Once or twice a year, I like to give some encouragement to the next generation of technology glitterati who might not yet realize that technology fame is in their future. Get out of your comfort zone and write an article, speak at a conference or event, or do something that gets you some visibility and lets your career grow in interesting ways. I usually like to write an encouraging commentary around the time of the annual PASS “Call to Speakers” for the upcoming Professional Association for SQL Server (PASS) show because PASS remains one of the best places for “not-yet-famous” speakers to get some high-level visibility. Let’s get the basics out of the way first.
The 2008 PASS Community Summit will be held November 18-21 in Seattle. The PASS “Call to Speakers” Web site has been open for a few weeks now and will close on March 28, which is just 15 short days from now. Although PASS speakers don’t get paid and have to pay their travel expenses, you’ll receive a complimentary PASS registration, and speaking at PASS might boost you to new levels in terms of industry and peer recognition. You can submit abstracts at http://calltospeakers.sqlpass.org or email questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Is being known in the SQL Server community a prerequisite to having a successful career? Of course not. But speaking from personal experience, speaking, writing, and generally being seen as an expert by the public at large certainly doesn’t hurt your career and will typically create financial and other professional opportunities that might not otherwise be available to you.
Is PASS the only place to imbibe the elixir of stardom? Of course not. However, PASS is pretty much the only major national SQL Server event where it’s possible for not-yet-famous folks to have a real chance at speaking. Most of the other large conferences have more of an “invitation only” abstract submission process, and it’s usually pretty hard to get selected unless you already have a proven track record. That’s probably as it should it. PASS, however, is designed as a community organization. PASS generally has more sessions than the other large SQL Server events. PASS also has the specific goal of giving “regular” people in the community the chance to share their knowledge.
Speaking at local user group events and regional summits run by Microsoft or third parties, such as the popular and successful Code Camp series, can also be great, low stress ways to start a speaking career. But like I said, PASS is one of the few places where it’s possible to go from zero to sixty overnight on a national platform.
Not interested in a life of fame and fortune? Heck, there are plenty of reasons to dabble in speaking that go above and beyond “fame.” There’s nothing like presenting a technical topic in front of a crowd to force to you really learn it. Writing an article forces you to commit your thoughts and opinions to paper, and there are plenty of editing cycles to catch mistakes. Although speaking at a live show doesn’t provide a safety net, losing the fear of public speaking (which many of us have) is valuable in countless facets of your life. So go ahead and think about submitting abstracts to PASS. You’ll thank me if you get selected, unless, of course, you do a miserable job, make a laughing stock of yourself, are humiliated for life, and end up with a massive therapy bill.