Filling big boots: I’m joining the SQL Relay team

SQL Relay means a lot to me.

At SQL Bits in 2014 I was talking with Steph Locke about how I had just delivered my first technical session at a user group. She told me that I should start submitting to bigger conferences. I was nervous. I was just a sales guy from Redgate. What would experienced DBAs and developers learn from me?

Steph insisted. She said I should submit to SQL Relay, a series of conferences that she helped to organise. I was flattered. I was nervous. I was accepted – to speak at 5 separate conferences in succession. Since then I’ve been delivering between 15 and 25 sessions per year at SQL and DevOps conferences in Europe, the US and Asia. Earlier this year I decided I’d built up a big enough reputation to start my own consulting company.

I owe Steph a lot. And SQL Relay has been good to me.

I’ve been back to SQL Relay every year since, and in 2016 it was the first event I sponsored with DLM Consultants. I’ve attended many events in the past as a speaker, sponsor (for Redgate), helper, attendee and organiser and, by my logic, the Bronze sponsorship option for SQL Relay was a bargain. I easily justified the cost of the sponsorship package when I considered the number of attendees I could reach (and the amount of time I would have with each attendee) over the course of the five days.


For the last few years Steph Locke has been responsible for SQL Relay sponsorship, but in the run up to SQL Relay 2016 she told the rest of the SQL Relay team she had decided to step down after the event. After the event she published this eloquent blog post to announce it publicly.

Half way along the SQL Relay road-trip, at the Microsoft HQ in Reading, Alex Whittles (who shall henceforth be referred to as Mr Purple – I’ll be Mr Orange – too many Alexes) asked me if I would be willing to fill Steph’s boots. I’d been a sponsor myself countless times in my six years at Redgate so I understood what sponsors wanted. I also have a background in sales which would come in handy.

I was keen to give something back to the SQL community. The SQL community has, after all, been very kind to me. I was, however, concerned about taking on something this big and important in the same year as starting my own business.

I made a deal with Mr Purple. My heart wanted to help SQL Relay but my head said that I could only justify it if I could prove that sponsoring SQL Relay was a good investment for DLM Consultants. If I was going to go on the road with SQL Relay again in 2017 anyway it was easier to justify joining the team, but if the numbers didn’t add up for me after SQL Relay 2016 it would be unlikely I would be investing again in 2017 and if that was the case perhaps I would be better off giving back to the community in some other way.

I made a deal with Mr Purple. If I could get a return on my investment in SQL Relay 2016 within 30 days that would clearly demonstrate an outstanding success and I’d promise to join. Of course, I didn’t really expect to get a return that quickly at DLM Consultants’ very first event. That would be wildly optimistic. In general events are fantastic for brand recognition and networking. I’d certainly never really gone to an event with Redgate expecting to win enough licence sales in the immediate weeks following the event to cover the costs. I secretly thought this promise would buy me some time to think. I didn’t think it would actually commit me to accepting the offer.

But I did get a return on my sponsorship investment, including all my travel costs and the cost of my banner, fliers and polo shirts – within 30 days. I did that by selling a few tickets to my DLM Workshops. As a bonus I’m still in conversations with a few attendees about consulting opportunities.

My main goal with SQL Relay 2016 for DLM Consultants was to get the brand out there. I wanted people to know who to call if they needed any help with database DevOps. I was not expecting SQL Relay to pay for itself immediately, but it did. With a significant amount of revenue still likely to come in.

So I’m very excited (and nervous) to announce that I’ll be filling Steph Locke’s (really, really big) boots. If you are a sponsor, you’ll be hearing from me. 🙂

It’s really important to me that I do a good job at this. SQL Relay isn’t just an extra bit of publicity for me. I have a debt to repay to the community (and SQL Relay in particular) because this SQL community has really supported me in the last few years. I’m determined to repay that debt – with interest. I’m joining SQL Relay because it’s the right thing to do. I’m determined to play my part in making it a success.

If you would like to consider sponsoring SQL Relay please get in touch. I’m hoping to get a sponsor pack out by the end of January – but I’d love you to get in touch before then to get your input.

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