PASS Summit

SQL in Seattle – My PASS Summit 2016

passsummitimg_8236This year was my first time at the PASS summit in Seattle. I’d of course been to plenty of other community events and conferences, but this was the big one! Spanning 3x days with 15x tracks to choose from in 4x rounds of sessions per day. Excluding precons.

Really words don’t do the event or the venue justice. It’s massive. You basically need to see it for yourself. Which leads to the question, why write a blog post about it? Well I was fortunate enough to spend Saturday to Saturday in Seattle, doing the tourist thing for the first half of the trip with the future Mrs Andrew. Then at the PASS Summit for the second half. This blog is therefore going to be a shortened account of my experience, but in the form of tips for other first timers, to both the city and the summit.

Tip 1 – Travelling back in time is horrible. But there’s no avoiding it. So, my advice would be to stay awake as long as possible. Watch 3x films on the plane back to back if you have to, I did. We started our journey from the UK at 2am Saturday morning.

  • 1 hour to get up, finish packing and leave the house.
  • 45mins drive to Birmingham airport.
  • 10mins walk to the terminal.
  • 15mins queue to check in and off load bags.
  • 2 hours waiting around and eating breakfast.
  • 1 hour for everybody to board the plane.
  • 2 hour flight to Amsterdam.
  • 1 hour waiting around in Amsterdam airport.
  • 1 hour for everybody to board another plane.
  • 11 hours flying to Seattle.
  • 30mins getting through customs.
  • 30mins waiting around for luggage.
  • 10mins walk to the train.
  • 30mins train ride to down town Seattle.
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Tip 2 – Do not get a taxi from the airport to down town Seattle. It’ll cost around $40. The Light Link Rail costs just $3 per person one way. Follow the signs upstairs in the airport terminal arrivals.

  • 10mins walk to the hotel.
  • 15mins to check in.
  • 5mins to find the room.
  • 45mins to unpack.

Now at this point if you add up the above you will have been awake for around 23hours. Which is no thrill. Espically when you discover the local time in Seattle is now only 2pm in the afternoon. This is where you need to power through. Go for a walk. Do anything to keep your zombie like shell of a body awake until the locals sleep.

Tip 3 – Do not lie down on anything once you’ve past the point of being awake for 24hours 🙂

I survived until around 7pm local time before I crashed. It wasn’t pleasant, but it made the adjustment to US time a little easier.

The follow morning we awoke at a reasonable hour and started our adventure. Having never visited Seattle before we were keen to soak up the sites and sounds.

Tip 4 – Go to the Pike Street Food Market near the water front and sample everything. It’s delicious and a real hive of activity.

Slowly cooked brisket, smoked salmon, clam chowder, Russian pastries to die for. Every colour of fruit and vegetable you can think of. However, what you may not be expecting is the setting. Rather than open air market stalls like you may see in the UK. This market is shoe horned into a rabbit warden of aging industrial water front buildings and spanning several levels. You can easily get disorientated and lost. Its therefore not the most charming place I’ve ever been, but focus on the fresh local produce.

photo-25-10-2016-16-24-17Tip 5 – If you like coffee visit the first ever Starbucks shop and get them to make you a special reserve Pike Place filtered coffee. Lovely!

The shop does get really busy to the point of needing a rope to control the queue down the street so I would suggest getting there early. The strength of the coffee will see you through the rest of the day.

img_8237Tip 6 – Get yourself a City Pass. This is a bulk buy set of vouchers to various attractions. This works out much cheaper than buying tickets separately.

The pass includes the Space Needle during the day, as well as a night time visit. Both provide stunning views of the city scape and surrounding areas. To get to the space needle you can spend 30mins walking or use the monorail on 5th Avenue. It goes back and forth between down town and the needle fairly frequently.photo-23-10-2016-18-19-35cropped

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Tip 7 – The WiFi at the top of the Space Needle is incredible. Ignore the other halve and take your laptop. I measured a 325Mps download speed! #GeekFirst

Once you’ve seen the city from the Space Needle, you’ll also want to see it from a boat cruise around the harbour and pray for good whether.

