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Meet Ed and Damu, BA Day Atlanta Volunteers

BA Day Atlanta has been made possible with the support and local advice of long-time PASS members and volunteers, Ed Watson and Damu Venkatesan. Read more about Ed and Damu’s data journey and meet them at BA Day Atlanta on June 21, 2017.

To learn how to become a BA Day volunteer, contact us at

How long have you been a member of PASS and how did you first get involved with the community?

Ed: I went to my first user group meeting with a co-worker in 2011 who wanted a better job. He found one, and I found a community of friends and family like no other. I was going back to college to get a new degree to switch careers as I was not happy. That all changed a year later when I gave my first SQL Saturday presentation. I was hooked.

Damu: I started attending the AtlantaMDF SQL user group meeting in 2008 when I heard about the local SQL Server user group through a friend. I was a SQL DBA back then and the networking and content of the user group made me a permanent fan of PASS. I got involved with the PASS Atlanta Microsoft BI user group from day one in 2010 and developed interest in Microsoft Business Intelligence.

How beneficial has being a member of the community been to your career in keeping up with the ever-changing, fast-paced nature of the data industry? 

Ed: It has been extremely beneficial. My current employment as a consultant occurred as a direct result of the relationships I have built in the PASS community. My continuing education and teaching through PASS Summit and SQL Saturday help me stay current with the data industry changes.

Damu: Being a part of the SQL family has changed my life. It was a rewarding experience to be offered a BI job by the Atlanta Microsoft BI user group leader Teo Lachev. I started attending SQL Saturday in 2009 and PASS Summit in 2010. I haven’t missed any so far, as they are great opportunities to learn, present and network with other SQL professionals.

As a data professional, how important do you feel maintaining a strong sense of community is in regards to driving the industry forward?

Ed: I believe having a strong community is vital to my success. I've never felt alone or helpless with difficult problems as there is always someone that I can reach out to for help. That is extremely powerful.

Damu: The data community is so important to me. I value everyone for their insights and their help in times of need. I give back to the community by organizing events, volunteering in user groups, speaking at events, and teaching veterans as a volunteer so that they can secure jobs in the data field. I feel connected with the community by giving back. I also run a PASS Virtual Group, organize BI SQL Saturdays, and help organize regular SQL Saturdays in Atlanta.

As a volunteer for BA Day Atlanta, do you feel like the live training events are becoming progressively more integral to the data community?

Ed: Live training events, especially one-day events like BA Day, are crucial to getting the most up-to-date training. It enables you to be better prepared to solve problems and implement new solutions for your company. The events help you be the hero. A Data Super Hero.

Damu: Yes, I do.  Attending the live BA Day training is critical in learning data analytics and staying current with the industry.  The key value it provides is the ability to ask questions from the experts.  Both the instructors, Jen Underwood and Patrick Leblanc have in-depth knowledge and practical experience in data analytics, which is very helpful for attendees to pick their brains and learn from them.   

Looking back at your data focused career, what is one professional advice you wish you knew when you first started?

Ed: I wish I had found PASS sooner and started speaking sooner. Those connections could have saved me years of frustration in one-man DBA shops. In professional advice, I wish I had learned to say "I don't know" and "it depends" much sooner.

Damu: My advice is to be very inquisitive about the data you are dealing with and its value to the business. Be a part of the community and do not hesitate to ask for help, or help others.    

Considering your bio, what else would you like attendees to know about you?

Ed: I am an avid open water diver, beach bum, Star Wars geek, bacon and bourbon aficionado, and I love rooting for my alma mater, The University of Florida.  

Damu: I like photography and relaxing walks. I am a fan of the Atlanta Falcons and Atlanta Braves. I am also the founder and chapter leader of the Atlanta Modern Excel User Group and president of Data Management International – Georgia Chapter where we deal with topics such as Data Governance, etc.    

What or who inspires you to pursue your current field? 

Damu: My passion for data stems from the book I read during my college days “An Introduction to Database Systems” by C.J. Date.  That paved the path into my database management career and later into business intelligence. 

Do you have any content recommendations (e.g. books, blogs, podcasts, documentaries, etc) for your attendees? 

Ed: is the one site that I would recommend for any skill level of data professional. In addition, I have taken two of their training courses and they changed my technical career.

Damu: For me attending PASS Summit has been a game changer in learning new SQL skills and tools.    

What is one interesting fact people may not know about you?

Ed: No one has technically ever seen Batman and myself in the same room, something to think about.

Damu: I love beaches, but can’t swim. 

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