Every month or so, we profile a member of the PASS HQ team. Get to know the behind-the-scenes folks who help make PASS such a successful community organization.

Julia Wu | Kevin Ly | Emilija Dufresne | Janice Simpson | Tania Willemse | Kathy Blomstrom | Jason Lau | Lana Montgomery | Benny Su | Vicki Van Damme | Alison MacDonald | Wesley Chang | Al Shuler | Jane Duffy | Marcella McKeown | Karla Landrum | Anika Poliseno | Sanjeet Gandham | Craig Ellis

September Spotlight: Julia Wu

PASS Event Coordinator and Ultimate Frisbee fan Julia Wu is neck-deep in preparing for her first PASS Summit. Her mantra when an event throws her a curve? Stay calm, find a solution, and carry on!

You joined PASS HQ in March as Event Coordinator. What are your main responsibilities, and what do you enjoy most about your role? 
As Event Coordinator, my main responsibility is to provide support to the Event Manager and perform general administrative assistance to the PASS HQ team. As I’ve gotten more familiar with PASS, I’ve taken on more responsibilities for the operations and logistics aspects of PASS Summit and the PASS Business Analytics Conference. What I love most about event management is that it’s a mixture of art, the creative side, and science, the logistics side. It’s challenging and fun to think outside the box, especially when you’re working with a budget.

Looking back at your first 6 months at PASS, what have been some of the defining moments?
My most defining moment so far has definitely been witnessing PASS BA Conference come together. From attending and volunteering at events, I’m familiar with seeing the finished, well put-together venue. But to see it transform from an empty hall or ballroom is absolutely awesome. I’m glad that I got to work on the BA Conference – it certainly warmed me up for Summit. 

Speaking of PASS Summit, you’re neck-deep in working on your first one, coming up in November – what are your goals for the conference? What are some keys to event logistics success that our volunteer community event organizers can keep in mind?
I can’t believe Summit is just around the corner! My ultimate goal, of course, is to make sure the event runs smoothly and that the attendees are more than satisfied. My personal goal for the conference is to really familiarize myself with everything that goes into and goes on at Summit so that I fully understand it for following years. I think a major key to success on the event-logistics side is to make sure you’re meeting your deadlines/cutoff dates, especially with your vendors. Most operational items depend on your vendors and suppliers, and time is of the essence! 

It seems like the saying “whatever can go wrong, will” often applies to event logistics. How do you manage the unexpected and still deliver an excellent experience for attendees?
Remember to prepare for Plan B! There will ALWAYS be something that goes wrong when you least expect it. I guess that’s one of the thrills of being an event planner. Just remember to stay calm, find a solution, and carry on. You don’t want hundreds of attendees see you stressed out. Rather than presenting them with the problem, present them with a solution.  

PASS is all about continuing education and training – what is on your to-learn list right now?
One thing I’m keen on is making better use of Excel. There are tons of things we can do with Excel, and I’m interested in learning how to take full advantage of it. 

Tell us a little about your background and how you came to work at PASS HQ.
I’ve always been interested in putting on events. In high school, I started volunteering at different types of events to gain all the experience I could at a young age. From sporting tournaments to galas to conferences, I couldn’t get enough. After obtaining my diploma in Event Management, my first stop was in the tourism industry, planning incentive travels for outbound clients. It was a great experience, but I wanted to move on to something larger, more logistical, and structured. Six months ago, I didn’t know what to expect around planning conferences, but now I can truly say I love it.   

If we visited your PASS HQ office, what would we notice?
If you came in before or after work hours, you’d see a clean and organized space. I make sure my table is clean before I leave work, but I can’t guarantee the same during work hours. :) I love having things in hard copy, so I have most of my documents printed out to write on. Especially when I’m reviewing contracts and Banquet Event Orders, you’ll see my desk covered in paper.

What do you like to do when you’re not supporting the PASS community?
When I’m not at work, the majority of my time goes into living an active lifestyle. I’m a sports addict. My favourite sport is probably Ultimate Frisbee; there isn’t a season that you won’t see me playing!

Tell us something most people don’t know about you.
I can’t sleep after watching scary movies. I am probably the worst person to watch a horror flick with – I was told I make the movie even scarier with my loud screams.

If you could put on your dream event, what would it be? 
The Olympics! 

August 2014: Kevin Ly

If you could use only one hashtag to describe foodie and energetic PASS Marketing and Social Media Coordinator Kevin Ly – who’s always looking for new and better ways to communicate with and serve the #sqlcommunity – it would have to be #hungry.

You joined PASS HQ last October as the Marketing and Social Media Coordinator. What are your main responsibilities, and what do you enjoy most about your role?
My main responsibilities are to oversee our social media accounts on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter, manage content on certain areas of our websites, and help create, edit, and send out email communications to our members, such as the Connector newsletter. My job is to interact with the community, ensure any concerns are addressed by relaying tweets to the appropriate team, and promote PASS events and learning opportunities. I also help look over any materials sent out to the community to make sure they meet our branding and guidelines and occasionally help other teams on reports or projects.

I like the ever-changing nature of Marketing  no 2 days are ever the same! There’s always something to do and something new to learn. More importantly, this role lets me be creative, whether it’s solving problems or coming up with new content to serve our members. 

What are the key strengths of each of the social media networks – Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter – for data pros? How does PASS use each of them to communicate with and participate in the community?
For data professionals, each of the channels offers different ways of sharing content and connecting.  Facebook provides you with a space to share news with friends. For PASS’s Facebook page, we like to feature high-level, important updates and tips. LinkedIn is where we like featuring professional development content, as well as learning reminders and news mentions. LinkedIn is chock-full of job postings and helpful tips for professionals – if you’re a data professional who is currently unemployed or looking to advance your career, I suggest being on LinkedIn. But Twitter is THE social media network when it comes to immediately connecting with the community and sharing news. PASS is very active on multiple Twitter accounts, and it’s the fastest way to connect with our members. Data professionals can get quick answers to their technical questions, keep up with blogs and the latest news, and connect with people they’d probably otherwise see in person only once a year at PASS Summit.  

Let’s talk Twitter hashtags: What are some key tags to follow in the PASS community? 
The key tag to follow, of course, is #sqlpass for everything PASS. For the latest on our events, follow #summit14, #passbac, and #pass24hop – PASS and community members do a ton of live tweeting from events, so if you aren’t able to attend, you can keep in touch via those hashtags. You can reach out to #sqlhelp for solutions to your technical problems, follow #sqlblog for a lot of new blog posts, keep up with the latest SQL Server news from Microsoft and the community at #sqlserver, and stay connected with #sqlcommunity and #sqlfamily, which have great reminders about how close-knit this community is. Most PASS Chapters and VCs also have their own hashtags, as do many SQLSaturday events. Hashtags are a great way to curate information – I’m constantly surprised at what you can learn by following these hashtags. 

What are the most popular articles in the Connector? Anything new for readers to watch for?
Looking at click-through rates, articles announcing free content, such as session recordings from 24 Hours of PASS and Summit, are always popular, as are profiles of community members and HQ staff. Our goal is to always be mindful of including content that supports PASS’s motto: Connect, Share, Learn. Besides our Blogosphere roundup, we just added a Featured Blog section, showcasing a post that contains great information from a member of the community. And we’re also rolling out a White Papers area with useful how-to content from our Global Alliance Partners. Plus we’re always looking to jazz up the Connector with more graphics, and I get to try my hand at creating and designing them. We invite anyone who has an idea for the Connector to contact us – we’d love to hear it!    

PASS is all about continuing education and training – what is on your to-learn list right now?
Being on the PASS team for less than a year, I’m always learning new things about this community. On my to-do list are using my graphic design skills more, freshening up my HTML and CSS for creating email and website content, and researching industry examples to find innovative new ways of engaging with the community. I’m always on the lookout for anything creative, interesting, and new that could benefit PASS members. 

Tell us a little about your background and how you came to work at PASS HQ.
I’m a Vancouver boy, through and through – I was born and raised here, and strangely enough, I’m so used to the rain, I actually don’t mind it. I graduated in 2013 from the University of British Columbia with a B.A. in Geography (environment and sustainability) and a B.A in International Relations. My interest in marketing comes from extracurricular work in marketing events through leadership opportunities I had at UBC. So after backpacking for 2 months through Europe and a few stints tutoring English literature, I took the non-traditional route and started searching for a position in marketing. I came across PASS through (no surprise) social media – LinkedIn, to be exact. My first day on the job was at PASS Summit 2013 in Charlotte, NC – quite the introduction! It’s been a fun-filled ride ever since.

If we visited your PASS HQ office, what would we notice?
If you ask my PASS HQ officemates, they’ll tell you I always have my lunchboxes (yes, more than one!) out on my desk. I get hungry easily, so I always have lunchboxes and snacks within reach. I have my trusty PASS Summit 2013 water bottle sitting beside pictures of my dog and family, plus a bamboo plant I’m trying my best not to kill. Being part of the busy, busy Marketing team, there’s also my notebook and  various papers splayed out all over in front of me. I wish I were more organized, but c’est la vie. :)

What do you like to do when you’re not supporting the PASS community?
With my affection for eating, I’m usually exploring new restaurants around Vancouver with my friends. I love running around with my dog, Moka. And ever since I’ve had weekends and weeknights free, I’ve taken up some new activities, such as hiking, going on weekend trips around the Lower Mainland, and exploring different parts of the city. I encourage everyone to come visit this gorgeous city! 

Tell us something most people don’t know about you.
I’m a first-degree black belt in Tae Kwon Do. I earned my black belt when I was 16.  

In 140 characters or less, how would you describe the #sqlpass community? 
#sqlpass’s dedicated & passionate members make it 1 of the most active online technical communities. Experience it to believe it!

July 2014: Emilija Dufresne

What a year it’s been! Fresh off her first PASS Business Analytics Conference, Program Coordinator Emilija Dufresne is now knee-deep in PASS Summit planning and support. And as the buzz builds around Summit 2014, she feels right at home.

You joined the PASS HQ Programs Team about a year ago as Program Coordinator. What are your main responsibilities, and what do you enjoy most about your role? 
I mostly work on PASS Summit and the PASS Business Analytics Conference on everything program-related. This entails getting the Call for Speakers sites up and running, connecting and working with the Program Committee, and communicating with speakers. I’ve also recently started working on 24 Hours of PASS and with some of our international Chapters. My job is quite dynamic and fun.

What projects are you working on right now?
At the moment, I’m deep into everything Summit-related, as well as planning our next PASS BA Conference. 

