Addressing Concerns About the SQLSaturday Driving Radius



The PASS community showed their commitment by engaging in an active debate on a recent blog – Making SQLSaturday Sustainable. As a passionate and dedicated community, these discussions and debates are critical to our success and challenge the Board to look at the business decisions that need to be made. As we look back from the discussions from last week, we recognize that there were things we should have done differently. We have heard your feedback – which we are thankful for - and continued dialogue this week and are sharing with you the changes we are making based on the conversation.

We should have communicated earlier on the challenges many SQLSaturday organizers and sponsors were expressing to us. Some of these challenges were made public via social media, others were done quietly and directly to Board members and our Community team.

As the new criteria was evaluated, we failed to share our findings with the organizers of SQLSaturday and in particular those that could be affected by the changes. We’d like to explain why the radius was increased to 600 miles.

Currently, there is a 400-mile driving radius restriction that has been in place for the past four years. This means that no two events within 400 miles of each other should be hosted on the same day. This parameter was implemented in FY2012 to help keep two locations from competing for the same resources - speakers and sponsors.

By the end of FY2016, SQLSaturdays had doubled in size from FY2012. Since January of this year, feedback has been shared from sponsors (both local and GAP partners) on the number of overlapping events in a region, as well as organizers reporting they are struggling with sponsorship. We recognized that to prevent further sponsor exhaustion, and ensure the financial sustainability of SQLSaturday, we needed to look at finding an alternative that could provide support for both organizers and sponsors.

It is important to recognize that these changes are intended to protect the smaller events. They are designed to guide planning, not to limit events. As with the 400-mile driving radius currently in place, if an event requests a date that is already committed to by a neighboring city, we approach both organizers to ensure support. We will continue to be flexible with individual organizers to support and ensure their events are a success, as we have always been.

Hearing your feedback on the guideline, we will be piloting the 600-mile driving radius distance for events in North America beginning January 1, 2017. We will not include the back-to-back weekend restriction during this pilot, and ask for ongoing feedback from organizers, our sponsors, and attendees. We’ll share our findings with you once they are compiled and our recommendations for improving SQLSaturday events. Our commitment to you is to ensure the sustainability of all SQLSaturday events.

To get a better idea of just what this change would look like, below is an example of how it would still be possible to have 5 SQLSaturdays on the same date, all over 600 miles apart. With at least 20 non-holiday weekends in the calendar year, the growth of SQLSaturdays could continue here in the US; but if these events are to sustain, it’s going to mean organizers looking to see how they can manage their budgets more effectively at the local level to help across the entire community. Steve Jones brings up some very good suggestions in his post this past week, Slimmer SQL Saturdays, on ways of cutting costs, and more of these “best practices” blogs will be showcased in an upcoming series in the PASS Connector newsletter.

In an effort to ensure better communications, we are creating a dedicated distribution list for all SQLSaturday organizers to foster discussions (such as the introduction of the new radius) with you, so that we receive your feedback before final decisions are made. We realize this is long overdue – and we hope you will engage with us as we work together toward making our community (and surrounding events) successful.

While we begin to analyze some of the other suggestions around the larger events, these initial changes will be monitored closely to see if they need revisiting. We will continue the dialogue in the days and months ahead to ensure support and sustainability for our SQLSaturday events around the world. We want you to be a part of the conversation. Please reach out to us directly, reply to this blog, or send feedback to feedback@sqlpass.org.

Argenis Fernandez
Director, SQLSaturday

Karla Landrum
Community Evangelist

The Future of the BA Community



Everything we do at PASS is focused on helping members—and the broader data community—connect with each other, share experiences, and improve their skills. We are dedicated to providing networking opportunities, knowledge sharing, and peer-based learning across all our Local and Virtual Chapters and communities. In 2012, we embarked on an initiative to reach out to the growing number of business and data analytics professionals tasked with extracting meaning and value from their organizations’ data.

