Keeping Discussions Professional


One of the strengths of the community of professionals that work with the Microsoft data platform is exactly that: it’s a community. People want to contribute, to help one another be better at their jobs and grow their careers. That’s why we contribute so many volunteer hours to putting on events, speaking and writing. We invest in the community because we believe in it. And because we invest in it we feel a sense of ownership over what happens in it.

As the largest organization for these data professionals, PASS is one of the places where decisions that impact the community are made. The sense of ownership people have in this community extends to PASS. It is one of the main reasons why people have passionate debates on topics like speaker contracts, policy changes and elections: they care deeply about the outcome. Debates and exchanges of ideas are good, they make our organization better. The feedback we are getting now on changes to the speaker contract will help us improve that document. As PASS President Adam Jorgensen said in his blog, we recognize that we didn’t quite get it right. We welcome your input so we can fix it.

But there can be a shadow to all the passionate debate and that shadow is revealed when the tone of the discussion stops being professional, when it ceases to be civil.  PASS as an organization has no room for insults, name-calling or misogyny. Personal attacks of any kind, be they based on gender, race, political affiliation, religious beliefs or anything else, are not welcome in PASS and should not be welcome in the community as a whole.

Let’s all channel our passion for this community in a constructive way and keep our discussions professional and respectful.

Send us your feedback on the speaker contract, or any other any other PASS topic, to feedback@sqlpass.org. Together let’s continue to make our organization better and fulfill PASS’ mission to help our members connect, share and learn.

Denise McInerney
Vice President, Marketing

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

PASS.org Website Redesign Announcement

I want to update you all on an exciting project coming out of the January Board meeting. One of our strategic priorities for the year will be a redesign of sqlpass.org website. The project includes a navigation and usability overhaul, a new visual identity, and improved features. The redesign will ensure the site meets best-practice standards for usability and accessibility.

Included in the project scope is the development of a new learning center portal that supports our educational resources and our community portfolios. The portal will gather all of our existing training and learning resources and put them in one easily accessible, searchable, and coordinated place, while at the same time enabling better access to our Chapters and Virtual Chapters.

Functionality of the mobile experience will be enhanced, ensuring that the new site displays and functions properly on a wide variety of devices and operating systems.

Over the years, the website has unfortunately not kept pace with the global growth of PASS. So we will also take this opportunity to introduce multilingual support to target strategically significant languages, supporting our communities in the LATAM and EMEA regions.

The redevelopment is currently in the initial planning stages. After a thorough review and RFP process, we have selected our vendor and are finalizing the scope of this project. As part of the RFP and scoping requirements, the decision was made to keep the website on the DNN platform. This decision was made after investigating and exploring six alternative platforms. The conclusion of this research was that with proper design DNN is a mature platform that offers the necessary security, reliability and user experience and functionalities to meet our current objectives, and gives us room to grow. With expert design, development and execution we will see significant improvements over our current site.

This project represents a change in our approach to the development of sqlpass.org and will leverage vendor partners, the platform and our community resources in a much better way.  Through this scoping project, we have already upgraded our DNN platform to the latest version 7.4.2.

The next phase of the project involves our team conducting a thorough content review and comprehensive site-mapping process before development can begin.

I am pleased to share this exciting information with you. More details will be made available in the coming months as the project progresses.

Denise McInerney
Vice President, Marketing, PASS

Improved PASS Communication Functions and Processes

As our membership increases and we expand our reach globally, the importance of sharing timely and informative communication with you remains a priority for us. In fact, sharing these communications is one of the most critical functions of my role as Vice President, Marketing, and the entire PASS Board.

Last fall, PASS expanded its Marketing team to include a Communications Strategist to help provide annual communication planning for PASS. This has allowed us to develop an integrated communication strategy that supports increased transparency, better planning for key dates throughout the year, and reduced reactive communications. It has also allowed our team to address specific considerations such as consistency in tone, style, messaging, and channels. 

These elements have become increasingly important as we have worked to increase our engagement globally, and to ensure that our key messages are translated and made available to wider audiences around the world.

To help support these functions, we now have three tools: an annual communications plan, an editorial calendar, and a social media plan. These allow us to better plan what, when, and how we communicate with you. 

In addition, we continue to look at ways to increase member engagement with our Board through Town Halls and social media. Watch our social channels, blogs, newsletters, and website for regular updates and communications throughout the year.

