PASS Summit 2018 Session Feedback

I was honored to participate in three presentations at the PASS Summit 2018. I delivered a full-day pre-conference session titled Intelligent Data Integration and another session titled Faster SSIS. I also participated on a panel titled BI & Data Visualization.

A great big THANK YOU to everyone who attended my presentations!

As I’ve shared (numerous times) in the past, I share my ratings not to boast but to let less experienced and would-be presenters peek behind the curtain.

The ratings were on a scale of 1 (bad) to 5 (good).

Intelligent Data Integration Precon

I had 107 attendees and received feedback from 33 attendees.

Ratings

Rate the value of the session content: 4.45
How useful and relevant is the session content to your job/career? 4.24
How well did the session’s track, audience, title, abstract, and level align with what was presented? 4.42
Rate the speaker’s knowledge of the subject matter: 4.79
Rate the overall presentation and delivery of the session content: 4.45
Rate the balance of educational content versus that of sales, marketing, and promotional subject matter: 4.55

These are ok numbers. Not as good as Brent’s or Cathrine’s, but ok. I’m ok with these numbers but I want to do a better job connecting with the audience.

Selected Comments About the Presentation

Most of the comments were positive. I really appreciate the positive comments. I included all the non-positive comments below. Some of the negative comments were also instructional. Others… need instruction.

“I learned tips and tricks that justified the cost of the conference.”
“Andy was an excellent speaker. Working through demos was integral in giving me exactly what I need to implement a solution.”
“Great knowledge and very humble in the way he talks.”
“Andy is awesome, his ego does not get in the way during the presentation, overall great.”
“Andy is a wonderful speaker and I was able to easily understand the topics covered and feel confident that I can use the lessons learned in my profession.”
“Excellent delivery of material. Always delivers humor along with the content. Picked up tips that would have taken a very long time to learn on my own. Would love to see another pre-conference session on ETL by Andy (whether SSIS or ADF).”

“We spent way too much time in Biml. ”
“Andy knows his subject but while the Biml intro was interesting the examples of SSIS patterns were too simplistic, too ‘Hello world!’. Should have had at least one example were data source and destination were on different servers.”
“Continual reference speaker made to how session content just ‘hobbying’/not production conscious, alluding to the ‘real’ stuff being something other than what was being presented. ‘I have a stand in the exhibitors arena’!!! The serious stuff!!! Cheapened the experience. Although pre-con by no means cheap! This inflection, re-iterated by the speaker was disappointing. Felt a superiority complex existed!
Unsettling.”

My Thoughts

I didn’t get much feedback on the Biml portion of the precon. Of the two comments that mention Biml, one was negative and another positive. I’m not sure if that’s because I covered Biml during the first part of the precon (and evaluations were filled out at the end of the precon) or if I did a worse job on Biml than the other topics. To me, it looks like a wash.

The last comment is… I don’t know. I think someone was having a bad day or I wasn’t their cup of tea or I just rubbed them the wrong way. I actually took 60 seconds to explain that PASS exhorts presenters to steer clear of sales-y talk in presentations. In the past, I’ve been vocal in my disagreement with PASS about these policies. While I believe I am right, I signed a contract to abide by the rules.

That said, the rules permit sponsors and exhibitors to share information about their for-pay products during presentations. In the 60 seconds, I shared my belief that someone – either the attendee or their company – had paid good money for the attendee to attend this precon. But I did not want to spend any of our time together selling them anything. I shared some of the free tools available from DILM Suite. I mentioned I sell other tools and solutions and that I was an exhibitor. If they wanted to learn more about products I sell, they could drop by the booth or email me.

bunch of attendees did just that! Nick and I had some great conversations with people at our booth. I’m pretty sure we will be helping some folks with training and consulting, and that we sold some licenses to DILM Suite products.

I strive to cover the topics in as much depth as possible. In order to do that, I demonstrate “chunks” of functionality and patterns using demos that are not Production-ready. I believe more than one day is required to delve into data integration with SSIS with Production-ready code. I’ve led such training – and continue to deliver beginner and advanced SSIS training privately and occasionally, publicly. If you’re interested in learning SSIS from the ground up, I have a five-day course named From Zero To SSIS. I’d be honored to deliver this training for you or your team. Email me. If you are an experienced SSIS developer, I recommend attending a delivery of Expert SSIS presented in cooperation with Brent Ozar Unlimited.

