My SQLskills Immersion Experience

Two weeks ago I had the pleasure of attending the SQLskills Immersion Event on Internals and Performance taught by Paul Randal (blog | @PaulRandal) and Kimberly L. Tripp (blog | @KimberlyLTripp). I had been wanting to attend one of these for quite some time, and when it was announced they would be coming to the Chicago area I knew I couldn't pass it up.

The Class

This is my brain
My goal for the week was simple – become a sponge! I knew Paul and Kimberly would have a tremendous amount of knowledge to share and I was determined to make the most of it.

I didn't do a head count, but I'd say the class had around 30 students in it. There was a pretty wide geographic distribution – people from several states and a few different countries as well. The sessions were highly interactive and we were free to raise our hands and ask questions at any time – even about topics that weren't on the agenda. There was also plenty of time during breaks and in the evenings to ask more in-depth questions and get advice from Kimberly and Paul. You just can't beat that!

The Material

I think the best way to describe the amount of material presented would be "a firehose". Really. There's a ton of material covered in a short amount of time, so the class moves forward at a very rapid pace. There's always time for questions, but this is definitely not SQL Server 101. We went around the room at the beginning of class and pretty much everyone had several years of experience.

One of the handouts was a complete set of lecture slides. Typically I roll my eyes when a presenter hands out a copy of all their slides, but here it was very necessary and helpful. First of all, their slides are very useful and descriptive. They're chock full of information, instead of being the standard 3 to 4 bullet points with one sentence each. Having 60-100 words per slide was definitely not out of the question. Second, having a copy of all the slides meant that I could concentrate my note taking on things they said that weren't on the slides. Being as knowledgeable and experienced as they are, Kimberly and Paul have plenty of stories and anecdotes to share, so those are the kind of things I typed my notes on. I ended up with about 5,000 words of notes per day!

As I said before, this is in no way a "passive" class. Sitting back and letting your eyes glaze over while looking at the PowerPoint screen will get you nowhere except lost very quickly. Luckily Paul and Kimberly make it easy to keep your attention focused where it should be. Their fun and energetic style makes it hard not to stay spellbound. This was definitely an environment where the more you put in, the more you'll get out.

The Instructors

Paul and Kimberly are in a league all their own, which is one of the reasons I wanted to attend their immersion event so badly. They certainly did not disappoint, either. While they kept the class moving, they also did an excellent job of explaining material and answering any questions us attendees could come up with. They also engage in some wonderful banter that could probably be seen as harassment at times if they weren't husband and wife!

Food & Fun

This is my brain on SQLskills!

Let's face it, nerds love food, and there certainly was plenty go to around! There was a hot breakfast each morning with a spread containing roasted potatoes, bacon, sausage, scrambled eggs, pancakes or french toast in addition to cereals, yogurt, and pastries. Lunch was equally excellent. There was also a snack break in the afternoon each day, and a selection of beverages available all day to keep everyone nice and caffeinated.

There were also some great evening events designed to give the attendees and instructors a chance to get to know each other better. Monday night we all met at the hotel bar for a few hours of socializing. I'm not ashamed to admit I was a bit starstruck at first. "Wow, I'm having a beer with Paul Randal and Kimberly Tripp!" Some of the locals were kind enough to take the out-of-towners on a trip to Portillo's to introduce them to real Chicago food!

Tuesday evening, Paul and Kimberly invited both the downtown and suburban chapters of PASS to join us. They started off with a Q&A session for any questions the audience could come up with, and then handed things over to Steve Wright (blog | @SQL_Steve) from SQL Sentry, who gave a great demo of their free Plan Explorer product.

Wednesday we were treated to a presentation by Andy Leonard (blog | @AndyLeonard) who was speaking at the Microsoft office in nearby Downers Grove.

Thursday night was mini-session night, where appetizers were ordered and attendees were invited to give 20 minute presentations on whatever they wanted. Afterwards we again met up in the hotel bar for more socializing.

Friday there was more good times at the hotel bar before everyone went their separate ways. I unfortunately had to leave early that evening as I had other obligations, but I can only imagine that another excellent time was had by all.

Would I go again?

Absolutely – in fact I can't wait! This week was the first of a four-part series and I very much hope to attend the others. This course was everything I expected it to be learning-wise and an excellent time as well. If you're ever looking for advanced SQL Server training, I highly recommend SQLskills Immersion Events!