I don’t care what technology or technologies you enjoy using in your daily job. If there’s an enthusiastic community behind it, you need to become part of it. Your job and career will be better as a result.

I’ll start this personal post with a mixed tale from my childhood. This topic came about from an unexpected email I received yesterday. I got news that two old friends of mine had passed away in the last month. Both were untimely, as they were not much older than me.  These were two people from my childhood, before I could drive, and before there was an official internet. This was back from the BBS days. This was pre-widespread Internet. For some of you – yes, that time did actually exist.

One of these people was a gifted entrepreneur who ran middle Georgia’s (where I grew up) first major bulletin board system and eventually the first regional Internet provider. The other was a great musician and all around person. We all competed to dial in to chat with each other each night on her BBS system. This was when I was in the influential twelve to twenty years old range.

I got to know some truly great people – personally – and I became fast friends with them for life. But the one who had the most influence on me was the owner of this system – affectionately known as sysop. She owned and managed the BBS, owned a small architectural engineering firm, and was an active environmental and political activist. She was driven and determined to build the best environment for her passions and goals in life. The BBS came from her desire to help people connect and interact. Her personality, sense of involvement, and open arms attracted everyone in the regional middle Georgia community (at least us nerds who were BBSing) and helped us all build a community around this system. We all wanted to be there with the group.

After several years of us all fighting to get access, her adding crazy amounts of phone lines into her house, and seemingly infinite late-night chats on every topic imaginable, she got the great idea to hold a gathering at her place to help us all meet face to face instead of just nickname and personality to nickname and personality. People of every age, race, political bias, orientation, and background came to meet each other. It was amazing. I was easily a third of the average age in the room, but felt more at home with these people than I did with anyone at school. I felt like I was home.

This one party led to more, until it became a routine to hang out at sysops house and catch up with this community. This person taught me the value of a number of core life skills, namely community building, entrepreneurship, and determination. I never realized how amazing this experience was until much later in life.

Fast forward about ten years. I get into the full-time work force and discover that I really enjoy working with data. I focused my sights on Microsoft SQL Server, and then started to poke around the net for knowledge. Step back a bit and you see a core group of people contributing to the growing knowledge base for the emerging platform through books and technical blog posts. This group was always encouraging people to learn more, especially those who were new at SQL Server, and did so in the most welcoming and inviting ways.

Now fast forward another ten years. IMHO, the SQL Server community has evolved into the most tight-knit, close, group of technologists on the planet. The amount of information sharing is unparalleled. The welcome newbies receive when asking for knowledge is amazing. It really is like a family. When I fully immersed myself in the community at my first PASS Summit and spoke with Kevin Kline, for the first time since the BBS days I felt like I was home again. It’s hard to describe. It’s the same feeling of community and family that I had with that group back in the day, but had not felt since then. With each Summit and SQL Saturday after that, this sense of community grows more and more. It’s great. I want to keep it up. I want all of you to keep doing what you’re doing. The SQL Server community feels like my family, and for that, I thank you.

Chris and Kelly, RIP. You will be missed by the people whose lives you changed.

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