What would you tell the many SQL Server, business intelligence, and business analytics pros out there who want to start presenting on their favorite topics but don’t know where to begin? 
Your local PASS Chapter or SQLSaturday event is a great place to get started with presenting. I recommend that potential speakers visit our Speaker Resource page, which features a webinar on creating a winning abstract, as well as other tips and examples. I also recommend that beginning speakers read through abstracts from previous years’ events to see effective session descriptions and attend as many sessions as possible when they go to Summit or other events to learn from the best speakers in the industry. 

PASS is all about continuing education and training – what is on your to-learn list right now?
Every day here is a learning experience, but I would love to brush up on my Excel skills since I use it all the time. 

Tell us a little about your background and how you came to work at PASS HQ.
I actually come from an academic background and was teaching English Literature at a university in Florida before moving to Vancouver in late 2011. I worked with a non-profit association in Vancouver before joining PASS HQ, and it helped me acquire a lot of the skills that are very valuable in my position as Program Coordinator. I feel that my diverse background really set me up for this particular position, and I love it. 

If we visited your PASS HQ office, what would we notice?
My desk is usually neat, and I have a cup of tea, a glass of water, and my notebook on it at all times. There is also a picture of me and my husband, taken after we hiked up a local mountain here in Vancouver. Oh, and I can’t forget my fourth place trophy from our team event last year – it’s a skunk!

What do you like to do when you’re not supporting the PASS community?
I like to read, write, go to yoga, and play with my puppy, Tucker. 

Tell us something most people don’t know about you.
I’m an amateur beekeeper and a major Sci-Fi fan. And when I say major, I mean I’m a total nerd. :)

If you could give a presentation on any topic, what would you speak on? 
I would talk about the incredibly fulfilling experience you can have as a beekeeper. I love bees that much! Bees at work are so intriguing to watch; it’s calming – almost meditative. I’d also include how to deal with the stings. I have been stung so many times; you hardly notice after a while.
 

August 2013: Janice Simpson

Fresh off her first in-person Board of Directors meeting and with elections season kicking into high gear, PASS’s new Governance Administrator Janice Simpson may need to take a break on the hiking trails with her dog, Stella, or with a nice wine-tasting.

When did you join PASS HQ, and what are your main roles as Governance Administrator?
I joined PASS HQ in April 2013. As Governance Administrator, I work closely with the Board of Directors to ensure that PASS adheres to its policies and procedures. Right now, I’m focused on helping administer the 2013 Board of Directors elections process, with applications due August 7 for three seats up for election and voting getting underway September 23.

In your first year supporting the PASS Board and NomCom in the elections process, what would you like to see in this year’s Board of Directors elections?
I hope to see excellent participation from applicants as well as voters, and I anticipate a good number of applications from all regions – especially due to the Board’s new EMEA and US/Canada regional seats. It’s an exciting time for PASS, and in the few short months that I have been part of the PASS HQ team, I can sense the potential for global growth. I look forward to some great discussions during the elections season about how PASS can better serve all its members around the world – and reach new members.

With a couple of Board meetings under your belt, what has impressed you most about PASS’s leadership structure and the processes of team discussion and decision-making?
I see a collaborative, passionate group of volunteers who give up their precious free time to pursue a better future for PASS.

What “did you know” facts might our community members be interested in learning about PASS’s governance processes and goals?
As a not-for-profit entity, PASS has a mission that benefits the greater good of the community. That means that any profits are used solely for the operation of the organization and fulfilling its mission. PASS does not gain any financial benefits to its owners and shareholders, as a for-profit business would, because there are no “owners.” PASS is dedicated to empowering data professionals who leverage Microsoft technologies to connect, share, and learn through networking, knowledge sharing, and peer-based learning. All profit goes back to educating community members.

PASS is all about continuing education and training – what is on your to-learn list right now?
There are so many things to learn. I look forward to having more knowledge about all the free education PASS provides, from SQLSaturday events, local Chapter meetings, and Virtual Chapter webinars to 24 Hours of PASS and more. I am also working to become well-versed in the PASS Bylaws and am looking forward to getting to know the Board members better.

Tell us a little about your background and how you came to work at PASS HQ.
I have 15 years of experience in managing teams, working with a Board of Directors at a Credit Union and at Canadian Blood Services, where I supervised a team of 20 administrators. At Canadian Blood Services, our standard operating procedures were mandated by Heath Canada, and I participated in interpreting and modifying the procedures as the technology advanced. I was looking for a fresh professional avenue that would allow me to be part of a team with a targeted mission and a focus on evolving. I am a strong advocate of not-for-profit organizations, so PASS was a perfect fit. I feel very fortunate to be part of a team of supportive, collaborative people who work hard and enjoy some fun social time together. It’s a great team!

If we visited your office at PASS HQ, what we would notice?
On your way to our offices, you would notice that PASS HQ is in a very unique environment in a funky, historic part of Vancouver called Gastown. It’s right at the Waterfront where the cruise ships come in, so there are a variety of tourists around when you go outside for a break. Inside, the office is “open concept” with tall ceilings and brick walls. My desk is in a quiet part of the office with a big window, so it has lots of natural light but is quiet, so I can stay focused. I’m a bit “organized obsessed,” so my desk is tidy and clutter-free.

What do you like to do in your spare time?
I love to cook and walk my Golden Retriever, Stella, on our many walking and hiking trails. I also love to work out and run. Oh, and let’s not forget - wine tasting!! :)

Tell us something most people don’t know about you.
One day, I would love to go to Italy – particularly Tuscany – to explore the countryside, cuisine, and wineries.

What has been the most exciting day you’ve had at PASS HQ so far?
The most exciting days so far were during my first in-person Board of Directors meeting in Kansas City last month. Getting to know the Board members better and being part of the 2-day meetings really brought things together for me and made me feel like a true addition to the PASS team.
 

June 2013: Tania Willemse

Staying on budget doesn’t mean you can’t have fun – so says Tania Willemse, who recently moved from South Africa to Vancouver and found a home on PASS’s Finance Team.

When did you start working at PASS HQ, and what are your main responsibilities in Accounting Operations?
I joined PASS HQ in May 2012. In Accounting Operations, I work closely with Sandy Cherry, our finance manager. I am responsible for the full cycle of accounting for PASS, processing day-to-day expenses, customer invoices, bank reconciliations, revenue reconciliations, and prepaid expenses. I make sure we have everything accounted for each month and run the financial statements. I also do a lot of reconciliations for various accounts and assist Sandy with reporting, budgeting, and year-end procedures.

What top budgeting/accounting lessons can our members translate from PASS to their local Chapters or events – or even their personal finances?
Stay on top of your expenses! A budget can be a great tool, but for many, it is merely a wish list of what they would like to achieve in a certain period of time. Get that budget down on paper, and most importantly, track each transaction against your budget to see where your pitfalls are and where you can make improvements.

What “did you know” fact might our community be interested in learning about PASS’s financial processes and goals?
PASS is a not-for-profit organization, so everything we do is community driven. Without the community, we would not exist. Most Finance departments want to see the bottom line – how much profit they made during the year. At PASS, we look at the bottom line and say, “YES! We gave the community excellent training events and supported future growth, and we stayed within the realm of the budget.” 

What excites you most about the world of accounting? Are you as super organized in your home budgeting and finances life as you are at PASS?
I enjoy account reconciliations and reporting the most. I enjoy seeing growth in the company and where our actuals match up to our budget. Are we going to fall short, or are we going to excel? At home, I am the “Director of Finance,” and my husband is “Director of Marketing.” He pitches me great ideas and new adventures, and I always have the same reply: “Sounds great, honey – let’s look at the numbers.” I have my own version of actuals vs. budget in our household. So when my husband thought a BMW would be a great graduation gift this year, he had to settle for a minivan. But I threw in a set of new golf clubs for him. He still got something new and shiny, just with a much smaller price tag.

PASS is all about continuing education and training – what is on your to-learn list right now?
When I have some spare time, I brush up on my Excel skills and next on my list is SharePoint. Right now, I’m enjoying learning more and more about the PASS community.

Tell us a little about your background and how you came to work at PASS HQ.
I am originally from Johannesburg, South Africa. My husband, daughter, and I sold everything we owned – except for three suitcases of clothing, two small crates of personal belongings, and one household cat – and moved to Vancouver, Canada, in August 2011. Upon our arrival, I took some time to acclimate and then started heading for the job market. It was a challenge at first, and I had a few temporary contract positions when my recruiter called with the opportunity to work for PASS. The team and the work sounded very exciting, and I was sure I had the capabilities to do the job well, with more than 10 years of bookkeeping, payroll, and accounting experience. After my second interview, I knew I had found my new home. 

If we visited your work area, what would we notice?
As you enter the PASS offices, I am one of the first people you will see. You will notice a huge calculator on my desk, an even bigger teacup with a rose on it (it more resembles a teapot, to be honest). And once you get my attention, you will notice my huge belly, and more than likely, I will be eating something… anything… (Editor’s note: Tania is expecting in August. :) 

What do you like to do in your spare time?
I have a 5-year-old daughter who takes up most of my spare time. We are always watching the latest animated movie, having tea parties, or baking or cooking something. On a rainy day (we have plenty of those in Vancouver), I like to kick back on the couch and watch cooking shows or pretty much anything on HGTV (I am addicted!). But on a sunny day, I am my happiest with friends having a BBQ (also known as “Braai” in SA). We also love to hop in the car to explore beautiful British Columbia. I have a huge bucket list of cities I want to visit in Canada and the US – and, yes, those trips are in my budget, one year a time. 

Tell us something most people don’t know about you.
I secretly wish I had my own décor show on HGTV, and I want to take acting lessons one day. 

What’s your favorite thing to do with your personal “fun money” account?
My “fun money” gets broken down in my budget. I put some away for holidays, and I love to spoil my family with little surprises on any given day. I like to spoil myself, too – I love to shop (who doesn’t?) and am often at the cosmetics counters, looking for the latest lotions and potions. Some people collect shoes; I collect perfume.
 

May 2013: Kathy Blomstrom

From her home on the range in Colorado, Marketing’s Kathy Blomstrom is writing up community, HQ, and Virtual Chapter profiles and sharing all the PASS news that’s fit to print.

When did you start working at PASS HQ, and what are your main responsibilities?
I can’t believe I’ve been working with the incredible PASS Marketing team for 4 years now. I started in early 2009 writing and editing newsletter articles, website copy, press releases, and a variety of communications to members and community bloggers around chapters and Virtual Chapters, events, volunteer opportunities, elections, and more. You may have read a Twitter, LinkedIn, or Facebook posting or two from me in my former role leading social media, and I still fill in occasionally. These days, I also work with the PASS Business Analytics Conference and Summit Program Teams on the marathon task of proofing session abstracts and speaker bios for website and program guide publishing.