Denise McInerney 
Vice President, Marketing 

The PASS Summit Backpack

October 26, 2015 — I would like to address questions we’ve received at PASS Summit 2015 regarding the decision not to provide backpacks to attendees this year. Every year, when the Board looks at the annual fiscal budget, difficult choices are made in balancing portfolio budgets and priorities. This year, one of these difficult choices was to remove $160,000 for backpack purchases. By removing this expense from the PASS Summit budget, we were able to fully fund community portfolios.

The Board made this decision knowing that the feedback we’d received on the backpacks from past PASS Summit attendees indicated that many people didn’t want the backpack. As PASS looks to expand its community-centric growth, it was decided that this money was better invested back into the community. This year’s attendee gift is an eco-friendly bag that celebrates our community with photos of former PASS Summit attendees.

We understand this might be disappointing for some attendees and welcome your feedback, either directly with one of our team or in the conference survey.

Denise McInerney
PASS VP, Marketing

PASS NomCom Elections

This past Thursday, July 16, 2015, PASS opened voting for the 2015 Nomination Committee (NomCom). Voting is open through noon PDT July 21. PASS members who are eligible to vote will each have received an email with a Vote Now button that enables them to cast their ballot for this NomCom election. 

In preparation for this voting period, PASS has sent multiple communications and ran multiple deduplication procedures to meet our Governance standards and ensure the following:
• We confirmed with each PASS member with a completed profile as of June 1, 2015, their eligibility to vote. 
• Each eligible voter may only cast one ballot.

As you might be aware, on the first day of our NomCom elections we had some communication and technical difficulties with our third party email software. Firstly we want to assure you that the election is not compromised by these matters. Only eligible voters will be able to cast a ballot, and they won’t be able to vote a second time with identified duplicate profiles. 

Having said that, in all matters within PASS, full transparency is one of our core tenets. Therefore, we want to update you on the timeline of events:

• One hour before the ballot was scheduled to open, we learned that a scheduling glitch in our communications software had resulted in ballot emails being sent one hour earlier than expected. As soon as we were made aware of this, we opened the NomCom ballot so that members could vote. Opening the NomCom ballot early did not compromise the validity or security of the vote. Some members who tried to vote prior to the ballot opening may have experienced some confusion during that short period of time. Where possible, we reached out to these members via email or social media to let them know that the ballot was now open. We also posted a notice on social media that balloting was indeed open and that anyone who had not been granted voting access should try again. At no time did this result in individuals being able to vote more than once.

• Soon afterward, we became aware that the address list that had been used to send the ballot notifications was not the correct, finalized list.  Approximately 1,800 community members received emails to their non-voting, duplicate member profiles indicating that they could now vote. In this case, we want to reassure our community members that even though emails were sent to these duplicate profiles, they are still ineligible to vote.  Our voting system, Simply Voting, will not recognize them as eligible. Again, this issue did not compromise the election but might have caused some confusion for those members who received the emails. We have sent follow-up communications to all members who were affected by this issue.

In response to these events, we have taken several steps to further ensure the integrity of the elections and to prevent such issues with the upcoming Board of Directors elections:

• In both situations, we have communicated with the affected PASS members to confirm that those who are eligible to vote have received the necessary link and can access their ballot.

• We have confirmed that the integrity of the voting process is intact and that only eligible members can vote and that they can vote only once.

• We are taking steps to address both the software and human causes of these issues, to ensure that future communication scheduling is error-free. 

I want to thank you all for your patience and encourage those of you who are eligible, to vote in the 2015 NomCom election. Voting is open through noon PDT, July 21. We thank those who submitted an application to serve on the NomCom, as well as those who participate in this election. If you have any further feedback or questions, please email us.

Denise McInerney
VP of Marketing, PASS Board of Directors 

 

Working on Strategy for Local BA Events

December 22, 2014 – With a growing interest in and questions among community members about expanding into business analytics-related chapters and adding more local events such as BA SQLSaturdays, the PASS Board of Directors took up the discussion at our last meeting of 2014.

PASS is pursuing a variety of online offerings to serve business and data analytics professionals and is working with the Virtual Chapters that cover BA-related topics. We are also excited about the possibilities in growing our BA-related local activities and creating more in-person training and networking opportunities. But to make sure that we are serving the community in the best way, the Board agreed on our Thursday conference call to suspend such further expansion until we can develop and agree upon a plan for structuring and growing these new BA community groups and events. (Look for the official minutes of this meeting to be posted on the Governance page in January.)