To this attendee who I do not know (evaluations are anonymous when sent to speakers) and any other attendees who agreed with this attendee, I apologize and ask your forgiveness for coming across as superior and cheapening your experience.

Faster SSIS

I had 203 attendees and received feedback from 63 attendees.

Ratings

Rate the value of the session content: 4.54
How useful and relevant is the session content to your job/career? 4.44
How well did the session’s track, audience, title, abstract, and level align with what was presented? 4.60
Rate the speaker’s knowledge of the subject matter: 4.83
Rate the overall presentation and delivery of the session content: 4.63
Rate the balance of educational content versus that of sales, marketing, and promotional subject matter: 4.83

These are better numbers. They trend about the same, though: I scored higher on speaker’s knowledge of the subject matter in both this session and the precon. My lowest score in both presentations is the usefulness of the session content for job and career. From this I glean I need to work on content.

Selected Comments About the Presentation

As before, most of the comments were positive and I included all the less-than-positive comments below:

“I now know that a hashbyte match for an etl will work. Ive wanted to try this but my clients use other methods to load data. Thank you very much.”
“Andy is a good man and we are lucky to have him in our SQL Family.”
“Very easy to sit through! Great content and answers.”
“Andy is always entertaining. I learned quite a bit from this session and I plan to implement the things he spoke about.”
“Great session, love your humor. Good and easy to follow demos. Good job!”
“Andy was incredibly entertaining and the content was very good.”
“Great session. He’s on my list when I come back.”
“More sessions should have interpretive dances.”

“Thanks for the talk. Liked the time for questions. However I would have preferred more examples.”
“Excellent presentation skills. Very interesting and entertaining. There were way too many questions about their own specific issues that would have been better if handled after the session. It felt as if we rushed through content because there were so many questions. I’m definitely going to look into Andy’s available content because I found his approach interesting and different and would like to see more tricks.”
“Ok. Hard to understand some concepts.”
“Good instructor, but deep subject matter (hard to follow).”
“I should have read session description more carefully. It was beyond my skills. My own fault.”

My Thoughts

I’m going to start at the bottom of the negative comments here and say: “God bless you sir or ma’am,” to the person who had the courage to share that the level of the session was beyond their skills. I had this session pegged as Level 300. I will increase that level going forward to 400 (minimum) based on feedback about the level. It wasn’t just this person, I own the “hard to follow” and “hard to understand” comments. I will correct that moving forward. I will also add a disclaimer about the pace of this presentation in response to the “rushed through content” comment – which is another reason to bump the level.

Regarding the interpretive dance comment, well… you had to be there. 😉

BI & Data Visualization Panel

This was a panel that included Mico Yuk, Melissa Coates, Meagan Longoria, Ryan Wade, and me. We had 111 attendees and received feedback from 20 attendees.

Ratings

Rate the value of the session content: 3.75
How useful and relevant is the session content to your job/career? 3.90
How well did the session’s track, audience, title, abstract, and level align with what was presented? 3.90
Rate the speaker’s knowledge of the subject matter: 4.40
Rate the overall presentation and delivery of the session content: 3.90
Rate the balance of educational content versus that of sales, marketing, and promotional subject matter: 4.50

These numbers are not good but the comments help us understand why.

Selected Comments About the Presentation

The comments were evenly split between positive and less-than-positive:

“Fantastic and especially loved the diversity of the panel. Thank you!”
“I valued the information about Data maturity – getting customers from data > information > knowledge.”
“This was great. There was a lot of interesting discussion. Mico was a great host.”
“Mico was a fantastic moderator and the panel (for the most part) were experts in their field.”

“Mico was great at moving the conversations along and keeping it on point…very well done. I guess I was just disappointed that I didn’t come away with more “definitive” material. I’ll admit, I didn’t know what to expect.”
“Mico interrupted the panelists with her own comments too much and didn’t manage the room well. The panelists were fantastic.”
“This session need a Plan B for when the audience did not contribute many (or any) questions. Not a worthwhile session for me.”
“The panel could have been a little better balanced. They all(?) were consultants, it would have been nice to have someone on the panel who is just working for a company.”

