Super w00t! I just read the most amazing news at http://blogs.technet.com/b/dataplatforminsider/archive/2011/12/08/help-the-sqlfamily-give-back.aspx
I’ve blogged recently about how small things that the data community does can make a significant difference in the world. The Microsoft SQL Server Team will donate $50, up to $20,000, to the Pragmatic Works Foundation. The foundation will provide training to returning veterans: SQL Server, soft skills and interview coaching.
We just learned about the Pragmatic Works Foundation, a non-profit that provides free technical training to veterans, the jobless, and underemployed. In 2012 the foundation will be embarking on a campaign to bring better jobs for returning veterans. The classes will be taught at military base hotspots around the United States and will primarily focus on introductory technical training for SQL Server and soft skill training and interview guidance. At the end of the class, job placement assistance is given to help the veterans find jobs. The cost to train each veteran for a week is approximately $50.
So, for the first 400 submissions*, the SQL Server team will donate $50 per submission to the Pragmatic Works Foundation. You can submit your #SQLFamily stories to email@example.com, along with your name and email address. Or, send us a link to your blog or your Twitter handle if you post your story online. We will feature a selection of submitted stories weekly on this blog into the New Year.
I can’t even describe how excited I am that a relatively small number of people, sharing their knowledge and passion with each other, have managed to grow this into something that can touch so many lives. And that we have more opportunities to make an even great difference in the future. I can’t wait to read some of the stories!
But we need your help. Please take 5 minutes to send your #SQLFamily story to firstname.lastname@example.org so that we can max out the donations for this great cause. Need some ideas?
- Have you ever attended a SQLSaturday or User Group and had a discussion about how to solve a problem? Share it.
- Have you learned something new by chatting with someone on Twitter? Share it.
- Have you solved a problem faster by getting help wit the #SQLHelp hashtag? Share it.
- Did someone in the community help you with a totally non-SQL, non-data problem? (Thanks, again Noel, for that downtown parking space for a week). Share it.
- Did someone blog about something and it made your job easier? Share it.
- Have you ever just felt better that others were out there to help? Share it.
- Have you already blogged about #SQLFamily? Share it.
We need 400 submissions to make this happen. You have 5 minutes, I know it. Get your story in now. Make a difference in someone’s life, right now.
This month’s Meme Monday assignment by Tom LaRock (@sqlrockstar | blog) is to write about the SQL Server community (#SQLFamily) and what it means to us. I’ve been blogging and Tweeting about my experiences as part of this community for a while and I sometimes get questions from those outside the SQL Server world about why I keep putting "SQL" in front of everything. It’s hard for me to explain because most of the time I don’t really mean SQL Server, but the SQL Server community people who have done so much for others and me. There have been some amazing posts so far in this meme Monday. I’d love to see 100 blog posts about this topic. Tell us what the #SQLFamily means to you. If you don’t have a blog, this would be a great time to start one or you can send me your thoughts and I’ll guest blog them here. Yes, there is still plenty of time.
I blogged recently about #SQLRun, a group of family members who ran the Portland Marathon, Half Marathon and 10k and raised a cloud of money for charities. This reminded me of one of my favourite quotes:
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.
The SQL Server community isn’t just about having people offer up spare rooms, parking spots, or sofas for when I travel, helping each other out, or agreeing to sign a legal document for each other. The strength in our community is that we are working together to make the world a better place, often about data and databases, but sometimes about helping people get back to work or helping out with serious real-life problems. We don’t always agree on some of the things we are each trying to change (nulls aren’t evil, really), but we fight them out on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn, then head to an after party, hangout, or SQLSaturday to show support for each other when it is needed.
I’ve seen many instances of #SQLFamily changing the world:
- Like many IT organizations, PASS has a Women in IT chapter and program. I’m hoping the work we do there is making a difference in society, even if it causes only one person to go home and talk to their daughter about taking more math and science classes in school.
- I’ve seen ad hoc groups of #SQLFamily people get together to volunteer locally, to collect supplies for the less advantaged and to raise money for charities. Not huge things, but something that makes a difference. I hope to see more that at future PASS events.
- I have discussions and debates with other family members about balancing data quality with system performance, but that’s what the world needs. We need passionate people to figure out together the right balance.
- I’m always happy to see people muster up a series of job interviews for SQL Family members who are looking for a new project.
- I love the discussions about how to manage work-life balance, especially since this is a problem that impacts women staying in IT jobs.
