure of a DBA is 18 months. I didn’t believe it at first but as I paid attention on social media it does seem like every week another person is taking on a new role with another company. I often ask those who changed jobs what was the motivating factor. For many it was salary, others it was opportunity to work on different projects or they felt they had outgrown the company they worked at.

So what do you do if you like your employer but you are caught in this very low merit increase dilemma?

I like to ask people when was the last time their manager came up and gave them a pile of money for doing a good job? Occasionally someone will say this happened for them in the form of a bonus of some sort, but typically I get laughed at. If you think about it from an employer perspective, they work for shareholders. There job is to maximize profits and minimize expense right? We as employees are a big expense. The company has to juggle keeping talent while trying to keep payroll down.

I also like to ask people “when is the last time you went to your boss and presented a business case that you deserve a salary adjustment”, sadly most of the time the answer is never. For those that have asked for the salary adjustment the response varies. Some have been able to get an increase because they presented the data and facts to justify the company investing in them. For others they have presented the case and the company just cannot or is not willing to invest in that individual. In those cases it is in the best interest of the IT Professional to begin seeking employment elsewhere. It doesn’t mean it is a bad company or bad management, it could simply mean the IT resource has out grown the companies need.

The important part is for us IT Professionals to know our worth, keep striving to increase our knowledge and always do the best job we can. As I tell my scouts “Do Your Best” or as Lowe’s reminds me “Never Stop Improving”

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#Summit14 Embarcadero Book Signing

Tim Radney

The blessings continue as Embarcadero offered to support my new book by hosting a book signing and providing 100 copies to PASS Summit 2014 attendees. You will need to come by booth 224 on Thursday November 6th between 3pm – 4pm to be able to pick up a signed copy by myself and John Sterrett. My good friend Pinal Dave will also be present and hopefully will sign the back cover for you since he was so kind to share his feedback about the book on the back cover.

Don’t miss out on being able to pick up a signed copy of our book covering SQL Server 2014 backup and recovery techniques. This book includes step by step instructions on getting started with backup encryption and backing up to Windows Azure Storage. After reading this book you should not have any issues defining a solid backup and recovery plan for your organization.


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Managing Geeks – A journey of leading by doing

I am proud to share that my good friend Andy Leonard has just released a new book. This is also the second book published by LinchpinPress.

Over the years Andy has blogged about his experiences with managing technical teams. Andy wrote over 50 post on the subject and has shared some excellent insight into his experiences. My only regret with reading this new book is that I didn’t read it years ago before stepping into managing my own set of geeks.

Our good friend Karen Forster was able to take all of Andy’s blog post and compile them into a flowing series and turn Andy’s random lessons into a fantastic work of art. I was honored to be able to work with Andy and Karen on getting this book to print and in doing so got a sneak peak before it was published. I was also able to recruit my brother Todd Radney of Yesterdays Photography to take the cover photo of this book as well.

Linchpin People will have 100 copies of this book available at their booth at the PASS Summit for Andy to hold a book signing. Make sure to find out the times so you can get a free copy, or if you can’t wait for Summit or will not be able to attend, pick up a copy now on Amazon.


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SQL Server 2014 Backup and Recovery

In early October my third book was published. I have been blessed to be able to work with Joes2Pros for my first two books, however Joes2Pros is focusing its time and energy into video content. When SQL 2014 was released and new features were added for backups, there was a need to revise my first book titled SQL Backup and Recovery.

In October a publishing arm of Linchpin People LLC was formed. Linchpin Press was birthed and I am happy to announce that the first book published was SQL Server 2014 Backup and Recovery. The book has been available on Amazon for a few weeks and there will be two book signings at the SQL PASS Summit next week in Seattle.  So if you are going to be at the PASS Summit, track us down and get a signed copy.

With my first book, my friend Rick Morelan gave me the opportunity to become a published author, then for my second book I was able to collaborate with Rick and Pinal Dave for a SQL 2012 Administration book. For this last project I was able to pay it forward and collaborate with my good friend John Sterrett. My friend John is a brilliant SQL Server guy, blogs a lot, speaks at events all over the place and had a great story to tell about how important knowing how to restore your databases can be.