My Thoughts

It’s tough to tell towards whom the comments were aimed (except the comments that mentioned Mico which were evenly split positive and less-than-positive).

I’ll share that it’s tough to get high ratings from a panel presentation. Part of the reason is it’s technically impossible to prepare in advance for the questions from the audience. I believe that’s also an advantage for some attendees.

Of the 20 people who supplied evaluations, 4 ranked the panel session below 3.0. You don’t have to be good at statistics to realize those scores are going to tank the averages.

Conclusion

If you’re going to present, you should understand the dynamics of evaluations.

I shared with a friend – who happens to be a very good speaker and received some disappointing comments on his evaluations – with experience, we know when we’ve delivered as good a presentation as we can and when we’ve fallen short of that goal. For me:

I know I left it all on the field in my presentations at PASS Summit 2018. I did my very best. I practiced and the practice paid off. I planned and the planning helped – especially with timing demos in both the precon and Faster SSIS.

I’ve written about evaluations in the past – especially for free events – see Being a More-Aware Free Technical Event Attendee in which I describe a game – called “There’s Always One” – that I play with evaluations.

Because I know I delivered these presentations well, I’m happy with these numbers. Will I strive to do better? Will I incorporate this feedback into future deliveries of the precon and Faster SSIS? Goodness yes! Overall, though, I’m happy to have had the honor of delivering a precon solo at the PASS Summit and that I was selected to deliver a session and participate on a panel.

Frank (@Tableteer) and I just recorded a show in which I mention both this post and the game called “There’s Always One.” Check it out, along with other podcast recordings at DataDriven.tv!

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Biml, Book Reviews, and Metadata-Driven Frameworks

I occasionally (rarely) read reviews at Amazon of books I’ve written. If I learn of a complaint regarding the book I often try to help. If a reader experiences difficulty with demos, I often offer to help, and sometimes I meet with readers to work through some difficulty related to the book (as I offered here). About half the time, there’s a problem with the way the book explains an example or the sample code; the other half the time the reader does not understand what is written.

I own both cases. As a writer it’s my job to provide good examples that are as easy to understand as possible. Sometimes I fail.

In very rare instances, I feel the review misrepresents the contents of a book –  enough to justify clarification. This review afforded one such opportunity. None of what I share below is new to regular readers of my blog. I chose to respond in a direct manner because I know and respect the author of the review, and believe he will receive my feedback in the manner in which it was intended – a manner (helpful feedback) very similar to the manner in which I believe his review was intended (also helpful feedback).

Enjoy.

My Reply to This Review of The Biml Book:

Thank you for sharing your thoughts in this review.

I maintain successful technology solutions are a combination of three factors:

  1. The problem we are trying to solve;
  2. The technology used to solve the problem; and
  3. The developer attempting to use a technology to solve the problem.

I believe any technologist, given enough time and what my mother refers to as “gumption” (a bias for action combined with a will – and the stubbornness, er… tenacity – to succeed), can solve any problem with any technology.

I find your statement, “It doesn’t really teach BIML but rather teaches a specific optional framework for those who want to do everything with BIML rather than increase productivity for repetitive patterns” inaccurate. Did you read the entire book? I ask that question because I most often encounter readers who state the precise opposite of the opinion expressed in this review (some of your fellow reviewers express the opposite opinion here, even). I disagree with your statement, but I understand your opinion in light of other opinions expressed to me by readers during my past decade+ of writing several books. I share one example in this blog post. The short version: we often get more – or different – things from reading than we realize.

There is a section in The Biml Book – made up of 3 of the 20 chapters and appendices – that proposes a basic metadata-driven Biml framework which is the basis of a metadata-driven Biml framework in production in several large enterprises. I wrote those 3 chapters and the basic metadata-driven Biml framework in question. Varigence has also produced a metadata-driven Biml framework called BimlFlex – based upon similar principles – which has been deployed at myriad enterprises. The enterprise architects at these organizations have been able to improve code quality and increase productivity, all while decreasing the amount of time required to bring data-related solutions to market. They do not share your opinion, although they share at least some of the problems (you mentioned ETL) you are trying to solve.

Am I saying Biml – or the framework about which I wrote or even BimlFlex – is the end-all-be-all for every SSIS development effort? Goodness no! In fact, you will find disclaimers included in my writings on Biml and SSIS frameworks. I know because I wrote the disclaimers.

