A confession from PASS Summit

On this the eve of the final day of PASS Summit 2013 (my second PASS Summit), I can say with confidence that this conference, like last year’s event, counts as one of the most significant professional development experiences of my career. I have learned so much from people who know more about SQL Server than just about anyone else on the planet. I’ll leave here excited about putting  this new knowledge to use and sharing it with others, and I’ll continue to recommend PASS Summit to anyone who works with SQL Server.

In the midst of this enthusiasm, though, I have to confess something. PASS Summit and similar events hold a mirror to an aspect of my personality that I have often tried to conceal because I have believed it to be a weakness or a deficiency. I have often left such events thinking that this characteristic prevented me from reaping all their benefits, but my efforts to change have felt as if I’m forcing myself into a skin that just doesn’t fit. It’s time to be honest with myself and the world, so here’s my confession:

I’m terrible at networking.

I feel overwhelmed in a roomful of strangers, and encountering thousands of unfamiliar faces at PASS Summit can render me socially paralyzed. Some people can plant the seeds of dozens of new professional and personal relationships while renewing scores of long-standing ones at an event like PASS Summit, but that skill just doesn’t come to me naturally.  My attempts to assume such a persona have only ended in frustration and disappointment.

Now that I have acknowledged this truth about myself, though, I have stopped comparing myself unfavorably to people who quickly and easily form new relationships. I know that I just need more time to get to know people and feel comfortable in relationships. I no longer see myself as inadequate or deficient because I’m naturally quiet and reserved.

Interestingly, this change in perspective has also changed how I engage others socially. When I don’t try to force myself into a false persona, I find it easier to introduce myself to new people. I’ve enjoyed striking up conversations with new people at PASS Summit this year, knowing that I have made small but genuine connections in those moments even though they may not lead to ongoing relationships. I’m confident that in time I’ll find those deeper connections that lead to ongoing, enriching relationships.

So, don’t be surprised if I walk right up to you tomorrow, shake your hand, and say, “Hi, I’m Jason – tell me about yourself!”

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