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SELECT TOP (3) Pre-Conference Sessions

PASS has recently announced the lineup of PASS Summit 2020 pre-conference sessions. In case you are not familiar with the concept, these are full day, deep-dive sessions, delivered by selected experts in the industry. As opposed to a regular 75-minutes session, a pre-conference session allows the speaker (and the attendees) to dive deep into a topic and achieve a much higher level of learning and understanding.

I have been both attending and delivering many pre-conference sessions over the years, and I can say first-hand that this is an excellent learning opportunity, and a great value for money.

If I haven't convinced you yet, then check out the list of pre-conference sessions in PASS Summit 2020. First, you will find there some really big names, like Denny Cherry and Alberto Ferrari. Second, check out the topics. You can choose from so many options, from Data Science with Python to NoSQL Solutions. It's really hard to choose.

So in order to help you a little bit (or not), I'm going to list my top 3 pre-conference sessions from that list. Now, in order not to get myself in trouble, I have to say that I know most of speakers, and some of them are good friends, and all of them are really great speakers. It was a hard choice, but eventually I chose the sessions based on my own experience, meaning - speakers that I have personally watched, and topics that I personally find super-interesting.

Let's run the following query:

SELECT TOP (3) PreConferenceSessions FROM PASSSummit2020 WHERE Speaker = 'Awesome' AND Topic = 'Super-Interesting' ORDER BY MyFavorites DESC;

Here are the results:

#3 - The Azure SQL Workshop, Bob Ward & Anna Hoffman

Everyone knows Bob Ward. He is a principal architect for the Microsoft Azure Data SQL Server team. I attended many sessions and keynotes with Bob, and I always felt lucky to be there. Bob can take you from level 100 to level 800 in minutes. He has such deep knowledge about so many things related to SQL Server and Azure SQL Database. Add to this his excellent presentation skills and good sense of humor. Trust me, it's a safe bet.

Anna Hoffman is a data and applied scientist on the Azure Data product team at Microsoft. I have seen her speaking together with Bob twice already, and I can say that they make a good team on stage.

What I like about the session itself is that it's not really a session. It's a hands-on workshop, where you get to try everything yourself, while members of the SQL engineering team guide you and answer all of your questions. It's a unique opportunity. As the abstract says, you will learn how to configure, monitor and troubleshoot the “meat and potatoes” of SQL Server in Azure. And you will translate your existing SQL Server expertise to Azure SQL expertise.

#2 - Execution Plans in Depth, Hugo Kornelis

Hugo and I share the same love and passion to execution plans. I admit it: I'm an execution plan geek. I can tune execution plans all day, and that will make me happy. As a geek, there are some experts in this field that I admire, and one of them is Hugo Kornelis.

Last year I attended a double-session (two hours) by Hugo about the Hash Match operator. It was in SQL Saturday Athens back in June 2019. You might wonder how can anyone speak about the Hast Match operator for two hours. I was wondering too. But now I know how. I enjoyed every bit of it, and thanks to Hugo, today I understand the inner workings of this operator to the deepest level. It was a fascinating session.

Now imagine a full day with Hugo speaking about all execution plan operators, not just Hash Match. As Hugo puts it in the abstract: "If you have seen some execution plans but feel you need to bring your understanding to the next level, then this pre-con session is for you!"

#1 - Advanced T-SQL Querying and Query Tuning, Itzik Ben-Gan

When I started my career as a SQL Server DBA, back in 1998, I attended several instructor-led courses. And the instructor was Itzik Ben-Gan. I enjoyed the courses so much. I remember that I didn't only enjoy the level of expertise that Itzik demonstrated in class, but also his passion and his way of teaching. It was truly inspiring.

During some of the breaks, while Itzik's computer was still projecting on screen, I saw him switching to some forum, and answering questions about T-SQL. I wanted to be Itzik when I grow up.

Since then, I have attended many sessions with Itzik, and he only gets better. Today Itzik is definitely the #1 T-SQL expert in the world. And he is my guru. I don't know many people who have the unique combination of deep-deep knowledge, excellent presentation skills, passion and modesty. Truly inspiring.

If you are interested in T-SQL, and you haven't seen Itzik in action yet, then you owe it to yourself. Don't think twice. You'll thank me later.

We still don't know at this point whether PASS Summit 2020 will be an in-person event, which will take place in Houston, Texas, or a virtual event. Whichever it is, I hope to see you there.




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