Another weekend, another new city, another SQL Saturday. This was my first trip to Kansas City, and it was a great time, once again, made by the people I met. I also managed to cross two items off my list of things that I have been wanting to do. On Friday, I landed and headed to the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, a place that I had hoped to get to for quite a few years, even since I read Only the Ball Was White. It’s a nice walk through the history of a game that I have enjoyed for most of my life.
On Friday night, our hosts, Bill Fellows (blog | @billinkc) and Mike G (blog | @mikesql) had rented a suite at Kauffman Stadium for the Rays v Royals game. I managed to get there just as the game started, removing my hat for the National Anthem and seeing the first pitch. It was a great event for the speakers where I got to see a number of friends from Colorado that had come over (Chris Shaw, Marc Beacom, Jason Horner, Andrew Dykstra, and Carlos Bossy), and spent a bit of time with them as well as a number of other out of town speakers (Wendy Pastrick, Arie Jones, Kevin Boles, Tom LaRock) as well as a few local people that helped organize the event. As is usually the case, the event broke up around 9, with a few people heading to a local amusement park for a roller coaster ride, and the rest of us seeing the game end before heading back to hotels for a little last minute prep.
I rarely sleep well before these events, often worried I might oversleep, but I was a little more relaxed this time. Being just a couple miles from the event center helped, and I got going around 6:30, heading down to the event center, Cerner’s Riverport Campus.
It’s a former casino, Sam’s Town, that was purchased by the Cerner corporation for training and events. MikeSQL had a tour on his blog, which had me looking forward to seeing it in person, and I have to say that I was impressed. There are old restaurants still standing, with nice booths and tables where we enjoyed some great BBQ for lunch, as well as a number of nice, modern, renovated training rooms with good A/V equipment.
The panorama above shows what it would look like when you first came down the stairs into the lobby. The acoustics were a little loud in there for the end of day prize drawing, but otherwise it was a great spot for vendors to setup and people to walk around.
The morning was a little hectic, with name badges and raffle tickets not quite sorted, but the speakers pitched in and we managed to get everything sorted in the lobby. The facility prevented crowds, though it was a little confusing for some people finding a couple of the rooms. Two were separate from the others, and the map wasn’t easy to decode, but there were plenty of volunteers around to help direct people. I also saw Kathi Kellenberger, longtime friend, and her crew that had come over from St. Louis.
I had the first session of I the day, presenting to a small crowd, about 15 people, and I think it went well. There was a gentleman there with his 13 year old daughter, which was impressive. She had a few questions at the end and is hoping to get into Harvard. Being motivated at 13 is a great start and I wish her luck.
I alternated the day with a few sessions and some time talking with people. I caught the Women in Technology lunch panel that discussed how to get younger women interested in technology. Some nice ideas, from the panel, but I’d love to see some 20-somethings giving their opinions as the world has changed quickly in some ways and I wonder how they view the world. I also caught Bill Fellow’s session on CLR, which I’d like to do in Denver, and also caught a bit of Arie Jones’ talk on Resource Governer.
The event ran smoothly, and wrapped up with a number of vendors drawing names from their buckets for prizes, as well as the organizers drawing for absentee vendors. Lunch was good, a BBQ buffet with plenty of food and the extra donated to the City Union Mission. No major snags I saw, though I did hear one speaker left early and missed a second session. The BI track was very popular, which tells me that at least in KC, people really are hungry for knowledge.
The only thing I might look to improve for next year is a little more water/soda for the afternoon as we ran out around 3:30 or so. I might also look to go with only 4 or 5 tracks, and maybe some repeat BI sessions that try to satisfy some needs from the local community. My only other recommendation would be to try to schedule the out of town speakers at different times. Tom LaRock, Karen Lopez, Marc Beacom, Russ Loski, and myself were all speaking at the same time.
I might also move the after event to a closer location, but locating it downtown in the Power and Light District at McFadden’s was interesting. We ended up moving to another, quieter location so that we could talk.
As usual, the people made the event for me. I had great talks with Peter Trast and Karen Lopez during the day, and a late night debating the state of IT workers and motivation with Katie (?) and Carlos Bossy until 11:30. The BBQ was good, although I was sorry that I missed the BBQ crawl among a few places on Friday. I didn’t get enough, and I’m already looking forward to next year.