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Thursday, March 10, 2011

Giving Back: Speaking, Blogging, & Community Involvement

I've always said that I wouldn't be where I am today without the generous help and encouragement of the SQL Server Community and that is absolutely true.  It's also true that I wouldn't be continuing to grow and learn as quickly as I am without the continued support of the community.  While I've taken a lot from the community, I believe it's past time for me to start giving back as much as I can.  I've always tried to do my part to help those physically around me, but I never felt I was at a level to give back to the community at large.  I was wrong and I thank those around me who have never stopped encouraging and pushing me.

There Are So Many Opportunities To Give Back
Here's a few ideas to get you started thinking about how you can to give back to the community.  You don't have to do them all, pick one that sounds interesting and start with that.  
  • Join a Local User Group
  • Forums
  • Blog - Start a blog and write about your experiences and interests
  • Start Speaking
    • Choose a topic that you are interested in, passionate about, or want to learn about
    • This ties in great with blog posts
  • Twitter
    • Join and start following those in the SQL Community
    • Follow the #SQLHelp hash tag
    • If you don't have the first clue about Twitter, check out Brent's Twitter Book
Don't be afraid, whatever you decide to do.  You don't have to know everything or be "an expert" to participate and give back to the community.  Just remember to be kind and not be rude.  The SQL Community is very welcoming, appreciative and helpful.  There will be times when you will be wrong and that's OK.  Learn from your mistakes and move on.  

If you decide you want to present, pick a topic that interests you.  Case in point, after being asked to co-present a session at the ONSSUG on Source Control for DBA's, I decided I wanted to continue speaking  (ok, maybe there was a little prodding from Allen White (blog | twitter) which I truly thank him for) but I really did want to continue presenting because I enjoyed it.  I knew I wanted to present but I wasn't sure what topic to pick.  Then I saw that someone posted a session request for Service Broker for SQL Saturday #60.  I thought, "I've always wanted to learn more about Service Broker" and now was a good chance.  I started learning Service Broker, working with it and building a presentation.  It took a lot of work but I enjoyed every minute of it.  I submitted the session for SQL Saturday #60 and it was accepted.  I'll admit, it was a little nerve racking giving my first solo presentation at a SQL Saturday but it was a great experience and I wouldn't trade it for anything.  The session received good reviews and I was pleased for my first presentation.  I would however suggest, that if you are thinking about starting to present you start with a local user group or even peers from your company.  Then move up to a SQL Saturday, followed by SQL Rally and then onto the SQL PASS Summit or SQL Connections.  When you are presenting there will be times where someone will ask a question you don't know the answer to and that's OK.  Be honest, tell them you don't know, but also let them know that you will look into it and get back to them.  You can let them know via an email or better yet, tell them to watch your blog and write about it.  Again, the point is you don't have to know everything there is to know about a subject to present and to give back to the community.  Talk about what you know and learn what you don't that interests you.  If you find a topic interesting your presentations will be that much more interesting to the audience.

The same goes for blogging, write about what interests you and your experiences.  Just because someone already blogged about a topic doesn't mean you can't.  Make the topic your own by including personal experiences or situations and how you dealt with them.  If you reference someone else's material or blog be sure to give credit to them and link to the material.  Whatever you do, don't use someone else's material as your own.  

Balance Your Time
Whatever you decide to do, make sure you balance your time.  It's easy to get sucked in and spend a lot of time on whatever it is you are doing.  Don't burn yourself out in a short period of time.  Make sure you leave time for yourself and your family.  Having a wife and two young boys (ages 6 & 3) myself, I know it's not easy to try to fit everything in and find a good balance, I'm still working on it.  Set some time aside specifically for doing whatever it is you choose to do and stick to it as best as possible.  It's a balancing act that will be forever changing as your life and interests change but it's possible to do it.  Remember you don't have to do everything all at once.  Some things make sense to do together, some don't.  Look around, check out your options and choose what works for you.  

What Am I Doing?
Personally, I started by getting involved with my local user group, ONSSUG, which lead me into starting this blog and presenting.  Eventually, I'd love to become more active on some of the forums but for now that is waiting until I become more comfortable with my current routine.  This blog isn't where I want it to be yet, but I'm working on it and it will get there.  As I said earlier, I'm also presenting at user groups and SQL Saturdays.  Check out my Events page to see where I'll be presenting.  If you're there, stop by and say 'Hi', I'd love to meet you.

My Thank You's
To the SQL Community as whole, I say thank you from the bottom of my heart for being so open, welcoming and encouraging to myself and everyone else.  This community is truly the best!
There are a few people that I need to personally thank for their efforts in bringing me out of my "offline shell"...

First, to Allen White (blog | twitter), thank you, I couldn't have done all this without you.  Thank you for welcoming me into the user group and getting me involved.  You are and continue to be a great guide and mentor.  

Secondly, to Sarah Dutkiewicz (blog | twitter) who was one of the first people I met at the first user group meeting I attended and who has continually encouraged me and provided great insights.  She was also kind enough to give me one of the MSDN subscriptions she received for being awarded her MVP status.  I can't thank you enough.

To Brent Ozar (blog | twitter) & Tom LaRock (blog | twitter), thank you for inspiring me to blog and always being willing to talk, listen, & offer advice to not only myself but anyone in the community!  I met both of you at my first PASS Summit in 2009 and that was where I first learned how truly wonderful the SQL Community is.  It took a couple of years but I finally got my blog up and running.

To Paul Randal (blog | twitter) & Kimberly Tripp (blog | twitter), thank you for everything you do and the knowledge you share.  My first experience with the SQL community and conferences was sitting in one of your pre-cons at SQL Connections in 2007.  I was amazed and inspired at your dedication and willingness to talk to and help anyone who came your way.

Summing It All Up
Give back to the community in any way you can.  Help make it even better and more amazing than it already is.  You don't have to be an expert to do any of this, you simply need to have the interest and desire to participate, learn and share your experiences with others.  The SQL Community is great because so many people want to learn and help others learn what they already know!


  1. Excellent post Brian. Pretty much sums up how I feel about things too :)