Best Thing I Learned at PASS Summit
Update: I won a prize for my short answer to the contest http://summit2009.sqlpass.org/AboutSummit/ROI/BestThingWinners.aspx
PASS (Professional Association for SQL Server) is an organization for SQL Server developers and administrators. They often hold Summit's where thousands of SQL people gather from across the world to hear from SQL experts about all things SQL Server.
I attended my first PASS summit in 2006 in Seattle and I remember the experience as one that shaped my career more distinctly than anything previously. I was new to SQL 2005 and went to the conference to learn all that I could as a DBA. I took the two pre-conference training seminars (full day training on one subject) on security and advanced diagnostics from the SQL Support team (CSS).
I remember meeting SQL MVP Erland Sommarskog in one of the security sessions asking some very good questions about the new security features in SQL 2005 to one of the Microsoft developers who wrote much of the security for SQL 2005. There is nothing like learning real-time with a dialog between a SQL MVP and the developer who wrote the tool. That experience paved the way in my career to be as skilled as an MVP and to blog about SQL on this site. It also gave me a contact point at Microsoft to help with securing our web hosting environment.
My company had just migrated to SQL 2005 and we were having some weird issues. On our biggest production server, we were getting blocking on a SPID labeled -4. Now I had never heard of a SPID going negative! Google search turned up nothing. So, I found the CSS team was on-site available to all for FREE, so I took up the opportunity to talk with one of the engineers. This is where I met Bob Ward, who is one of the nicest people you will meet. (I later found out that he is famous in the SQL world, since he has been on the support team since SQL version 1.1.) I asked him the question about the -4 blocking SPID and it even stumped him. But not for long with his resources back at Microsoft, he gave me his email and said he would look into it. After short email dialog he found that TEMPDB was having contention problems, so we increased the number of files and upgraded to latest cumulative patch and all was good.
Nothing like getting tons of information to help you with your job, getting free support from CSS, and meeting tons of people in your line of work struggling with exact same thing as you! Gotta love it!