Last week was the first time in my life that I have delivered an in-person presentation outside of my country. It was in Data Saturday Croatia 2023, taking place at the Miramarska Hotel International in Zagreb. Following below are my experience and impressions.
The event took place at the very same hotel to which all the speakers were invited – Miramarska Hotel International. This was extremely convenient for me as a speaker because whenever I needed to get from my hotel room to the event or back, it was just an elevator ride away. So, for example, after I finished delivering my session and wanted to put my laptop and backpack in the room, I just did it within a couple of minutes and got back to the event. I could even change my shirt quickly after it got stained during the lunch break.
Speaking of which, during the lunch break we were limited to the event area which didn’t have any place to sit, so everyone had to eat while standing up, and some were lucky to have a small high table to put their plates on. That definitely makes it too easy to get your clothes stained with food. It was ironic because just a couple of meters away was the hotel’s dining area, with buffet tables and a lot of places to sit and eat comfortably. But for some reason, it wasn’t included in the Data Saturday event. Very weird and unfortunate.
The hotel staff were very nice and willing to help with anything. The event area felt cozy and welcoming, full of warm colors and carpeting. The acoustics in the rooms where the sessions were being delivered were also quite good (probably because of all the carpeting everywhere).
And yet, it felt rather small and a bit claustrophobic. The rooms were relatively small and the hallways relatively narrow. I might be petty pointing this out, but considering that the last event I went to was SQL Bits 2023, the difference was inescapable. Data Saturday Croatia was definitely not SQL Bits, but if I’m being honest… Not many events are… Especially data Saturdays. So, my criticism here is probably not fair. The venue was good enough for the number of people that arrived, I guess.
The conference itself was organized quite well, thanks to Damir Matešić who was the head honcho there. The content varied between Database Administration and Development, BI, Data Analytics, and Data Engineering. I had a sense that the majority of the sessions were aimed mostly toward BI in one way or another… But it might be just me.
There were 4 conference rooms where presentations were being delivered simultaneously. But unfortunately, it doesn’t look like there was any thought put into assigning a “track” to any of these rooms. It felt like a mishmash of topics across all rooms. This often caused a situation where the same topic was being talked about in different rooms at the same time. So, if you were the target audience of one, you may very well have been the target audience for the other as well… But you could only be in one place at a time.
The presentations were not being recorded either. So, if you missed a session because you preferred to attend another one at the same time, then that’s it, you missed it for good.
In the specific session that I delivered, How to Save Money on Your SQL Server Hardware, the room was nearly full (even though it was rather small, perhaps around 50-60 people or so). On the one hand, it was exhilarating to finally see people’s faces while I deliver a session. I was somewhat disappointed that there were no questions being asked during the session itself, usually, it’s not a good sign. But it could also be a cultural thing… Or, maybe my session was so good that everything was perfectly clear to everyone? 🤷♂️
The vast majority of the audience were Croatians, and some attendees visiting from other Slavic countries in the region and beyond.
The speakers too were mostly Croatian and Slavic, but also from Denmark, the UK, Ireland, and even Israel! 😉
We had a lot of fun together both at the craft bar on Friday, as well as at the dinner on Saturday. It was an amazing experience meeting all of these wonderful, brilliant, and adorable people in person!
Overall, I had a newfound appreciation for the Slavic people following this trip. I got the impression that they live a rather happy and healthy life, and everyone I interacted with was exceedingly nice and welcoming.
In fact, the day before the conference I was frantically looking for an electrical adapter for my laptop and wasted an hour or so traveling around Zagreb looking for an electrical store. But most of the stores were already closed after 5 PM or were simply too far. Eventually, I got to a home appliance store close to closing, where the workers were sitting around a table drinking beers. At first, I got the impression that I’m at the wrong kind of store because all I could see were televisions and sound systems. But the owners were so kind and did their best to help me. They asked what I need exactly and while they did not officially sell adapters, they still looked around for something that could help me. They started looking inside their own cars, their leftover stock, and even their personal belongings for anything that could help!
They discussed the options and considered sending me to other stores in the region. But eventually, one of the workers there, I think his name was Marik, offered to give me a ride to a different store several miles away, which there’s no way I could’ve gotten there on my own otherwise. There I could indeed successfully purchase the type of adapter that I needed, and then Marik even drove me back to the hotel! 😍🤩
This is the type of kindness that I definitely have to pay forward once I get the chance. 🙏
All in all, I had a wonderful time traveling and attending the Data Saturday event in Croatia. I will definitely be looking forward to attending more events around Europe whenever possible and meeting in-person my newly acquired friends again. 🤗