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SQL Saturday Boston – Pilot Not Flying


March 6, 2017 by Mike Hillwig

In addition to being a data geek, I’m also an aviation geek. Aviation references make sense to me. Heck, I even bought my house on on the approach path into Boston’s Logan International Airport in order to watch the planes land over my house. For fellow aviation geeks, it’s the approach to runway 22L.

On commercial aviation flights, they always have at least two pilots, the captain and the first officer. They’re often incorrectly referred to as the pilot and co-pilot. That’s Andy and me when it comes to SQL Saturday Boston. I’ve been the captain, and he’s been my first officer. People often think that the captain is always at the controls, but this isn’t the case. There is a concept of Pilot Flying and Pilot Not Flying. One pilot is always at the controls and the other is there to assist and to provide backup.

For the past several events, I’ve been operating as the Pilot Flying for SQL Saturday Boston. SQL Saturday #585 Boston was Andy’s leg to fly. He was the Pilot Flying this time, and I was the Pilot Not Flying. I was there to help, to provide guidance and assistance, but he was at the controls. The decisions were his to make.

For the first time in years, I got to sit back a little, keep my eyes on things as they progressed, but ultimately defer to the Pilot Flying to make the major decisions. When you’re used to flying the plane, it’s really difficult to give up the controls. This was Andy’s leg to fly.

In our pre-flight conference, we made a few decisions. We wanted to scale back the scope of our event. We wanted to take less money from sponsors so that we could leave more money in the pool for other events. We wanted to bring in less money, spend less money, and do more with less. We’ve done huge events in the past with tons of giveaways. We decided to scale that back. And scale back we did. We also decided to focus more on local speakers. This was not going to be an all-MVP event–far from it. We went back to basics. We wanted to run a good event on a tighter budget.

Oh, and did I mention that we were going to do all of this while moving to a new venue? Microsoft recently moved their conference facilities from Cambridge to Burlington in the suburbs. This was a lot of change at once.

Andy and Mike: SQL Saturday Hosts

As departure time came closer, Andy took the controls. He ran the event, and he did well. He made some tweaks to our formula. This is a formula I’ve spent years creating. And he flew a smooth flight. He managed the schedule better than I did, and he gave our sponsors much more exposure than I ever did. Andy likes to call me Grampa, joking about my being a decade older than him. Well, he taught the old man some new tricks.

This might have been the most fun I’ve ever had at a SQL Saturday. I got to help without the weight of the entire event on my shoulders. The entire flight was smooth, and more importantly, it landed smoothly. The entire event flew without the slightest bit of turbulence.

I’m really proud of my friend Andy. He ran this event as well as I could have, perhaps even a bit better.

Two days after our event, PASS published that SQL Saturday 647 Boston BI Edition will be held on September 23rd. This will be my leg as the Pilot Flying, and Andy will be the Pilot Not Flying. Our call for speakers and precons is open. We’d love to welcome you aboard.

I’m cross-posting this as…pilot-not-flying/.