Misalignment on any of the three factors for successful technology solutions – the problem, the technology, and/or the developer – can lead to impedance mismatches in application and implementation. For example, Biml is not a good solution for some classes of ETL or data integration (points 1 and 2). And learning Biml takes about 40 hours of tenacious commitment (which goes to point 3). This is all coupled with a simple fact: data integration is hard. SSIS does a good job as a generic, provider-driven solution – but most find SSIS challenging to learn and non-intuitive (I did when I first started using it). Does that mean SSIS is not worth the effort to learn? Goodness, no! It does mean complaints about simplifying the learning process are to be expected and somewhat rhetorical.

Architects disagree. We have varying amounts of experience. We have different kinds of experience. Some architects have worked only as lone-wolf consultants or as members of single-person teams. Others have worked only as leaders of small teams of ETL developers. Rarer still are enterprise architects who are cross-disciplined and experienced as both lone-wolf consultants and managers of large teams in independent consulting firms and large enterprises. Less-experienced architects sometimes believe they have solved “all the things” when they have merely solved “one of the things.” Does this make them bad people? Goodness, no. It makes them less-experienced, though, and helps identify them as such. Did the “one thing” need solving? Goodness, yes. But enterprise architecture is part science and part art. Understanding the value of a solution one does not prefer – or the value of a solution that does not apply to the problem one is trying to solve – lands squarely in the art portion of the gig.

Regarding the science portion of the gig: engineers are qualified to qualitatively pronounce any solution is “over-engineered.” Non-engineers are not qualified to make any such determination, in my opinion.

By way of example: I recently returned from the PASS Summit. Although I did not attend the session, I know an SSIS architect delivered a session in which he made dismissing statements regarding any and all metadata-driven frameworks related to ETL with SSIS. If I didn’t attend his session, how do I know about the content of the presentation? A number of people in attendance approached me after the session to share their opinion that the architect, though he shared some useful information, does not appreciate the problems faced by most enterprise architects – especially enterprise architects who lead teams of ETL developers.

My advice to all enterprise architects and would-be enterprise architects is: Don’t be that guy.

Instead, be the enterprise architect who continues to examine a solution until underlying constraints and drivers and reasons the solution was designed the way it was designed are understood. Realize and recognize the difference between “That’s wrong,” “I disagree,” and “I prefer a different solution.” One size does not fit all.

Finally, some of the demos and Biml platforms were not working at the time you wrote this review. Many have been addressed since that time. In the future, updates to SSIS, Biml, and ETL best practices will invalidate what this team of authors wrote during the first half of 2017. As such, the statements, “And much of the online information is outdated and no longer works. It’s a shame someone hasn’t found a way to simplify the learning process.” is a tautology that defines progress. Learning is part of the job of a technologist. I encourage us all – myself most of all – to continue learning.

Peace.

Introducing Azure Data Factory Design Patterns

I was honored to write an article titled Introducing Azure Data Factory Design Patterns featured in this month’s PASS Insights newsletter!

Introducing Azure Data Factory Design Patterns

The article covers a couple execution patterns:

  1. Execute Child Pipeline
  2. Execute Child SSIS Package

I demonstrate a cool SSIS Catalog Browser feature that helps ADF developers configure the Execute SSIS Package activity.

To see it in action, download SSIS Catalog Browser – it’s one of the free utilities available at DILM Suite. Connect to the instance of Azure SQL DB that hosts an Azure Data Factory SSIS Integration Runtime Catalog, select the SSIS Package you desire to execute using the Execute SSIS Package activity, and then copy the Catalog Path from the  Catalog Browser status message:

Paste that value into the Package Path property of the Execute SSIS Package activity:

You can rinse and repeat – Catalog Browser surfaces Environment paths as well:

Enjoy the article!

If you have any questions about Azure Data Factory – or need help getting started – please reach out!

Learn more:
Attend my full-day pre-conference session titled Intelligent Data Integration at the PASS Summit 2018  on 5 Nov 2018.
Check out this 1-day course on
Fundamentals of Azure Data Factory delivered in cooperation with Brent Ozar Unlimited 10 Dec 2018!

PASS Summit 2018 Starts in 10 Weeks!

