Addressing Confusion Around the AHP


I'd like to address some concerns that have been brought up surrounding the recent changes to the PASS Anti-Harassment Policy (AHP).

There are concerns that the policy will be used to ban someone from PASS Summit for swearing or that joking among friends will be policed. The PASS AHP has been in place since 2012; in that time there have been no examples of the policy being used in this way.

This policy is about protecting people against real harassment: women being groped, people being subject to unwanted sexual advances, people being threatened with physical harm. These examples are not hypothetical; they have occurred at other industry events, and unfortunately some have occurred at PASS events. When considering the AHP I'd ask every member of the community to keep this top-of-mind.

Before the recent changes we could only take action if an incident occurred at an activity directly sponsored by PASS: a session room, in the convention center, or at a PASS-sponsored social event. If the same incident occurred at a partner-sponsored party, in a taxi cab or in the hallway of a hotel, we could not take any action under the original version of the policy. Think about that for a minute: if a woman was groped by another attendee at an off-site party we had to tell her "sorry, we can't do anything."

There have been concerns raised that any complaint will result in someone being removed from PASS Summit. To be clear: we are committed to investigating every complaint; that does not mean that every complaint will result in an action being taken. The AHP is not a zero-tolerance policy, as some have suggested. The Anti-Harassment Review Committee (AHRC) has discretion as to what action it takes, if any. And all AHRC activities are reported to the full Board of Directors.

I hope this clears up some of the confusion and misunderstanding about what the AHP is actually designed to do. I encourage every PASS member to read and better understand this important policy document.

Thanks,

Denise McInerney
Vice President, Marketing

Why We Revised the Anti-Harassment Policy and What that Means


The PASS Board of Directors recently approved a revised version of the Anti-Harassment Policy. This is a very important policy document for PASS, designed to ensure that everybody has an enjoyable experience at PASS events. I made developing this policy part of my campaign platform for my Board seat in 2011, recognizing that it was something we needed, and an essential element of other technical conferences and events, and have remained committed to its development and refinement since.

As has been outlined in a 2015 blog post by Immediate Past President Thomas LaRock, there was an increase in the number of incidents reported at last year’s PASS Summit. The policy is designed to reduce incidents, and to clearly outline the recourse/action to be taken when incidents do occur.

The policy has been in effect since it was first developed in 2012. Since then, the Board has been monitoring its effectiveness. Following PASS Summit 2015 we decided it was time to revisit the policy and I undertook the reporting and management of this on behalf of the Board with my PASS HQ counterparts and PASS Governance. This was a comprehensive process and I want to make clear that we took this very seriously: we researched other conferences to see what their policies were, we spoke to vendors, and we considered community feedback.

The actual policy purpose and definition of harassment remain exactly the same:

We are dedicated to providing a harassment-free conference experience for everyone, regardless of gender, race, sexual orientation, disability, religion, or any other protected classification…

Harassment includes, but is not limited to, offensive verbal comments related to gender, race, sexual orientation, disability, religion, or any other protected classification directed toward an individual or group. Intimidation, threats, stalking, harassing photography or recording, sustained disruption of talks or other events, inappropriate physical contact, and unwelcome attention will also be considered harassment. Similarly, sexual, racist, derogatory, threatening, or other inappropriate language and imagery are not appropriate for any conference venue, including sessions.

So what has changed? Well, we have extended the range of coverage. The previous policy made it clear that it was onsite at PASS events, but now it also covers event attendees at all times and places during the duration of the conference/event, including offsite vendor activities. As I mentioned previously, we consulted with vendors and they are onboard with our changes. We have updated the PASS vendor agreement to include this requirement, moving forward. We also ask that any members of our community who may organize an offsite social activity or event also sign on to following these guidelines.

We have also made it easier and safer for people to make reports, including the ability to report anonymously, and will provide easier access to the form used for reporting an incident, both online and in hardcopy format. The policy also now includes new language defining physical danger, and making it clear that this is not an emergency service.

The process for handling reported incidents is unchanged. The Anti-Harassment Review Committee (AHRC) will review all reports, investigate, and take action as it deems appropriate.

As part of the broader awareness campaign for the policy, we will ensure that it is more widely visible, publishing it in the conference program guides and clearly onsite, as well. While the revised version was not endorsed in time for the PASS Business Analytics Conference, it will be in place for Summit 2016 and future events.

I hope you recognize the importance of having this more robust Anti-Harassment Policy. As has been mentioned before, this is not about policing the community; it is about ensuring that all of us are able to have a safe and enjoyable experience at PASS events.

Thanks,

Denise McInerney
Vice President, Marketing

Portfolio Update: PASS Programs


The first PASS Summit I attended was in Seattle in 2003. It was the first time I'd been to Seattle since I attended the 1962 Seattle World's Fair as an eight-year-old. It was the start of a significant change in my life, one for which I'm eternally grateful as I met people who were as passionate about data as I am.

