I took the plunge this year and started volunteering for the North Texas SQL Server User Group. Originally I started attending because I wanted to learn more about SQL Server, but it didn’t take long before I realized that there was so much more to be gained from being there.
Why should you volunteer with your local user group?
You get to meet really cool people.
I realize that I don’t know most of you personally, but I think most of you are like me. The reason you read this blog is because you want to know more about your profession than the average person. That’s likely how you found me in the first place. The folks at your user group are just like us. They are passionate about their craft, fascinated by technology, and want to be the best they can be. However after you get to know them better, you’ll also find that many of them are caring and really fun to be around.
I can hear you saying, “Yeah David, but I can get all of that by going to the monthly meetings, why should I bother to volunteer?” I attended this user group for almost 2 years before I volunteered and had no idea who these people really were. I had talked to them of course, but you only get to know them as you work WITH them. You become a member of the club, feel like you belong, and they let their hair down.
You can network with some of the best minds in SQL Server.
Some of the best minds in SQL Server present at SQL Saturdays. They fly in at their own expense to share their knowledge and network with you. These are the people who write the books on SQL Server, MVPs and other luminaries. When you volunteer, you can get exclusive access to them.
Also, remember those smart, motivated folks in your local area that I mentioned above? On the volunteer committee I’m working side by side with two Microsoft MVPs and more folks who are on their way to becoming MVPs. I’m spending weekends volunteering with them and getting to know them well. These are the folks who can help you find your next job.
Do you want to eventually give SQL presentations? You should start by volunteering.
When I chose the name Made2Mentor, it wasn’t without a great deal of thought. I have always taught others and mentored them in something that I was good at. I’m learning SQL Server rapidly and intend to begin presenting on various aspects of it.
If you’ve already volunteered, and I intend to continue to do so, approaching the leader of the User Group is an easy matter because you’ve already worked extensively with him. I may even present a session at the next SQL Saturday.
You can learn so much from the other volunteers, maybe even find a mentor or two.
I’ve already received a ton of help from people on the volunteer committee that I would not have been able to get had I not volunteered. While I know you can get basic help from forums or Google searches, you get so much more from people with whom you’ve built a relationship.
Once you get to know them, they’ll take the time to look at your problem personally and guide you in the right direction. It’s not just technical help either. Many of us are very bright technically, but lack the soft skills. Many of the people who run these groups have already mastered the soft skills of interpersonal communication, and you can learn from them. It is only natural that they eventually become your mentors.
Volunteering makes you feel good about yourself.
I know that I often focus on the career aspects of networking, but it’s not all about your personal gain. It feels good to give to the community, to help the other volunteers without worrying about what you’ll get from it. There’s a real sense of achievement which comes from hosting an event like SQL Saturday and knowing that you had a part in it.
So, I encourage you to join your local SQL Server User Group and volunteer. If you have the opportunity to volunteer for a project such as a SQL Saturday, jump in and do your best. There are so many benefits, that you’ll find it’s totally worth it.
I’d like to my fellow members of the planning committee Sri Sridharan, Sean and Jen McCown, Tim Mitchell, Vic Prabhu, Ryan Adams, as well as the rest of the volunteers for SQL Saturday for making the experience great.
By the way, if any of you are coming to SQL Saturday Dallas, then look me up. I’ll be running all over the place, helping to get things done. 🙂
PS. To my regular readers, I apologize about my lack of blogging lately. Obviously I’ve been busy with SQL Saturday and I’ve had a great deal of pressure with my work the past few weeks. I’ll be back on track and will continue with the disaster recovery theme next week.