Over the past 4.5 years we have learned a lot about the needs of those who work in Business Analytics (BA). We have presented thought leadership and technical training at four annual Business Analytics Conferences, helping thousands of data professionals use technologies such as Excel, Power BI, SQL, and other analytics platforms to gain insight into their business. And our community continues to grow, with more than 25,000 PASS members from around the world identifying a professional interest in BA and 27% year-over-year (May 2015 - May 2016) growth in the BA Virtual Chapter.

At the same time, the data professionals who manage the systems that store data are being challenged to support analytics needs in new and different ways. From running R in SQL Server to providing users with self-service access to data through Power BI, to unlocking the possibilities of advanced analytics through the Cortana Intelligence Suite, the technical interests and educational needs of DBAs and Developers in IT, and data analysts in the business, are increasingly overlapping.

As more companies across all industries are embracing data to inform their decision making, the growth opportunities for PASS members abound.

I’d like to share with you the evolution of the strategic direction of our BA initiative. The heart of the plan moving forward is community growth, with a focus on expanding outreach to increase visibility, by strengthening local groups, and broadening the scope of our analytics community globally.

A major component of PASS’ BA initiative has been the BA Conference. At BA Conference 2016 we again attracted the right business analytics audience and provided them with relevant content. BAC 2016 received an overwhelmingly positive response from attendees; 91% were either very satisfied or somewhat satisfied and most said they would recommend BAC to a colleague. However, despite very positive attendee feedback for the BA Conference the past two years, the event has not grown in attendance.

The PASS Board spent time reflecting on all we have learned the past four years and has decided to take a more comprehensive, multi-prong approach to BA community engagement in FY17. We will emphasize local events and user groups, expanded virtual engagement and Marathon series, and thought leadership, instead of investing the majority of time and resources into a single large conference. PASS knows that the best way to grow community is to be in the community, working alongside our members and volunteers. If you are interested in hosting a local event or for more information, contact Teresa Cheung (teresa.cheung@sqlpass.org).

We believe a more localized effort with a variety of offerings will drive more effective engagement and growth for our PASS community. As the community evolves, the PASS Board will continue to assess and adjust. While we will not be hosting a BA Conference in the spring of 2017, we are open to holding another large BA event at a later date.

Business Analytics is a natural extension for PASS. We are committed to helping data professionals connect, share, and learn, whether they work in IT or in the business. We are very excited about the opportunities ahead and look forward to the continued growth and success in the area of Business Analytics.

Denise McInerney
Vice President, Marketing

Making SQLSaturday Sustainable

SQLSaturdays are an important part of PASS’ global community growth and how our community connects, shares, and learns.

PASS took over the license for SQLSaturday in 2010 when there was only a handful of events.  Since then it has grown dramatically, with more than 120 events held in the 12 months ending June 2016. To continue to see this growth and provide you with the best possible training and networking experiences, we need to ensure the financial health and stability of SQLSaturday. This will mean a couple of changes to the existing SQLSaturday model that will take effect on January 1, 2017.

These changes will affect the way some of our community members plan and execute events.  We believe that these changes will help to balance the growth of our SQLSaturday portfolio, while ensuring sustainability for local organizers. These changes are intended to:

  • ·         improve the attendee experience
  • ·         improve the sponsor experience
  • ·         increase PASS’ ROI
  • ·         present a consistent and strong event model.

The first change we are going to make is to the amount of funding support we provide organizers. Currently any organizer, whatever the size of their SQLSaturday event, receives $500. Starting January 1, 2017, we will be reducing this to amount to $250 and targeting those cities/locations that really need the financial support to grow, rather than well-established events that are better capable of attracting sponsors and financial support. When assessing those events that require financial support, PASS will be meeting with event organizers and complete a review of past performance.

Which brings me to the second change: implementing a new 600-mile radius and concurrent event timing restriction to reduce competition between individual SQLSaturday events in Canada/USA.  The event timing restriction means that events within the 600-mile radius cannot occur on the same weekend or one weekend prior or after.  This will help to deliver a more consistent and satisfying experience for sponsors, which will reduce sponsor exhaustion and assist with increasing overall ROI.  The existing 400-mile radius restriction for all other regions will remain. 

