Growing Our Next Generation of Leaders

As I think about where we stand as a profession and as an organization I think we’re at a place where our various events are doing a great job of growing technical thought leaders. We’ve had an explosion in the number of active speakers in the last few years, and it’s having a real impact on our members. I believe that trend will continue and will have a tremendous impact on our profession over the next five to ten years.

As I think about growing leaders I don’t think we’re doing as good a job, and that is natural. We’ve been doing the nuts and bolts work of reaching our members and giving them reasons to meet and collaborate, the next step is to formalize and deepen our efforts to deliberately grow leaders. It’s not that we don’t have leaders, we do. More than 200 leaders head up PASS chapters, 30 or so leaders drive a SQLSaturday each year, and we have a dozen or so leaders on the Board of Directors. They all put in of effort and together make all the good stuff happen.

I don’t think that’s enough leaders for our profession or even for PASS, and I don’t think we’re doing nearly enough to train them, to find the next generation, or  to build a system that makes becoming a leader as cool as being a speaker.
So what do we need to do? I’ve got a few ideas:

•    Set term limits for chapter leaders, make sure that the next generation of leaders has a chance to get in the game
•    Move chapter leaders up to lead committees that report to the Board
•    Provide training for those that want to become leaders before they move up.

Leadership goes far beyond just positions with PASS. We can and should be growing our members to move up to lead roles within their organizations. Start thinking about what we can do to build an eco-system of leads as rich as the one we have for speakers and send us your ideas.
 

First-Ever PASS SQLRally a Huge Success

Thanks to all the attendees, speakers, sponsors, and volunteers who made our first-ever PASS SQLRally regional event last week in Orlando a huge success! More than 440 database pros trekked to the Marriott World Center for 48 technical presentations, and 242 people attended the all-day pre-conference seminars.

It was a busy, exciting week. On-site feedback has been positive and enthusiastic. You can relive the experience via blog recaps, twitter (#sqlrally), and great photos on Flickr (search for the SQLRally tag).

SQLRally Orlando was a collaboration between our two Orlando PASS chapters (oPASS, led by Jack Corbett, and MagicPASS, led by Kendal Van Dyke); the PASS HQ team, led by Craig Ellis with a lot of help from Anika Poliseno and Sanjeet Gandham; and a cast of dedicated volunteers from PASS chapters throughout Florida. Truly a team effort!

As I look back at the event, it’s clear that a lot of SQLRally’s success is due to the wealth of practical experience many of us volunteers gained by being involved in SQLSaturday. The leadership and lessons learned through running the free, 1-day SQLSaturdays are just some of the many intangible benefits that the PASS community derives from SQLSaturday. I encourage you – whether as an attendee, volunteer, or a speaker or aspiring speaker – to become involved in a SQLSaturday near you.

Looking ahead, I’m excited to see the momentum from SQLRally Orlando continuing with PASS SQLRally Nordic in Sweden Nov. 8-9. And on June 15, we’ll start the community vote to select the site for PASS SQLRally 2012 in the US. We expect to announce the winner the first week of August.

PASS Update #55 (SQLSaturday Site Changes & SQLRally)

[cross-posted from Andy Warren's blog at sqlandy.com]

SQLSaturday Site Changes

Earlier this week we deployed the first set of small changes to the SQLSaturday site. We fixed a long standing bug in the iCal, added a list on the front page of reserved dates (often events know the date they want but don’t have the facility nailed down), added sponsor logos to the front page of each event site (example below), updated the networking page to includes photos from gravatar (see example below), and made some minor changes to the admin tools.

We’re moving forward in micro sprints of around 7 days, the second sprint will end on next Tuesday and we’ve already planned number three. The prioritization of these changes is interesting. We’re deliberately going after tasks that are low risk/low cost initially to get our HQ developer comfortable and to make some immediate gains, as we get those out of the way we’ll move into harder stuff. Right now I’ve budgeted for 6 sprints, with an option to do an additional 6 if it makes sense.

We’re also working on engaging a designer to do an update on the look and feel. We had a lot of compliments on www.sqlrally.com, so we want to make a similar investment for SQLSaturday.

Go set up an image at gravatar.com!

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SQLRally 2011

Things are proceeding well and I’d almost say smoothly. If you’ve run a SQLSaturday you now what this phase is like – details! Getting volunteer assignments defined and filled, ordering speaker shirts (can’t order too early because speakers change), ribbons for badges, lanyards with sponsor name,etc,etc, etc. We blew through the rooms we had reserved at the site hotel, so we’ve set up contact information for a nearby hotel that has shuttle service. We’re still doing weekly calls and trying to stick to our timeline for logistics and marketing (and actually doing pretty well at that). Registrations are growing nicely and it looks like we may sell out the pre-con seminars.

