Conference highlights: SQLBits 2023

30 Mar 2023 - Estimated reading time: 3 minutes

“Data! Data! Data!’ he cried impatiently. ‘I can’t make bricks without clay.” – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Sherlock Holmes – The Adventure of the Copper Beeches.

Even when that was first published in 1892, Sir Arthur was on to something. Without trust-worthy data, you can’t draw reliable conclusions. Fast-forward 130 years and the importance of data, plus the technology to manage it, is just as evident. So, in mid-March and with our spy glasses firmly in hand, members of the Hymans Robertson Data Engineering group attended SQLBits - Europe’s largest data platform conference – with over 800 delegates.

Topics & format

This year’s event was hosted in Newport, Wales and spanned five days of thought-provoking content on data technologies and concepts. The conference offered attendees two full deep-dive training days on specific topics followed by three days of over three hundred general sessions. Looking across the agenda of those sessions, there was an incredible amount of content and had something for everyone who attended.

Our team used the first two days to dig into the details of topics including:

  • Developing skills for Azure Architecture
  • Automating the rollout of Azure based data warehouses
  • Cosmos DB deep dive
  • Power BI and machine learning
  • T-SQL querying
  • Azure integration boot camp
  • Power Platform

The full training-day format gave us a fantastic opportunity to hear and learn from some brilliant speakers and come back with innovative ideas and perspectives.

The following three days of general sessions were just as informative. With up to 13 different presentations per hour to choose from, content included Synapse Analytics, user experience techniques in Power BI reporting, DevOps infrastructure, architecture trends in data, and deployment of resources, to name just a few.

In a world increasingly governed by an array of Cloud technologies, and changing at such a fast pace, it can be daunting trying to keep up. (What’s the differences between a data warehouse, a data lake, and a data lakehouse? Is delta lake just another name for one of those or is it something different?) Conferences like SQLBits provide an opportunity to learn about new trends, network with like-minded peers, and get involved in an open and engaging data community.

It's not all about the data

Beyond the technical content, there were also sessions in other areas. Diversity, inclusion, presenting skills, building effective data teams and leadership were all catered for. A great example was Magali Milbergue’s session on disability in the workplace. It was really enlightening, and hearing the life experiences of speakers is often just as valuable as being told how to condense fifty lines of code into five.

There’s also a social side to SQLBits. Evening events gave us a chance to network with other members of the wider data community. These included the fabled SQLBits pub quiz. When it comes to quizzes, and as data engineers, we can confidently tell you the answer to, “which PowerShell command will return all the properties of files in a folder structure?” Ask us a question like, “can you name Taylor Swift’s last album?” and some of us are in trouble. Honourably though, no one resorted to the cardinal-sin of Googling answers under the table. That might be just as important as winning the quiz itself (which we didn’t).

SQLBits was also themed as ‘Dungeons-and-Dragons.’ There was great staging, themed key-note speeches and even some fancy dress thrown in.

In summary…

Overall, this year’s SQLBits conference has left a really positive impression with us and we took away loads of good insights and tips to share with our wider Data Engineering group at Hymans. That same impression can be seen on social media channels across the wider data community. A very engaging and well-run event - we’re looking forward to next year’s already!

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