Benni De Jagere

So long, 2020!

Looking back ..

I’ll just put it out there .. 2020 was a weird year for mostly anyone, and we’re collectively rooting for 2021 to pick up the slack. Looking back, I realise that I have hardly got reasons to complain, and I count my blessings for it. What started out as a year filled with plans and ideas turned out, a little different..

The extracurricular goals I set out for myself boiled down to this :

10 -15 in-person sessions presented, with at least 8 outside of Belgium

I landed at 5 sessions presented in-person, with the last one being at our own SQL Saturday Belgium. Out of those 5, with the only talk I held abroad was at the Scottish Summit in Glasgow. I had good fun with all of these talks, and will always prefer the in-person ones. When they’re allowed again..

However! With most of the events, user groups and conferences going virtual, it’s been easier than ever to submit anywhere in the world. I ended up at a total of 15 online talks held, spread out across Europe and North America. I probably could’ve done more sessions, but I had to put limits on myself, to keep my other activities from suffering from this.

My speaking activities for 2020

 

 

 

 

 

 

Complete the DP-.. certification series for Azure Data Engineering

In short. I failed, badly .. Having read too many of those stories where proctored exams turn out to be a huge time sink, with nothing to show for it, I always tried to plan my exams in the test centre at our company HQ in Belgium. I had to cancel and move it around a few times, due to our country swinging from 1 lockdown to the other.

Right now, I have both DP-200 (Implementing an Azure Data Solution) & DP-201 (Designing an Azure Data Solution) planned for January 4th as a proctored exam. Here’s to hoping I don’t have to go sit in the restroom to take it .. Depending on how these go, I might get some more exams planned.

On the other hand, I did manage to sneak in both DA-100 (Analyzing Data with Power BI), and PL-900 (Power Platform Fundamentals) in the summer break, so I did get a few certifications this year.

Pick up blogging again, averaging 1 post a month

Seeing as this is the first blog post I actually publish this year, let’s just conclude that I didn’t get this one. I kept putting it off for various reasons, and never really got into the writing mood. I’m usually the one that writes the Mailchimp newsletters for dataMinds, and I kept it at that.

I’ve got some ideas and rough drafts noted, mostly as supporting materials for my talks. We’ll see if I get in the zone in 2021 .

Keep aiming for the same high standard in our dataMinds User Group activities (especially when it’s online)

Personally, I’ like to think that our dataMinds Team nailed this one. We set out the year planning for 10 user group evenings, 1 SQL Saturday, and dataMinds Connect. What we achieved as a team, is something I’m absolutely proud of!

Up until March, we were perfectly on track. We had user group sessions planned until April, with a good mix of speakers and topics. SQL Saturday Belgium was perfectly on target for attendees and speakers. A few days after, Belgium went into total lockdown..

Online User Group Sessions

At first, we were hesitant to do virtual user group sessions, as you pretty much saw a new user group or conference spawn up every week, and now they were all hitting parts of the same target audience. Combine that with our little experience with streaming, OBS, .. We decided not to go virtual for the time being.

Come April, we noticed that our own Belgian audience wasn’t really picking up on most of the international online activities, and we decided to give it a try. I’ll never be a YouTube star, and really need to learn there’s more than 1 way to mute yourself, but it actually worked out rather well. Since then, dataMinds had 12 online user group evenings with 21 different speakers. Attendance from our local attendees has been similar, with new faces popping up every time, but due to anyone online being able to jump in, attendance has actually been a lot higher for us. Most likely, we’re going to keep running online events only until the summer break in Belgium. As always, we’re assessing the situation with the information we have, and going from there ..

Our dataMinds sessions for 2020

 

 

 

 

 

 

dataMinds Connect

Our pinnacle event, dataMinds Connect, would also have to change drastically, as spending 2 days cooped up with 500 people in Mechelen would not be possible, nor advised. Early on in April, we decided to move to an online event and start planning for that. In hindsight, that has been an excellent decision for us. Since we had no restrictions on physical rooms, and their respective sizes, we decided to bring in some extra tracks for more session variation. We had already planned for the Expert Track in the in-person event, so we added Go To Cloud as the second extra track.

dataMinds Connect 2020 was wild for us, as we had no idea what we were getting into, and there were little to no references at the time being. We ran it a low budget, and free to attend. In the end, we stopped registrations at 1800, and saw a little over 1300 people effectively show up during the day. With 48 sessions and 53 speakers during the day, and our closing keynote by Rohan Kumar, we can look back at a successful event, and we’re darned proud of it.

