Oct 27

Experience at SQL Saturday Fargo

SQL Saturday is a free conference organized by PASS organizations around the country and the world.  Fargo, ND hosted their first SQL Saturday on April 27, 2013.  The day was full of learning, socializing and a surprise celebrity appearance.
SQL Saturday was originally organized by PASS to give beginning presenters a venue to speak at.  Some speakers at these conferences are presenting for the first time while others tour nationally.  The conferences are a great way to improve your technical knowledge while meeting other professionals in the same field.
A colleague and I made the road trip up to Fargo from Minneapolis, MN.  The conference started early on Saturday morning on the Microsoft campus and ran the entire day.  There were four tracks running simultaneously to provide variety for the 150 attendees.  Many of the other speakers were also from Minnesota and there were even a few who had flown in from other parts of the country.
My presentation was the first of the morning.  This was a great time because then I could enjoy the rest of the day learning from other presenters.  I could also follow an interesting subplot that developed: an attendee told me that Bill Gates was on campus.
My topic was “Data Mining Deep Dive: Clustering”.  SQL Server provides tools for predictive analysis including many popular data mining algorithms.  Few people use these features and even fewer are aware of how to optimize their results.  My talk was meant to give people more familiarity with these algorithms so they could use them effectively.  There were about ten people in the presentation which I thought was a good turn out considering how specialized the topic was.
After my talk I enjoyed several other presentations during the day.  I learned about more exotic index types from Jes Borland and automating SQL Server administration using PowerShell from Jim Dorame.   As the sessions went by we noticed a podium and folding chairs being set up in an open area adjacent to the conference area.
While I was waiting for a presentation by Ross McNeely on data analysis in F# I walked out in the hall and though a pair of double doors.  As I tried to get back to the talk, I saw through the double doors an entourage come up the stairs.  Then suddenly Bill Gates was in the hall talking and chatting with people.  I was star-struck.  Security quickly ushered Bill into a meeting room to prepare for his presentation and I was directed to return to Ross’ talk.

Unfortunately, by the time we were out in the hall again Bill’s talk was almost finished.  He had presented on his work with the Bill Gates Foundation and how they are striving to help reduce suffering in the developing world.  After finishing, he shook some hands in the crowd as he walked out and then disappeared into the twilight of a perfect spring evening.