Friday, February 29, 2008

My Hero!

The big Heroes Happen {Here} launch event is over. I can't believe what a great time I had yesterday (well, yesterday compared to when I wrote this, but not compared to when I'll be able to post it, I'm sure) in Los Angeles. The event itself was like a mini-conference. There was a keynote address from Steve B. (along with an introductory presentation from Tom Brokaw, which was a pretty big surprise) plus three or four tracks worth of breakout sessions, chalk talks, hands-on labs, expo halls for both Microsoft and event sponsors and more - it was not unlike TechEd condensed down to one day with only 200-level content.

Normally at events like this I don't get to go to many sessions; I'm usually either speaking, or working in the hands-on lab area, or performing some other non-attendee role, but yesterday I could basically do whatever I wanted, which was awfully nice.

But the best thing about being one of the "heroes" for the launch event was being able to take one of my heroes with me - my mother.

My mother has been curious (probably for much longer than I've realized) about just what the heck it is that I do. As you can probably imagine, it's often difficult to explain software development, business intelligence and SSIS to a relatively non-technical person. And the fact that in addition to doing this "real work" I also do training and writing and speaking and all that, explaining my work life just gets more complicated.

But my mother has done so many things for me over the years. Not only did she bring me into the world in the first place[1] but she also taught me that I could always do whatever I wanted to do; all I needed to do was to set my mind to it. I owe so much to my mother that words don't do it justice.

And hopefully now she at least has a decent idea of what it is that I do for a living. From one perspective, she got to see the tools I use and the problems that they solve. We attended together a breakout session on SQL Server 2008 business intelligence presented by Tom Casey, with Donald Farmer doing the demonstrations. It was a great session, covering SSAS, SSIS and SSRS, plus a few database engine features related to BI.[2] There wasn't a heck of a lot of technical detail in the session, but that was probably a good thing. We got to see the tools, hear their purpose described, and have them placed into a context that explained why we should care.

From another perspective, my mother also got to see the type of event at which I work and speak. She got to see some very good presenters (Tom and Donald are quite good at what they do) as well as some less good presenters (who shall of course remain unnamed) and we got to talk about what makes the difference between the two.[3]

Best of all, we got to meet many of the people with whom I have worked at various Microsoft shows over the years. Lynn, Karen, Beth, Kim, Kyle, Gordo, Joey - you guys all rock. I talk about these people back at home, but until now I've never been able to introduce these two sides of my world to each other, and it was a great experience for me to be able to do so.

So we'll soon be home, and my mother and I will each have to get back to the mundane details of our usual lives. Hopefully she's come away from this brief trip with a little more understanding of just what it is that she has empowered me to do through her support throughout my life.

And for you reading this - if anyone made it to the end - please ask yourself when was the last time that you did something special for your mother. Odds are it has been too long, hasn't it?


[1] And yes, she can take me back out of it, but she doesn't make a big deal of that fact.

[2] Tom and Donald went out of their way to make her feel at home as well - thanks so much, guys!

[3] I personally believe that there are three required elements for a great technical presenter. First, the presenter really needs to understand the technology - if you don't know your stuff, then you should not be on the stage. Second, the presenter needs to be excited and truly passionate about the material being presented - if you're not passionate, how can you excite and motivate your audience? Third, the presenter must be able to effectively communicate both the technical detail and the passion, placing the information in the context of the audience, so that the audience members understand not just the what, but also the why, and why it matters to them. Sadly (or perhaps not so sadly, because this means I get to speak at more conferences ;-) there are few people out there that bring these three things together, but fortunately we got to see some of them in Los Angeles.

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