Data Relay Leeds, 2017

Data Relay: Passing the torch

In 2016, Alex Whittles asked me to join the (then) SQL Relay team. They needed someone to take over sponsorship and I was flattered they felt I was the best person for the job. I jumped at the opportunity.

I love Data Relay’s goal of bringing free, in-person data conferences to cities and communities that otherwise wouldn’t attract these sorts of large-scale, accessible training opportunities. When attendees thanked me, and told me how much they valued the events, it gave me an enormous sense of pride that lasts to this day.

(Aside: If you attend a community conference, and if that conference means something special to you, please tell the organisers. It’s a hard job, and genuine appreciation like that gives us the energy to keep going.)

I’m proud of both the physical and virtual events we’ve delivered. Specifically, with regards to sponsorship, I’m proud that we increased our sponsorship levels while I was there. This gave us the confidence to deliver bigger events, experiment a bit, and invest in our future.

In 2020, following Alex Whittles’ resignation, Stuart Moore, Paul Andrew and I took on the joint directorship roles. We absorbed Whittles’ responsibilities between us, attempted to figure out Data Relay’s place during a global pandemic, and we sought to rebuild our team. We put on Data Relay: Broadcast and our new team members have been flourishing. I’m really excited to see what they do next.

However, the last couple of years have been… eventful. We’ve all had to deal with hard times. Many of us have had an opportunity to reflect and see things from a different perspective. Personally, as well as navigating a global pandemic, I’ve become a parent.

Organising Data Relay requires a lot of time, energy and travel. It takes resilience and sacrifice. Relay deserves leaders who are going to grab it by the horns and run with it, regardless of the unanticipated challenges that lie ahead. It needs leaders with enough in the tank to shrug off the curve-balls and keep going.

That was me before the pandemic, but it’s not me any more. As we begin to think about physical events again, I just can’t make the same promises I once made.

I want to dedicate more of myself to my growing family. There are plenty of years left in me to run events, but I only get one shot at raising my little boy. My Dad worked long hours and travelled a lot when I was young. I don’t want to do that.

I care deeply about Relay’s continued success. As we gradually emerge from our isolation, I hope to see the return of in-person Data Relay events, and I know the growing team will smash it! I’ll probably hang around a bit behind the scenes to help with handovers etc, but any events in 2022 will be thanks to the efforts of Paul, Stu, and their team.

Organising Relay has given me bucket loads of treasured memories and great friends. The experience has helped me to grow personally and professionally. I’m going to miss it terribly.

However, earlier this week my little boy did something he hadn’t done before. He walked over, unprompted, gave me a giant bear hug, and told me he loved me.

It’s going to be hard for me to let go of Data Relay. But, for me, it’s the right decision.

Thank you to Alex Whittles, who invited me to join, and who became a good friend and role model.

Thank you to all the SQL Relay organisers who came before me (especially Steph Locke, my predecessor, who was always there when I wanted some advice). We stood on your shoulders and nothing we did would have been possible without you.

Thank you to Paul Andrew, Stuart Moore, and everyone else who has contributed since I joined – you know who you are. It’s been an honour to serve with you. We did something special together.

Thank you to Andrew Pruski for being my agony aunt when things were hard.

Thank you to all the speakers and helpers who made it all possible. Seriously, other conferences reward speakers with posh meals and expensive gifts. We made you load the bus!

Thank you to all the sponsors who joined our travelling circus and paid our bills. Sponsors at Data Relay are part of the team, more so than at any other conference I’ve experienced. At no other conference have I witnessed sponsors putting together the community stand or helping their competitors set up when we had logistical issues.

Mostly, thank you to everyone who attended. You made it worthwhile.

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