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The Benefit Of Attending User Group Meeting

September 23, 2009

I want to be *consistent* in attending User Group Meetings on monthly basis. Unfortunately, due to conflict of schedules, I haven’t been able to target consistency. The last meeting I attended was at Orange County SQL User Group last month (August). I planned to attend South Bay .NET User Group September meeting but I wasn’t able to.

Why attend a User Group Meeting? The following are some of the many benefits of attending a User Group Meeting.

Augment Your Technical Training

User Group meetings are important. They augment the necessary training that professionals need. The content and materials being presented on these meetings are of high value. Speakers are the cream of the crop – they are MVP’s and Experts on their field. You are always sure that every meeting you attend will equip you with or help hone your critical skills necessary to accomplish your job.

Provide Venue For Networking

User group meetings does not only help you gain more knowledge but also bring you closer to other people in your niche. Professionals are finding values in networking. This brings yet another manifold opportunity. People connect with people for many reasons – professional and otherwise. Whatever that reason may be, networking will help you expand your, well, network, at least.

Provide Stage To Showcase Your Skills

If you are more into helping other people to learn, User Group meetings are the perfect places for you to showcase and share your skills. Experts are experts because they are always willing to share their knowledge. Period. Whatever that means. That’s what MVP’s, Experts, and book Authors will tell you – they hone their skills by actually teaching what they already know. People attending User Groups are bright people. They throw lots of great questions in the discussion. The speakers’ technical know-how’s are often tested in the Q&A portion of the meeting. They also learn in the process.

Lead To Channel Of Options

Are you looking for a new job or new consulting opportunity? Attending User Group meetings will boost your chances of pinning a new job or getting a new deal. If you are active in participating community-based activities, such as User Group meetings, it talks something about your character. The community will perceive your being active as a positive attitude towards your willingness to learn. We all go to User Group meetings not only to mingle but, more importantly, to learn. Your enthusiastic characteristic towards learning pose a “plus points” to those who are looking for candidates, who might happen to be on the same meeting you are in.  Open your eyes and ears.

There are more benefits to attending User Group meetings, of course, than what I have mentioned above. Chances are you have benefited in more ways than one.

I have mentioned in my opening statement that I want to be consistent in attending User Group Meeting for at least 3 of the reasons I have enumerated above. The hurdles I have encountered so many times are schedule and location. I am sure I am not the only person having these problems. I always want to be able to be free to attend these User Group Meetings. But unforeseen schedule and location seem to be my main issues at present.

Now comes the…. VIRTUAL USER GROUPS!

Attending Virtual Meetings is another option if you cannot attend physical, onsite meetings. There are lots of User Groups around the county that are providing Virtual version of their meetings. In this post, I want to highlight the Professional Association For SQL Server (PASS) Virtual Chapters. “Common ways of interacting with the [virtual] community include LiveMeetings, published articles and interviews, online forums, and PASS Summit events.”

PASS made available not only a Virtual Chapter for SQL Server Group but many other domains as well. The following is a list of and links to the different PASS Virtual Chapters:

Application Development

Business Intelligence

Database Administration

Performance

Virtualization

Women in Technology

What is Virtual Chapter?

Jeremiah Peschka (Blog | Twitter) has a good mini-introduction to what this Virtual Chapter is all about.

Free Training Resources

Is lack of “Training Dollars” an excuse of your not getting trained? That should not be an excuse! You can get Quality Training without shelling out hundreds or thousands of dollars from your pocket!

Jack Corbett (Blog | Twitter) provides us a list of FREE Training Resources. Jack’s list is great. It tells you where to find articles, training videos, events, etc.

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7 Comments leave one →
  1. September 29, 2009 1:07 PM

    Great blog post, Marlon! I discovered your blog via one of your Tweets. I hope you can visit us up in the Bay Area sometime. I run the San Francisco and Silicon Valley SQL Server User Groups. We have some super speakers lined up in October from MySpace and Fusion-io. Links to more info here: http://bit.ly/SO0Gw

  2. David Taylor permalink
    September 24, 2009 12:12 PM

    I attended my first SSUG meeting last night, in Columbus, GA, the Local PASS Chapter. (http://columbusga.sqlpass.org) I had been meaning to attend for a couple of months, but it is in another state and another time zone, so their 6PM meeting falls in my 5PM get out of work time, and there’s an hour drive from here to there. Yesterday, my boss gave me the OK to go.

    I am an “Accidental DBA/Developer” trying to self-teach myself SQL Server for the last two years. I finally am getting to the point where I have an inkling of how much I don’t know, and this year, I am doing things about it. Joined Twitter, and follow SQL Server folks, joined PASS, SQLServerPedia, SQL Server Central, etc. and am finally getting myself “hit and miss” training.

    It almost seems that I learned more in last night’s User Group meeting than I have in the last two years! Ken Simmons (http://cybersql.blogspot.com) did a presentation on Automating Routine Maintenance, which may sound boring, but for someone hungry for knowledge, was downright perfect! He ran through the why’s and what for’s of why certain maintenance tasks should be performed, and how best to go about it. He presented his (really well written and useful) scripts that he uses to maintain the servers he is responsible for. Those scripts alone would be worth a month of work for me to build, and the explanations given about them worth even more time in learning.

    I had arrived late, so I didn’t get a chance to join the meet and greet, but I did get to interact with some of the folks there for a little bit after, and even won Quest Software’s “Tweet SQL” Tee-shirt in the drawing at the end. I had gotten the wrong size, so Ken brought me out to his car after to get me the right size, and that afforded the opportunity to talk one-on-one with one of the SQL Server community’s greats, which was unbelievably fantastic!

    Being able to match real human beings to words on a screen was such a great experience, I will definitely be going back next month, which, while not scheduled yet, I am sure will be after SQL Saturday #25, which I will also be attending, to be able to learn more and meet more of the community!

  3. September 24, 2009 8:21 AM

    Awesome article. The first user group I went to, I was fortunate enough to accidentally pick the right seat to sit in that night. There was about five minutes before the presentation and an older guy walked in and sat down next to me. I suppose I had the “deer in the headlights” look about me – I had never had a job in computers before – and he introduced himself. We got to talking and he asked why I was there and I explained that I was just getting started and hoped to talk to people about what my next steps should be. I asked why he attended and he said he was looking for a junior admin. Woohoo – started the next week!

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