August 12, 2017 marked the first day of Tech Outbound’s SQL Cruise Alaska. After 3 years away, SQL Cruise returned to Seattle under hazy skies from the forest fires burning in Central British Columbia.
These events always start with a reception on the first night where everyone is able to introduce themselves and their friends and family who they’ve brought along for the week. Unlike most technical events, SQL Cruise encourages attendees to bring their partners, spouses, children, and friends with them. While students and Technical Leads are in class, “plus ones” are exploring the ship, playing games, sampling adult beverages, or just relaxing as a group or individually. Everyone meets together for dinners and technical (or just interested) plus ones attend Office Hours that are designed to foster consulting and troubleshooting of issues back in the office.
After the welcome reception it’s time for more fun. The attendees and friends are divided into small teams on a photo scavenger hunt sponsored by Redgate Software. Teams are sent out to capture SQL-related items on camera so they learn about the ship and get to start working together even before we step foot in class – it’s a fun experience but also starts building camaraderie and familiarity with the ship effortlessly.
SQL Cruise has been around since 2010 and this is the 16th event they’ve run. The model is simple and effective: 25 students (max) and a 4:1 ratio of students to Technical Leads whom are thought leaders in their areas of interest joined together in venues that have limited internet to drive focus on content and sessions that are longer and designed to be dialogs between the Technical Leads and students. While initially branded as “SQL Cruise” these events have not been limited to only Microsoft SQL Server since 2011. They’ve just recently re-branded as Tech Outbound as their intentions are to expand from single to dual tracks starting in 2018 with a second track focusing on Full Stack Developer topics. There will also still be a mix of Microsoft Data Platform, Azure, Powershell, and Professional Development as well.
Registration is already open for both of the announced 2018 events which will continue to be cruise-based. Starting in 2019 they intend to continue to produce cruise-based events but are examining land events located in all-inclusive resorts in North America.
Class Day One
Despite the sheer beauty of the Northern Pacific and Canadian wilderness that surround the Norwegian Jewel cruise ship, we had 24 students and six Technical Leads attending sessions by Grant Fritchey (bio) from Redgate Software, Andrew Kelly (bio) from SolidQuality, Bob Ward (bio) from Microsoft, and Argenis Fernandez (bio) from Pure Storage on day one. While many are skeptical that once you get on board no one shows up for class they’re wrong. Day one consisted of eight hours of technical sessions as well as a formal dinner with attendees convening to have dinner and conversations in everything from kilts to ballroom dresses. Sessions on day one included:
- SQL Server Advanced Execution Plan Analysis
- SQL Server on Linux
- Query Store Internals
- Modern Attack Vectors
… and this was on a Sunday no less.
The training never stops really – even through meals. There was a story of one CIO who attended with his Lead DBA a few years ago that saved over $200,000 in licensing costs for Microsoft SQL Server just because of a single conversation over dinner on SQL Cruise. With the caliber of both the Technical Leads and attendees at these events they see stories like that not being as rare as you’d expect.
We’ll Be Here All Week
I’ll be covering the events of this unique Microsoft Data Platform training opportunity all week. Since these reports will come in delayed by a day you’ll be reading this while many from the group are snorkeling in Ketchikan, Alaska or other excursions before returning to the ship in the afternoon for class and Office Hours. To follow along through social media here are the Tech Outbound social stream links to follow closer to real-time:
You can also follow along with the hashtag of #sqlcruise or #techoutbound in your favorite social media platform.