I attended my first PASS Summit in 2004. I also attended a pre-conference (pre-con) led by Kalen Delaney. It was awesome! Kalen's pre-con focused on performance tuning, and I learned a lot about both SQL Server 2000 and SQL Server 2005.
The most important thing I learned was: I was not alone! There's a whole lot of us out there, lurking in corner and basement cubicles, automating process monitors, reviewing job logs.
I learned most database professionals are "accidental DBAs" - most of us didn't ever plan to enter the field. We decided to do database work sometime after starting in IT, or (like me) were standing closest to the server when a database position became available.
In short, I discovered I was part of a community.
And so it has remained the past five years - I am part of a community.
That's the cool part of PASS for me. At the Summit, I get to see folks I haven't seen for a year. I learn as much at the events and networking with new and old friends as I do during the sessions. And that's saying something - the sessions are awesome!
I hope to see you at the PASS Summit 2009!