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

PASS Summit 2015: Women in Technology Luncheon

November 3, 2015 — On Day Two of PASS Summit, we welcomed Angie Chang, VP of Strategic Partnerships at Hackbright Academy, as keynote speaker of the 13th annual PASS Summit Women in Technology (WiT) luncheon. PASS VP of Marketing Denise McInerney sat down with Angie in front of hundreds of luncheon attendees to discuss Hackbright and its role in training women and promoting gender diversity in technology.

Hackbright Academy is a Bay Area engineering school for women; its mission, to “increase female representation in tech through education, mentorship, and community.” With hundreds of its alumni successfully entering engineering jobs, Hackbright boasts more female graduates per year than Stanford and UC Berkeley. The school’s rate of job placement is impressive, as are the companies with which its students find employment—among them, Uber, Eventbrite, Pinterest, Facebook, Dropbox, and SurveyMonkey. Hackbright graduates are well trained not just to enter the engineering field, but to lead it—several have gone from nascent coders to managerial engineering positions within the span of just a few years.

Angie, whose first involvement with tech was making websites in high school, went on to engineering and technical positions with UC Berkeley, Hightail (formerly YouSendIt), Azureus, SquareTrade and more before co-founding Women 2.0, a media brand that aims to connect, inspire, and educate the next generation of technology leaders. Angie joined Hackbright after spending more than 7 years as Women 2.0’s Editor-in-Chief. She is also founder of the Bay Area incarnation of Girl Geek Dinners, which offers education and networking for women in technology fields.

Denise spoke with Angie about Hackbright’s purpose, the necessity of offering coding education to women of all ages, and the benefits for companies who hire women engineers who are coming to coding from past careers in a variety of other fields.

“Our students come from a wide array of backgrounds, running the gamut from former teachers to lawyers to cancer researchers,” said Angie. These women join the school for its full-time 12-week accelerated software engineering fellowship or its part-time courses, such as Intro to Programming.

Angie noted several important aspects that make Hackbright particularly successful:

· Mentoring of students by women in the industry

· Graduates who return to reinvest in the community

· An encouraging, energetic environment

· Training and career services that goes beyond coding to interviewing, management, and more

Graduating students create final projects, which range from visual, interactive reporting dashboards that help educators turn standardized test results into better instruction to an app that delivers safer walking routes to pedestrians, based on rasterized crime data sets.

Opening questions to the audience, the discussion covered many of the issues that face both women in tech as well as companies searching to diversify their workforces:

· The benefits of networking with fellow women in tech

· The best ways for parents to encourage their young daughters to get excited about coding and data

· How to create a workplace that welcomes gender diversity and inclusion

· The myth of the “pipeline problem”

“It’s important that we let younger women and girls know that it’s okay to fail, stub your knee, break things,” said Angie. “That’s how we learn and something that’s important in this field.”

She also noted that gender diversity offers benefits for hiring organizations as well as the women who work for them. Diverse teams have better results and provide a more realistic reflection of consumers and the way they think.

When asked about her thoughts on the “pipeline problem”—an oft-heard response of companies that claim their teams lack diversity because of a lack of qualified diverse candidates—Angie noted Laura Weidman’s theory that the problem with the pipeline isn’t that it’s narrow, but that it’s leaky, with too many women missing a successful transition from education to employment. For this reason, Hackbright focuses on this period, giving graduates the opportunity to participate in Career Day, which includes partner company introductions, speed interviews, lunch, and optional networking. And many graduates return to teach, mentor, or even recruit new classes of Hackbright students.

The full interview can be viewed on PASStv.

Wendy Pastrick,
VC Director

Community Speakers Announced for PASS Business Analytics Conference

One of the most exciting elements in the upcoming PASS Business Analytics Conference is the interest and enthusiasm from our community members during this year’s call for speakers. We received an overwhelming response, with 136 abstracts submitted for a possible 25 community sessions. We are pleased to announce that over half of the community sessions for the PASS Business Analytics (BA) Conference 2016 have just been released. All of these sessions have come from our public call for speakers.

Our community speakers will support our four learning tracks, which focus on real-world, applicable learning that helps analysts make immediate and direct impacts within their organizations. Expert speakers will offer exceptional thought leadership and prescriptive technical guidance that BA professionals can use to increase their organizations’ competitiveness. Attendees will also learn the latest tools and techniques to maximize data and improve the performance and accuracy of business analysis.

Renowned data visualist Jer Thorp will present the Day One Keynote, which is proudly sponsored by Microsoft.

Check out the newly announced sessions and speakers. More speakers and further details will be announced in the coming months.

- Jen Stirrup
PASS Board Member

PASS Summit 2015 Speaker Q&A: Melody Zacharias

October 14, 2015 — Go inside PASS Summit 2015 session in this Q&A series with our presenters. In this interview, Melody Zacharias takes us inside her session “Distributed Replay: Testing with Your Data, Your Way!”.

Q: Who is your favorite super-hero, and which SQL Server or BI super-power do you hope your session will give attendees?

Melody: My favorite super-hero is not a classic hero but the Disney character Goofy. Goofy is good natured and down to earth; he treats everyone the same and never takes himself too seriously. I would like people to have the super-power of seeing into the future after my session. Distributed Replay helps you determine how changes to hardware, software, or index can affect how things run in your system. It allows you to see what will happen in your future production system.

Q: What’s your origin story? How did you become interested in working with data, and how did you take that initial interest to the expert level?

Melody: I discovered the SQL language in university and it was as obvious to me as breathing. I have had a passion for it ever since, and wanting to share it with others has lead me to presenting and teaching. I was once told that you don’t really know something until you can teach it. Teaching encourages me to be a better professional and allows me to grow that passion in others.

Q: What’s your favorite data solution’s secret power—the biggest strength that most people don’t really know about or use to full advantage?

Melody: I have to say that Distributed Replay is a great super-power within SQL Server 2012. It allows you to predict the future and determine how changes will make your system react.

Q: What about data’s biggest kryptonite or nemesis--the biggest mistake you see data professionals make?

Melody: The nemesis of data professionals is often forgetting the customer, whether that is your boss, CEO, or client. I think we sometimes forget that our job is to solve a problem or create a solution, not just to play with cool technical tools.

Q: What still excites you or trips you up in the real world when working with SQL Server or BI?

Melody: Anything new excites me. When someone finds a new way to solve an old problem or finds a more efficient way to solve it. New ideas are exiting, particularly when they are shared!

Q: What do you see as the next step after attending your session?

Melody: After my session, I hope people will try set up Distributed Replay in their test environment and try it out to see all that it can do for them. The best part of being a data professional is the toys we get to play with, and this is a really fun one.

Find Melody on her blog at SQLMelody.blogspot.caor on Twitter @SQLMelody, and check out our other Q&As with PASS Summit 2015 speakers.