SQL Bits 2024 - Post Event Write Up

Posted by John Q. Martin on Tue, Mar 26, 2024
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Back on Stage

Today I will be looking back at SQL Bits 2024 which I was lucky enough to present at and attend last week in Farnborough.

My Main Session

It’s been a long time since I have presented a full-length session due to the pandemic and various other things which have kept me out of the conference scene largely since PASS Summit 2022. So, it was nice to have the opportunity to get back on stage to share my knowledge with members of the data platform community at SQL Bits 2024 in Farnborough. This was also an interesting location for me as I worked next door to the venue for several years as I started my career in IT and with databases.

I had one fifty minute session to present which was my Swiss Cheese Security Pattern session which discusses how to adopt the appropriate mindset and some of the approaches to building a security strategy. I also look at how we have to open up the systems to make them usable, and how this should be a risk based approach owned by the business when we design and build secure data platform solutions.

It was good to be doing it again, even if I have to admit at being a little rusty after such a long time out.

When I was contrasting the relative merits of the Entra ID users & Groups approach Vs. the AWS IAM roles approach, one of the attendees brought up the Access Packages within Identity Governance within Azure which follows a similar principle to the IAM Roles. I was unfamiliar with this Azure service component, and have to say thanks to Craig Ottley-Thistlethwaite (LinkedIn) for highlighting it (as an aside, I have known Craig for several years and can say he is a technical leader that is well worth following for his insight). I’m going to be diving into that a lot more over the coming weeks and months, that is for sure.

Helping out

Initially, this was the only session I was going to be delivering this week. However, due to some unforeseen circumstances my colleague Grace O’Halloran (LinkedIn | Blog) was unable to make the event. So I offered to step in and help Tori (LinkedIn | Blog) and Bethany (LinkedIn) by covering the data engineering section of the “A Data Engineer, Scientist and Analyst Walk Into a Bar” talk. A Somewhat daunting as Grace is an awesome engineer with a wealth of experience and knowledge on the topic and also a fantastic presenter.

I enjoyed having the opportunity to present alongside Tori and Bethany, learning about their journeys and what a typical day in the life of a data scientist and data analyst is like. There were several really good questions from the attendees which we answered off the back of the session content. From a data engineering perspective teh two that stand out to me were, do data engineers need to know all cloud platforms to be successful, and how do you get the business to take ownership of the governance that often lands on the shoulders of data engineers.

In the former, no, you don’t need to know Azure, AWS, and GCP in great depth to be a good data engineer. You need to know what you need to get the job done and if that is only Azure then only dive deep into Azure. The other things can come in time if that is what you want to take on. In the case of the second, I have to say that adopting the data product model is probably the best way to achieve this. A great place to start with this concept of data product is to check out this video by Simon whiteley (LinkedIn).

So, I have to say a big thanks to Tori and Bethany for letting me join them for this session.

Session Materials

For my session “Swiss Cheese Security Pattern” the slide deck PDF can be found in my GitHub repo here. As the videos go up from SQL Bits I will add the links to those when they are available.

My Event Experience

Overall I have to say that the organisers did a great job putting on a solid event. As a speaker and an attendee I have to say that I think it was well run and was a welcoming environment. I did not take in any sessions beyond the ones I was involved, mainly as I was there to network and connect with others in the industry. SQL Bits is pretty unique in that it will publish the content of the session days freely after the event and I plan to watch several sessions of interest back when I am in an environment that I can absorb the information. It’s no slight on the organisers, but I just don’t take in information well in a conference setting, I like to take notes to help absorb the information so reviewing videos where I can rewind and pause while I google something that is new to me is how I learn best.

So, I took the chance to renew some friendships where I had not seen people for a significant period of time, as well as making new friends and contacts with sponsors and attendees. This is also an opportunity to discuss trends and technologies, understand what other have been working on, allowing me to gain knowledge and also have my views challenged to see if I am correct or need to adjust the way I am looking at solving some of the problems I encounter at work. I find these open discussions incredibly valuable and I would really encourage you to take the chance to do this if you are at an event as it is another great learning pathway. If you are unsure how to get started, then many events now have an ‘ask the experts’ area where you can go to discuss things with someone who has different experiences than you so that you can get advice and talk through your theories with a good sounding board.

Aside from that, I had forgotten how much it can take out of me physically being on my feet all day, walking around in the event. I really ought to have brought a second pair of trainers with a bit more padding. Lesson learned, I’ll be packing some for the next multi-day event I’m attending.

Thanks for taking the time to read this.


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