(The Curious Case of… used to be part of our bi-weekly newsletter but we decided to make it a regular blog post instead so it can sometimes be more frequent. It covers something interesting one of us encountered when working with a client, doing some testing, or were asked in a random question from the community.)
(This one’s from both Kimberly and I…)
I think SQL Family is one of the best tech communities out there. It’s inclusive, it’s diverse, it’s tolerant, it’s vibrant, it spans the globe. It’s open to anyone. And you’re part of it if you choose to be.
But is it as welcoming as we like to think? Not to everyone.
With Kimberly’s PASS Community Keynote Survey (some of you completed this from the last newsletter), her subsequent keynote at PASS, and now – additional emails and DMs we’ve both received, we have heard from a few that do not feel as warm and welcomed to our SQL community. I received an interesting email from someone after PASS saying that he felt he was on the outside of SQL Family looking in, and after posting some thoughts on Twitter yesterday evening, I heard from others with similar sentiments.
I suspect there’s a feeling among some people that SQL Family is kind of a cool kids club; a bit of a clique made up of well-known people like us and others and that there’s a high bar to enter and be recognized. I can imagine how that feeling happens. A lot of us well-known speakers know each other well, so we tend to hang out with each other at events and conferences. But we’re only well-known because we teach, speak, blog, tweet a lot. Big deal. We’re just normal people like everyone else, we just happen to be a bit well-known in our tech community. We all put our pants on the same way. We all started with zero knowledge of SQL Server.
But I understand that it can be intimidating walking up to someone well-known to just say hi, or thanks, or ask a question. Especially if there’s a group of us standing or sitting together. And a lot of people in IT are shy, or introverted, or uncomfortable in social situations. I’m a *colossal* introvert, I’m just good at playing an extrovert for a while. Week-long conferences like PASS leave me physically drained.
There’s no entry requirement to being part of SQL Family. If you want to be part of it, you’re part of it. If you feel like that’s not the case, participate. Engage on Twitter. Post a question on #sqlhelp. Write a blog post and publicize it using #sqlserver. Write a comment on someone’s blog post. Go to a user group meeting; more importantly, go regularly! Heck, send me a tweet or an email – I’ll reply. Next time you’re at an event prepare a few ice-breaking questions that you can ask to someone well-known or just say something simple like ‘I just want to say thanks for X’.
It really pains me when I hear that someone was too scared to come up and say hi. I’m very approachable, as are all the other speakers I know, and I make a point to never ignore someone and I always chat to random people at whatever lunch table I sit at. I know others do the same.
Having said that, some of the survey comments are hard to directly address. But, we suspect it’s similar. Possibly introverts that don’t have the desire to interrupt or join a conversation but really want to participate. Here are a few of the comments from the survey along with some direct responses from both of us:
- Events are great for the extroverts in the community, but there is still introvert shaming out there.
- Kimberly: I think there are actually quite a few of us out there. I’m pretty social for short amounts of time but I have a hard time looking people in the eye when I speak to them. And, I really prefer SMALLER events. I have a terrible time with parties where I don’t know anyone. I don’t know how you were specifically shamed but I hope that was a truly isolated event. Having said that, maybe online participation (twitter / mastodon / forums) might be the better way for you to feel involved but not have to do things that are out of your comfort level?
- Great community. Love small conferences, PASS is too big, only went once, back in 2003.
- Kimberly: Lots of smaller events out there – user groups, SQLSaturday, DataSaturdays, DataGrillen. But, even a big event can be comfortable if you can attend with a colleague or get a few folks from the local user group to meet up!
- I love the SQL community even though I’m hard of hearing and can’t participate like I’d like to.
- Kimberly: I know it’s not the norm but I can muddle through some ASL (and I’m sure there are others) but, your best bet is probably online for now, until real-time translators can turn voice to text reliably (actually, I’m not up on this… it’s got to be getting closer and closer!)
- Not many activities in Europe :-(
- Kimberly: SQLbits, DataGrillen, local user groups? If there isn’t one where you are – can you create one?
- It’s hard to attend user groups being a full-time worker and a mom.
- Kimberly: This is true. Does your usergroup allow remote attendance? That might help you participate more but not in-person every month?
- Be patient with the new kids. We all began at some beginning too.
- Kimberly: This is a good point and we all need reminding of this one every so often!
- #SQLFamily is not as active anymore just like 10 years ago. Let’s get back to the groove!
- Kimberly: Where do you think this is the case?
- 10-20 years ago there was a great camaraderie among SQL Server DBA’s. We were all learning together, and improving upon our skills. Now it seems the younger folks are just not as willing to share their knowledge, or they think they are the ‘best’ and don’t recognize all the work we old fogies did to get them there. Eh, guess it’s just time for me to retire.
- I wish some people would stop with the political tantrums at events. I attend events for networking and learning.
- Kimberly: I’m probably with you on this one. I do wish that we could keep some technical events limited to only that – the TECH. Religious, political, any personal/strong opinions NOT-RELATED to tech should be diverted to a more appropriate venue.
- The community needs to remember there are those of us who are somewhat new to this profession and have limited understanding of many of the topics surrounding it, yet do understand the basics. There seems to be a gap between great resources for people who are brand new and those who have been doing this for 15 years, but not so much for those of us in between.
- Kimberly: I always try to start with basics / fundamentals and then go to the level people are interested. I’d love to know more about where [all of] you feel there are gaps!
- SQL server community is not very open one.
- Kimberly: I suspect this can be true. I suspect sometimes it might be a group of people too-friendly forgetting that there are others around (guilty!). Or, something worse. For this, I’m sorry and I suggest you try other avenues. I promise, there are easy-to-get-to-know folks in all communities. But, I can’t speak for everyone.
- Sometimes I feel alienated in the SQL Community.
- Kimberly: Again, I hope this is an isolated incident but may I also suggest getting to know people online first (twitter / mastodon / facebook). Not everyone friends everyone on Facebook but twitter / mastodon are open platforms where a lot of SQL folks regularly congregate.
SQL Family is just that – a big family with a common interest. Think of it that way. You have that same interest – that’s all there is to it. But, that also doesn’t mean that you’re going to be hanging out all the time. That happens after you get past the awkward intro phase and really get to know people. Having said that, I’m not necessarily sure if that’s what you should be looking for within the community. However, if you want something more social than technical you can suggest going for coffee or beers after a user group. But don’t forget that not everyone will have the time to do that. It’s actually a difficult problem to address if people are looking for more than what some folks are willing to give. Kimberly and I have found that we like to branch out in a few of our interest areas – diving and photography are two where we’ve also met a lot of our “family.” In all seriousness, I think most folks are willing to discuss tech, be friendly, offer advice, comment on blog posts, Twitter, etc. but whether or not it goes further is going to take an extra spark; this just can’t be forced.
By all means let us know your thoughts in the comments section below. Be part of the family! And do let us know if there are specific things you’re looking for or expecting, anonymously or not. We’ll likely do a follow-up post after hearing more from you all.