We believe that by making these changes we can ensure the future growth and financial success of SQLSaturday. I welcome feedback — please comment below or share your thoughts to feedback@sqlpass.org.

Argenis Fernandez
Director, SQLSaturday

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

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

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

Allen White Appointed Director, PASS Programs


On January 20, the Board voted on the nomination to fill the vacant Director-at-Large seat, which was vacated by Grant Fritchey when he assumed the EVP position. The successful nomination of Allen White into this vacant seat completes the Board composition for 2016. Allen is well known in the PASS community and brings a wealth of experience and volunteering service that will be a big benefit to the Board.

As a result of Allen’s appointment, there will be some adjustments to existing Board portfolios. Allen takes on Program, while Ryan Adams assumes the Chapters portfolio, and Argenis Fernandez will oversee SQLSaturdays. This realignment brings these portfolios in-line with each Director’s individual skillsets, experience, and interests, ensuring better deliverables for our global community. Please join me in congratulating Allen on this appointment, along with Ryan and Argenis on their new portfolios.

Adam Jorgensen
PASS President

PASS Database Administration Virtual Chapter Profile


The Team at PASS recently sat down with Sharon Dooley, leader of the Database Administration Virtual Chapter, to discuss one of the oldest and most established chapters in the PASS community. Sharon tells the story of how the DBA VC developed over the years as well as where the chapter will go in the future.

Q1. Tell us a bit about yourself and the DBA VC.

Back in the day, PASS formed Technical Advisory Committees (TACs) and Special Interest Groups (SIGs). TACs were intended to provide “wish lists” for SQL Server development to Microsoft. These wish lists were to come from suggestions by members of the SIGs. Today, the TACs no longer exist and the SIGs have morphed into Virtual Chapters. When we were still a SIG, we started having Live Meeting presentations. The Live Meeting Call to Action document I wrote describing this initiative is dated March 15, 2007. I think we were the first SIG to reach out to our membership in this way. We started with one meeting each month. Now we have two meetings each month, except for November and December when the holidays limit us to one. I am grateful for the dedicated assistance of Julie Bloomquist and Mike Clark with the work of this VC. Both have been working with the VC for a very long time, and I know the VC wouldn’t be the same without their help.

Q2. What is the aim of the DBA VC?

Our mission, as stated on our web page (dba.sqlpass.org) is “… to provide a PASS community for the DBA. It provides a forum for open discussion and education on issues that face SQL Server database administrators”.

Q3. You have been a volunteer with PASS for a long time – what keeps you motivated and what would you suggest to your fellow community members looking to get involved?

I’ve been a member of PASS since its first conference in 1999. That’s a long time – 17 years! During that time, I have served in many volunteer capacities. I think PASS provides folks with a wealth of learning activities, from VCs to SQLSaturdays to Summit. I received a lot of help from an online community when I first started working with SQL Server (I’m not going to tell you how long ago that was!) and volunteering with PASS is a way for me to give back. Going to Summit is like going home for me – I have so many PASS friends! Julie echoes this, saying “I have been able to increase my PASS involvement and friendships through my work with the Virtual DBA chapter.” For folks who are on the fence about volunteering, I’d say “Try it, you’ll like it!”

Q3. DELL is one of your sponsors, can you tell us a bit about that relationship and how this benefits the VC audience?

Dell Software has sponsored the DBA VC for several years. We appreciate their support since it allows us to raffle a gift card to attendees at every meeting. When Dell first started sponsoring us, the sponsorship agreement required us to give them a 10-minute speaking spot each quarter. Since I don’t think you can present anything useful technically that time, I offered them full one-hour slots twice a year with the proviso that the talk not be of a marketing nature. More recent sponsorship contracts have followed my original lead. In addition, Dell, as our sponsor, has the opportunity to send targeted mailings to the Chapter membership. These mailings acquaint our membership with products they may find useful and also often offer discounts.