Storm myself through the exam for my next kyu grade in Shinkyokushin Karate

2020 would have been the year that I was going to prepare myself to take on my next kyu grade. These exams usually take a very long time, and are designed to drain you physically and mentally, to see how well you can still react to things. But, as our training time has pretty much been slashed due to lockdowns, my exam got moved away until 2021. A pity, but it does give me more time to prepare.

Anything else to note about 2020?

Absolutely! 2020 was the year in which I was awarded the Data Platform MVP Award, and was able to attend the virtual MVP Summit 2 weeks after. I can honestly say I didn’t expect to receive that illustrious e-mail on Sunday March 1st 2020. That day was the final lap of some of the worst planning I’ve done to date, and it definitely did get me through that last day.

To illustrate.. I had a boys weekend (we all know how that goes ..), from which I directly went to a week of being technical crew for a camp with 90 teens (16-17 year old). Driving up to Mechelen on one of the evenings to go present a session at the Thomas More College. Leaving early on Friday to drive to Schiphol (150km), so I could go present at the Scottish Summit. Getting up at 2AM, to get the 5:20 AM flight to Schiphol, to then drive to La Louvière (270km). To then spend the afternoon judging kids running the same kata, over and over again. Then drive home again (130km). To conclude, 9 days with too little sleep, and a lot of fun. I don’t think I’ve ever slept so solid as that night

What followed was the virtual MVP Summit, which was a bit of an eye opener for me. Throughout the year, I’ve had more opportunities to connect, share, and learn. The MVP Program has already allowed me the soak up a bunch of interesting knowledge, and meet some international people. For that, I’ll be ever so grateful.

2020 has been the year I had a lot of ‘firsts’ in my speaking career. I presented at the Community Summit, SQLBits, PASS Summit, SQLDay Poland, DBCC International, a few SQLSaturdays (Belgium, Göteborg, Montreal, Atlanta BI, Slovenia), and a few other events. Yes, they were all online, yet I still liked presenting (or recording) for all of them.
That said, I can’t wait to actually go back there in-person, as it really suits my style a lot better.

2020 has been the year where I met a lot of new people during activities I would not have been doing otherwise. Every week, there’s livestreams and YouTube channels happening with content that helps keep me up to date. To name a few, Guy in a Cube, Two Alex’s, Advancing Analytics, SSBI Polar, Geeks on Screens with Coffee, ..

My Danish friend, Just Thorning Blindbaek, started organising the Power BI Quiz (YouTube Playlist) on a regular basis and I’ve actually learned a lot whilst doing these quizzes. I’ll never forget how terrible I performed on Will Thompson’s Power BI Desktop quiz, and still haven’t figured out how I narrowly won Season 2.

Before I forget ..
2020 has also been a year where I had the chance to work with some lovely new clients, who definitely put me up to a few very exciting challenges to figure out. I love that EUREKA! moment when figuring something out after spending a good amount of time analysing it!

What about 2021?

I’ve not defined any ‘set in stone’ goals for the next year, as it’s pretty hard to tell what will happen right now. More or less, it’s a continuation of the soft goals I had for 2020.

However, .. I would love to get my hands on more with some Python and PowerShell. I’ll have to figure out how I can include that some more in my activities.

As for dataMinds, we’re rooting for an in-person dataMinds Connect on October 11th & 12th. If that’s not possible, we want to take our decision early on. We’re also trying out something new instead of SQL Saturday Belgium, called dataMinds Saturday. For this first edition, we’ve decided to limit the speakers to people residing in the BeNeLux. This way, we hope to nudge some people in an ‘aggressively friendly’ way to get into speaking. As a local user group, fostering local talent is still one of our primary goals.

In any case, from me to you, all the best wishes for 2021. I hope it’ll be a year we can all look back on with joy.

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