Thoughts On Pass Data Community Summit 2021


Pass Data Community Summit was November 10-12 and was hosted and sponsored by RedGate along with other supporting sponsors like Microsoft and smaller companies like MinionWare. Having been to last year’s virtual Summit, I think this one was done much better.

Pre-conference Sessions

There were a big collection of pre-conference sessions. I attended “AWS for SQL Server Professionals” because my current employer is entirely in AWS. Erin Stellato had an all day session on Query Store that I attended as well. For a shorter, one hour version of this presentation, click here to go to a YouTube presentation by Erin at the Saint Charles SQL Server Meetup. I learned a lot in both all day sessions and I plan on attending pre-conference sessions next time as well.

Thoughts on Pass Data Community Summit
Thoughts on Pass Data Community Summit

Things I liked about Pass Data Community Summit:

  • The main three day Summit was free.
  • Pre-conference sessions on Monday and Tuesday were accessible due to the low price for the sessions. Sessions were $200.00. I like that the speakers were getting paid for their sessions. This might always be the case. I don’t know because this is the first time I had paid for and scheduled any pre-conference sessions. Some speakers donated the money to a charitable organization.
  • Spatial chat app: This app was intriguing because it would drop you into a virtual room that had the appearance of an actual room with tables, chairs, a water cooler, etc. For people reading this who have played the Sims, the virtual lobby was very Sim-like. The application displayed a circular icon with the attendees face in it and video/audio could be turned on and off. Much like a scenario in a real building, the further your circle was from other people the lower the volume. If you couldn’t hear someone well, or just saw someone across the room that you wanted to chat with, you could move across the room by dragging your circle over next to someone.  There were a number of rooms available in addition to the lobby.
  • The session catalog: The catalog had a number of ways to find content. You could filter by day, day/time, type of session and even search for content by a speaker’s name.
  • Brent Ozar’s keynote on Friday morning. He gave a great presentation on 5 ways that the cloud impacts your career as a data professional.

Things that could have been better about Pass Data Community Summit:

  • There was widespread confusion about the 30 minute times on the schedule Wed-Fri and the need to watch pre-recorded content. As a solution, perhaps when someone is building their schedule, have a pop up on the session catalog screen that clearly tells attendees that they need to watch the pre-recorded video before the Q&A session they are scheduling.
  • Pre-recorded content that had to be watched ahead of time meant I had to spend extra time watching presentations prior to Q&A sessions. My schedule didn’t allow for a lot of that and so I opted for mostly live sessions. This also necessitated a lot of schedule changes in the My Schedule page.
  • In the Q&A sessions I did attend, which I believe I made it to 3 or 4, the attendees didn’t come with questions in hand so getting a conversation going was often slow to achieve. Maybe next year there could be a mechanism provided that would allow questions to be submitted ahead of time. These questions would go to presenters prior to their Q&A sessions.


Next Steps to Take

  1. Watch the RedGate website for additional announcements about the next Summit. They already announced that next year’s Summit will be a hybrid event.
  2. Start presenting. You don’t have to be an expert to explain how you solved a recent problem. You just describe your problem, solutions you tried and what ended up working. Someone has either had that problem and couldn’t solve it, or they will like your solution better, or someone may offer an enhancement to your solution to make it even better. Who knows, maybe we’ll see you presenting at a Pass Data Community Summit in the future!



What I’ve Been Doing Recently

Dear readers, it’s been a little while since my last blog post. Life is busy and so I’ve been away for a little bit. I am hoping to get back into the swing of things with more blogging though.

Here’s what I’ve been up to.

  1. Keeping a SQL Server Meetup going. I’ve been working with my co-organizer, Anthony Fortner, to discuss group details and get speakers lined up. I’ve had some difficulty with that recently and I need to go back to the community on Twitter and probably review Sessionize to find some additional people who regularly present.
  2. Finding and transitioning to new employment. Finding new work feels like a full time job. There is a lot of energy that goes into the process. I found a new home about six weeks ago.
  3. Because of the new job I landed, I’ve been figuring out a plan of attack for learning the necessary things about SQL Server in AWS. I’ll likely provide a list of those resources and my plan in a separate blog post.
  4. Watching the 6 part series on Azure SQL from Anna Hoffman and Bob Ward. Coming soon there will be a blog series on their videos. I may use these videos and the Azure SQL learning paths on Microsoft Learn to pursue the DP-300 certification.
  5. Continuing to take care of myself.  I’ve stuck to my routine of taking Saturdays off as described here.  I’ve been watching parts of the NBA Finals with my family and that has been fun and relaxing.
  6. I built and gave my first recorded, public presentation on SQL Server. You can find that here.

I would love to hear from you. Reach out to me via email,, or on Twitter.

Steps I Took To Handle Burnout

I am telling my story about steps I took to handle burnout, but I want to put a disclaimer at the beginning. I am not a mental health professional. Do not construe anything I say to be professional mental health advice.

I’ve always wanted to be a high impact person. I want my life to count for something. I think most people want that. In the United States, where the idea of “living the American dream” is prominent, this desire to make a difference and to live the dream often leads to people living life by going as fast as possible. By late 2020 I found myself doing that. I found myself going in too many directions.