Jack Corbett is working on some additions to the schedule, a set of informal panel type sessions that will run after the last presentation on Thursday. I won’t steal his thunder by listing what he’s working on, but I think it’s really good stuff, a nice change of pace from the stuff you see during the day.

A good portion of the PASS Board will be on site for the event, we’re meeting parts of Wednesday and Thursday, but we’ll be out and about to see how things are going and spend time talking with attendees.

SQLRally 2012

We’re looking at three candidate cities for the 2012 SQLRally; Denver, Nashville, and Dallas. We laid out an estimated timeline and process back in January, it’s been a struggle to stick to it. Lots of places where we just didn’t know enough about how to accomplish what we wanted, a few places where we didn’t communicate our ideas well to the chapter leaders. Frustrating, for me and for the city teams. Some of it we should have – in hindsight – seen, some of it just the pain of trying something for the first time.

But my frustration aside, we’ve got three cities that have completed applications and are working with HQ to get to the point where we can move to the community selection/vote stage. The biggest holdup so far is identifying appropriate meeting space. Because SQLRally was designed from the start to be a low cost/low risk event, we did not budget for reserving rooms at the event site. That worked in Orlando (and we have it worked out in Dallas), but in particular for Nashville we’re struggling to find space without taking on the room commitment.

Room commitments are one of the hidden risks of running larger events. For example, at the PASS Summit we typically reserve (‘block’) more than 4000 rooms, with a potential exposure to PASS of more than $800,000. We’re not required to reserve the rooms, but from long experience we know that attendees get very, very frustrated if they can’t find a room in close proximity to the event site. For SQLRally we’re looking at a much smaller cost, but our estimate is still in the $35k range.

That’s $35k of risk. In the best case it’s just a guarantee, no cost to PASS, in the worst case we’d pay for $35k of rooms that weren’t booked by attendees (think a natural disaster scenario). We didn’t budget for it in the 2011 budget, and so far it’s not in the draft of the 2012 budget. Because of that I sent a motion to the Board asking for authorization to commit to up to $40k during the negotiation process. That motion was voted down. It’s a tough call, we are typically financially conservative, and there isn’t much profit built into our current pricing model to cover the risk. That means for 2012 we’re going to proceed with basically the same budget/plan as for 2011, but we’re going to talk a lot more about 2012 and beyond. If we want to seat 500+ attendees, our options get pretty narrow if we only want to rent meeting space, to the point that I’m not sure it’s a realistic goal. Lots more work to do in this area.

I had hoped to announce the 2012 location during the 2011 SQLRally, but at this point that is optimistic. We’re still working on locations for Denver and Nashville, and if we can find them we’ll need some time to review the proposals to make sure all the pieces work. Only then can we approve the final cities to go out for vote. There is the possibility – already communicated to the leaders – that we may not be able to find space that meets our requirements in each city, and that may remove them from the list for 2012.

It’s a work in progress for sure. It will be good to finish up the 2011 event so we can step back and decide if and where we want to tweak the formula, because we certainly will learn some lessons we want to apply to version 2.

 

PASS Virtualization Chapter Seeking Speakers

[cross-posted from Andy Warren's blog at sqlandy.com]

The virtual Virtualization Chapter is seeking speakers for their monthly meetings. If you’re working with HyperV, VMWare, or other virtualization technologies and SQL Server, or know someone that is, drop a note to David Smithey (dsmithey at sqlsvrman.com).

SQLRally 2011–The Sessions I Plan to Attend

[cross-posted from Andy Warren's blog at sqlandy.com]

One of the ways to make the most of a conference (and to help justify the spend) is to go through the schedule and think about what sessions you want to attend. It’s never easy, there are always lots of good choices and it’s hard to settle on just one per time slot. I try to always pick a topic or two that is outside my general interest area just to keep up on what’s going in the rest of the world.

I always pick two per hour, you never know when a session will be filled to capacity or you’ll decide that it’s not quite what you expected. To keep the schedule simple though, I’ve just selected my “A” choices. It’s not simple for to me pick either. For example, at 8:30 am on Thursday I know Aaron will do a great job on PowerShell, and I’d love to hear what my friend Mike Walsh has to say on disasters, but I think I can get the most from the presentation on the Parallel Data Warehouse by Brian Mitchell.

Go print the schedule and start circling, it’s time well spent.

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Register for SQLRally by April 12th!

[cross-posted from Andy Warren's blog at sqlandy.com]

We’re less than 45 days from the first SQLRally in Orlando on May 11-13 and I bet you haven’t registered yet (though a lot of you have!). Maybe you’re waiting to see if the boss is going to pay, or trying to decide if it’s worth spending your own money (it is!), or waiting for the price of flights to drop.  All good reasons, but – we really want you to attend What you need is more ammunition, a good reason to get the decision made now!

