Community means a lot to me. Giving back to the community is my way of serving society. In this blog post, I wish to talk about the technical community work and a few enablements for the underprivileged ones. When I do something for the community, it does mean that I do not expect anything at all in return. It truly is and should be unconditional work. So why do I do it? Well, this is about personal satisfaction. Over the years, doing community work has given me an immense sense of satisfaction. Think about the learning experience and the knowledge one can gain by interacting with hundreds of people across continents. It’s priceless. And when I ask myself, I get a simple answer: “I do this because I love doing it”. At the end of the day, I have a self-assurance that I am not one of those who would only do something for oneself and for the family – everyone does that, and by doing community activities, I set myself apart from the crowd.
What is my community work? What do I do for the community? Here is a quick list of whatever comes to my mind and what I have done in the last decade:
Along with my team, I organize a large scale technical learning event called Data Platform Summit. A community-driven learning event which had a humble start in 2015 has now become a signature tech event of India.
Recently I felt that whatever knowledge I have about SQL Server, I should record it somewhere so that it can benefit whoever is interested, and I started SQLShighra.com.
The above work is focused on the technical community, specifically, IT professionals working on SQL, Data, Analytics, AI and similar areas. Yes, I am part of this community and I intend to help those who need help. Always welcome.
I always wanted to create a platform where CIOs/VPs (the top-level management) can connect and learn from each other and exchange ideas. This thought gave birth to MConnect.
And then something that is very close to my heart, Mahadevi Foundation, where I contribute for the underprivileged. I try to do as much I can in this space.
I am constantly brainstorming on what new and different can I do. But in order to think differently, it is important to reflect back on what has already been done. Was it worth it? Success? Failure? Did it impact people? Were the objectives met? Am I doing the right stuff and am I doing it the right way? A lot of questions need to be answered, so here is what I reflect back:
My community work started with SQL Server in 2004. I randomly used to deliver sessions at Microsoft premises whenever the opportunity presented itself. Unplanned and random, but frequent, that was the fun of it. I was traveling a lot so I touched many cities in India. During those years, I was a freelancer, not really running an org (as I do now), so I traveled and enjoyed every moment of it and tried to do more and more – the young blood!
The first community session of 2004. Glad, I had this pic.
I was seeing that lot SQL folks are interested in these sessions and there is quite a big gap in “what they know” and “what they should know”. And why not bring in more people who can deliver sessions? Why not scale and make it a little bigger, a little organized, a little more professional? Years later, this gave birth to SQLServerGeeks.com in 2010. And now this is 2020. True to the title of this post, I wish to talk more about the whole decade of community work that began after the inception of SQLServerGeeks in 2010.
Well, it has been a supersonic jet ride, if I can say so. SQLServerGeeks became quite popular. Our entire community team including, Manohar, Sarabpreet, Ahmad, Prince, Surbhi and many more authors and team members – we all blogged, hosted events across India, delivered sessions, loads of fun and SQL Server discussions. I think this was the best time of my community life. We were not on FB or Twitter or LinkedIn, it was just word of mouth and we got more than 100 folks at each event, on average. To be honest, I was selfish here. I wanted to do more events and deliver more sessions because it made me learn so much. People asked all sorts of questions, the problems that they were facing in their environment. For some, I had answers, others, I found answers – overall I was learning and I was growing. Yeah, that is growth, the more knowledgable you become, it is your asset and no one can take that away from you. This journey of SQLServerGeeks continues today as well…
One such event in Bangalore…
Yeah, most of these events were houseful. It was overwhelming. We tried to maintain an archive here, as long as we could go back.
In the last decade, I also traveled across continents and delivered SQL sessions at some of the most prestigious conferences and events across the globe. Ignite, the erstwhile TechEd, PASS Summits, SQLBits, multiple SQL Saturday events, and a few more. I wish I could travel more, but I had and still have more-than-average family commitments. While learning from local audience was one thing, delivering sessions to the global audience, the learning thereof, the overall experience, was completely a different thing altogether. I learned different cultures, understood different levels and scale of problems, made so many friends from the community, many of them are MVPs too. Overall, a very rewarding experience. There was always so much to learn from these large events, the way they were organized, the energy, the spirit, the level of commitment – it was mind-blowing. I learned something every minute.
