This past weekend, I had the pleasure of attending SQL Saturday #192 in Tampa, FL, put on by the Tampa Bay SQL Server User Group.This being the first SQL Saturday of the year for my southeastern region, I was pretty excited to pop in the car and make the trek on down to Tampa.
Originally, I hadn’t planned on attending the event — Blissfully unaware, I’d already booked myself for the Richmond, Virginia SQL Saturday the following weekend.  Fortunately, though, I happened upon a tweet mentioning the great pre-con sessions being offered and I was sold.About a year prior, I’d been really getting into reporting services and had been Googling for local classes for some additional in person SSRS training.  I didn’t find much, but I did find a class being advertised as something called a “pre-con” preceding something called a “SQL Saturday” being given by somebody named Jessica Moss.  Sadly, this was about a week before the class so it was already very sold out with a full wait list.  “Maybe next time!” I said to myself, and filed away the idea of a SQL Saturday in my head for the future.  Now, a year and 5 SQL Saturdays for me later, it appeared that a second chance for a SSRS class with Jessica Moss had appeared.  Back-to-back SQL Saturdays in opposite directions from Atlanta for me then!

Friday morning, I attended Jessica Moss’s (B | T) “Taking the Next Steps with Reporting Services” pre-con session.  A pre-conference session is a full day class on a single topic given by a single presenter.  They’re typically given the day before a SQL Saturday and typically fairly small class sizes.  Additionally, they’re incredibly affordable.  We had a very small class size for the pre-con, which was great — it was very easy to learn, ask questions, and chit-chat.  Jessica did a great job of covering a large array of SSRS topics, many of which I was familiar with and many that I hadn’t yet worked with.  For anybody serious about SSRS, I highly recommend it!

Saturday morning kicked off the main SQL Saturday event.  This year, for the first time, the event was held at Hillsborough Community College in Ybor City.  Generally speaking, this was a great venue and provided far more space than the previous venue at K-Force.  My only complaints were that parking was a little bit confusing if you weren’t in the main lot (not too bad) and the event was actually spread out between two non-adjacent buildings — which made finding the second building a bit confusing.  Other than a little confusion though, the venue was very nice and provided plenty of room in each session I attended.

Rather than simply dropping off raffle tickets at vendor booths, the SQL Saturday Tampa crew had a sort of bingo card /scavenger hunt to fill out.  Each square on the card represented a vendor or person and it was necessary to find people to check off all the boxes to be turned in for a raffle at the end.  This was the first time I’d seen this idea used at a SQL Saturday event and I felt it did a very good job of getting me to walk up to and talk to people I otherwise may not have.

Throughout the day, I attended all six sessions and was very pleased with all my selections.  I felt all of the material was interesting and top notch and all the speakers did a great job.  A couple of sessions really stood out to me in particular:

  • A Big Data Primer” by Stacia Misner (B | T) — I’m constantly hearing about Big Data, but not in an industry that has any use or real exposure to it.  Stacia did a great job giving an overview of the industry, technology, and terminology involved.  I left the session having a much better understanding of the concept of Big Data and a working explanation of how Big Data differs from regular? data.
  • Way Too Much Fun with Reporting Services” by Stacia Misner (B | T) — Another great session by Stacia!  In a nutshell, Stacia has put together a Words with Friends online game using SSRS as the engine.  While the game itself has its flaws (I think anyone would agree that SSRS is probably not the best tool for the job of creating a game) it was incredibly eye opening seeing SSRS used as a platform that actually changed data rather than just showing a read only view of data.
  • Exploring Your Data with Power View” by Jessica Moss (B | T) — Power View is a technology big on my want list that most likely I’ll explore on this blog.  But that’s a story for another day.  Jessica gave a great overview of Power View relying heavily on Microsoft’s online Sales Demos to show us a variety of the Power View functionality.  I’m definitely looking forward to doing some implementation with this!
  • Becoming a Data Professional – Taking it to the Next Level” by Buck Woody (B | T) — for my last session of the day, I visited Buck Woody for an overview on the current state of data professionals.  Hands down, Buck is one of the most interesting speakers I’ve ever listened to.  He has a great mix of humor and fact that creates a very compelling presentation.  It didn’t hurt that all of his information was great, either!
With the conclusion of the day’s session, we gathered for the traditional closing words and raffle.  There was a great turnout even until the end and everybody was very appreciative of the hard work in putting on the event.  Additionally, I won a copy of “Visualizing Data with Microsoft Power View” by Brian Larson to add to my reading list.  A great event all around and thanks to everyone for your hard work in organizing it!
On my way out of Tampa the following morning, I decided to hit up a couple of local geocaches in the area.  For anybody who hasn’t, I highly recommend you hit up some of the caches by CacheMedics — they’re world class!