If you register by April 12th you can attend the two day event for $299. Imagine, first class training for $299. But if you wait until April 13th, the price goes up to $349, and then on May 1st it goes to the final list price of $399. I think it’s a good deal at $399, but if you’re going to go, wouldn’t you rather take the $100 and do something fun with it? Go to Disney, Sea World, or Universal? Take the spouse to dinner at Emeril’s or Shula’s? Put it toward one of the great $199 pre-conference seminars?

We’re in the final push and we’re hoping to max out our seating. The longer you wait the more you pay,the more you risk not getting a seat at the conference or at that pre-con you’ve been drooling over. Absolutely it’s marketing too,it’s our job to make sure that you know about the event, think about the reasons to go, and try to make it as compelling as those pizza commercials that play during prime time tv. Well, maybe not quite that good!

Hope to see you in Orlando!

Got Your SQLRally Badge?

[cross-posted from Andy Warren's blog at sqlandy.com]

Just posted yesterday, you can download a very nice looking badge to show that you’re attending or speaking at the first SQLRally. As I get a lot more traffic via my RSS feed than direct visits to the web page I use an plugin called RSS Footer which lets you add HTML to either the header or footer of each post in your RSS feed. For those that are HTML challenged, it will be something like this (after you upload your image of course):

<p>
<a href=”http://www.sqlrally.com”>
<img src=”http://www.sqlandy.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/02/SQLRally_Banner_728x90.jpg” alt=”SQLRally 2011 Banner” />
</a>
</p>

PASS Update #54-SQLSaturday Wish List

[cross-posted from Andy Warren's blog at sqlandy.com]

SQLSaturday IT Refresh

This is a draft of ideas for the upcoming IT refresh of SQLSaturday. Right now we’re trying to capture ideas and try to understand how they should be prioritized. We’re going to try to make an investment in each of three areas; public facing SQLSaturday web site, the site used by event leaders, and the site used by HQ do overall administration and reporting.

Public Site
  • Add a list on the front page of reserved dates/locations
  • List event leaders/photos (via gravatar), linkedin, twitter on front page
  • Add a page to reserve a date/location
  • Add a link to the front page that explains “national” sponsors and our process for selecting/updating them (and the page with the text as well)
  • Add a “schedule builder” that will let attendees pick the sessions they plan to attend and print the list (also used by event leaders to assign topics to rooms)
  • Fix data/formatting issues on View All Events Page, change to sort by Sat#
  • Add a link to the PASS logo on the header back to sqlpass.org
  • Change the LinkedIn link on the home page to point to the main PASS group (related task, remove the existing SQLSaturday LinkedIn group, set up a sub group in the PASS group)
  • Change the Facebook link to point to the PASS Facebook page, and close down the SQLSat page
  • Deploying pending changes (bug fix to calendar, sponsor logos moved to front page, images added to networking page)
  • Add links to Twitter and LinkedIn on the networking page for each member listed
  • Automatically add new users to SQLPASS.org, email them a welcome letter,notify local chapter
  • Add a page to let user see(or get emailed) their current reg/lunch status (and potentially this would include the ‘speed pass’)
  • Expose a standard set of data per event that can be used for mashups (subject to legal review),but should be event/session info that is available to public in XML/Odata format, put links to this data on the event page
  • Explose a standard set of data across events (subject to legal) including event names, locations, sessions, sponsors, etc. Might be more than one. XML/Odata format. Put links on main home page. Note, look at http://openconferenceprotocol.org/.
  • Option needed for speaker to edit presentation unless locked (this is true even if SB is online, they could need to fix a typo for example) (this requires a login/validation)
  • Review sizes of columns related to abstracts, if possible standardize to SB specs
  • Add option for ‘speed pass’ to be mailed out upon registration
  • Consider option to label raffle tickets per sponsor?
  • Consider supporting re-invoicing sponsors who have paid less than full amount (minus transaction fee) (not sure this is worth doing, low incidence)
  • Include a map that shows upcoming events, switch to show all events so far
  • Show testimonials on front page, either a list or maybe a rotating view
  • Change sponsor plan template to include a blog sponsorship
  • Change sponsor default options to include a $5 (or whatever currency) blogger option
  • Change the advisory council to include the “main” event leaders for the past 18 months, add text to explain the criteria and their role in guiding growth.
Event Leader Tools
  • Allow admin to change lunch fee, raise maximum to $15
  • Revise sponsor and budget pages to show currency being collected
  • Replace drag and drop schedule builder (for building actual schedule) with a better implementation (current one is slow/quirky)
  • Allow admin to see how many messages are queued ahead of their message
  • Allow them to approve messages via the site (in addition to current method of a link in email)
  • Open to receive event status report daily
  • Job to send event status report to all open/subscribed events, should go to all event admins for the event
  • Add page to “request a check” and to see status of the request
  • Post event survey page to capture info needed for reporting (see Nancy: lessons learned, # attendees, etc)
  • Fix issue with reports that don’t render correctly due to hidden eventid parameter
  • Implement the ability to do a mailing based on a user defined list (query)
  • Remove the option to email to all speakers (we will continue to send one email to that list per event that is set up until the speaker bureau goes online)
  • Provide option to set default currency for PayPal
  • Provide option to NOT send a PayPal link (check only)
  • Fix the Twitter notification process to announce sponsor and members on Twitter
  • Add an auto task to send out a link to a post event form asking for testimonials (form would be hosted on public site)
  • Provide UI tools to review/approve testimonials
  • Review ability to edit all public site pages, try to provide ability to edit content display more deeply than we have now (needs work)
HQ Tools
  • Review current reconcile process to determine if we can do more to speed up that process
  • Add a page to view check requests and update status
  • Page to add/update/remove reserved events
  • Online view/update of current event stats (from survey page or manually entered)
  • Online view of current sponsorship budget, amount allocated/reserved
  • Ability to email to all speakers, all event leaders
  • Review and refine the existing monthly report.
  • Add edit tools/storage for data points that need to be entered manually
  • Tools to handle tracking/updating of required/scheduled status calls/meetings and the results, should send weekly reminders to HQ
  • Online add/edit of event leaders, ability to tag “main” leader for each event
  • Track funds sent to events/remaining from sponsorship budget
  • Track additional support provided to event (lanyards, swag sent, etc)
Misc
  • Revise the SQLSaturday Logo to include a reference to PASS, update all sites to use it
  • Update the PayPal support to allow setting a default currency besides USD
  • Review all existing reports, fix if needed, remove ones that are duplicated or no longer needed
  • Please, help us understand what you want to see fixed and how it should be prioritized.
Added, not categorized:
  • Publish and make easily visible a suggested Powerpoint deck design
  • Publish a list of flyers used by various events for events to use for inspiration
  • Rework the graphics/layout to be as good as the SQLRally site
  • Track # of emails sent, delivered, undelivered, tagged as spam when sent via SQLSaturday.com
  • Make sure all actions require confirmation (needs discussion/detail)