A pic from one of the TechEd events…
I talked about my TechEd/Ignite journey here.
I also had the privilege to visit the Microsoft campus countless times. Sometimes due to work, sometimes community stuff, and of course, the MVP & RD summit. What I cherish the most is closed group interactions with product team members. I learned things that I could not even think about. It is like – learning the unknown. I first traveled to the MS campus in 2007 and since then always grabbed every opportunity to go to the campus because I knew, I will again learn something deep-dive. Microsoft folks were always great hosts.
A pic from SQL certification exam OD session development at MS campus, some building…
And this one is superb at of the SQL buildings…
International conferences, their scale, the gathering, the meetings and interactions between the community and Microsoft folks – all this impressed me quite a bit. And I started dreaming of organizing a similar event in India for the SQL community. Not many know this, but I tried in the year 2012, 2013 & 2014. But I failed. No, it’s not that I announced and then canceled later, instead, I wasn’t just able to put things together. There were too many odds I had to fight and probably the time and situation weren’t right.
No worries, I took some time off and did my MCM 🙂
Then came 2015. I wanted to take the SQLServerGeeks community work to the next level. And the next level for me clearly was, Asia’s First SQL Conference, aka, SQLServerGeeks Annual Summit 2015. Again, not that odds changed, but I was more determined. I had failed thrice before but that did not stop me. I was getting sleepless nights, I just wanted to do it. No one agreed to my concept or the idea of organizing a large scale conference focused on SQL Server. Walk alone, if you wish. With family support and the support of SSG Team, Manohar, Sarabpreet, Surbhi and others, we pulled off Asia’s First SQL Conference, SSGAS 2015. It was a mega success. This was a battle with myself, can I do it? Happy, I won the battle.
Here is the group pic from last year, DPS 2019.
While SQL Server was at the forefront, Microsoft Data Stack was growing leaps and bound and with Azure Data, it was becoming limitless. On a side note, I am always in awe of the Azure Data Team, they are amazing people. With recent announcements like Hyperscale and Synapse, they are tearing competition apart. Keeping up with the trend, I wanted to expand the community work to grow beyond SQL Server and that gave birth to DataPlatformGeeks in 2016. That is precisely the reason why after two instances of SQLServerGeeks Annual Summit, the learning event was rechristened as Data Platform Summit.
Under DataPlatformGeeks, we spruced up our community activities to a great extent. We collaborated with MVPs and global experts and started focusing more on webinars. We tried to cover the length and breadth of Microsoft Data, Analytics & AI technologies – SQL Server, SQL Database, Cosmos DB, Database for MySQL, Database for PostgreSQL, Database for Maria DB, SQL Data Warehouse, Azure Databricks, Azure Data Lake, HDInsight, Azure Stream Analytics, Azure Data Factory, Azure Data Catalog, Microsoft’s Analytics Platform, etc.
And why not, even SQL Server MVP award category got changed to Data Platform MVP. Well, my MVP journey continues.
We just went so aggressive with the community work that we notched up more than 200K members from 90+ countries in a short span of 3 years. Kudos to our team members, our speakers, volunteers and every soul that has been involved with our community work. The work continues. Thankfully, most of our webinars are recorded and the community continues to benefit. 2019 ended with Data Platform Summit 2019, the 5th edition, and what a milestone it was. DPS 2020 may be annouced soon.
Our community work with DataPlatformGeeks was unparalleled, it gave us worldwide recognition. A lot of credit for that goes to my colleagues Deepti, Satya, Rohit, Sandip, Avanish and many others over the years who supported me in my so-called “community madness” 🙂
Here is a pic at DPS 2019 with my colleagues.
