Top Ten Things I Learned Last Week – SQL Cruise 01 Edition

Anyone who even casually reads this blog knows all about SQL Cruise by now.  If not, then there is an every-growing wealth of information about this endeavor that Brent Ozar (Web|Twitter) and I just produced last week.  We had an amazing cross-section of cruisers on this first SEA-QL training event: senior-level consultants, experienced DBAs, and the Accidental DBAs that many of us were at one point.  Just as Brent and I had hoped, the learning came from all directions: Instructor-to-Student.  Student-to-Instructor.  Most importantly: Student-to-Student. 

All this sprung from our desire when constructing the event to encourage the social-learning that one obtains when attending conferences, off-site extended training, or boot camps.  Brent and I are not the only technical professionals that feel that you learn more from your fellow attendees than you do on the slide more-often-than-not when attending training events such as these.  It’s the reason why I don’t believe in online training: you are too disconnected from your fellow student and trainer in such scenarios.

So what were the Top Ten Things I Learned Last Week while on our first SQL Cruise?

  1. Presenting at 7:00 am in a lounge with weak coffee on a moving ship is an interesting experience.  Looking out on a room full of sun-burnt, pre-caffeinated SQL Professionals eager to learn (even at such an early hour) was extremely encouraging however.  We were in a lounge (okay, after hours it was a bar) for the first day’s training because there was another event in the conference room during our session time.  I never thought I’d be presenting in a room that also had a bar.  I had not put on a show in a bar since PASS Summit 2009 my single days in college.  Catching a glimpse of sea swells also made for a unique experience as well.  Everyone stayed awake though.  I applaud everyone for that.
  2. We could achieve perfect attendance!  With the exception of one lone attendee whose phone went to roam and switched off of “ship time” causing her to show up 1 hour late to day one training we had (over)100% attendance.  Yes, you heard that right – we even had some of the non-technical guests of our students sit though some of our sessions.  Even though the weather was gorgeous, the drinks were cold and strong, and the people-watching was stellar we did not have a single student sneak out for any of the other attractions available to those on board the Carnival Imagination.
  3. The SQL Community is unlike any other technical community out there today.  From the staff of volunteers of SQL Saturday #40 in Miramar Florida (Scott Klein and Gareth Swanepoel in particular) to those Cruisers who now what to go back to their respective areas of the country to start volunteering – I was blown away by the generosity and the desire to contribute to the community as a whole.  Scott and Gareth have already approached us about coordinating a SQL Cruise event with next year’s SQL Saturday in South Florida – if we can arrange sponsorship, you can be assured we’ll be there!
  4. We’ve touched upon something.  We already have heard of others that would now like to do SQL __________________ involving family vacations, hiking, trips to the zoo, horseback riding, cooking classes, dental visits, etc.  While I wish these people success I also found it humbling that when Brent and I casually mentioned that perhapsat some future date we would not be presenting on a SQL Cruise, the current crew of Cruisers did not take kindly to the idea.  We were told – without a shadow of a doubt – that is is not just the cruise concept that attracted our Cruisers to this event; the trainers were the draw.  This caught me by surprise.  I really thought – like so many of the imitators that I’m hearing about – that this was about the Cruise.  I was assured it was not.  What is was about can’t be bottled and reproduced. 
  5. GUIDS are absorbent.  Okay, this was only a hunch based upon one Cruiser’s husband being called to the Gulf of Mexico to use the power of SQL Server BI to help aid in the BP Cleanup.  Is it that GUIDs are fashioned from human hair?  Not sure.  I just know better than to use them as a primary key. 
  6. Not all DBAs float.  One of our Cruisers and his lovely wife arranged for a local snorkeling trip with an ex-pat from Switzerland.  Nine of us left a local marina for almost four hours of snorkeling in three different zones of varying depths and climes.  No matter what I could not float.  It finally took me wearing a ski vest in order to obtain boyancy.  I was able to get some good shots and video of our group though when setting out the second dive location.
  7. Fish do poop.  Thanks to getting a little too close to a school of some larger pink fish (yeah, I’m an expert – not.) I received a face full.  I was the butt of all jokes for the remainder of our time in Cozumel.  But I also found that a decent quantity of tequila removes that fresh fish poo smell.  And no, there are no photos.
  8. Shorter sessions with more depth may be the key.  Our original concept was to provide longer sessions with more depth.  However, in listening to our Cruisers, we may need to switch up the format a bit and include more sessions that are shorter in duration – but just as deep of a dive as originally planned.  Therefore: present more sessions on narrower topics with more focus.
  9. Allow for more discussion time in classes.  We had a great deal of time outside of class to answer questions, collaborate, and interact on a variety of topics.  However, there is something to be said for discussion while the topic is being presented.  We compiled so much subject matter into our sessions that we found ourselves running over on time or having to jump over sections of our talks in order to allow the in-session discussions that developed.
  10. We are creatures of habit.  When it came to finding our fellow SQL Cruisers we knew one of two places you’d find someone.  During the day, when not in class it was the aft starboard deck above the adult-only hot tubs.  It was just large enough to fit our crew comfortably and everyone else on board tended to leave us to our impromptu social gatherings all staged from that area.  At night after dinner a large batch of SQL professionals (what I call a grouping of more than two SQL Professionals) could be found at a specific table inside the Dynasty Lounge for some truly memorable Karaoke.  There was one standout though: a fifty-ish theatre director from the Midwest who did a fantastic off-the-cuff censored version of Snoop Dog’s Gin and Juice.  My wife had to go over and ask what he did for a living because he looked to be a mainframe programmer.  The entire performance was quirky, professionally-presented, successful, entertaining, and energetic.  Just like our first attempt at SQL Cruise.