Can you believe the PASS Summit 2018 begins only 10 weeks from today (27 Aug 2018)? I confess, this is sneaking up on me fast!

I will be there. Will you?

Where Can You Find Andy at the PASS Summit 2018?

Precon!

Monday 5 Nov 2018, I’m delivering a full-day pre-conference session titled Intelligent Data Integration with SSIS. I’m going to cover  everything listed at that link but there is an update about my precon content:

There will be Azure Data Factory content and demos!

Why this addition? Two reasons:

  1. My presentation titled Faster SSIS was selected. I usually include the three Faster SSIS demos in my precon. This time, you can just view the Faster SSIS session to see those demos.
  2. may have something cool and new to share about Azure Data Factory that is currently under NDA! Stay tuned…

Enterprise Data & Analytics is Exhibiting!

That’s right, you can find me in the Exhibition Hall! Enterprise Data & Analytics is exhibiting at the PASS Summit 2018!

Have an SSIS or Biml or ADF question? Stop by our booth!
Want to grab a selfie with me or Nick? Stop by our booth!
Want me to autograph your book? Stop by our booth!
Need some consulting or training help? Stop by our booth!

I’m so excited about this – I can hardly wait. We’ll have more information about specific dates and times when I will be manning the booth in coming weeks.

Presenting Faster SSIS

At the time of this writing, the session schedule has not yet been published. PASS has published a general schedule. Keep checking for details!

Conclusion

I am looking forward to the PASS Summit 2018. I hope to see you there.

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One Solution to Presentation Categories

I’ve shared suggestions for improving presentation categories:

My chief concern is the scalar nature of the selections (the “Naked Scalar”). As I pointed out in both posts, I’ve been delivering presentations to the SQL Server Community for more than a decade and I’ve never – not even once – delivered a presentation that was strictly Beginner, Intermediate, or Advanced; or Level 100, 200, 300, 400, or 500.

It’s a mix. Every. Single. Time.

PASS Tracks

That said, I really like the definitions for PASS Tracks. Click that link and read through them. PASS did a good job distinguishing different types of helpful presentations and defining tracks.

As a data person, I get the logic behind the scalar values. Scalars are easier to store and way easier to search.

My post about presentation levels was inspired more by feedback from attendees who shared they thought my session level was incorrect – that it should have been higher or lower (I’ve actually received both complaints – that the session level was advertised as too high and too low for the same delivery of the same presentation…).

As an engineer, I’d like more accuracy:

But…

I’m not sure sharing more accurately would improve the conference attendee experience. Sharing more than a scalar – at least like the chart above – would increase the costs of printed material. It would require more engagement on the part of the attendee and more detail – and management – on the part of the presenter. Why management? My presentations evolve over time (I like to think they get better but I am biased…)

Would it be worth the investment? I think probably not.

So, while I continue to loathe the Naked Scalar wherever I encounter it, perhaps a scalar is the best solution after all.

I will continue to place these charts in my presentations and share them at the beginning of my session, in case someone thinks the presentation will cover more of one topic they wish to learn about. In this way, people have enough information – early enough in the presentation – to vote with their feet and attend a different presentation.

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Who is Exhibiting at the PASS Summit 2018? Enterprise Data & Analytics, That’s Who!

I am honored and excited to announce that Enterprise Data & Analytics will be an exhibitor at the PASS Summit 2018!

If you browse on over to the PASS Summit Sponsors page and scroll to the Exhibitors section, you’ll find us listed:

Honored and excited – that’s me!

I see – and have lived – this virtuous cycle in the SQL Server and PASS communities:

  • A person discovers the Community and is overwhelmed at our openness and genuine willingness to help others. They realize they are not alone.
  • They learn more and become better at their jobs which, in turn, positively impacts their quality of life.
  • Some desire to give back to the community, so they develop a presentation and submit it to a User Group or SQL Saturday.
  • Some are selected to deliver their presentation.
  • Some presentations are well-received and increase the visibility of the presenter in the community.
  • As presentations are honed over time, some are used as a springboard to develop and deliver other presentations, further increasing the visibility of the presenter.
  • Some presenters achieve enough visibility to become a brand.
  • Some presenters are selected to present at larger events, like the PASS Summit.
  • Some presenters use their newfound greater visibility and brand awareness to join a consultancy practice or to become independent consultants.
  • The continued care and feeding of the brand of some consultants drives business growth.
  • The businesses of some consultants grows to the point where they can become sponsors and exhibitors at events such as User Groups, SQL Saturdays, and – eventually – the PASS Summit.