- I’m thrilled when I see personal offerings of encouragement, even when we don’t know what else to do. In my #SQLRUN blog post I wrote about our Scream Team of real-life and virtual encouragers. There is a lesson there (and another blog post to come).
- Thousands of community members spend time blogging wonderful information about what they know. This sort of giving is something I don’t see as much of in other communities. Sadly, this is especially true in the data management professional community.
So many people blog on a regular basis, hoping to influence others to think harder about providing better data to the world. That touches me, even if it’s a post about data models, indexes, keys, normalization or virtualization. When someone takes the time to put their thoughts down in writing so that others can benefit, I see the power of this community. My tagline is "Love Your Data" because I want to influence the IT community to think beyond code and table structures. However, I need to be influenced just as much about the operational side of databases so that data can be available and reliably accessed. Having said that, some of the greatest lessons I’ve learned came from people in the community talking about collaboration, professional development, human dynamics and other "softer" subjects. All of this because virtually everyone in the community wants to make everyone else successful. That’s amazing stuff.
That’s when I realized we in the #SQLFamily aren’t just about databases. We are passionate about changing the world for the better.
That’s what #SQLFamily means to me.
As I previously blogged, a group of PASS Summit attendees ran events in the Portland 40th Anniversary Marathon. And we all finished. Some with amazing times, and others (like me) with a "I’m happy to finish upright and smiling".
I nominate this as one of the best #SQLFamily photos ever. I get all teary-eyed every time I see it. This was taken after the people running the Half Marathon finished and went to breakfast. Look at those happy "I just ran/walked 13.1 miles" smiles. I can’t tell you how much more fun it was to run my second half marathon with a group. My first, a Nike Women’s Half, I ran all by myself. Literally, as it was a virtual half using the Nike+ system. The difference was astonishing.
Starting in back left going clockwise: Brent Ozar, Rob Drysdale, Rob Farley, Jes Borland, Erin Stellato, Karen Lopez, Yanni Robel. Missing from this are the people who ran other events, namely Doug Lane (10k) and Allen White (Full Marathon). Doug blazed a great time in the 10k and for Allen this was his 26th state in which to run a marathon. He ran ANOTHER FREAKING MARATHON the weekend after PASS, too. Amazing.
Allen blogged about his races here: http://sqlblog.com/blogs/allen_white/archive/2011/10/07/so-much-to-do-so-much-to-see.aspx
The Fun in Fundraising
We didn’t just finish our races; we raised a pile of money for great charities. Jes, Rob, Erin and I raised money for the Ray of Hope, a tiny charity based in Portland that provides services to women and children in Kenya. In total, forty runners for Ray of Hope raised almost $20,000 for a charity that normally has a budget of about $50,000 a year. Do you see how we in the #SQLFamily made a real difference to this group? Rob and I raised $1,850, which I was impressed by until I saw that Erin raised more than $2,250 and Jes raised more than $1,100 all on their own. So the four of us, as a #SQLRun informal team, managed to motivate all of you to help the works of Ray of Hope to the tune of $5,200. That’s 10% of their previous budget and more than 25% of their goals for this event. I’m so proud of all of us who ran for them and all of you who helped them continue their work in Kenya.
Ray of Hope fell just short of their goal of $20,000. So if you were thinking of making a real difference with a charity that has almost no overhead and only a tiny administrative budget, this would be the time to pony up a few coffees’ worth of cash.
Jes Borland blogged about her race and fundraising experience at http://jesborland.wordpress.com/2011/10/18/portland-half-marathon-2011/ Her fundraising page is at http://www.active.com/donate/roh2011/grrlgeekPortland2011
Erin Stellato’s fundraising page is at http://www.active.com/donate/roh2011/erinstellato
Rob and Karen’s fundraising page is at http://www.active.com/donate/roh2011/karen-rob
And then there are the people who ran for Team in Training, a fundraising group for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. Yanni Robel, Rob Farley and Brent Ozar ran or sponsored for this great charity that directly contributed to helping Yanni survive blood cancer. Yanni is a huge inspiration to me: she survived while training to climb a mountain, then trained to run her first half marathon and is now training to run another half and a full marathon. I think there’s more; I can’t even keep up with all she has signed up for. All after taking up running just this year. Amazing woman.
