BAC 2015: Even More for Business and Data Analysts to Love

Sept. 16, 2014  With registration for PASS Business Analytics Conference 2015 opening early next week, I wanted to share some of the exciting new things we have in store for business and data analysts in April and throughout the coming year.

Who’s the BA Conference For?
The BA Conference is for those who work in business and data analytics using Excel and PowerBI, as well as other technologies such as SQL, Hive, and R. 

Unlike other BA-related conferences, our BA Conference – true to PASS tradition – is focused on real-world training and connections designed to have an immediate and direct impact on attendees and their organizations.

As both our new BA and core SQL Server/BI communities continue to grow, we’re seeing a greater demand for training and support specific to each group. While SQL Server and BI pros are typically architects, builders, and facilitators of data and analytics systems, business and data analysts extract data from these systems to gain insights and drive the decision making process. They are the data consumers – the customers, clients, and colleagues of PASS’s DBA, developer, and BI community members. 

This year, through the BA Conference (as well as upcoming webinars and analytics-focused content), we’re answering the call to meet the unique needs of business and data analysts, who are asked to do more with data every day. Every BA Conference learning and networking experience will be concentrated on the BA perspective and focused on the skills, technologies, and methods they need to investigate business performance and influence business planning. 

The Program
PASS launched the BA Conference in 2013 to support our data colleagues on the business side, and since then we’ve been fine-tuning our session content, formats, and networking offerings. Next year’s event takes that a step further with a program laser-focused to deliver practical, best-practices information, hands-on training, and visionary thought leadership. 

Experienced business and data analytics professionals are in high demand and short supply. Leading organizations are looking for people with a unique combination of data technology skills, business knowledge, and analytical expertise – paired with strong professional skills – to drive decision making and core profitability. 

Our BA Planning Committee has done an excellent job mirroring these requirements with an outline of classroom sessions, hands-on workshops, and expert panels organized into five real-world tracks. We’ll be covering everything those in business and data analytics need to know about Excel, Power BI, SQL, R, Hive, Machine Learning, and more.

The Speakers
As PASS works to grow and support our young BA community, we’re also working to grow our pool of business and data analytics experts and speakers.

PASS is about community, and we believe that to serve and grow the BA community as part of PASS’s expanding membership, we need to provide the best possible program and experience for our BA Conference attendees and future PASS members. We are fortunate to have seen such amazing growth and maturity in our speaker pool from PASS’s traditional SQL Server/BI Pro membership, and we want the same level of excellence for our growing BA audience. 

As we’ve refined our program approach and reviewed the feedback from previous years, it’s become clear that we need to target the right mix of BA topics and expertise. So this year’s conference speaker lineup will be comprised of a group of handpicked experts – an approach used by many conferences – to bring the highest quality experience to attendees; we will not be having an open call for speakers. Our goal is to accelerate our BA community-building efforts through this process. Identifying and growing knowledgeable and talented community contributors will allow us to integrate a community speaker component in next year’s event while maintaining the level of excellence and real-world value that we are committed to for all our members and attendees. 

I can’t wait to share our program and speakers list for BA Conference 2015! Watch for the initial lineup in early November.

Following a Great Lead
Founded in the database space, PASS was brought to life by passionate SQL Server pros with a vision to connect, share, and learn.

PASS is all about meeting the needs of data professionals, providing world-class training and thought leadership, and supporting and promoting a community of like-minded people. It’s a great model to follow and a firm foundation for a growing conference and community that supports our Business Analytics brothers and sisters.

To all the SQL Server and BI community members who’ve paved the way, we ask for your help in reaching out to your business and data analytics colleagues, letting them know how important the PASS community has been in your own career, and encouraging them to check out the PASS BA Conference and our other BA offerings. We couldn’t ask for better community evangelists!
– Denise McInerney
PASS VP, Marketing

Simply PASS

August 19, 2014  What’s in a name? For PASS, it’s a proud heritage of 15 years as one of the world’s largest and most vibrant technical communities.

Synonymous with premier technical training and networking, PASS was founded in 1999 by Microsoft, CA/Platinum Technologies, and passionate DBAs and database developers as an independent, not-for-profit professional association dedicated to promoting and educating SQL Server users around the world. Since then, our community has grown in both size and breadth, with over 100,000 members who work with the integrated Microsoft Data Platform in a variety of roles – from DBAs, data and application developers, and IT Managers to data warehousing specialists, business intelligence architects, and business analytics pros.

