It has been a hot minute since I attended a SQLBits conference. It’s a techie event! I’m not technical. Project Managers must surely be classed as ‘persona non-grata’.

Last year the team went, and I took a holiday. All those people in one place and guess which one of us came back with Covid?


So, this year, trying to reduce my chances of a fourth bout, and with more ‘non-technical’ sessions available at the conference, it was time to venture back.

I was pleasantly surprised.

Softly softly

Yes, the conference is about the data platform, but it is also about a community sharing knowledge and coming together to discuss their passion for all things data and their working experiences.

Personally, my main job is not about data or coding, but it’s about helping to get the best out of the people that do.

These would be considered the soft skills. Including the following.

  • Communication Skills.
  • Emotional Intelligence.
  • Leadership Skills.
  • Teamwork and Collaboration.
  • Time Management and Organisation.

Why include these at a data conference? Because they are fundamental to anyone who deals with clients, teammates, and managers as part of their everyday.

Mind over matter.

 We hear a great deal about mental health and with good reason. This area is notoriously difficult to narrow down to just one thing and will continue to be so as long as humans exist. The mind is a complex tool that needs constant updates and checking in with.

In one session we heard from speakers about their experience with depression, imposter syndrome, post-traumatic stress disorder, and therapy. It was an enlightening and brave decision for them to share their experiences with a room full of strangers. It also highlighted to us that that even the people you may think are doing ok, well they might not be.

A common theme that came out of various sessions was people leave because of other people, not because of organisations. From my own experience, this has also been the case in previous work. So do remember treating people the right way and a little bit of kindness matters.

Inclusivity – gender/race

Another area that people found tricky is that you want to be able to approach subjects in the right way but do not always know how. Including me. But as with any session, including technical, the key is enhancing your understanding and being able to ask questions. You do not need to know everything, but a little bit of knowledge can go a long way.

I gained genuinely valuable insight. How people are struggling both internally and externally. Within businesses and within themselves. Being able to ask the questions that sometimes you are just too afraid to ask in a safe space, enabled us to gain valuable advice from those dealing with things daily. And on how best to support and understand individuals’ frustrations.

 High five anybody?

On the back of one session I completed the free online HIGH5 Strength test. This is a series of questions that you answer and is designed to maximise your potential via positive psychology.

Full disclosure my strengths were as follows.

  • Empathiser (I can see that)
  • Thinker (Hmmm)
  • Coach (Let’s go!)
  • Catalyst (Okay)
  • Philomath (aka Jack of all trades)
  • Levitation

Now one of those is made up. I mean ‘catalyst’? Do not get me started. The rest though are not too far off at all.

I found this activity to be very useful and plan to get the team involved. Maybe take the time to have your team complete the test and learn about their strengths. You might be surprised what other skills are not being used when they could be.

Overall, as a ‘non-techie’ the things that I heard and discussed gave me a lot to digest and still think about weeks later.

And I got all these people insights from a technical conference.…technically.

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