I’d thought about a seat on the PASS Board of Directors over the years and always felt that I'd most be interested in the PASS Programs portfolio, because the content of Summit is what brings people together (at least initially). Once there, the connections made and the relationships formed provide meaningful value, but as in so many other aspects of life, content is king. Those are some of the reasons why I feel so passionate about this portfolio.

The program portfolio will deliver 160,970 technical training hours in 2016 and there are a number of activities that I will be overseeing throughout the year to ensure that we continue to deliver the best possible program content.

This includes refining our current conference programming and better understanding attendee data to ensure that our program offerings will continue to meet the changing demands and needs of data professionals, now and into the future. This will also include reviewing the structure and format of Summit (e.g. number of pre-cons, lab offerings etc.) to ensure that we balance great content with financial considerations, and continue to uphold the quality of our events.

In addition, we will look to provide attendees with learning paths for their individual learning objectives, a way for them to define for themselves the direction they want to go with their learning and then also help to provide the content necessary to meet those goals.

A large part of continuing to deliver quality education and training is our speakers. I am proud of the fact that we are one of the only major technology conferences where we encourage the participation of new speakers. We will continue to grow our community speakers and help them to put their best foot forward for speaker selection with efforts like the abstract coaching service and speaker resources. 

All of this is designed to deliver the best possible training and development opportunities for all of you in 2016 and beyond.

If you have any ideas about improving our program offerings, please reach out in the comments below.

Allen White
Director, PASS Programs

Project Priorities for the SQLSaturday Portfolio


As I have only recently transitioned into this portfolio, I will provide a mid-year update based on Tim Ford’s previous strategic focus for the remainder of the PASS fiscal year. Later in the year, I will provide an update on 2016-17 priorities, once I have had the opportunity to explore the portfolio in more detail and start to develop some of my own priorities and deliverables.

I should start be mentioning that the SQLSaturday portfolio is in really good shape. We saw a record 115 events in 2015, with the largest increases in EMEA and LATAM for new events, which is very encouraging as far as our global growth.

In addition, updates to the website have made it possible to link speaker evaluations and help to develop new speakers. Leveraging this information aids the PASS Programs team during the speaker review process for PASS Summit. However, the evaluator tool is only used by some SQLSaturday organizers and I encourage you all to use this valuable tool.

While many of you share enhancement/design suggestions on the SQLSaturday website, and we do appreciate that, we will only be responding to existing support tickets/issues, and are not currently looking at feature enhancements. Any such changes will need to be planned as part of the IT roadmap for FY2017 and beyond.

For the remainder of this year, we are looking at making improvements to onsite logistics, registration, and reporting for organizers of SQLSaturday events. This will include registration efficiencies achieved through enhancements to ticketing and the event package that attendees receive.

As part of this process, I will be working closely with Tim to collect and analyze more of our attendee data. Tim has already covered this off in his recent blog post, so I won’t spend any more time on that here, except to say that collecting this data will help us to improve not just future SQLSaturdays, but other PASS events and activities, as well.

As a SQLSaturday organizer or attendee, if you have any questions or comments, or would like to provide feedback on anything related to SQLSaturday events, please get in touch.

Argenis Fernandez
Director, SQLSaturday

New Nominations Committee Process Approved


At the March 10 Board Meeting, the Board voted to approve the proposed process to select the Nominations Committee (NomCom). For further details on what these changes involve, please read my blog post.

This is a significant change from the current process as there will no longer be an election to select the NomCom. Instead, community members who are interested will submit a brief one-page letter of interest (using this template), outlining their experience relevant to holding a position on the NomCom.

The PASS Board is looking to produce a practiced body (NomCom) to qualify Board applicants. Letters will be reviewed by the NomCom chair (that’s me) as well as the PASS Executive. We will then put forth a recommendation of NomCom members to the Board for approval. The criteria we will consider favorable in applications are as follows:

  • · must be a current voting member of PASS (required);
  • · have served on the board of a previous professional association/organization (preferred);
  • · have previous experience (either as a candidate or as a committee member) with the PASS NomCom (preferred);
  • · have experience in a leadership position (chapter leader, regional mentors, SQL Saturday organizers, etc.) within PASS (preferred).

Applications open today, Monday 14 March and will close Wednesday 23 March. To be considered, please email your letter of interest to PASS Governance.

A Town Hall Q&A with the ExecCo will also be held at 8:30–10:00 AM PST on 17 March to discuss this process and other election items for 2016. You can register for the Town Hall here.

Thank you.

Thomas LaRock
Immediate Past President

Professional Language in Abstract Submissions


The Call for Speakers (CFS) has closed and we are pleased to say that we had an enormous response from the community. The Programs Team now begins the challenging process of reviewing and selecting sessions.