As a professional writer and someone who reads and edits lots of articles and blog and social media posts, what are some of your biggest grammar pet peeves?
Ah, where to start. :) Even in the best articles or technical tips, grammar and spelling mistakes are a distraction. In a rush to get posts up fast, many writers today seem to skip the proofing stage entirely. But I urge everyone to take just a few minutes to read through items before posting and look for the following:

  • Possessives vs. plurals: Are you talking about “a DBA’s responsibilities” (possessive) or “Calling all DBAs” (plural)? I see a lot of “DBA’s” when the authors really mean “DBAs.”
  • Lack/misuse of commas: I’m a big fan of the serial comma for clarity (using a comma after every item in a series). Where you place or don’t place your commas can dramatically change the meaning of your sentence, and correct usage can really improve the readability of your writing.
  • That vs. which: “That” is restrictive and typically doesn’t require a comma; “which” introduces a qualifying phrase and typically follows a comma.
  • Rampant capitalization: Today’s rule seems to be “when in doubt, capitalize.” But are “performance,” “high availability,” and “developer” really proper nouns? 

I sometimes get tripped up by “further” and “farther” – there’s still a lively debate about which to use when – and have preferences that sometimes deviate from the majority, but the great thing about writing today is that we all have a wealth of grammar resources available to us on the web. Not sure? Look it up!

A key part of your role at PASS involves interacting with bloggers and the press. What do you enjoy most about working with these important members of the community?
The SQL Server press and blogger space is as vibrant as the rest of our community, with many members dedicated to sharing news, technical how-to details, best practices, career guidance, training opportunities, and personal experiences and viewpoints about all the above. As a journalist myself, I feel a special kinship with those who contribute to the industry through their writings and try to make getting and sharing information about PASS as easy as possible.

I find that bloggers and press in our community typically have an especially thoughtful approach to the topics they cover – even when they may be taking issue with something happening at PASS or in the industry. We have a lot of talented writers out there sharing their thoughts and trying to make the SQL Server world a better place. I especially love watching them live blog and tweet from events like PASS Summit and the BA Conference – for those who can’t attend, it’s like you’re right there in the room. There’s a reason we call them our press and blogger “friends.”

You have a wealth of social media experience. What’s your advice for someone interested in getting more involved with the community through the various social media platforms?
I’m an observer, so when I first got involved with Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn, I watched what others were doing and learned a lot about what to do – and what not to do – by following the community’s social media leaders. I paid attention to which posts grabbed my attention and that of other community members and why: Sometimes it was the valuable content shared; other times it was the creative way someone posted their thoughts or a link. Social media is about interaction, though, so you can remain on the sidelines only so long before you decide to jump in or lose interest.

I encourage “lurkers” to take the plunge and share their ideas, blog posts, links that interest them, #sqlhelp questions and answers, encouragements and woes… Personally, I love Twitter for my daily social media fix, the latest news, and immediate answers and feedback; LinkedIn for professional development opportunities and contacts; and Facebook for photos and more personal posts. It doesn’t take long to find your own social media voice and become part of the chorus. And the #sqlfamily is amazingly welcoming and willing to help out newcomers.
 
PASS is all about continuing education and training – what is on your to-learn list right now?
Our members are busy professionals deluged with newsletters and email messages from all areas of their work and personal lives. If they’re like me, they have folders filled with items they want to read “someday.” Right now, I’m interested in learning more about segmenting newsletter content and emails based on member interests and location so that our communications are more customized and deliver the best value to members. 

Tell us a little about your background and how you came to work at PASS HQ.
With a journalism degree and political science minor, I started out writing for daily newspapers, but soon gave up the scoop mentality and midnight deadlines for technical magazines. I worked on IBM AS/400-related publications for 8 years at the former Duke Communications, and then joined the company’s new SQL Server Magazine in 2000, sharing technical gems from the likes of Kalen Delaney, Itzik Ben-Gan, Brian Moran, Mike Otey, and many others.

My history with PASS goes back to those days as editor of SQLMag, when the PASS Community Summit was a must-attend event to learn about the latest SQL Server features, meet with writers and scout speakers for new talent, talk with community members about what they wanted to read more about, and see the latest solutions in action in the Expo Hall. I set out on my own as a freelance writer and editor in 2005 and enjoyed working with some of the industry’s top book authors at SolidQ before I was asked if I’d be interested in doing some writing for PASS. The opportunity to help support such a passionate community was something I just couldn’t pass up. 

If we visited your home office in Colorado, what would we notice?
A large to-do list (I love to check off items!), a month-at-a-glance calendar with all sorts of project deadlines written in red, roasted almonds with sea salt as my go-to brain snack, and my Scottish terrier, Gustopher (“Gus”), who likes to lay at my feet – or jump on guests.

What do you like to do in your spare time?
I live on a Quarter Horse and cattle ranch with my Mom, and I love working with Jim and Honey, the bay gelding and buckskin filly my Dad gave me before he passed away 2 years ago. We live on land that my great-great grandmother and her son (my great-grandfather) homesteaded, so that history – along with 20+ chickens, three goats, lazy barn cats, and lick-you-to-death German wirehaired “guard dogs” – surrounds me every day.  

Tell us something most people don’t know about you.
I’m a home design nut. I particularly love antique/vintage furniture, fabric, and tile and shopping Craigslist and thrift stores for amazing finds. I’m also fascinated by the idea of living in a non-traditional home, maybe made from recycled shipping containers or a grain bin.

Given the continuing growth of PASS and everything that’s underway in the data community today, what would be your dream PASS headline to write?
20,000+ Drink the Community Kool-Aid at PASS Summit 2018
Featuring Keynotes by US Ambassador Bill Gates and Sci-Fi Legend and Mars Pioneer Joss Whedon

It could happen!
 

March 2013: Jason Lau

Who’s that in the headphones rocking out while developing many of PASS’s new web resources? Meet Systems Administrator Jason Lau – rare coin collector, frequent badminton player, and the “help” behind the PASS Help Desk.

When did you start working at PASS HQ, and what are your main responsibilities in your role as Systems Administrator?
I started working at PASS HQ just over 2 years ago, in January 2011. As Systems Administrator, I manage all of the PASS servers and their content. I also provide support on projects as a front-end web developer. Many PASS members may know me, though, as the first point of contact for the PASS Help Desk.

What are some of the primary projects you’re working on now to better help meet PASS members’ needs?
I have recently been working on projects to revamp the PASS website and tools to make it easier for PASS members to find the information they need and for Chapter and VC leaders to interact with their members. In addition to enhancing modules widely used by members and Chapters, the IT team is also working on resources to support our community speakers.

What tips do you have in response to the most frequently asked questions you get at the PASS Help Desk?
Here are my top tips: 1) For any login difficulties, please do not guess your password more than twice, or you’ll be locked out of your account. If you’ve forgotten your password, you can turn to the tools on the main PASS login page for quick assistance. 2) Summit or 24 Hours of PASS streaming session recordings not working for you? If you are at work, the problem is most likely due to your corporate firewall blocking the content. You can verify if that is the problem by trying to access the recordings from an external, non-work location.

When you’re not on PASS Booth duty at Summit or providing web support for the event, you’re able to fit in some sessions by top experts in the SQL Server and BI industry. What have been some of your favorites?
During PASS Summit, I try to search out sessions involving database security and code and data quality. I’ve learned so much from so many great sessions, but here are just a few of my recent favorites: SQL Server 2012 Security for Developers, The Evolution of Security in SQL Server 2012, A Developer's Guide to Dangerous Queries, and Stop Bad Data in Its OLTP Tracks.

PASS is all about continuing education and training – what is on your to-learn list right now?
I learn something new almost every day, but to help improve my knowledge base, my goal is to obtain technical certification such as MCSE.

Tell us a little about your background and how you came to work at PASS HQ.
I have been fascinated by technology since I was a child, and I ended up majoring in Computer Science. By the time I got my Bachelors of Science degree, I was already knee-deep in computer hardware and software and enjoyed troubleshooting computer problems in my free time. After graduating, I worked at a design and technology firm where I focused primarily on web development. I was looking for a new challenge, though, and was able to join PASS as Help Desk Administrator, which has been a great fit for me.

If we visited your office at PASS HQ, what would we notice?
Well, you may not notice me at all at first. :) I have my own little corner to work from, hidden from the outside world. When you reach my desk, though, you’ll notice my headphones and audio equipment. Music is something that helps me focus when doing web development or working on large projects. When I’m not destroying my ears with dubstep mixes from Skrillex, I’m listening to soothing melodies from various mainstream North American or Asian artists.

What do you like to do in your spare time?
At home, I like to relax by reading technology blogs, watching movies, and occasionally playing video games (Diablo 3, Starcraft 2) or card games (Magic: The Gathering). I am also active and like sports, especially badminton, which I play on a regular basis.

Tell us something most people don’t know about you.
I like to collect old and rare coins. I’m fascinated that nations would use precious metals such as silver and gold to produce coins. And although my collection includes only silver coins right now, I hope I can get my hands on a gold one someday!

If you could build a website around any topic, what would it be about?
I’d love to build a website around the latest technologies and gadgets. I could get hands-on with all the new applications and devices and let everyone know what’s available, what’s worth trying out, and what’s not. I would also encourage visitors to share their opinions and experiences so we could all learn from each other – that’s the PASS way. :)

January 2013: Lana Montgomery

Australian native and accomplished multitasker, PASS Marketing’s Lana Montgomery talks must-read articles, memorable sponsor programs, and tips for retweetable messages.

When did you start working at PASS HQ, and what are your main responsibilities?
My first day at PASS HQ happened to coincide with PASS Summit 2011! I really didn’t know what to expect, but it was the best way to become acquainted with what I would be doing as the Marketing and Sponsorships Coordinator and to experience firsthand the welcoming PASS community. This year I’m responsible for heading up our social media efforts, promoting Chapters and Virtual Chapters, and marketing for international PASS events. And, of course, I’m working with the rest of the Marketing team on the inaugural PASS Business Analytics Conference in April and Summit in October.

What are PASS members most keen to read in the PASS Connector newsletter? What’s your favorite section?
I really enjoy reading the Community Profiles – there are so many multi-talented PASS members out there, and you always find an interesting fact or two about that person that you didn’t know. The Community and HQ profiles are definitely one of the most popular articles, as well as Virtual Chapter news, new program information at Summit or SQLSaturdays, and of course speaker announcements.