Yanni raised just over $2,200 and inspired Rob Farley’s LobsterPot Solutions to be a corporate $1000 sponsor for Yanni’s team. Team in Training raised $316,455 for their charity at the Portland Marathon. Across both the Portland and Nike Marathon, runners raised $760,340. That’s a lot of life-saving dollars. I’m still amazed.
Yanni blogged about her race and fundraising efforts here: http://yannirobel.com/archive/2011/10/week-11-portland-half-race-recap/
Getting to Meet my Running Guru
You’d think that with all that magic going on, my race weekend experience couldn’t have gotten better, but you’d be wrong. At the Marathon Expo, I briefly got to introduce myself to Jeff Galloway, Olympic athlete, author, and trainer. I have been reading his works and using his running methods since I started running again after shaming my middle school track team one time too many. Jeff’s methods involve a run/walk interval for training, something that just works for me. This sort of not-running-the-whole-distance method is controversial in the running world ("You aren’t a real runner"), but I don’t care. At my age and ability, this is the only way I can cover distances like 13.1 miles. Meeting Jeff with a brief handshake and babbling "You are the reason I am here" was a great addition to my race experience.
But wait! It gets better.
After the expo Rob and I walked over the the Starbucks to get my daily fix of Quad Tall Soy Latte (QTSL). As I looked around for a place to sit, there was Jeff, sitting next to the only two open seats in the place. We sat down next to him and I dithered about bothering him. I, who had pushed Barbies in the faces of astronauts, Homeland Security officials, pilots, Twitter friends, politicians, celebrities…was afraid to say "Hi" again. But you know what, Barbie gives one courage, so I dragged her out of my bag and said "Jeff…Hi…It’s me again and I need to take your picture with this Barbie." And guess what? He was fine with that.
It’s always amazing to me that 1) I have the courage to ask people to have their picture taken with Barbie and 2) That they say "yes" on a regular basis. In fact, I’ve only had 2 people ever say "No". Jeff was great about my story of @data_model and how Barbies help me talk to people about STEM education. For about 30 minutes Rob and I chatted with Jeff about his training programs, his experiences coaching people like me, his travels and how race registration websites are less than optimal. I talked to him about using his Twitter account more often. I told him how he really made an impact in my life. Even though he had never met me. The whole time I was thinking "You really should attend one of his retreats or training runs". I need to add this to my 2012 goal list.
Our Scream Team
I said that I ran my first half marathon virtually. The best thing about that is I didn’t have to follow a course. Most of my run was via the Waterfront Trail along the shore of Lake Ontario. The worst part was that there were no water stations, no candy and no portapotties anywhere along my route. I had to carry all my supplies with me and hope that I didn’t need to powder my nose anywhere. There was also no one cheering along the way. You’d be amazed at how motivating having a Scream Team can be.
In Portland, I ran with an app on my iPhone, Runmeter, which allowed people to Tweet supportive messages and have them read to me while I completed each mile. I can’t tell you how wonderful this simple technology was. I wish I’d remembered to set up a log of these tweets; I so want to read them again. Perhaps when Twitter gets around to letting us see Tweets over 5 days old I’ll go get them. Every single one of your Tweets made a real difference.
In person, Harry Chandra, Ryan Malcolm, Bill Fellows, Mike Decuir, Camille Warwick and John Robel were part of our in person scream team. I saw some of them a few times. My friend Kirstin was there, too, cheering from her hotel window. I think there were others, but I didn’t do a good job writing them down. If I missed you please let me know. I want to thank you here.
#SQLRun is Now a Thing
Given the success of our first #SQLRun, Jes Borland added at #SQLRun event during the PASS Summit and Steve Jones blogged about it. This was a fun training run, but it looks like she had 40-50 people out early in the morning running the streets of Seattle. I ran on my own so that I could get back earlier. I wish I had just been late. The pics look amazing.
Looking back now, I couldn’t imagine that one short Twitter discussion with Erin Stellato led to all this coming to be. If you’d asked me then how much money we’d raise, how many people would join us, etc. I’d come up with a number no where near these numbers. I learned we can make a difference as a group of dedicated data professionals who have come together to enjoy something else we have in common. I’m also excited to see how our stories have inspired others to take that first step in getting in to or back in to running. You can follow the future success on Twitter by searching for #SQLRun hashtag.
So at your next SQLSaturday, or even the next conference, consider seeing of anyone else wants to get together and go on a run. You never know how you might just change some lives.
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