Having said that, as you may now be aware, an inappropriate abstract submitted during the CFS was brought to our attention. I would like to take some time to briefly address this issue.

“Professional” was the first word in the original name of our organization, and in my mind, should be the first thought when anyone is working with or for PASS. That said, it’s disappointing that we had to remove this abstract because of unprofessional language.

This abstract has been removed from the submissions process and the speaker has been contacted. All speakers sign a speaker contract that does ensure appropriate behavior, and all participants in PASS Summit are expected to follow the PASS Anti-Harassment Policy.

Because the issues were discovered after the close of the CFS, we are unable to allow the submitter to modify the abstract, to provide a more professional description. We encourage everyone to make use of the Abstract Review process we’ve provided these last few years, to ensure that abstracts meet the standards we expect for all our sessions.

The Programs Team will be working with PASS Governance to introduce a formal policy and communication that will be included in the Speaker Contract and CFS site for all programs moving forward, to prevent this occurring again in the future.

We will continue to work together to provide quality, professional content for the events PASS manages. If you have questions or suggestions, I encourage you to email me.

For many of us, in fact probably for most of us, the PASS Summit has had a dramatic impact on our lives for the better. Help us continue to make that possible for others.

Thank you.

Allen White
Director, PASS Programs

Portfolio Priorities for 2016: Chapters


During the January PASS Board meeting we took stock of where we stand on our current goals for the Chapters portfolio. The goals we set for portfolios follow the PASS fiscal year, July 1 through June 30. That makes this a mid-year review. The current goals were set by the outgoing portfolio owner, Grant Fritchey, so I’ll be overlooking program execution for the rest of the year. New goals for next year are still in the works and more details on these will be shared when they are finalized. Here are the current goals and where we stand today.

Increase Regional Communication

The plan here is to have a mini-Connector newsletter. The desire was to have a smaller version with regionally-targeted content. This would allow chapter leaders to let PASS members be aware of user group meetings, SQLSaturdays, or other regional events that are relevant to them. PASS HQ Marketing was already working on building a way to target our members based on geographical location, and we’ll be able to leverage that to accomplish this. As of right now, we are awaiting completion of that project before we can proceed. The good news is that communications have increased from PASS HQ to the Chapters. As a result, over 18,000 members joined Chapters in 2015, a three-fold increase on 2014, and we are currently on-track to see similar growth in 2016.

Increase Communication from the Board and HQ to Chapter Leaders

Two Chapter Leader meetings were held in 2015: An online meeting in March and onsite at PASS Summit. The monthly Chapter Leader deck and information has been increased to bi-weekly distribution, and later this year we will further support Chapter Leaders by expanding these decks to include more targeted content of interest to Chapter members.

Regional Mentor Scorecards

The Regional Mentor (RM) program has had some ups and downs over the years, so a survey was created to poll Chapter Leaders on their thoughts about the RMs for their region. This adds some responsibility for the RMs and also gives a voice to their direct customer, the Chapter Leaders. This was completed and we are aggregating the results now. Overwhelmingly, Chapter Leaders have supported these efforts and want to see the program continue. Various initiatives are currently being undertaken to strengthen and improve the program.

Connect Speakers with Chapters

This is essentially a speaker bureau, but privacy and legal issues prevented us from rolling out one to date. Remember that PASS is a global organization, so we have to take into account the laws of the countries where we operate Chapters. What we were able to do was add an opt-in to the speaker profile on the SQLSaturday site as a first step. If we are able to navigate the legalities, we still need to be able to target it regionally, which we can’t do until the marketing project mentioned earlier is completed. Although we set the stage with the SQLSaturday speaker profile update, the viability of this goal completely depends on our ability to satisfy the various privacy issues across our community.

Support Growth in EMEA and LATAM

LATAM growth has exploded. Last year, we saw over 2400 members join PASS from LATAM regions, compared to 328 new members in 2014. LATAM has added three Chapters, EMEA grew by nine chapters. For the LATAM region, we started delivering the Chapter Leader deck in both Spanish and Portuguese.

Ryan Adams
Director, PASS Chapters

Changes to the NomCom Process


Hi, it’s Tom, and I’m here today to tell you about some proposed changes regarding the Elections process. We have used a Nominations Committee (NomCom) election process since 2011 and in the past four years have lengthened the amount of time for the overall election cycle, added additional “noise” in the form of emails asking our members to cast votes, and seen a decline in the overall number of ballots cast in elections.

As Immediate Past President (IPP) I have one assigned duty: to chair the NomCom. As Chair, I want to share with you some important changes to the Elections process that the Board is considering which aim to:

1. Improve the Nominations Committee process.
2. Increase the number of qualified Board candidates.
3. Increase the number of ballots cast in our elections.
4. Decrease the election process timeline.