Tip 8 – Unless you have a particular musical talent or inclination the EMP Museum may seem a little dull. But they do have Super Mario games setup on various consoles to play with.

We also went to the glass art exhibitions in the same area. Not being an arty person, even I found some of the exhibits impressive. Be warned though, even the small pieces retail for around $6k in the gift shop. Other attractions include the aquarium and the zoo.

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Tip 9 – Again if you like coffee visit the Starbucks roastery on Pike Street heading north. It’s a really cool place to hang out and watch the beans being roasted while consuming a beverage.

If you have time make your way north of the city to the Boeing Future of Flight Tour around the factory. This is the worlds largest building in terms of volume. Which you’ll understand when you see full size passenger jets on a production line.

Tip 10 – Book the Boeing factory tour in advance. It does get busy and there are limited places.

For your evening meals you may want to visit the Cheese Cake Factory (yes, like of the Big Bang Theory). Or Daniels Boiler, a steak house just north of down town.

Tip 11 – Get the Uber app setup on your phone. It makes getting a taxi really easy and drivers are everywhere in Seattle.


Enough of the tourist things. Moving on to the PASS Summit.

Tip 12 – Depending on your schedule it’s worth popping into the Washington Convention Centre on Tuesday evening when registration opens to get your badge. This avoids the crowds and gives you chance to socialise with the most enthusiastic attendee’s. As it was my first PASS Summit my levels of enthusiasm were unmatched.

On the first day of the conference make sure you have plenty of sleep and get in nice and early for the breakfast sessions ran by sponsors. Listening to JRJ talk about SQLDW while consuming bacon is a double treat.

Tip 13 – Network, network, network.photo-25-10-2016-22-07-50

Don’t be afraid to talk to people. Everyone it’s friendly and your almost guaranteed to have some professional experience in common.

If speaking to random peeps isn’t for you then try out the SQL Clinic. Normally ran by the Microsoft Cat/Tiger team. Tell them about all your problems and frustrations related to the products you work with and they’ll thank you for the feedback. Seriously, this is the best chance you’ll have to get that bug in Visual Studio that’s been driving you crazy fixed.

Tip 14 – Keep an eye on emails, Twitter and Eventbrite for invitations for evening parties.

Tuesday night, we went to the Amber pub on 3rd Avenue for Karaoke. Hosted by Denny & Cherry Associates.

Wednesday night, we went to the Pike Place Brewery for a private party. Host by Sentry One

Thursday night, we went to 1927 5th Avenue for a party. Hosted by Red Gate.

Tip 15 – Don’t stay out too late and miss the next mornings of content. Especially the keynote talks. You can party anytime. These world class speakers aren’t always around to share their knowledge.

In the community zone make sure you check the schedule for when your country or region is being represented by local chapter leaders and be sure you go along for more networking.

Tip 16 – Take a spare bag with you to carry all the swag the exhibitors will give you. Seriously. T-Shirt, pens, notepadsimg_8238, torches, USB sticks, phone chargers. I even got a 2″ ceramic pig from Solar Winds to remind me about things that may be “hogging” the performance of my infrastructure!

By the end of the week if you’ve done everything right; Your brain will be mashed with knowledge. Your feet will be killing from walking round. You’ll have forgotten all the names of the people you meant. You’ll have about 30 more twitter followers. Finally, you’ll be exhausted and ready for home. But, you’ll still want to come back and do it all again next year.

Many thanks for reading.

Note; all the photos in this post are my own.


Paul’s Frog Blog

Paul is a Microsoft Data Platform MVP with 10+ years’ experience working with the complete on premises SQL Server stack in a variety of roles and industries. Now as the Business Intelligence Consultant at Purple Frog Systems has turned his keyboard to big data solutions in the Microsoft cloud. Specialising in Azure Data Lake Analytics, Azure Data Factory, Azure Stream Analytics, Event Hubs and IoT. Paul is also a STEM Ambassador for the networking education in schools’ programme, PASS chapter leader for the Microsoft Data Platform Group – Birmingham, SQL Bits, SQL Relay, SQL Saturday speaker and helper. Currently the Stack Overflow top user for Azure Data Factory. As well as very active member of the technical community.
Thanks for visiting.
@mrpaulandrew