I just returned from SQLCruise – a seven-day cruise to Alaska. I even got my company to pay for it because it included SQL Server training. Yes, you read that correctly. SQL Server training…on an Alaskan cruise!
What is SQLCruise?
It’s SQL Server training…on a cruise ship. Eleven people that work with SQL Server in various ways received training from six excellent instructors while on a cruise to Alaska. The training was held while we were at sea, allowing us to enjoy the at-port days, and network (or not) in the evenings. It also included the usual cruise fun – all-you-can-eat buffets, shows, fantastic scenery, and less-than-calm seas.
I spent the week with ten other database professionals. It was interesting that we ranged from people that had been in IT for decades to those that were just starting. Some came from business backgrounds, others were management. A wide variety of job roles and industries were represented in the room.
The best part was, though, that everyone got something out of the training. SQL Server has become such a large product that no one person can know everything about it. Seeing people that have been working with it for years learning new things reminds me that everyone needs to keep taking classes, keep reading, and keep growing.
The Instructors and Sessions
Over seven full days on the ship, four of those having formal class times, we had seven classes worth eighteen hours of training from six knowledgeable and highly-respected instructors – Brent Ozar, Kevin Kline, Jeremiah Peschka, Allen White, Kendra Little, and Robert Davis. That group includes three SQL Server MCMs and five SQL Server MVPs.
How does that compare to the amount of time spent at a large conference, such as PASS Summit? Summit 2011 spanned three full days, with twelve sessions. Most of those were 75 minutes in length, which amounts to 15 hours of training – if you went to a session in every time slot. Thus, the amount of time is very similar. SQLCruise also has the benefit of much smaller class sizes, plus time after to talk with the instructors, often one-on-one.
A wide range of topics were covered: Procedure Cache, Leadership Skills for the Database Professional, Killer Techniques for Database Performance, Automate and Manage SQL Server with PowerShell, Sports Medicine for High-Transaction Databases, and Recovering Data and Databases. Can you say, “WOW!”? I have pages of notes to reference!
One of the best parts for me was that on the ship, unless you paid (and paid dearly), there was no internet access. That means no email , Twitter, IM, or Facebook interruptions. Class time was focused time. I’ve gotten a lot better at shutting off email and Twitter while I’m working, to focus more. It was great to be able to extend that to training. (Worried your boss won’t let you go if you won’t be reachable? Now is the perfect time to start talking about training a backup, reviewing your documentation, and making sure you can go on a vacation undisturbed! It’s a great feeling!)
Every past cruiser I talked to listed networking as the top feature of SQLCruise, and now I know why. With eleven cruisers, six instructors, three MCMs, seven MVPs (it wasn’t just the instructors!), decades of experiences, and a week to get to know each other, we had plenty of time for networking.
The first day we had a great icebreaker, the Red Gate Software Search the Ship Contest. We were divided into teams and had to find items on the ship. This was a hilarious and fast-paced introduction to the ship and each other. The winners were awarded a license for Red Gate’s awesome software, too – you can’t beat that!
We had dinners together in the buffet, the dining rooms, and at some of the specialty restaurants. At breakfast, you were sure to catch at least one other person to chat with over coffee (or tea). Several nights, we had Office Hours at one of the lounges.
The Office Hours were fantastic. The format was simply, “Ask a question – about your job, SQL Server, your career, blogging, anything.” I learned more about virtualization, encouraged others to start presenting or blogging, chatted about user group leadership, and really got to know my fellow cruisers. This time is invaluable. It’s what I try to get out of user groups, but that can be hard when people want to get home to their families. It’s what I try to get out of SQL Saturdays, but organized networking time at those is not consistent. It’s what I try to get out of PASS Summit, but can be difficult with such a large crowd. It worked perfectly on SQLCruise.
Thank you. That is all I can say to the wonderful companies that sponsored this great event. Without their generous support, we would not have had these opportunities. SQL Sentry held the Hairy Execution Plan contest, and sent Allen White along to demo Plan Explorer. Brent Ozar PLF sponsored not only me, but also the SQL Storytellers competition. The lucky winner received a Kindle! Red Gate gave us the Search the Ship contest, and great books. Idera sponsored the Iditarod Challenge (of which no further details shall be released, to surprise future cruisers), and two more people won Kindles! Quest Software provided free licenses for their software to cruisers (hooray!) and sent Kevin Kline. I can’t forget to mention B-Side Consulting, run by our great Cruise Director Tim Ford. Without their generosity, this even would not have been as awesome. (And without their software tools and services, our jobs would be a lot harder.)
Get Your Cruise On!
SQLCruise is a great way to combine training and a vacation. You can bring your significant other, kids, parents – just not the dog. At sea, while they’re taking a class on towel-animal-folding, playing in the casino, or sitting by the pool, you can learn and network.
I highly recommend SQLCruise to anyone that wants to learn more about SQL Server and truly connect with others who want to do the same. Check http://sqlcruise.com for upcoming dates and locations!