To this end, the Board is preparing to vote on and approve an important change to the current NomCom process. This change does not require amendments to the by-laws.

In lieu of an election for the NomCom, we will ask for members interested in serving on the NomCom to complete a short one-page letter of interest outlining why they feel they are qualified to set election processes and screen candidates. Letters will be listed publicly on the Elections webpage so that the candidate pool will be known. The names of the proposed committee members will then be submitted to the Board for review and a vote of approval.

The final NomCom composition will aim to represent the seats coming up for election (i.e. a LATAM NomCom member during a year when there is a LATAM seat).

The biggest challenge with having appointments versus an election is the perception that the NomCom is seen as a private club. To help alleviate that concern, we propose the following guidelines for NomCom composition:

• the IPP serves as chair
• one sitting/former Board member
• two former NomCom members
• two new NomCom members

Lastly, no NomCom member will be allowed to serve more than three consecutive years. It is important that we make room for new voices, but it is equally important that the NomCom maintain a level of quality achieved by those persons who have served on the NomCom previously. We are looking to balance those two ideals.

What I’ve outlined here is the result of many conversations, over many years, with our members—including former NomCom members, former Elections Review Committee participants, and of course, Board members. I will be asking the Board of Directors to approve these changes during the March 10 meeting.

If you have questions, comments, or concerns about these proposed changes, please leave them in the comments or email governance@sqlpass.org. Following this vote we will be having a dedicated Town Hall meeting on March 17 to talk about this change and other important priorities for the 2016 election cycle. I hope to see you there.

Thanks.

Thomas LaRock
Immediate Past President

Clearing Up Miscommunication on Pre-Con Requirements


As Director of the Program Committee for PASS, I recognize that there has been some recent miscommunication surrounding the criteria for submitting a pre-conference session for consideration to this year’s PASS Summit.

As the Program Committee evaluated the requirements for both general and pre-conference sessions, we amended requirements for pre-con sessions to include both required and optional requirements. This was done to provide guidance for speakers on the level and skill necessary to host an all-day session for our data community. Ensuring that PASS is providing the highest level of content is very important to us, especially as attendees face an incredibly competitive choice of conferences to attend every year.

First, the prior optional requirement that a speaker presented a pre-con in the last two years at a selected group of events is now a requirement. We believe that PASS Summit is not the venue for you to attempt your first pre-con. Almost all SQLSaturdays offer pre-cons now, so there are plenty of opportunities to gain and develop that experience.

We also made it mandatory that you be willing to present a regular session in addition to a pre-con. This just makes sense, as we want speakers that are interested in presenting both community sessions and pre-cons.

Now, it was an oversight on our part that we left the nine remaining items with a requirement that you meet five of those requirements. Because we moved two from optional to required, we should have changed the required number to three, and we are currently making that change. We’re sorry for the unnecessary confusion that this caused within the community. The remaining optional requirements relate to your comfortableness in delivering pre-con-level content, as well as your credentials and knowledge of the Microsoft data platform and the types of pre-con content that members of the PASS community are interested in paying additional fees for.

I hope that you now have a better understanding of our rationale for the requirement changes, both optional and mandatory. If you have any questions about the pre-con speaker requirements, please don’t hesitate to reach out.

Allen White
Director, PASS Programs

Confidential Abstract Coaching


The Call for Speakers is off to a great start for 2016 and we’re looking forward to receiving even more abstracts. Did you know that we’re offering an abstract coaching service again this year? Last year’s service was extremely successful. Louis Davidson leads the team providing the reviews and he has written a blog with more information to help you with your submissions. I served on this team last year and it was rewarding, both for the participants as well as for the reviewers. Even if you're a seasoned presenter, I encourage you to take advantage of this service, but please do so soon, so the team isn't overwhelmed at the last minute!

We've had some questions about the speaker history listed in the Speaker Portal. While it is our goal to have the data from the SQLSaturday site imported and all speaker history merged, it’s not something that will be ready for this year. The data in the Portal includes last year’s entries, so everything is still there. Please take the time to ensure your histories are complete so the speaker review team has an accurate picture of your accomplishments.

To help attendees get better value at this year's PASS Summit, we're defining a set of paths for specific learning targets. Here are a few examples:

• a Junior Database Administrator learning the skill sets to become a Senior DBA
• a Database Administrator wishing to learn Business Intelligence techniques
• an IT Manager wanting to understand the value of new SQL Server features

We'd like to hear your ideas of other similar paths, and we'll be evaluating abstracts during the review process to see what fits in the learning paths. Hopefully new and returning attendees will be able to better plan their learning goals, and we can align our content with their needs.

Thanks for everything you do for the PASS community.

Allen White
Director, PASS Programs