As you work with sponsors and exhibitors at PASS Summit and other events, what booth or promotional ideas have struck you as most creative and effective? Any program you think sponsors/exhibitors are overlooking?
I think interaction is key and doing something unique that other sponsors haven’t thought of. If someone can try out your product or you can engage with them on a creative level about your service, they’ll remember that. I like promotional ideas that capture attention, like a skill-testing game within the exhibitor’s booth space to win a prize – but it always works best if you can tie that in with your product/ service.

You were the face of PASS Summit’s social media updates on PASS TV in November and are taking over as PASS social media lead this month – what’s the secret to a must-retweet/share post?
They say a picture is worth a thousand words, and this is certainly true in social media, especially where you are limited with the number of words you can use. If you can find an infographic, meme, or photo capturing the essence of what you’re trying to say and you can combine that with a concise message, you’re almost guaranteed retweets and for people to share out your post.

PASS is all about continuing education and training – what is on your to-learn list right now?
Working with PASS and seeing the benefit our members get from being involved with a community association prompted me last year to join a marketing association, which is providing me with lots of fantastic content to look through on social media and Internet trends. I’ve also been attending some webinars, which are such a great way to learn if you have limited time. At the moment, I’m learning how to set up and run more targeted email campaigns so that people receive the information they are really interested in. I can’t think of a day at PASS so far that I haven’t learned something, either about the IT industry, a marketing trend, or improving on an old skill.

Tell us a little about your background – what’s that accent again? :) – and how you came to work at PASS HQ.
I moved to Canada in early 2011 with two suitcases and a long bucket list of experiences and adventures ahead of me. After freelancing in events for a few months in Vancouver, I saw the job posting for a Marketing position at PASS and was intrigued by the idea of the organization. Needless to say, when I met the rest of the HQ team, I was sold on the job and on staying in Canada. I grew up in Canberra, Australia’s capital city, before moving to Sydney, where I worked in marketing and public relations for hotels and resorts for 4 years. I love traveling and experiencing new countries, so after researching Canada, I decided that a move 12,000km over the Pacific Ocean would be an exciting and rewarding next step both professionally and personally, so I did it!

If we visited your office at PASS HQ, what would we notice?
I’m trying to take on what I’m calling the “green desk” movement, which involves not using any paper where I can. I bought a mini whiteboard that I write my notes and to-do list on; it’s difficult to do, but it means my desk always looks fairly clean. You would also notice several empty coffee cups and, if you looked at my computer screen, too many applications and emails open all at once – I’m a multitasker. :)

What do you like to do in your spare time?
This is going to sound like a British Columbia tourism ad, but here goes: snowboarding and snowshoeing in Whistler or on one of the beautiful local mountains, hiking up the Grouse Grind (a short but crazily steep hike up Vancouver’s Grouse Mountain), picnicking down at the seawall on Vancouver Harbor, and shopping – probably too often. It’s a big novelty for me being able to drive into another country, so I also like to get down to the US on weekends quite a bit and travel to cities I haven’t been to yet; my next trip is to Palm Springs and hopefully Zion National Park.

Tell us something most people don’t know about you.
One of my first jobs, albeit unpaid, was working on a community forestry project in the town of Shimla in Northern India. Still today it is one of the best experiences of my life. I stayed with a family for some of the time I was there, which was the beginning of my obsession with Indian food. It was such a fantastic experience to learn about another culture by being fully involved in their day-to-day life. I can’t wait to go back one day and explore more of India.

In 140-characters or less, why should SQL Server and BI professionals join PASS?
I don’t even think I need the full 140 characters to answer this question: Quite simply, “Community!” But to expand a bit more: “The ability to connect with professionals in your industry, learn from the experts, and have access to great learning opportunities!”
 

October 2012: Benny Su

PASS web developer Benny Su jumped into a website revamp as soon as he joined HQ. Here he talks about improving members’ web experience, new Chapter tools, and how less is usually more.

When did you start working at PASS HQ, and what are your main responsibilities in your role as Web developer?
I joined PASS HQ in April 2012. As a web developer, my main responsibilities are to support and enhance PASS’s websites on the DotNetNuke (DNN) platform. I work closely with other team members to ensure that we are providing the best user experience possible to PASS members. I also work with my fellow IT team members on mail and database server administration, systems administration and training, and requests to the Help Desk.

What are some of the primary projects you’re working on to better help meet PASS members’ needs?
I am currently working on several projects to better support our members. All members will soon be able to take advantage of a new easier-to-use user profile feature called MYPASS. You’ll notice a complete redesign of our current user profile area, with an emphasis on usability and a clean, simple UI.

I’m also in the middle of a Chapter tools revamp. We’re rolling out a brand-new Chapter Dashboard to help Chapter Leaders manage all the major tasks they need to do to run a chapter efficiently.

What have been some of your favorite IT projects at PASS so far?
My favorite so far is definitely the sqlpass.org design revamp we did earlier this year. When I first saw sqlpass.org, I knew it need some attention as far as website design and layout, and I got to work with a number of talented team members to implement the new changes. It’s amazing how just some simple design changes can make such a huge impact on a user’s experience with your website. Down the road, we’re working on an even more fundamental UI revamp, which will bring our members’ user experience to the next level.

As a Web developer, what key usability tips do you have for folks working on their own websites?
First, less is (almost) always more. Second, test for cross-browser compatibility. And third, keep your site consistent in look and feel from page to page.

PASS is all about continuing education and training – what is on your to-learn list right now?
My list is pretty long. I guess that’s why they say “the more you learn, the more you realize how little you know.” But here’s the top 3 items on my to-learn list at the moment:

  1. Web API Services Framework - to build a more transparent organization
  2. Knockout.js - to build a clean and responsive UI
  3. Geospatial data in web applications - to provide a more personalized user experience

Tell us a little about your background and how you came to work at PASS HQ.
I was born and raised in China and came to Canada as an international student in 2002 after high school. I studied in the computer science program at Simon Fraser University, and after graduation, I decided to stay and work in Canada. I started working at a web development company that develops websites using the DNN platform. I found I really enjoyed DNN development, so when the opportunity came up to work at PASS maintaining and developing its websites, I jumped at it.

If we visited your office at PASS HQ, what would we notice?
You would notice a head hidden behind two monitors, some IT magazines, a cup, and a modern oriental teapot, which contains all the goodness to keep powering that head throughout the day. 

What do you like to do in your spare time?
Seek adventure - whether it’s in real life or in digital worlds. I like to meet new people, discover new places, see new things, and occasionally slay some dragons.

Tell us something most people don’t know about you.
I really like cooking. It’s something I got into after I came to Canada and needed to start taking care of myself. It’s such a wonderful experience to prepare and bring out the natural flavors of food, cook dishes to perfection, and share them with your friends and family.

What is it like to work in the IT department of an organization that supports database/IT pros?
It’s been a wonderful opportunity to learn new things from many members of the community. Because I’m a member of this community as well and care about it, I feel a sense of accomplishment whenever I publish a new helpful feature or resolve an issue for a PASS member. As a developer, I like to know my users and how they are using the software I build so that I can understand what works for them and what doesn’t. That’s why I’m so excited about attending the upcoming PASS Summit, so I can meet and talk to PASS members from all over the world face to face.
 

August 2012: Vicki Van Damme

If project management is a team sport, PASS’s new Project Coordinator, Vicki Van Damme, is its captain, helping keep everyone on task and on budget – even when it comes to Christmas shopping.

When did you join PASS HQ, and what are your main responsibilities as project coordinator?
I joined PASS HQ in April 2012. As project coordinator, I work closely with Operations and Marketing on the management and execution of a growing number of IT, event, and marketing projects to serve PASS members. My main responsibilities are to oversee the entire life cycle of a project, ensuring everything is completed on time and on budget. I also oversee the implementation our new project-management software, AtTask, with IT Team Lead Wesley Chang.

Which projects have most captured your imagination so far? Which are challenging your project coordinator skills most?
I am getting more and more involved with 24 Hours of PASS, with our next event starting at 12:00pm GMT on September 20 and running for 24 consecutive hours. We have a lot of great speakers covering such a wide variety of subjects. I can’t wait to experience my first 24 Hours of PASS.
 
AtTask implementation has been a challenging, but rewarding project. It has involved connecting with every person at PASS HQ and getting their work into AtTask, as well as getting all of our programs and events into the system. It has taken a lot of time – imagine the task list for an event like Summit! All in all, the PASS HQ team has been incredibly supportive, and this project has been a great way to connect with each of them both personally and professionally.

Huge projects such as PASS Summit have so many aspects to coordinate – what are some project-management tips for success you have for all our community event organizers?
Break it down! Large projects can seem daunting at first, but if you break the project down into phases or pieces, the smaller pieces become more manageable. At the same time, it is important to step back and look at the entire project life cycle to ensure that you are considering issues before they arise and that you aren’t segregating tasks that are naturally interconnected. Consulting stakeholders early on in the project is crucial. Get all of the information first, and then dive in.

PASS is all about continuing education and training – what is on your to-learn list right now?
I’m looking forward to attending the Project Management Institute’s Global Congress in Vancouver this year. I am also really looking forward to participating in and learning more about all of the PASS education and training coming up: 24 Hour of PASS, PASS Summit, and the new PASS BA Conference.

Tell us a little about your background and how you came to work at PASS HQ.
I have a degree in Economics and a background in event and project coordination with the Vancouver Island Health Authority and the National Health Service in the UK, where I was involved in provincial healthcare initiatives, patient safety and quality initiatives, conference planning, and educational programs. Project management is what I do naturally, and this position with PASS was a perfect fit for me.

If we visited your office, what would we notice?
Organization – although sometimes it’s organized chaos. I work on several different projects at the same time, so it’s important that I keep my work organized and keep each project separate. I have different sections in my notebooks for each project and keep everything separated. You would also see that I proudly display my skunk consolation trophy, which my team “won” at our last team-building event. We may have come in last, but I think we had the most fun!

What do you like to do when you’re not in “PASS mode?” Are you a super-organized person at home?
When I’m not in PASS mode, I enjoy spending time with my husband, Andy, and our dog, Finnegan. I am super organized when it comes to executing a plan – any plan – even something like Christmas shopping. The more I work in project management, the more everything I do becomes a project, with tasks to complete, issues that may arise, and deadlines to meet. This last week, I have project-managed packing for our long weekend camping trip, and I must say that I am packed, organized, and ready to hit the road this weekend.

Tell us something most people don’t know about you.
During my first year at university, I did a work term at an organic, fair trade, shade-grown coffee farm in Costa Rica, were I met my husband, who is from the UK. We spent only 2 weeks together and then didn’t see each other for 2 years, but stayed in touch and talked to each other regularly. We finally saw each other again, and after 3 weeks together, I picked up and moved to England, where we lived for nearly 2 years. We then moved to Antigua and Barbuda in the Caribbean for a year before getting married and settling in British Columbia, Canada.