  1. Trying to start an IT business.
  2. Work a full time  IT job.
  3. Study for an IT certification.
  4. Write 2 blog posts a week.
  5. Began answering questions on technical forums.
  6. Dealing with the stress of a global pandemic.
  7. I moved out of the house I raised my kids in for 17 years just one day after my birthday.

That’s a tough combination. I was excited and full steam ahead on all of those things for several months in 2020. In December I took vacation time for the last two or so weeks of the year. The plan was to throw myself even more into launching the business, studying for the 70-764 and blogging.  However, what I discovered on those first few days of vacation was that I just couldn’t make myself do any of it. I realized I was exhausted.

You’ve heard the phrase about burning the candle at both ends to describe people who are really working hard and staying busy in life. During the latter half of 2020 I hadn’t just been burning the candle at both ends, I’d been trying to melt the whole thing with a blow torch! I was burned out – mentally spent. Symptoms of depression seemed like a real possibility. I needed to takes some steps to handle burnout.

So, what did I do?

Making Time for Down Time


I rested as a way of combating burnout. That “working vacation” in December 2020 turned into a couple of weeks of doing a whole lot of nothing. I actually took a vacation from my problems and my stress. No writing blog posts or studying for certifications, and I didn’t really work on developing the business either.

I also eventually decided to take a consistent day off. For a few weeks in 2020 I was getting up at 7:30 AM on Saturday and Sunday to start work on blogging and business strategy. I would work for 4 or so hours every Saturday and Sunday morning, then I would take a break for awhile and go do something else. During that time I would frequently return to work on blogging that evening. Even when I decided not to get up early on Saturday and Sunday, I was still dedicating the first few hours of both days to blogging and technical work. Essentially, I was working 7 days a week.

Many years ago I worked two jobs and had only 2 days a month off. That’s right – 2 days a month!  I did that for 5 years and was elated when I no longer had to do that. I remember how dropping down to one job changed me quite rapidly, and for the better. Going back to that was not something I wanted to repeat, but I still knew that I would need to put in some effort on my own time to accomplish any of the goals I had.

As a result, I’ve started taking off all day on Saturdays. For probably 2-3 months, I haven’t done anything technical on Saturdays. On Sundays, I sleep in like a person would normally do on their day off and then I do probably 2-4 hours of technical work. This has made a big difference in my mental energy levels. Our bodies and minds were not designed to be going, going, going. We need down time. We need recreation.

Re-focused My Certification Efforts

I had been working hard on the 70-764 SQL Server certification. As I worked through that material, I realized I was learning, or re-learning, a lot of things that I probably wasn’t  going to use any time soon. I had previously been studying for the AZ-900 and switched to the 70-764 because I knew the deadline for that certification was coming. With this new realization, I switched back to the AZ-900 some time in early to mid-January because I could see more potential for using what I was learning. I’m happy to say that in early March I passed the AZ-900! Three weeks later I passed the DP-900 and I’m working on the DP-300.

De-prioritizing My Business

This seems like a bad idea for my business, but it is the choice I made. Remember what I said earlier? I was doing too many things at once. Something had to give and I decided to fight burnout by de-prioritizing my business.

From March 2020 until early December 2020 I had been working hard on business plans and talking to friends in and out of the tech industry to get input. In October 2020 I incorporated the business, currently just named Lee Markum LLC. It is a tech company focusing on helping people with their SQL Server performance issues. I paid a local web developer a small amount of money to make some changes to the website because those changes desperately needed to be made and I wanted to focus on other aspects of the business.

I contacted a company in Canada who works with SQL Server professionals to update websites. The price was a bit of a steep investment so I wanted to wait until I had more cash on hand. I also made some software purchases around the time of the Black Friday sales in November 2020.

The one thing I hadn’t wanted to do was to try to start this business on my own, but that’s what ended up happening. I invited some friends to launch it with me, and for a few months there was interest. However, what I realized was that while I was full steam ahead on this because the idea of this business had been brewing in my head and heart for about 10 years, the timing just wasn’t right for my friends to join me in the adventure. I have no hard feelings toward my friends. As I said, the timing just wasn’t right for them to be involved in the ways I envisioned.

So, the business went on hold for a bit. I needed to get a detail about my Doing Business As name straightened out anyway. Thanks to the slow grinding wheels of state government, that issues wasn’t resolved until sometime in March 2021.

No Blogging or Technical Forums

I didn’t intentionally decide to take a break from blogging and answering questions on forums. This just sort of happened, but I think it was for the best. Blogging takes a fair amount of time and energy. I took the time off in December, but in January I still found that I only had the mental capacity to do my full time technical job as a SQL Server DBA. Compiling blog ideas and  creating drafts still occurred, but that’s as far as I made it and so that is why I have had only 3 posts this year. I plan to get a queue of posts written so I can post at least once a week. I spent my time in Feb/March focused on the two Azure tests I took so I could get them out of the way.

So that’s a big part of what has been going on with me and my various projects. The previous year has been hard on all of us. I am certain most everyone would like to forget that 2020 happened, and we’re all coping the best way we know how.

Next Steps to Take

  1. Assess your well-being. Think deeply about how you’re truly doing right now.
  2. Don’t be afraid to seek professional help.
  3. Watch this presentation from Tracy Boggiano on “Mental Health in IT” presented at PASS this last Fall.
  4. Check out this post from SQL Server guru Kendra Little where she gives advice to her 20 year old self.
  5. Also read here where Kendra talks about experiencing burnout for herself and what she did.