In additional to collaborating with John on the book, we had the most awesome editor in the world. Karen Forster is a miracle worker. John and I both learned a great deal from Karen and she is fantastic to work with. Also my brother Todd Radney of Yesterdays Photography took the cover photo. It was very cool to be able to share this experience with my brother.

With that said, I am proud to introduce the very first Linchpin Press book.


Posted in Backups/Recovery | 2 Comments

SQL Server 2008 SP4 Released

On September 30th 2014 Microsoft released service pack 4 for SQL Server 2008. This service pack contains all cumulative updates since SP3 was released as well as all updates from previous service packs.

Today begins the day we should all begin testing in Dev with SP4. You can get information about this service pack and links to download here http://support.microsoft.com/kb/2979596

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What PASS is to me #sqlpass

I found out about the Professional Association for SQL Server (PASS) in 2008 when I attended my first PASS Community Summit “SQL Server Heroes UNITE”. For those who don’t know what the PASS Summit is, it is the largest SQL Server and BI convention in the world. A SQL Nerd Herd. While attending the PASS Community Summit I learned about our extensive SQL Community on twitter, learned about SQL Saturday’s and PASS Chapters.

I quickly got much more involved in the SQL Community by attending and speaking at SQL Saturdays and user groups across the south east. By my involvement with the community I have been able to increase my knowledge of SQL Server much more quickly by having access to very talented SQL Server professionals. Our community is strong. I have connected with other professionals from all over the world.

Over the past six years I have watched and helped PASS grow.  Way back in 2008 the SQL Saturday count was low, the first one I attended was in the 30’s. The first one I spoke at was in the 60’s. Now they are in the 300’s. The PASS Summit continues to draw record crowds. SQL Saturdays have been offering full day precon sessions for years. We have 24 Hours of PASS, SQL Rally, SQL Saturdays all over the globe, a record number of PASS Chapters, BI focused SQL Saturdays, virtual PASS Chapters, and more.

Over the past few years I have taken over the local PASS Chapter in my town, have been a regional mentor for my region, was recognized as an outstanding PASS volunteer, have spoken at over 30 SQL Saturdays, dozens of user groups, given several webinars, written books, blogged, etc. None of this would have been possible had it not been for PASS to provide the infrastructure and our awesome SQL Community.

Over the past couple of years PASS has tried to grow into the Business Analytics space. A new event called PASS BAC has been started. The Business Analytics world is getting a lot of attention and rightfully so. You can just as easily interchange Business with Data. I have been working with a data scientist over the past few months. This person works heavily with MySQL, Microsoft SQL Server, R, SAP, Excel, Oracle, Hadoop, MongoDB and other technologies. For this person he doesn’t really care about the database engine he is pulling data from, however he does care a bit about where he is storing his analytic data. Learning about this persons role has been eye opening.

As this field continues to grow, PASS has seen an opportunity to expand and try to grow into this region of data analytics. This is evident with the creation of the BAC event. Part of this decision ledPASS to drop the full name of the chartered organization from published content. PASS will be simply PASS instead of the Professional Association for SQL Server. When this announcement went out via a blog post, it was met with a mixed reaction from the community. My personal reaction was a feeling of hurt. I felt a bit jaded that the community that was built for SQL Server users was going to lose the attention on the Microsoft data platform. The initial communication sharing the news of PASS dropping professional and SQL Server from the name was not as clear as it could have been. It caught many of us off guard. In reaction to the community chatter, our current PASS President addressed it well in a blog post. I loved the analogy of building a bigger umbrella.

Does this change affect my PASSion for PASS, no. PASS is still an awesome part of our SQL community that I love. Our community makes PASS, however PASS helps provide a lot of the infrastructure to help grow the community too. Will I continue to share the experience of PASS with others as I travel and speak about Microsoft SQL Server, absolutely. Should you be a member of PASS, heck yes. If you are not a current member, it would greatly benefit you to sign up to “connect, share and learn”. sqlpass.org


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