While we work with community members on a strategy that will successfully move us forward in supporting business and data analytics professionals around the world, we ask that you hold off on any new local PASS-sponsored BA initiatives. We’ll be looking for your ideas and feedback in the New Year – feel free to contact me any time if you have questions or comments – and please watch the PASS Blog and Community Connector for the latest updates.

Wishing all the #sqlfamily a safe and happy holiday season,
– Denise McInerney
PASS VP, Marketing

SQL Server and BA: Growing in Depth and Breadth

Oct. 31, 2014  Two years ago, PASS began to expand our educational offerings to include a conference targeted to the business analytics community. This year, we’ve had more discussion within our community about what our business analytics strategy means for PASS.

Next week at Summit, we’ll be holding a special PASS Business Analytics Direction and Q&A session. Throughout the week, members of the Board will also be available to listen to your feedback and answer your questions about our plans for BA. If you will be at Summit, I hope you will take some time to talk to me or other Board members about our BA initiatives.

One of the concerns I’ve heard expressed is that our expansion to serve the business analytics community could negatively affect how we serve our core SQL Server and BI members. I’d like to share with you how we are allocating resources to ensure that does not happen.

Business analytics is a natural extension of our core, data-centric SQL Server and business intelligence communities. We  the DBAs, database developers, data architects, and BI professionals – work with business and data analysts, data scientists, line-of-business managers, and others on the business side whose lives revolve around data every day. The business and data analysts are our colleagues, our clients, our customers.

PASS Summit has long been the main source of fundraising for PASS, funding the many other learning opportunities and programs we offer throughout the year. As PASS leaders saw the expanding attention to business analytics in the data industry, developing a focused conference and other learning opportunities for those working in the business analytics space made sense. This would both introduce an additional revenue stream to help secure the organization’s future capability to better serve all our members and bring us in closer touch with a growing community of data professionals.

PASS’s BA-related activities and budget were structured from the beginning to be fully self-funding, with no cross-funding or subsidization from PASS’s SQL Server-related revenues. When PASS announced in July 2012 that it would be hosting the new PASS Business Analytics Conference in Spring 2013, the conference was projected to break even – we made a modest profit. To date, the net profit we’ve realized from our two BA Conference events has covered the cost of all of our other BA-related initiatives, including staff time to support new BA-related Virtual Chapters, 24 Hours of PASS: Business Analytics Edition, and other activities.

At the same time, our fiscal year 2015 budget supports continuing growth for our core SQLSaturday events and SQL Server and BI Chapters and Virtual Chapters around the world, an ever-growing PASS Summit, and continuing IT investments to modernize our platforms and take advantage of technology to enable a stronger, more connected PASS community.

The BA Conference and other BA offerings may not be taking funding from PASS’s SQL Server activities, but do these expanded initiatives affect the energy and focus that PASS leaders, volunteers, and staff can bring to serving SQL Server and BI professionals?

Even before launching our BA activities, PASS has been mindful of making investments to support the growth we’ve seen in our local PASS Chapters, Virtual Chapters, SQLSaturday events, and overall SQL Server and BI membership rolls. We have expanded our Community, Project Management, Marketing, and IT teams and have a continued focus on growth – in terms of both quantity of chapters, services, and resources for the global SQL Server community as well as quality of training and networking opportunities. (See our FY2015 portfolio goals here.)

Judging from the energy, hard work, and creativity that’s gone into next week’s PASS Summit – which will feature the biggest program and the largest gathering of SQL Server and BI pros ever – our HQ and community teams are committed to serving the needs of our core members.

One of the strengths of PASS is that our membership is so diverse, made up of a variety of roles, interests, and talents. The PASS community is already the hub and connector for many different data communities – from 275+ local Chapters around the world to 27 language- and topic-focused Virtual Chapters to speaker and blogger communities and beyond. These communities serve different locales, different learning needs, different technology interests, and different career and professional growth goals – and each interacts with PASS in a different way. But they all come together under the PASS mission of empowering data professionals to connect, share, and learn.

The way that PASS invests in these different data communities shows that it can be AND rather than OR. With the passion and dedication of our members and volunteers, we can continue growing not only in breadth, but also in depth in the communities we already serve.

In the coming months, we’ll publish more about our BA strategy and direction. And I hope you will bring your questions to the PASS Business Analytics Direction and Q&A session at Summit on Friday, Nov. 7, at 2:15pm in Room 307/308. I’ll see you there. 
– Denise McInerney
PASS VP, Marketing


 

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

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