If you could compare project management to an Olympic sport, which would it be and why?
Soccer (also known as “football” to much of the world. :) When it comes down to it, project management is a team sport. Everyone has his or her role, and everyone’s input is necessary to get the job done.
 

July 2012: Alison MacDonald

At the helm of the Marketing Team, Alison MacDonald is steering PASS through website refreshes, exciting Summit and 24 Hours of PASS growth, and more global community engagement. And if you’re humming “We Are Family” by the end of this profile, she’s done her job.

When did you start working at PASS HQ, and what are your main responsibilities as Marketing Manager?
I started with PASS in Spring 2008. Working with a talented team of individuals – Lana Montgomery, Kathy Blomstrom, and Jane Duffy – I help run PASS’s day-to-day marketing activities, including communications, branding, websites, event marketing, and community program marketing. And with guidance from the Board and our VP of Marketing, Thomas LaRock, I help set the PASS marketing strategy and goals.

Marketing and communications touch every area of PASS from governance, Chapters, and member support to websites, newsletters, events, and more. What have been some of your favorite projects?
Website revamps – all of them! I’m really enjoying the fresh new look of our current site, and we’re still working on more improvements with a user experience expert, so I’m learning a lot at the same time. I’ve also always had a soft spot for the 24 Hours of PASS event. This incredible community offering started out as a great idea that Rick Heiges had, and helping build it from scratch and seeing how successful it’s become has been tremendously rewarding. It really brings together our worldwide community, and we’ve had Russian and Spanish/Portuguese versions, with community members simply picking up the model and running with it on their own. I love that community empowerment.

What are some primary projects that you and your team are working on now?
The website refresh is one big project that is still underway. PASS Summit fever is also gearing up. We’re focused on driving attendance, as well as improving the overall conference experience for first-time attendees. And we have a dedicated a team member to work with the Program Committee to help ensure a consistent feel to our overall educational offerings at the event. Plus, we’re in the beginning stages of planning our next 24 Hours of PASS event, set for Sept 20.

In tweet format – 140 characters or less – what’s one thing you wish PASS members would do today?
If you aren’t already, get involved in the #sqlpass community - speak at an event, volunteer, vote, share your opinion. Go #sqlfamily!

PASS is all about continuing education and training – what’s on your marketing to-learn list right now?
I have some basic SEO knowledge but would love to know more on that front. I’d also like to improve my social media savvy. I rely on the rest of the team in that area but would love to spend more time understanding how to best maximize the opportunity social media vehicles present to connect the community and reach out to those who may not be familiar with PASS.

Tell us a little about your background and how you came to work at PASS HQ.
I have 18 years of software marketing experience – yikes, I don’t feel that old! I started my career in Vancouver working for a printer driver software company, and then switched gears to focus on public relations for the reporting and business intelligence space at Business Objects. After a stint in Australia to run marketing field operations for the region, I returned to Vancouver and was in charge of the company’s strategic alliances marketing efforts before I left to move to Chicago. Not one to sit around, I decided to start my own marketing consulting business as I waited for my “Green Card,” and the rest, as they say, is history...

If we stopped by your home office in Chicago for coffee, what would we notice?
My Nespresso coffee machine. I could not live without it. I drink far too many lattes a day as a result.

What do you like to do when you’re not in “PASS mode?”
I have two high energy young kids, so when I’m not working, I’m playing at the park, building forts in the backyard, or sitting in the kiddie pool to ward off the summer heat.
 
Tell us something most people don’t know about you.
I drove and navigated military ships part-time during an 11-year stint in the Canadian Naval Reserves.

If you could choose a theme song for PASS Summit that played in people’s heads whenever they thought about the upcoming event in November, what would it be?
Sister Sledge's “We Are Family.” I’ve been in the software industry for a long time and have attended many conferences in my day, but Summit is unique. The learning opportunities are incredible, of course, but I continue to be in awe at the level of camaraderie I see during the event and the sheer delight returning attendees have in seeing each other every year. It feels like a big family reunion – minus the drama. :)
 

June 2012: Wesley Chang

PASS Summit 2012 is just months away, but that isn’t stopping rabid sports fan Wesley Chang and the IT team from also going for gold with a website refresh and new project management, membership, and Chapter Leader tools.

When did you start working at PASS HQ, and what are your main responsibilities in your current role as IT Team Lead?
I started at PASS HQ as the Systems Administrator in April 2010 and took over the IT Team Lead role a little over 3 months ago. My main responsibilities are managing the IT team and associated projects, implementing assigned IT projects, and providing support for escalated incidents.

What have been some of your favorite IT projects at PASS?
I have been involved with quite a few projects over the past 2+ years. While it’s hard to play favorites, I have to say the SQLSaturday development project means a little more than the others. From features and functionalities to UI changes, the website has gone through a major overhaul. The improvements have also helped grow the SQLSaturday events from US-cities-only to the rest of the world.

What are some primary projects that you and your team are working on now?
PASS IT is in a busy time of the year. With Summit 2012 just a few months away, we are operating on all cylinders to provide support to other HQ teams as quickly as possible. Each of us also has individual projects on our plate. I’m involved with setting up AtTask and ExactTarget, two new tools that PASS HQ will be using on project and membership management. Benny Su, the newest member of the PASS IT team, is currently working on revising chapter management tools to provide a better user experience for Chapter Leaders. And Jason Lau, on top of managing the IT Help Desk, is working on shaping up the new sqlpass.org look and feel.

How does PASS use SQL Server?
Hmm, is this a trick question? :-) In all seriousness, PASS websites rely heavily on SQL Server. From the DNN-based PASS main site and its associated portals (i.e., Summit, SQLRally, 24HOP, Chapters, etc.) to .NET sites such as SQLSaturday, SQL Server provides the reliable backbone to keep the sites up and running. SQL Server Integration Services (SSIS) and SQL Server Reporting Services (SSRS) also play crucial roles in providing data automation and reporting for the websites, respectively.

PASS is all about continuing education and training – what is on your to-learn list right now?
If the list is all-inclusive, with goals such as “cutting down on junk foods,” it might fill the entire page. From a technical perspective, however, I’m learning to get more familiar with DNN development (in C#) to provide support for the main PASS site. Also, now that I’m in a Team Lead role, I’m learning to become better with project management and more disciplined with time management. Does that mean I just spent the last 20 minutes trying to answer this question? Absolutely.

Tell us a little about your background and how you came to work at PASS HQ.
I was born and raised in Taiwan until my family decided to move to Canada when I was 12. I went through college education in Vancouver and did my Master’s degree in Chicago (more on this later), where I started my career with Computer Sciences Corporation (CSC). After working for a few years in Chicago and LA, I decide to move back to Vancouver to be closer to family and friends. I was looking forward to a role in a smaller office where not only would I be able to apply my experience but I could also carry more responsibility and meet more challenges. After a couple of interviews at PASS HQ, I was convinced that this was what I was looking for, and I’ve been very happy since.

If we visited your office at PASS HQ, what would we notice?
I guess that really depends on if it’s a surprise visit or not. :-) On any given day, there could be Post-It notes, cables, headphones, business cards, or dinosaur fossils on my desk. OK, I made up the last one.

What do you like to do in your spare time?
I’m into sports, so I like to play basketball and golf with friends after work and/or on weekends. I also enjoy board games and playing Mahjong.

Tell us something most people don’t know about you.
Not only do I like to play sports, I’m also an avid sports fan. In fact, part of the reason I chose to attend grad school in Chicago is because I grew up admiring the ‘90s Bulls and wanted to know what it would be like living in the Windy City. I only missed the MJ [Michael Jordan] era by 6 years, but still...

What is it like to work in the IT department of an organization that supports database/IT pros?
It’s been a great experience. The SQL community is terrific - I often receive suggestions from the best in their fields. It’s also nice to know that you can always actively reach out to the community on things that you might not know. Plus, you get free SQL classes every year at the Summit. There’s nothing better!

May 2012: Al Shuler

From his home office in Gahanna – rhymes with “banana” – Ohio, PASS’s Al Shuler helps vendor partners get the word out about their products and services while supporting the SQL Server community.

How long have you been with PASS HQ, and what are your primary responsibilities in handling sponsorships and exhibit sales for PASS and PASS events?
I have been exclusive with PASS HQ since 2008, but I really began working with PASS at the 2007 Summit in Denver, where I was the project manager for Event Marketing Group, the company responsible for the trade show production and sales that year. I am currently responsible for sponsorship development (working closely with Marketing and Operations), sponsor recruitment, sales, and trade show management for PASS Summit, SQLRally, 24 Hours of PASS, and Virtual Chapters. I’m also responsible for online advertising sales, such as banner ads on the website, sponsored mailings, and Connector newsletter sponsorships. I really enjoy the variety and creativity of my position. But the real buzz is getting to work with the outstanding professionals representing the organization and the community and building relationships with our vendor partners. 

As advertising and sponsor/exhibitor opportunities continue to evolve, what are some trends you’re seeing?
It’s a challenge keeping up with the constantly changing technology market and presenting new opportunities that provide value to companies in our market. New media, personal communication devices, electronic readers, and social networks – just to name a few – have really changed the landscape and options for companies. Combine that with a major economic downturn and shrinking marketing budgets for our partners, and our focus is on being even more creative and efficient to provide maximum value.

How about some favorite recent sponsorship ideas you’ve liked?
The sponsored massage chairs at last year’s Summit was a creative idea, and sponsors had a lot of fun with the First-Timers Program. Sponsoring Internet kiosks at events provides attendees with really useful services, with your name attached. More sponsors are also connecting with the community and finding value year-round with Women in Technology programs, SQLSaturdays, Virtual Chapters, and other programs.

What do sponsors make possible for PASS members and event attendees?
Sponsor participation in events, and the resources they provide, let us offer additional benefits to members and event attendees and keep registration fees very reasonable – and even free, in the case of 24 Hours of PASS and SQLSaturdays. However, sponsors are not only participating to demonstrate their products and services. In the SQL Server space, vendors are an integral part of the community. They provide the tools and services that help make the lives of database pros easier and more productive, but they are also speakers, MVPs, and PASS volunteers.

Our sponsors understand the value of community. Most vendors are not participating just to sell something – they prefer to serve as partners because they know that if the community and their clients are successful, they will be successful as well. They truly want to hear what their customers need and want so they can produce cutting edge technology for their users. And they are a valuable asset for learning more about SQL Server and best practices. Their support of so many PASS events and activities helps keep the community informed and engaged.

