I’m at the Professional Association for SQL Server (PASS) Summit, an event that brings together a few thousand professionals that work with Microsoft’s SQL Server for technical training, inspiration and networking.

My justification for attending was mostly technical: to fill some gaps and learn new skills, although I also expected to make new contacts and friends. I’ve done these things, but I also gained some unexpected insight. Namely, I was inspired to focus and document my career plans.

This “aha” moment began with a “Birds of a Feather” lunch group. This type of lunch group at PASS involves choosing a lunch table assigned a topic. My choice was “Why you need to distinguish yourself from the rest,” a group facilitated by DBA and professional development guru Edwin Sarmiento (@bassplayerdoc). We discussed the motivations to stand out, and the topic quickly shifted to figuring out how to stand out. We had great discussions about how to change perceptions that others have of you, and how to do some personal branding in order to be recognized for your work.

I attended some great technical presentations, and although all the presenters have impressive backgrounds, two presenters stood out to me as role models for interesting careers and deep focus: Stacia Misner (@staciamisner) and Joy Mundy. They both have an intense passion and deep focus on the Business Intelligence stack and many years of experience.

Finally, Andy Warren (@sqlandy) presented on developing a Professional Development Plan. In the talk, he outlined the need to discover and document the resources you plan to use to better your career, and described how to create a written plan. This was excellent and is something I have started working on. Importantly, he made points about balance and avoiding burn-out, and I plan to use this to develop insights into my own development plan.

My head is swimming in new thoughts and ideas, and I’m working to develop a story for my next 5-10 years. I have some role models to keep tabs on and some tools to help me move forward. Thanks PASS!