Q4. How does the DBA VC fill training gaps?

Being a DBA is not an easy task, and there seems to be a hunger for training. Today, when organizations often lack the resources to send DBAs for formal classroom training, our bi-monthly webinars (always scheduled at lunch time in the time zone they are targeted for) give DBAs a chance to learn at their own convenience and at no expense to their employers. And if someone can’t attend one of the webinars, we record the meetings for later viewing.

Q5. What have you got planned in the near future for the DBA VC?

We’d like to add a quarterly webinar in a European time zone. This would make it easier for Europeans to present (I’ve just scheduled a speaker in Amsterdam who’ll be doing our Noon Mountain Time session – it’ll be 8PM for him!) and it will make it easier for people in Europe to attend these webinars. We haven’t worked out when this is going to start, but probably during the second quarter.

PASS Leadership Policy

At the October Board meeting held on site during PASS Summit 2015, the Board voted unanimously to approve the PASS Volunteer Leadership Policy. This policy is designed to develop and encourage new leaders within the PASS community. It aims to help community volunteers develop their leadership skills and transition into new leadership roles while opening up new leadership opportunities for emerging leaders. It also ensures that all leaders are adequately supported through the transition process.

We all know what can happen when we wear too many hats. As well as developing new leaders, the policy provides guidelines to ensure that current and future leaders are able to fully commit to the requirements of their roles. For example, the policy details that due to the extensive time commitment required, PASS Board Members must maintain that single leadership role for the duration of their terms. It also provides opportunities for natural transitions and ensures opportunities for all PASS community members.

Volunteers are the lifeblood of PASS, and this policy forms part of the Board’s recognition of this, providing guidance on all PASS leadership levels. The policy was reviewed by both community and Board members and comments were incorporated before Board approval. I encourage anybody in a leadership role, or anyone who is interested in taking up a leadership role with PASS to read the policy and reach out to any of our Board Members for information.

Wendy Pastrick
Director, PASS Virtual Chapters

The Importance of Reporting Harassment Incidents

There are times in our lives when we are faced with decisions that we only really better understand after the fact.

An occurrence at one of the non-PASS sponsored evening parties during PASS Summit this year brought this into very clear focus for me. I arrived at a venue with some friends, and even though it was crowded, I saw some unknown, friendly, smiling faces and decided to go over and say a quick "hello". Within minutes, there was the first unwanted, uninvited groping. I thought to myself "ew, gross!" and moved away with a scowl in his direction. It was a crowded party and I remember thinking, maybe, just maybe, that didn't really just happen. It was when it happened again from a second guy in the same group a few moments later there was no denying that yes, it really WAS happening.

It's what transpired next, though that has come to upset me in the days afterward. Immediately after the incident, I sought out a trusted friend at the party and after telling him what had happened, he offered to do something. I declined, telling him I was fine.

What is it that keeps women from calling out unwarranted behaviors such as this? Embarrassment? Pride? Worry that somehow "I asked for it?" Here is the real kicker, though. Because I failed to react, to engage others, to call out this behavior – I missed an opportunity to have it addressed. That, my friends, is my biggest regret.

Unfortunately, it is a fact that sometimes women are subjected to inappropriate behaviors from others. My hope is that by speaking out now, if you or someone you know finds this situation happening, you recognize it and act immediately to bring it to somebody’s attention. Tell a friend. Point out the perpetrators. Tell the venue management, organizer, or vendor. Definitely don't ignore it.

PASS has an Anti-Harassment Policy (AHP) in place. I sometimes hear jokes about the AHP. While it might be amusing to poke fun at it and think its only purpose is to keep you from telling me a dirty joke, that's not actually why it's there. It's for situations like this. While I did not make a report at the time, I corrected that and have filed an official report. If you have any concerns or an incident within the guidelines of the AHP, I encourage you to contact governance@sqlpass.org.

Wendy Pastrick
PASS Board of Directors, Virtual Chapter