In the past 2 years, our organization has embraced the increased interest in and growing educational and networking needs of the analytics community through the PASS Business Analytics Conference and PASS-supported BA-related virtual chapters and BA-focused local chapters. Last year at about this time, PASS updated its mission statement to officially welcome and support the broader data community, including those who may not work directly with SQL Server. Over the next few weeks, we’ll also be updating our websites and other communications, replacing most instances of the association’s spelled out name with simply “PASS.”

Run by and for the community, PASS remains dedicated to networking, knowledge sharing, and peer-based learning, with serving data professionals at the core of everything we do. Our legal name will remain Professional Association for SQL Server, meaning we will continue to use the full, spelled out version on legal and corporate documents. But to our members, we will be PASS – representing all the history and excellence of our community as well as the promise of amazing things to come as we set our sights firmly on our mission of empowering data professionals.
– Denise McInerney
PASS VP, Marketing


FY2015 PASS Marketing Goals: Spreading the Word

March 17, 2014 – Have you clicked a link in the PASS Connector newsletter lately? Visited sqlpass.org or one of our event websites? How about “Like”-ing the PASS Facebook page, retweeting a post from @sqlpass, @pass24hop, or @passbac, or sharing a blog post or question via the PASS or PASS Business Analytics Conference LinkedIn group? If so, Marketing thanks you!

In addition to delivering on PASS’s annual fundraising goals by promoting and supporting our international PASS Summit and PASS BA Conference events, Marketing’s overarching goal is to spread the word about all aspects of our organization and its offerings – and to encourage active participation.

Toward those ends, here are some other key goals we are putting forward as we look toward fiscal year 2015 (FY2015), beginning July 1, 2014:

    • Increase engagement with active PASS members through focused and relevant content/ programs, improved social media engagement with an eye on shared learning for the community, and encouraging local and virtual participation with Chapters.
    • Grow our BA membership by establishing a consistent, segmented communications strategy around BA content and interests and support and drive BA participation in local and Virtual Chapter activities, BA-related SQLSaturday events, and other community efforts.
    • Grow and support EMEA and LATAM PASS communities: Publish EMEA and/or LATAM content in Connector newsletters, issue quarterly email to LATAM and EMEA members highlighting PASS and local news, and support Chapters, VCs, and SQLSaturday portfolios as they extend community reach into EMEA and LATAM.

Everything the Marketing team does is focused on helping PASS members – and the broader data community – connect with each other, share their experiences, and learn how to improve their skills and get the most out of their organization’s data. Have other ideas for how we can share the PASS message? Please contact me at denise.mcinerney@sqlpass.org – I’d love to hear them!
– Denise McInerney
PASS VP, Marketing



It’s a Team Sport: PASS Board Year 2, Q3

Cross-posted from my blog

October 14, 2013 – As I type this, I’m on an airplane en route to my 12th PASS Summit. It’s been a very busy 3.5 months since my last post on my work as a Board member. Nearing the end of my 2-year term, I am struck by how much has happened, and yet how fast the time has gone.

But I’ll save the retrospective post for next time and today focus on what happened in Q3. In the last three months, we made progress on several fronts, thanks to the contributions of many volunteers and HQ staff members. They deserve our appreciation for their dedication to delivering for the membership week after week.

Virtual Chapters
The Virtual Chapters continue to provide many PASS members with valuable free training. Between July and September of 2013, VCs hosted over 50 webinars with a total of 4300 attendees.

This quarter also saw the launch of the Security and Global Russian VCs. Both are off to a strong start, and I welcome these additions to the Virtual Chapter portfolio.

At the beginning of 2012, we had 14 Virtual Chapters. Today we have 22. This growth has been exciting to see. It has also created a need to have more volunteers help manage the work of the VCs year-round. We have renewed focus on having Virtual Chapter Mentors work with the VC Leaders and other volunteers. I am grateful to volunteers Julie Koesmarno, Thomas LeBlanc, and Marcus Bittencourt, who join original VC Mentor Steve Simon on this team.Thank you for stepping up to help.

Many improvements to the VC websites have been rolling out over the past few weeks. Our marketing and IT teams have been busy working a new look and feel, features, and a logo for each VC. They have given the VCs a fresh, professional look consistent with the rest of the PASS branding, and all VCs now have a logo that connects to PASS and the particular focus of the chapter.

24 Hours of PASS
The Summit Preview edition  of 24HOP was held on July 31 and by all accounts was a success. Our first use of the GoToWebinar platform for this event went extremely well. Thanks to our speakers, moderators, and sponsors for making this event possible. Special thanks to HQ staffers Vicki Van Damme and Jane Duffy for a smoothly run event.