This cycle can be broken (or quashed) at any point by any number of actions, inactions, missteps, mistakes, and/or competitive overreach. In fact, I promise you will make mistakes and take missteps along the way (ask me how I know), but those mistakes and failures can tear you down or build you into more than you were – and the outcome is 100% your choice.

I advocate for the next generation of presenters. I want to see you engage, learn, share, grow, build their brands, and give back – just like I did.

Go get ’em!

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PS – Need some help with your data? Contact us! We are here to help and by hiring Enterprise Data & Analytics you support some great communities!

The Biml Book is Available!

The Biml Book became available last week! I’m delayed in posting this because I was at the PASS Summit 2017 last week where I had a great time catching up with old friends, making new friends, learning new stuff, and presenting.

Really exciting for Biml people, Scott Currie was on-stage to present Biml and Azure Data Factory 2.0 in the PASS Summit 2017 Day 1 keynote. It was a good day for Biml, methinks. Cathrine agrees, although our video was truncated.

Enjoy the book! I provided the Table of Contents in this post.

Coming Soon: Biml Academy v2.0!

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My Plans for PASS Summit 2017

I’m looking forward to attending the PASS Summit 2017 next week – especially since I missed last year. If you search, you can find lots of great advice to attendees of the Summit. I agree with almost all of the advice out there and, if you’re a first-time attendee, it would serve you well to search out this advice.

Presenting!

I love the PASS Summit. I wrote about why in Why I Love the PASS Summit. It’s always an honor to present. This year I’m presenting Use Biml to Automate SSIS Design Patterns at the Summit – with demos I’ve been evolving for the past couple years. I like the latest version a lot, and I owe Scott Currie kudos for helping my C# surpass n00b status! I’m also presenting at the Seattle SQL Pro Workshop 2017 on Designing an SSIS Framework – a topic that I plan to write about next year.

My Plans

Other than presenting at the Freecon and the Summit, I hope to meet with Christian brothers and sisters the few mornings I am in town. We will share prayer requests and pray for each other, PASS leadership, and for safety and a positive experience of everyone attending the conference. This is something Mike Walsh (@mike_walsh) started years ago. He calls it PASS Prayers. Although Mike’s efforts predate many newer social-context efforts at the PASS Summit, you won’t find a table for our demographic at the conference nor any official recognition that the group even exists from the PASS organization (other than a sign to a multi-faith prayer room).

That’s not a complaint – I kind of like it that way.

That’s about it for plans.

I’ll likely go to bed late (for me), around 10:00 PM each night. Since it takes me time to unwind each evening, I’ll likely be heading for my room around 9:00 PM. I’m an early riser, so you may find me lurking in the Sheraton lobby or the Daily Grill (I love the smoked salmon for breakfast!) around 6:00 AM each morning.

Books!

The rest of the time I’ll be wandering around the Convention Center catching up with old friends and engaging with new friends. I plan to have copies of Building Custom Tasks for SSIS on me as I meander, and I plan to give them away for free. So if you want a copy, hunt me down! I’ll likely be sharing my location by Twitter (@AndyLeonard). I shouldn’t be hard to find – I’m a fat guy with a braided beard.

I’ll try to stop by as many after-hours events as possible. Most require registration and are sold out at this point… perhaps I’ll just walk by and wave.

My Advice

Travel with a friend. If you find yourself stuck somewhere, reach out on Twitter. Our community is filled with helpful people. If you find yourself in danger, call 911. I’m serious.

Take care of yourself. Be aware of your surroundings. Be aware of fellow community members and try to be helpful if you believe they need help. Seattle’s a big city (especially if you’re from a place the size of Farmville Virginia). There are many wonderful and cool people there. There are also a handful of non-wonderful and not-cool people there that you should watch out for.

Have a good time. Learn stuff. Engage people – especially people you admire. If you’re shy (I am not shy) or introverted (like me) and need practice engaging someone, I’m an easy engagement-starter-person.

Be kind. Be courteous. Be helpful. Be thoughtful.

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