Any tips for organizers of local events, such as SQLSaturdays, as they try to line up sponsors – especially local ones – in their area?
Here are my top tips for local event organizers looking for sponsors:

  • Be passionate about your event.
  • Carefully analyze and establish your sponsorship levels and pricing, and then get the word out. Communicate the opportunities in every possible way – personally, through your SQLSaturday team, blogs, phone calls, emails, etc.
  • Recruit companies whose target customers will/would attend the event.
  • Project a positive and successful image, even though your event may be new and untested. Communicate the overall success of PASS.
  • Provide as many opportunities as possible for sponsors to interact with your attendees.
  • Provide the sponsors good value. It is OK to go overboard just a bit if you are launching a new event until it establishes some success. You can always adjust the pricing and benefits as you move forward.
  • It tends to work better with smaller events to target a lot of smaller sponsors rather than a few sponsors at a much higher price. Larger companies may still be interested, however, so don’t forget them.
  • Make sure that the companies you are recruiting know who is already sponsoring your event. Competition is good. :)

Tell us a little about your background and how you came to work for PASS.
Like PASS’s Craig Ellis, I spent a large part of my career – 35 years – in the publishing industry, with the last 20 serving in several administrative roles at the Columbus Dispatch. I was able to retire early, in 2006, after serving for about 9 years as the Advertising Operations Manager.

I was then recruited by Event Marketing Group to manage and sell the trade show of a new event it had been contracted for, which was the 2007 PASS Summit. At the end of the Summit, EMG wanted to focus its resources on the travel and home and garden industries, and I was able to offer my services exclusively to PASS, where I have been happily situated since 2008. So the PASS sponsorship sales office is located in my home office in Gahanna (if you can say “banana,” then you can say “Gahanna”) Ohio, a suburb of Columbus.

If we stopped by your office for a cup of coffee, what would we notice?
You are certainly welcome to stop by anytime. Since I have a small home office, it requires me to keep it fairly neat – so does my wife. I have some eclectic artwork on the door from my artist grandchildren (7, 5, and 3) that makes entering very warm and inviting. I have some shelves with memorabilia from the past – a couple of awards, a model fire truck (I was a past volunteer), lots of PASS lanyards and badges hanging, a couple of pictures, and a copy of the softball newspaper that I owned and produced in 1982. I also have a bookshelf unit that has mostly books on it, but on top sets three smaller RC helicopters for break times.

What do you like to do to relax and re-energize yourself?
We have always been a very sports-active family, and now with five grandkids and their activities, there is not a lot of time for me to play. But I enjoy escaping on our motorcycle. Plus, several years ago we bought an old boat, fixed it up, and can take the kids out for some water fun and fishing. We also enjoy spending time with friends doing a variety of activities.

Tell us something most people don’t know about you.
I was a part-time police officer for 20 years.

If you were writing a slogan about why companies should support PASS/PASS events, what would it be?
If you care about the community, PASS it on!
 

April 2012: Jane Duffy

Go behind the scenes of 24 Hours of PASS, the Connector newsletter, PASS Summit’s video series, and more with the Marketing Team’s Jane Duffy – she promises to leave the camera crew behind.

You joined the PASS HQ Marketing team in Fall 2010 as an independent contractor – what are your primary responsibilities?
I love working with the PASS HQ Marketing team on a variety of projects – I’m always at the ready to help out where needed. My primary responsibilities include the PASS Connector newsletter, where I research blog posts for the Blogosphere section, write the odd article, solicit articles, and work with the team to determine the flow of content; 24 Hours of PASS in a project-management capacity to ensure deliverables are being met and that the event runs as smoothly as possible; and the PASS Summit Program Guide, collaborating with the team to pull together all the pieces. I also update various areas of the website, post blog entries, and generally work behind the scenes to do what needs to be done.

24 Hours of PASS continues to evolve as a can’t-miss global community event. What was the most interesting thing about this year’s free series of 24 back-to-back webcasts?
It was so exciting to extend the reach of 24 Hours of PASS by offering closed captioning in 15 languages. While we’re waiting on the final tally of how many used the service, I’m happy to say that we had over 100 countries represented in the recent event.

Die-hard attendees aren’t the only ones who get little sleep during 24 Hours of PASS – what goes on behind the scenes to put on and support the event?
A lot of caffeine! Seriously, though, we rely on 60 volunteers to make the event happen. From speakers and moderators, to back-up moderators and members of the organizing committee, everyone has a hand in putting on a 24 Hours of PASS event.

In March, each session had a back-up moderator who ensured the speaker and moderator arrived and began their session on time. On occasion, they also filled in for the scheduled moderator. This time around, we also tried a new platform, IBTalk, instead of our usual Live Meeting for the webcasts. IBTalk provided a tech support person in each session, which greatly reduced dependency on back-up moderators to troubleshoot technical issues.

As you produce and pull together content for the PASS Connector, what are your favorite articles or sections of the newsletter? What do PASS members like to read most based on click-throughs?
My favorite section of the PASS Connector newsletter is the Blogosphere list. There are a lot of smart and clever bloggers in the SQL Server community – reading through their posts is a great way to stay connected and be in the know. I also really enjoy the PASS editorial articles, which provide a snapshot of all the great things going on in the organization.

The Connecter has good readership. Typically, the events get a lot of hits, as well as the Blogosphere round-up. Really, it all depends on the content of the newsletter. For example, the recent SQL Server 2012 Virtual Launch and 24 Hours of PASS articles generated a lot of click-throughs, as did the Virtual Chapter events, likely because these online events appeal to a wide member audience regardless of geographic location.

At PASS Summit 2011, you spent a lot of time with the video production team talking with attendees about PASS and community – what characteristics stick out the most for you when you think about the PASS community?
After people realized that I wasn’t stalking them, they were very open and receptive to talking to me and the camera crew. The characteristic that sticks out most for me when thinking about the community is the strong sense of camaraderie. This was evident throughout PASS Summit 2011, both in the official and unofficial events outside the training sessions. For example, a SQL prayer group met in the lobby of the hotel every morning, a SQL run took place to limber up for the 3 days of learning, and there was even a SQL wedding with an open invitation for all to attend!

This is a community of helpers who turn to each other when looking for technical advice, career advancement strategies, or just to share a laugh. I see these interactions on a daily basis through Twitter, blogs and blog comments, and by participating in events, both online and in-person. Even if you aren’t active on Twitter, simply following the #sqlpass hashtag will keep you in the loop.

Tell us a little about your background and how you came to work for PASS.
I’ve been based in Toronto for the past 12 years and spent a few years working in Montreal before that. My professional background is in association management, where I worked with several national associations on their event and membership marketing strategies.

When things started getting busy at PASS (when isn’t it busy these days?), I was given the opportunity to step in and help out where I could. I was winding down from a maternity leave, so I jumped at the chance to work with PASS. I enjoy working with a fantastic team on exciting projects, and I have a great work-life balance.

If we stopped by your home office for a cup of coffee, what would we notice?
I live in the heart of Toronto in a fairly small and ancient house, which forces me to get creative with my space. My office is located in the basement and doubles as a playroom for my children outside of office hours. There are various “masterpieces” on the walls and a long, bright-red cabinet that stores my printer, router, NAS box, various binders and notebooks, a stash of Twizzlers candy, and my laptop. It’s a fun working environment that often reminds me not to take life too seriously.

What do you like to do to relax and re-energize yourself?
I have 3-year-old twins, which does not leave much time for relaxation, but when I do steal some time for myself, I like to read. I just finished Secret Daughter by Shilpi Somaya Gowda, and it was so touching that I think I’ll have to re-read it – it was that good. I also enjoy taking my dog for long walks and slipping off to my favourite coffee shop to recharge.

Tell us something most people don’t know about you.
In 2006, I travelled to Tanzania, where I trekked Mount Kilimanjaro. It was one of the best and most unforgettable experiences of my life. Also on my bucket list is to paddle the Nahanni River in Canada’s Northwest Territories.

What would tempt you to voluntarily stay up for 24 hours straight?
That’s a good question. There is little that would tempt me to want to stay up for 24 hours unless there was a really cool online event – something along the lines of 24 consecutive hours of free online training sessions. Has that been done before? Someone should really get on that.
 

February 2012: Marcella McKeown

Break into a sweat at the thought of speaking in public? Speaker Programs Coordinator Marcella McKeown knows how you feel and is here to support you and the hundreds of speakers who present at PASS events around the world.

You returned to the PASS HQ team last summer to oversee Speaker Programs. What are your responsibilities, and what do you enjoy most about your role?
The main role of Speaker Programs coordinator is to work directly with the Program Committees for PASS Summit, SQLRally, and 24 Hours of PASS. My primary responsibilities include back-end general and administrative support to these teams, enabling them to carry out a variety of initiatives such as call for speakers, community votes, and online session scheduling. I help manage communications with speakers about various details and logistics before each event and work on a multitude of tasks such as speaker contracts, agenda proofing, preparing the session scheduling grid, Orator projects, website updates, sign printing, and onsite logistics for speakers.

What do I enjoy most about the role? It is definitely the people. From the Program Committee members and the speakers to all the attendees who make these events possible, I enjoy meeting and working with all the passionate volunteers who care so much about this organization and these events.

How has PASS changed during your absence?
PASS has grown significantly, nearly doubling in membership since I left on maternity leave 2 years ago. The addition of SQLRally and 24 Hours of PASS are also big and exciting changes that I’m eager to get involved in.

Tell us a little about the Orator toolset and the features you think are most helpful to speakers at PASS events. Anything that people might not be using to full advantage or that’s coming soon?
Since returning to PASS, I’ve been very impressed by the in-house-built Orator system. Kudos to the volunteers and IT team for building a highly functional tool that keeps everything in one place and makes it easier to perform reviews, pull reports, update websites, enter and track session evaluations, deliver a session builder,  and even contact our speakers directly through the tool.

The feature that should be most useful to speakers is the Speaker Portal, which lets us communicate upcoming deadlines, details, updates, and changes. It also houses the speaker contract and the speaker profile, where speakers can add/update their information, biography, and photos. The tool also encompasses AV requirements, and when the time comes, displays the speaker’s session date, time, and location. In addition, it provides a page where speakers can upload their PPT presentations and demos.

The perennial question: What’s the secret to a perfect session abstract?
I wish I had a definitive answer to this difficult question! Speaking strictly as an observer/non-speaker, I would say the answer depends on many different variables. First, topic selection is very important. Once you’ve selected a topic you are comfortable presenting and answering questions on and can cover sufficiently in the allotted session time, then the abstract is easier to accomplish. I suggest you keep the abstract short, simple, and direct. Provide a brief outline of your session content, and make sure to emphasize the benefits of attending.