Coming up: The 24HOP Portuguese Edition will be held November 13-14, followed December 12-13 by the Spanish Edition. Thanks to the Portuguese- and Spanish-speaking community volunteers who are organizing these events.

July Board Meeting
The Board met July 18-19 in Kansas City. The first order of business was the election of the Executive Committee who will take office January 1. I was elected Vice President of Marketing and will join incoming President Thomas LaRock, incoming Executive Vice President of Finance Adam Jorgensen ,and Immediate Past President Bill Graziano on the ExeCo. I am honored that my fellow Board members elected me to this position and look forward to serving the organization in this role.

Visit to PASS HQ
In late September, I traveled to Vancouver for my first visit to PASS HQ, where I joined Tom LaRock and Adam Jorgensen to make plans for 2014. Our visit was just a few weeks before PASS Summit and coincided with the Board election, and the office was humming with activity. I saw first-hand the enthusiasm and dedication of everyone there. In each interaction I observed a focus on what is best for PASS and our members. Our partners at HQ are key to the organization’s success. This week at PASS Summit is a great opportunity for all of us to remember that, and say “thanks.”

Next Up
PASS Summit—of course! I’ll be around all week and look forward to connecting with many of our members over meals, at the Community Zone, and between sessions.

In the evenings, you can find me at the Welcome Reception, Exhibitor’s Reception, and Community Appreciation Party. And I will be at the Board Q&A session  Friday at 12:45pm.

Transitions
The newly elected ExeCo and Board members take office January 1, and the Virtual Chapter portfolio is transitioning to a new director. I’m thrilled that Jen Stirrup will be taking over. Jen has experience as a volunteer and co-leader of the Business Intelligence Virtual Chapter and was a key contributor to the BI VC's expansion to serving our members in the EMEA region. I’ll be working closely with Jen over the next couple of months to ensure a smooth transition.
 

PASS Summit 2013: An Anti-Harrassment Zone

October 4, 2013 – The PASS Anti-Harassment Policy (AHP), adopted in 2012, continues to be in effect this year at PASS Summit 2013, helping ensure that all attendees feel welcome and safe at the conference.

One of the cornerstones of PASS is our sense of community, and the AHP furthers our goal of inclusion, standing behind the right of all who come to our event to experience a harassment-free Summit.

PASS is a leader among technical organizations for its promotion and support of women. Our AHP further demonstrates our leadership in this area.

Other technical conferences have had incidents of harassment and inappropriate behavior. Most of these did not have a policy in place prior to having a problem. In addition to making all attendees aware of our policy and what is appropriate behavior at Summit and other events, having the AHP means PASS will be prepared should there be an incident.

Alleged violations of the AHP should be reported to any member of the conference staff, who will then contact the Duty Officer, a designated member of the staff responsible for taking a full report. The Duty Officer will notify the Anti-Harassment Review Committee (AHRC) of the complaint.

The AHRC is the body authorized by the PASS Board of Directors to take action in response to a violation of the AHP. The process document provides guidelines for how the AHRC will conduct its inquiries.

PASS members can be confident that all parties will be treated fairly and with sensitivity. All AHRC activities will be conducted with the utmost discretion.

Having an anti-harassment policy demonstrates our commitment to providing a professional, positive atmosphere at Summit. Everyone at Summit is expected to follow the policy. We ask that any attendee who experiences or witnesses harassment contact a member of staff so that any issues can be addressed.

Making Progress: PASS Board Year 2, Q1

April 15, 2013 – Cross-posted from my blog

With each of these quarterly posts, I want to be able to report progress in the areas I'm responsible for. I'm pleased to share some key milestones from the past three months.

New Webinar Platform
Last year it became clear that we needed a more stable, scalable webinar platform for the Virtual Chapters and 24 Hours of PASS. Both the VCs and 24HOP continue to grow and attract larger audiences, and the technology we were using was not meeting our needs.

We discussed requirements with VC leaders and HQ staffers who work on 24HOP. We got proposals from seven or eight vendors and had live demonstrations from those that would meet our needs. In the end, we chose GoToWebinar from Citrix. Several VC leaders have been trained on the new platform, and a couple have started to use it. And we will be using GoToWebinar for the next 24HOP event.

Projects like these require organization and attention to detail. I want to recognize the work of HQ staffer Vicki Van Damme, who has been instrumental in getting us to the finish line.