Looking back at the decade, we have done more than 100 in-person events and more than 100 webinars. All free for the community. Not enough? Try doing it 😉 – Well such numbers come with persistent efforts, sincerity, dedication, passion and a lot of hard work. My only advice to upcoming community leaders is: take your community work seriously. Just don’t do it for the sake of it or to maintain some title.
For a moment, I had this thought, lets ask the community if they still want us to do more such events and if it really benefits them, and I casually made a LinkedIn post. See the response 🙂
Last year, I had a need to visit a few startup hubs in Bangalore and I interacted with CIOs/CEOs/Founders. I was surprised to find that many of them had absolutely no awareness of the immense capability Azure Data & AI had, the technical advancement Azure had to offer. Also, I always wanted to do some community stuff with the top-level management of organizations. You see, it is not so easy to involve them. I was also holding Microsoft Regional Director position (honorary) and I wanted to do something different, true to the title of being an RD. These three motivations triggered me to create MConnect platform, and wow, it was an instant hit. We collaborated with Microsoft Technology Center, India to host a few events. The idea was to connect leaders with leaders. Thanks again to Microsoft for supporting me here.
The last MConnect of Dec 2019. In this pic, Sandeep Alur, MTC Head India, talking to VPs/Directors/CIOs from 20+ organizations.
The community thing is inside me. It lives with me. Even when I am working with my commercial unit (SQLMaestros), I constantly keep doing stuff that benefits the community. When I was tired of writing technical blogs, I started recording videos and I put them up on YouTube for the community. And likewise, my SQL memory dump on SQLShighra.
All the community work that I talked about till now was done for the privileged folks. Yes, I believe we all are very privileged. The mere fact that I am peacefully writing this blog from my office, and you are reading it on whatever device – we are blessed and privileged. We can keep complaining about lives and our endless worries, but all of us have a place to live, food to eat, clean water to drink and our children are getting education. This is a blessing of some sort so be thankful. There is another section of the society that is deprived of basic fundamental rights like education, medication, so much so that millions of children lack basic food and clean drinking water, let alone that so many of them do not even have basic shelter to live. I am talking about the unprivileged, people living in extremely poor conditions, below poverty and differently-abled human beings.
To serve this section of society, I started Mahadevi Foundation. Mahadevi is my great grandmother’s name and I hear from my father that she was a very pious lady. We do our bit by sponsoring child education, helping a few NGOs who are less funded, helping the poor who need medical attention but do not have enough money and a few more activities. My family and I work together towards this initiative. I feel so much for the underprivileged, at one point I might decide to dedicate the rest of my life facilitating them so that they become independent and self-sufficient. Well, the key here is not to give them money, but help in ways so that they can help themselves, maybe create more opportunities for them. Sponsoring child education has been my primary focus, especially girl education. India has a history where women have not got equal education, and therefore equal opportunities. Times have changed and we all should step forward. Diversity and Inclusion should not be just a boardroom discussion, rather action on the ground. I strongly believe that girl education sponsorship is the least we can do.
Me at a blood donation camp
So this was the last decade. In fact, more than 10 years. My community work is just not “mine”. It is “ours”. A lot of people have supported me along the way. They believed in me and my work. All my friends who are and were part of the DataPlatformGeeks and SQLServerGeeks team, my colleagues at eDominer over the years, community members who silently helped in spreading the word, all the student volunteers – they were incredible, our speakers from the community and Microsoft – they were exceptional, and so many others who do not fall in any specific category but did come forward and helped in so many ways. A special mention about my global MVP friends – they are a bunch of superheroes who will unconditionally come forward and help in any way possible. And I have always learned so much from them every single time I interacted with them. Last but not least, Microsoft and its people – I am blessed that I got an opportunity to work with them. Microsoft leadership at the highest levels have recognized my work and supported me in my community endeavors – a standing ovation for them!
What’s next? I am still brainstorming. If you have some ideas for me, comment here.