What would you tell the many SQL Server and BI pros out there who want to start presenting on their favorite topics but don’t know where to begin? What resources does PASS have for them?
My advice is to lay the groundwork for speaking by learning as much as you can from those around you. Talk to speakers at events you attend, and corner Program Committee members when you see them at PASS Summit. Find a topic that is popular and with which you are knowledgeable and comfortable presenting, as well as answering questions on.

You can find speaking opportunities through your local PASS Chapter. And PASS events such as SQLSaturdays, SQLRally, 24 Hours of PASS, and, of course, PASS Summit are all excellent venues for gaining speaking experience. You can find a wealth of speaker resources on the PASS Speaker Resource page and the PASS Chapters page.

Tell us a little about your background and how you came to work at PASS HQ.
I majored in Criminology at Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, BC. However, as engaging as my classes had been, there weren’t many job prospects I was interested in pursuing at the end of it. I spent the next 10 years working at a few Internet consulting companies in the administration, office management, and HR departments, which led me to a love of event planning and eventually to a job posting for a Program Coordinator position at Christianson & Company for PASS.

If we visited your PASS HQ office, what would we notice?
I’m pretty orderly. I like to keep my workspace neat and tidy with little on the surface. Aside from my water bottle and coffee cup, I keep a photo of my little one next to my monitor and have a SQLCAT Panther lurking just below it. 

What do you like to do in your spare time?
I am a homebody and enjoy being at home with my family. I love to read and play video games, so I try to squeeze those in when I can, which seems to be less and less these days. I spend the majority of my spare time playing with my 2-year-old son and visiting with family and close friends on the weekends.

Tell us something most people don’t know about you.
I have dual Canadian/US citizenship. My parents had the travel bug in their early ‘30s, so I was born in New Orleans and spent my first 5 years growing up in Castrop-Rauxel, Germany, before settling down in British Columbia. 

If you could give a presentation on any topic under the sun, what would you speak on?
Ironically, I have a crippling fear of public speaking. But if I were able to overcome it, I would probably speak on “How to overcome your fear of public speaking.” :)

January 2012: Karla Landrum

Community Evangelist Karla Landrum is spreading the good news about PASS Chapters and SQLSaturdays around the world and helping develop a new generation of leaders in the SQL Server community. No wonder her Twitter avatar is Wonder Woman.

You joined the PASS HQ team last summer as Community Evangelist – a great title, BTW. What are your responsibilities in this role?
Primarily I work to spread and grow PASS Chapters and SQLSaturdays – mentoring new and existing user-group leaders and event organizers on ways they can help increase their attendance, get sponsors and speakers, and in general, better market their events and meetings. Many of our volunteers are master DBAs and SQL Server gurus, but they do not necessarily have the experience or knowledge about how to market their meetings/events. Imbedded within the evangelist role and through these channels, my goal is to reach as many people as possible to spread the word about what PASS is and what we have to offer to everyone in the SQL Server community.

The past year saw 33 new PASS chapters, bringing us to 250 around the world at the start of 2012. What’s behind the amazing growth, and what do we have in place for folks looking to start a chapter or transition their user group to PASS affiliation?
2011 was a great year for chapter growth – both in terms of new chapters as well as in depth and health of existing chapters. Most leads about potential new chapters come from our group of amazing Regional Mentors. I then spend a lot of time talking to folks before they start a chapter, walking through all their questions, identifying the “gotchas” to avoid, and helping with how to market their user group.

Another contributing factor to our growth has been just the SQL Server community itself. It’s just a phenomenal global network, and folks attending community events and other meetings are saying, “Wow! I want to bring this to my town.” It’s really word of mouth. So many people are spreading the word about PASS, and those folks are directing potential leaders my way so I can help them get over any initial concerns and let them know about the biggest benefit of all – the powerful support system behind them when joining as a PASS chapter.

A perennial problem for many local Chapters has been finding speakers or content for their meetings. Are there any programs on the horizon to help with that?
The need for speakers for local user group meetings is a huge problem worldwide. I can’t speak too much about the details of what the plans are just yet, but we are working on a couple of projects, defining the scope of, say, what a Speaker Bureau should look like. Hopefully, we will be able to offer an approach that’s easy to use, accessible, scalable, and sustainable and that meets the needs of our chapters to find quality speakers.

There has been a lot of community discussion lately about growing leaders. What’s your vision for how PASS can help mentor new chapter and committee leaders and event organizers?
There are a lot of community efforts surrounding the goal of building community leaders, and within PASS, I’m most dedicated to ramping up the Regional Mentor program. I was an RM myself before joining PASS HQ, and I see the role as key to helping identify, mentor, and support new leaders. I work with the RMs to get them the knowledge and tools they need to be good mentors within their regions. New chapters especially can really struggle in their first few months and need the guidance that these experienced leaders can provide.

The SQLSaturday phenomenon is spreading everywhere – most weekends have at least one and there are as many international events scheduled through April as US events. For those who’ve never been to a SQLSaturday, how would you describe it? Any new trends you’re seeing in SQLSaturdays?
SQLSaturdays are so beneficial to so many people, providing free training in many places that would never even see such expertise in their hometowns. Between the quality training, the concentrated networking, the growing of more expert speakers, the showcasing of sponsor tools and services… it’s just an all-around win for everyone involved. We’re seeing several new trends. Many SQLSaturdays are now including full tracks for Professional Development, even getting sponsoring recruiters to do some resume building and interviewing workshops. Several are starting to add Women in Technology panel discussions – some even hosting a luncheon, much like at the Summit – as well as adding for-a-fee pre-cons the day before their events.

Tell us a little about your background and how you came to work at PASS HQ.
I spent the last 12 years with a software development company in Pensacola – 4 of those in a tier-2 support role using SQL almost daily. Needing to learn more SQL, I attended my first SQLSaturday in Jacksonville in 2008 and was immediately addicted to community and learning. I started a user group the very next month. Over the next several years, I invested more and more time into the SQL Server community, including hosting three SQLSaturdays in Pensacola, one in Hawaii, and volunteering at dozens of other events. These contributions to the community and my role as an RM led to me being offered this newly defined position with PASS. I’m passionate about the SQL Server community and PASS, and I feel very fortunate to have been given this opportunity.

If you invited us for a cup of coffee in your home office in Orlando, what would we notice?
Two pools. One is an in-ground swimming pool, and the other is a cherry wood pool table. Two things I’ve wanted to own my whole life and finally bought a home large enough to where I can have both.

You’re known for your unflagging energy – a great characteristic for an evangelist – what do you do to relax?
I’ve been on the road a lot – racking up 12 events in my first 6 months, including SQLBits in the UK and SQLSaturday #100 in Brazil – and reading really helps me unwind. Aside from reading, camping is not just relaxing but very therapeutic for me. I love sitting by a roaring fire under the stars, listening to the sounds coming from nature and the wildlife around me. Rodney and I will just sit and talk for hours all night—no cell phones, no laptops or other devices chaining us to the world, just totally absorbing each other’s every word without distractions. It’s great having your husband as your best friend, who thankfully also loves camping. Hopefully there will be lots more camping and reading in 2012 for this girl!

Tell us something most people don’t know about you.
I am a grandmother. I have a grandson who will be 3 next month, and a granddaughter who just turned 5. They are super precious, and I just love being their “Grams.” My son-in-law is from Guam, and both look just like him, so I call them my “Little Island Babies.” They call Rodney “Papa Wahnee,” and they think that Lady Gaga song, Paparazzi, is about him. They sing it at the top of their lungs: “I’ll follow you until you love me, Papa-Papa Wahnee.” Too cute!

If you were designing a SQLSaturday t-shirt, what would it say?
My old fave was “SQLSaturdays Gone Wild.” To list all the ideas running through my head now would be way too much for this interview, but here are a few samples: “SQLSaturdays - Romper Room for DBAs,” or “Kool Aid for DBAs,” “Bacon & Geeks & SQLSaturdays,” “SQLSaturdays are My Tiger Blood,”… really, I’ll stop here because I could go on forever.
 

December 2011: Anika Poliseno

Handling the logistics for PASS’s many events keeps Anika Poliseno literally running, but she (usually) has her feet firmly on the ground, calmly solving the unexpected and helping ensure attendees have an excellent experience.

You joined PASS HQ Event Operations in November 2010 and now manage all event-related logistics–what are your main responsibilities?
I joined PASS HQ just over a year ago, and coming into this role, I wasn’t 100 percent certain what to expect. I knew I was going to be mainly in charge of events, but I didn’t know at what level I was going to be involved. As the months have passed, I’ve been taking on more and more responsibilities, and I now oversee all event-related operations/logistics. It’s hard to narrow down my main responsibilities, as I touch a lot of everything, but in a nut shell, here are the main things I take care of: all RFP processes, venue negotiations and food and beverages, all event-related contracts, and hotel room blocks. I also work closely with our awesome production and marketing teams and lots more! In addition to all the event-related items, I help out with all HR tasks here at HQ.

Looking back at your first year at PASS HQ, what have been some of the defining moments?
My “first” PASS Summit without a doubt has been one of the biggest defining moments this past year. I say first, but it was actually my second Summit. My first day working for PASS HQ was also the first day of Summit 2010. I felt part of the PASS family the moment I arrived onsite in Seattle. Tear-jerker aside, my “real” first Summit would be the one we just completed in October. I won’t lie, it was stressful, and it’s to blame for my new grey hairs. But it was also very successful and most definitely one of my most defining moments here at PASS HQ.

In your experience, what are the key factors in choosing an excellent venue for an event?
There are several key factors in choosing the perfect venue, and so many different variables come into play. It is different for each event. General rule of thumb: A well-priced venue with outstanding customer service and that’s flexible to our needs usually will get my vote.

It seems like the saying “whatever can go wrong, will” often applies to logistics. How do you manage the unexpected and still deliver an excellent experience for attendees?
That’s the joy of being an event planner – there’s always something that comes out of left field! Usually, events are planned inside and out, and everything is double- and cross-checked before the big day. That doesn’t mean the unexpected won’t happen, though – even if you have been working on an event for an entire year. It will – it always does – and that’s what I love most about my job. Being on your toes 24/7 during events, troubleshooting as the days go by…  And the trick is never look stressed and always remain calm, because let’s face it, there’s always a solution to everything and nothing is as bad as it may seem.