24HOP
Our first 24HOP of the year was held at the end of January. It was also our first Business Analytics Edition and featured a number of speakers who [also presented] at the PASS Business Analytics Conference. Focusing a 24HOP on business analytics reflects PASS's outreach to data professionals in this growing sector of our industry. Check out the session recordings to learn more about the work being done in this space.

Virtual events are a key part of PASS global growth. 24HOP Russian Edition was held in March. Thanks to the volunteers who worked hard to put on this event.

Virtual Chapters
We launched two new VCs this quarter. The Business Analytics VC has already hosted four meetings and is playing an important part in PASS's growth into the BA world. The Book Readers VC is a virtual book club, where members get together online to discuss a book. They are starting with Itzik Ben-Gan's "T-SQL Fundamentals for SQL Server 2012." There is still time to read the first few chapters and join the discussion on April 17.

Virtual Chapters provide valuable technical training every month. Sign up for the VCs that interest you to get notified of upcoming events.

Other Business
The Board met in January and discussed many items, including goals for the year, by-law changes, election process, and Summit. See the meeting minutes for details. In February, we adopted changes to the by-laws. And last week, I was in Chicago for a Board meeting and the BA Conference.

Budget planning is in full swing, and I've been working on the budgets for 24HOP and VCs.

Next Up
In May, I'll be attending SQLBits, where I'm looking forward to meeting more members of the SQL community in the UK.

Planning for the next 24HOP will get underway soon, work on the budget will continue, and we'll finish rolling out the new webinar platform for the Virtual Chapters.
 

From DBA to Data Analyst: My Story

February 18, 2013 – There is a lot changing in the data professional’s world these days. More data is being produced and stored. More enterprises are trying to use that data to improve their products and services and understand their customers better. More data platforms and tools seem to be crowding the market. For a traditional DBA, this can be a confusing and even unsettling time. It’s also a time that offers great opportunity for career growth. I speak from personal experience.

We sometimes talk about the “accidental DBA” – the person who finds herself suddenly responsible for managing the database because she has some other technical skills. Although it was not accidental, six months ago I was unexpectedly offered a chance to transition out of my DBA role and become a data analyst. I have since come to view this offer as a gift, though at the time I wasn’t quite sure what to do with it.

Throughout my DBA career, I’ve received tremendous support from my PASS friends and colleagues, and they were the first ones I turned to for counsel about this new situation. Everyone was encouraging, and I received two pieces of valuable advice: First, leverage what I already know about data, and second, work to understand the business’ needs.

Harnessing the power of data to solve business problems is really the heart of the job. The challenge is figuring out how to do that. PASS had been the source of much of my technical training as a DBA, so I naturally started there to begin my business intelligence education. Once again, Virtual Chapter webinars, local chapter meetings, and SQLSaturdays have been invaluable.

I work in a large company where we are fortunate to have some very talented data scientists and analysts. These colleagues have been generous with their time and advice. I also took a statistics class through Coursera, where I got a refresher in statistics and an introduction to the R programming language.

And that’s not the end of the free resources available to someone wanting to acquire new skills. There are many knowledgeable business intelligence and analytics professionals who teach through their blogs. Every day, I can learn something new from one of these experts.

Sometimes we plan our next career move, and sometimes it just happens. Either way, a database professional who follows industry developments and acquires new skills will be better prepared when change comes. Take the opportunity to learn something about the changing data landscape by attending an upcoming Business Intelligence, Business Analytics, or Big Data Virtual Chapter meeting. And if you are moving into this new world of data, consider attending the PASS Business Analytics Conference in April where you can meet and learn from those who are already on that road.

It’s been said that “the only thing constant is change.” That’s never been truer for the data professional than it is today. But if you are someone who loves data and grasps its potential, you are in the right place at the right time.
 

Anti-Harassment Policy Guidelines and Process

In August the PASS Board of Directors approved an Anti-Harassment Policy (AHP)  for PASS Summit. After the policy was established a subcommittee continued work on guidelines for addressing alleged violations of the policy. The final version of the process was discussed at the September Board meeting and is now available here.
 
Any alleged violations to the AHP can be reported to a member of the conference staff. Staff receiving such a report will contact the Duty Officer. The Duty Officer is a designated member of the staff who is reponsible for taking a full report. The Duty Officer will also notify the Anit-Harassment Review Committee (AHRC) that a complaint has been made.
 
The AHRC is the body authorized by the PASS Board of Directors to take action in response to a violation of the AHP. The process document provides guidelines for how the AHRC will conduct its inquiries. 
 
