Lessons Learned at SQL Saturday #119

SQL Saturday #119, our third one in Chicago, was a total blast. This was only my second time on the organizing committee, but I’ve yet to hear anything negative about the event. From my perspective, everything went incredibly smoothly!

SQL Saturdays are a learning experience for all involved – not just the attendees. Rather than give my usual play-by-play of the weekend, I thought I would share the things I learned and how I’ll make it even more amazing next year:

  • I am not a good predictor of coffee consumption. Full disclosure: I’m also not a coffee drinker. I ordered 25 boxes of coffee (1 box = 10 cups), 15 of regular and 10 decaf. We ended up with about 8 left over, of which 7 were decaf. I’ll try to order a few less next year so there’s less waste.

  • Those in attendance were much more interested in roast beef sandwiches than mostaccioli or salad.  That’s not to say they didn’t get eaten, but we ended up with a ton left over. It’s obviously better to have too much food as opposed to too little, but I’d probably order slightly less of them next time if we ended up going with Portillo’s again.

  • Portillo’s Catering is amazing. They were a pleasure to work with and I wouldn’t hesitate to order from them again. Their crew was at the event on time as promised and had everything set up and ready to go very quickly.

  • Running a food truck is a rough business. Last year’s caterer, Mr. Meatyballs, was every bit as timely and efficient as Portillo’s above, however he no longer operates a truck. Running a food truck is hard work, but it's especially difficult in Chicago, where city ordinances are incredibly unfriendly towards them. Chef Foss wrote an excellent blog post describing what it was like running the Meatyballs Mobile, and why he ultimately scrapped the idea for a sit-down restaurant instead. I applaud his openness and wish him every success in this endeavor.

  • Small sessions can be a good thing. My talk on data compression was during the first timeslot of the day, which I was sharing with some heavy hitters. I ended up with only about 10 people in my room when it came time to start at 9:15, which had me feeling pretty down. About halfway through I realized that this was actually a very good thing – everyone present was genuinely interested in data compression and many were planning on implementing it in the near future. I got some excellent questions and was able to answer all of them, as well as start a few discussions that went a bit deeper than my slide deck covered. It always feels great to fill a room, but it’s even better to know you were able to help everyone that was present.

  • Student Labs were a great success! We tried something new this year and worked with DeVry University to offer some lab classes to their students. This is the second time DeVry has donated the use of their facility, and we were happy to be able to give something back. I wasn’t able to attend these sessions, but the blog posts of those who did are very positive!

  • Mark Vaillancourt (blog | @MarkVSQL) does a great Gilbert Gottfried impression. as witnessed at the after-party.

  • Unicorn masks can get pretty freaky!

Unicorn Mask

Thanks again to everyone for their hard work:

  • The organizing committee for putting it all together: Ted Krueger (blog | @onpnt), Bill Lescher (@blescher), Aaron Lowe (blog | @vendoran), Wendy Pastrick (blog | @wendy_dance), Rich Rousseau (blog | @zigzag219), and myself.
  • The speakers, who gave their time and knowledge to make our schedule awesome.
  • The attendees, without whom there would be no reason to have an event.
  • And last but certainly not least, our sponsors. Without their financial support, none of this could have happened.

I hope to see everyone again next year!