What is the funniest thing that has ever happened to you during an event?
This is easy to answer because it just happened to me last Summit… Okay, maybe it wasn’t funny for me, but it was most definitely funny for the hundreds of people who were around and saw the wipe-out happen in front of them. Long story short, I was running from the Expo Hall back to the PASS HQ room. I had been on my feet since the previous Friday running around everywhere, and by Wednesday when it was time for the Expo Reception, my feet were terribly blistered (not to worry, blistered feet come with the territory!). As I was running with a limp, because blisters hurt less that way, I tripped and fell in front of the PASS Booth, landing in front of the bookstore. I fell flat on both my knees and whacked my shoulder on the ground. Not only did I fall, but I utterly embarrassed myself – my walkie-talkie went flying, my cell phone took a good hit, and I lost both my shoes. Seriously, who loses their shoes when falling!? For those who were there and helped me up, thank you so very much!

Tell us a little about your background and how you came to work at PASS HQ.
I moved to Vancouver from my home town of Montreal on October 12, 2010. I come from a strong hospitality background and managed several multimillion-dollar events. My client base was vast, from pharmaceuticals companies to firms that specialize in the beauty industry. I’ve gained most of my knowledge working in the field. When I arrived in Vancouver, I fortunately had the luxury of taking my time to find the perfect job, and as you can all see, I did! Just about 2 weeks after arriving on the West Coast, I had my first interview at PASS HQ. After several interviews, I was asked to come and see firsthand what Summit was all about. I accepted the invite and on that Thursday was officially hired. The rest is history!

If we visited your PASS HQ office, what would we notice?
Oh boy, please give me some warning before you arrive! I have piles of paper filed on the floor (not to worry – they are going into binders soon). And although my desk is messy, it’s clean. I am addicted to Windex – my desk is white, and I don’t like dust! Every time I leave the office for more than 2 days, I do a full clean-up. Michelle [Nalliah] always makes fun of me when this happens! On my desk, you’ll find an iPod docking station, a turquoise and pink picture frame with a picture of my best girlfriends from back home, hand cream and sweet pea hand sanitizer, and Post-its – lots of Post-its all over! Weird quirk of mine: I only write with a specific purple pen – the Paper Mate Flexgrip Ultra. And when going through my hundreds of pages of BEOs [Banquet Event Orders], the red pen comes out. You’ll also probably find the morning leftover coffee and a glass of water, if it hasn’t already spilled everywhere. I tend to spill about one or two glasses of water a month.

What do you like to do in your spare time?
I really enjoy cooking. I try to do everything scratch-made. If I had it my way, I would have a dinner party each night. And whenever we get a long weekend or a few days off in a row, I’ll go explore what BC has to offer, discover new places, and go camping in the middle of nowhere.

Tell us something most people don’t know about you.
I had a goal that if by 2010 I wasn’t an event planner, I was going to drop everything, go back to school, and become a paramedic. I became a meeting planner well before 2010, so now I need to find a new goal.

If you could put on your dream event, what would that be?
A Royal Wedding! 

September 2011: Sanjeet Gandham

From PASS newsletters, web updates, and Events page postings to Summit and SQLSaturday swag, sponsorship ads, and more, Marketing and Sponsorship Coordinator Sanjeet Gandham gets the word out.

As PASS HQ’s Marketing and Sponsorship person, you have a wide range of responsibilities. Can you summarize your main roles for our readers?
In terms of marketing, I work on mail-outs, so that includes putting all newsletter content into HTML and sending out the PASS Connector, the Summit Bulletin to PASS Summit registrants, and emails to the membership. I add content to the sqlpass.org and Summit sites, approve events that are submitted via the Events page on sqlpass.org, and order swag for PASS SQLSaturdays. For sponsorships, I work closely with Al Shuler. Al sells sponsorships, and I am responsible for executing on all contract deliverables. For instance, for sponsor contracts for Summit, I ensure logo placement wherever we’ve promised it – this may include placing logos on the website, in mailings, or on the conference notepad, bag, lanyard, pen, etc. I also collect ads for the Program Guide and make sure all sponsors get their inserts to the venue ready for the bag stuffing. In addition, I work with sponsors that have bought sponsorship slots in our e-newsletter, banner ads on the PASS site, or emails to our membership, identifying available dates, sending specs, and collecting content.

From the click-through analysis you do for the bi-weekly PASS Connector newsletter, what kinds of content do our members like most?
Technical articles in the newsletter tend to get a high rate of clicks, as do professional development articles. When we ask people what sessions they’d like to see at PASS Summit, that is always popular, as is any content on must-see sessions for Summit or 24 Hours of PASS. The Events page on the PASS site gets a fair number of clicks, too.

In your experience working behind the scenes to help support PASS’s many events – from Summit, SQLRally, and SQLSaturdays to other regional and international gatherings – what are some key success factors you’ve noticed?
The SQL Server community is passionate about learning and networking with their peers. If we continue to organize events where they’ll find awesome content, speakers, and networking opportunities, they’ll have a great experience.

What part do sponsors play in our community? What do you enjoy most about working with them?
Sponsors are integral to our community. Their financial commitments help, for example, SQLSaturday organizers buy t-shirts, supply lunches, and pay for the venue. Similarly, their support of PASS Summit helps us offer great things like session evaluation prizes (Dell Minis), free 5-minute chair massages (courtesy of Dell this year), and prizes for Quizbowl – not to mention supporting the WIT Luncheon, the First-Timers program, and more. Their support helps us make events more valuable and fun for all. On top of that, our sponsors are great to work with – I’ve worked with many of the same contacts for several years now, and our communication is second to none. It feels like a team.

What are the best swag items you’ve seen at PASS events?
I’m usually so busy at the PASS Booth that I don’t get to see all the swag in the Expo Hall, but I always notice the Idera rubber duck at Summit each year!

Tell us a little about your background and how you came to work at PASS HQ.
I went to law school, but after completion, I decided that it wasn’t the field I wanted to go into. I was always more business minded, and so I did a Masters in Business and then worked for the school board in the research and marketing department. I moved to Vancouver in 2005 and worked for Ernst and Young, largely on its Entrepreneur of the Year Program, which entailed the call for nominations, mini events, and organizing the awards banquet. Having worked on this for 2 years and feeling like I’d excelled at it, I wanted something with more responsibility. That’s when I applied for the job with C&C. At first, it was a transition going from working in a huge corporation to a small office, but it’s been for the best as I’ve found my job here very fulfilling.

If we visited your PASS HQ office space, what we would notice?
I share an office with Marcella McKeown, and it’s wonderful to work alongside her. We both started at C&C on April Fool’s day in 2008, and she recently returned from maternity leave – it seems like she never left! On my desk, you’ll see organized piles of work (low piles!) and Post-it notes around my monitor as reminders. You’ll see swag in my office too – Summit DVDs, t-shirts, and SQLSaturday stickers that get sent to events – and samples of things like pens and lanyards, which a vendor drops off as we start choosing items for Summit.

What do you like to do in your spare time?
I like working out – I have a treadmill at home and go to the gym whenever I feel like a change. I have got back into swimming over the summer, though in the weeks leading up to Summit, my exercise routine becomes non-existent! I have a passion for interior decorating and enjoy eating out, spa treatments, baking, and reading magazines.

Tell us something most people don’t know about you.
I have an identical twin sister, and my husband is a twin too (though fraternal). Plus, my twin and my husband’s twin share the same name. I believe I was destined to meet my husband!

If you could win one prize in the raffles or giveaways at PASS Summit 2011, what would it be and why?
Well, I have a camera, webcam, and a phone that I like. What I’d really like to win at Summit is the $10,000 prize from the Varigence Biml Challenge. Now that would be lovely! I could have that trip to Dubai I’ve been dreaming of…
 

August 2011: Craig Ellis

In the hectic leadup to his fifth PASS Summit, PASS’s Operations Manager shares some behind-the-scenes secrets and his excitement around SQLSaturdays, SQLRally, and working with inspiring community volunteers.

What are your primary roles as Operations Manager for PASS?
Being the Operations Manager means I am involved in most aspects of the operations at HQ. This includes overseeing the planning and execution of events, as well as managing the day-to-day operations within a team of 12. I am also involved with getting new projects off the ground that are proposed and approved by the board.

How many PASS Summits have you worked on? What are some of the biggest changes you’ve seen in Summit since you joined PASS HQ in 2007? 
 I am working on my fifth Summit. One of the biggest changes I have seen over the years is Microsoft’s engagement in the Summit and PASS. Every year, it has played a bigger role and invested more into the event through participation and promotion. Another area where we have seen a big change is community involvement in the planning and execution of some of the onsite activities. The success of the Women in Technology and Birds of a Feather lunches, Ask the Experts, the First Timers Program, and more are directly due to the hard work and dedication of community volunteers.

So much happens pre-event and behind the scenes to ensure a successful conference – what are some things people might be surprised to learn about the process?
The thing that always amazes me is the amount of time and planning that goes into the event in the 8 months leading up to it. Once on site, it takes only two and a half days to get the venue ready, and then when it’s over, the show is completely taken down within 5 hours.

What has it been like to see the continued and growing success of SQLSaturday events and, now, the addition of SQLRally conferences?
It has been extremely rewarding to see the value that the SQLSaturday events have brought to the community. The passion and energy invested by the event leaders to bring free education to SQL Server users is truly inspiring. We are now seeing that flow into the international arena, with at least five global events in the works in the next six months.

As for SQLRally, it feels that this style of event is going to do well. The inaugural Orlando event in May was a success thanks to all the hard work from the community and HQ, and I see this trend continuing with the latest work being done on the SQLRally Nordic 2011 and SQLRally Dallas 2012 events. We are also in talks with two more potential International events as part of our newest global reach efforts. It’s been exciting to be a part of all that is going on.

Tell us a little about your background and how you came to work at PASS HQ.
My background is in publishing, and I spent many years as a production manager for a travel magazine. After the print industry began to die down, I moved into a customer service role at Kodak as the District Service Manager for Western Canada. In that role, I volunteered to assist at the Kodak Graphic User Group conferences under the leadership of Judy Christianson. This gave me some event experience, and I loved doing it. When Judy was selected to manage PASS, I jumped at the opportunity to work with her and her team, and here I am today!

If we visited your office at PASS HQ, what would we notice?
Our office has a great feel and is very comfortable. We are dog friendly, so I am able to bring my Pomeranian/Chow Lucky to the office, which is nice and forces me to get out of my chair and go for a walk twice a day. You’d also notice that I have Summit posters on the wall from the past two years, which bring back a lot of good memories.

What do you like to do in your spare time?
In my off hours, I love to garden and read up on producing organically grown vegetables. I also enjoy golfing and getting out to a movie once a week.

What have you learned about the SQL Server community in working with so many volunteers over the years?
I have learned that this community of SQL Server users is vibrant and extremely passionate. I am inspired at the dedication of the board members and the amount of their own time that they invest into ensuring the community is strong and continues to grow.