Publication of the AHP and an accompanying blog post  elicited some feedback from the community. Some expressed concerns about how the policy would be implemented and wondered if behaviors such as swearing could cause someone to be removed from the Summit.
 
We could never come up with an exhaustive list of everything that might result in someone being removed from the Summit. Both the behavior and the context in which it occurs would be important in making such a decision. But the AHP Process document provides some general examples of reasons why someone could be expelled from the conference. The emphasis is on the seriousness of the incident. Repeated harassing behavior could also result in expulsion.
 
The purpose of the Anti-Harassment Policy is to ensure the PASS Summit is safe and welcoming for all attendees. The AHP process guidelines support that goal.

 

 

Anti-Harassment Policy Adopted for PASS Summit

The PASS Board of Directors recently approved adoption of an Anti-Harassment Policy for PASS Summit.

The policy states: "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." It outlines in general terms the type of behavior that is not acceptable and explains the steps that can be taken should someone engage in harassing behavior.

I had three reasons for drafting the policy and proposing its adoption:

  • Other technical conferences have had incidents of harassment. Most of these did not have a policy in place prior to having a problem, though several conference organizers have since adopted anti-harassment policies or codes of conduct. I felt it would be in PASS's interest to establish a policy so we would be prepared should there be an incident.
  • "This is Community" - Adopting a code of conduct would reinforce our community orientation and send a message about the positive character of PASS Summit. 
  • PASS is a leader among technical organizations for its promotion and support of women. Adopting a code of conduct would further demonstrate our leadership in this area.

 

PASS members pride themselves on being inclusive and ensuring that all attendees feel welcome at the Summit. From the many networking opportunities to the First Timers program to the #sqlpass conversations on Twitter, we encourage everyone to particpate fully in the conference. Having an anti-harassment policy is another way we ensure everyone feels welcome and safe at the Summit.

The Board had some thoughtful discussions as we worked through the details of the policy. I applaud the Board's willingness to take this step. I also want to thank PASS Governance Administrator Michelle Nalliah for all of her help in getting us through this process. 

New on the Job: PASS Board Year 1, Q1

(Reposted from my blog; read the original post here.)

When I got elected to the PASS Board of Directors, I decided I would plan my goals for the job in 3-month intervals. I also plan on blogging about the experience of being on the Board at the end of each quarter, at least.

Getting Started
Prior to being elected, all of my time and energy was focused on the election process. Because the election ended so close to the start of the new Board term, there was not much time to transition from being a candidate to being a director. I set a rather modest goal for Q1: learn my new role. This really broke down into two major areas:
learning what it means to be a member of the body responsible for the overall running of PASS and learning about my portfolio of Virtual Chapters.

In January we had our first in-person board meeting after the election. We covered a lot of topics, from Summit floor plans to global growth strategies to the SQLRally selection process and much more. (See the meeting minutes for more detail.) I was struck by the thoughtfulness with which the entire body took up each question and discussion. I thought it was particularly productive for the first meeting of a board that had not worked together as a group before.

The challenge to being a director is that you need to transition from the more tactical, execution-focused role of a volunteer to a role that requires you to think about the longer term strategic goals of the organization. I knew this going in, but the board meeting helped me get a better understanding of what that shift looks like.

Virtual Chapters
Each director is responsible for at least one portfolio; in my case, it's the Virtual Chapters (VCs.) I believe VCs provide a lot of value to our members as a source of both technical education and networking, and I'm excited about the possibilities for growing and expanding them. I think of myself as an enabler and evangelist for the VCs. The VC leaders and committees do a great job organizing speakers and events. I can help by removing obstacles, securing resources, and promoting the VCs and their work.

To that end, I've made some progress in the areas of marketing and finance. The PASS marketing team has some great ideas for ways to support the VCs. We've already seen a couple of articles in the Connector, and more are planned. We've clarified the process for getting and managing sponsorships and also discussed VCs' budget needs for the coming fiscal year. One of my goals is to communicate relevant information with the VC leaders in a timely way and to seek their input. I think I've been pretty good at that so far, but in the end, it will be the VC leaders themselves who will grade my performance.

We've also launched three new VCs since January: Global Chinese Language, Big Data, and Master Data/Data Quality. I think each of these is a great addition to the portfolio, and I look forward to seeing how they develop.

Next Up
The next 3 months will include an in-person board meeting in May, the end of the budget planning cycle, as well as some work-in-progress with the VCs.
 

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