PASS SQLRally Gaining Momentum

It’s been almost a year since we started work on the project that evolved into PASS SQLRally, with our inaugural event coming up May 11-13, 2011, in Orlando. It’s been amazing to watch it grow from informal code name ‘spring conference’ to something with a great name (and logo) that will fill a niche in the PASS event portfolio. For those you who haven’t heard about PASS SQLRally yet we designed it with some interesting goals in mind:

  • Be affordable. You can attend the two day event for just $299, and there are tons of low cost hotel options in Orlando.
  • Serve a different area of the country from the PASS Summit.
  • Be less intense. This year it’s capped at 600 people. Still a crowd, but it means we can use a smaller venue, which in turn means a lot less time walking to find a room and a lot more time to network.
  • Fill the gap between PASS  SQLSaturday and the PASS Summit. Speakers will typically start at chapters, polish their skills at PASS  SQLSaturday, and then vie for a spot on the PASS  SQLRally schedule.
  • Be a partnership with a local chapter. For the Orlando event oPASS was tasked with site selection, administering speaker selection, and a big chunk of the marketing.

The schedule is set, now to get the word out. Let’s make sure anyone who uses SQL Server knows about PASS SQLRally and the value it offers.  No sales pitch needed, just a “hey, have you looked at PASS SQLRally?” will do. Send your colleagues an email, post a note on Twitter (#sqlrally), or maybe write something on your blog. Include a slide in your deck if you’re doing a presentation. Make sure the event info is posted on your chapter web site.  Let’s make sure that anyone who needs training knows about the opportunity.

See you in Orlando!
 

 

 

What Should PASS Be? I Challenge You

[cross-posted from Andy's blog at sqlandy.com]

PASS isn’t what it should be. I hear that a lot, and in many ways I agree with you. We’re finally growing and evolving, but we’re still far from what I think most of you expect from a true professional association.

But.

I’m not sure you or I have realistic expectations. So I want to challenge you. Draw an image of what you want PASS to be in 3 years and share it on your blog (or post a comment here if you don’t have a blog). Imagine we just hired you to be CEO of PASS and you were going to “fix” things, what would you do? What’s your vision for providing benefits to chapters or members, or for growing membership, or for global growth, or whatever areas you think are badly served right now?

Maybe I just don’t have the vision – I’m limited by my own biases and experiences – but I’d really like for PASS to be what you want it to be. An organization that serves you, excites you, makes you proud to be part of it, proud to support it, and willing to challenge it if it steps off track.

Maybe it’s a paragraph, maybe it’s a thousand words, but I hope you’ll write something. We’ve got several hundred bloggers in the SQL space, and a whole lot of members. What you write may not change the world, but maybe it will.