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.

PASS Summit 2015 Speaker Q&A: Denny Cherry

October 14, 2015 — Go inside PASS Summit 2015 session in this Q&A series with our presenters. In this interview, Denny Cherry takes us inside his session “SQL Server Database Administration for the Non-DBA”.

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

Denny: I’m hoping that people will come away with a basic understanding of database management.

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?

Denny: I started working with data and databases back when I was working at Eartlhink, in the Tech Support department. I ended up working on a reporting team and started working with data a lot. We started working in Microsoft Access and quickly outgrew Access as a data platform. We then moved all our systems into Microsoft SQL Server and ended up having the largest systems in the company.

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?

Denny: Normal use of nonclustered indexes is the feature that people aren’t taking full advantage of.

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

Denny: The biggest mistake that I see people make is not properly indexing their databases.

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

Denny: The thing that really excites me when working in IT is being able to show people the real power of SQL Server and how it can really perform even under very large workloads.

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

Denny: The next step after leaving “SQL Server Database Administration for the Non-DBA” is to make sure that backups are set up correctly on the SQL Server. Everything else that I talk about in the session can wait if needed. The backups are the biggest deal.

Find Denny online at www.peopletalkingtech.com, and check out our other Q&As with PASS Summit 2015 speakers.

PASS Summit 2015 Speaker Q&A: Warner Chaves

October 14, 2015 — Go inside PASS Summit 2015 session in this Q&A series with our presenters. In this interview, Warner Chaves takes us inside his session “Time to Stretch: Scaling out and in with Azure DB Elastic Scale”.

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

Warner: My favorite super-hero is Plastic Man, who can stretch his body in all types of shapes and sizes! And that's what I want to give my attendees: the ability to be as elastic as Plastic Man for them and their databases!

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?

Warner: I was working as a DBA for HP when I was hit by a truck carrying radioactive waste. After this freakish accident, my senses were tuned to SQL Server and I started hearing voices telling me to move to Canada and pursue my calling to get deeper into SQL Server!

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?

Warner: That would be the system health XEvent session that has run in SQL Server since 2008. It can give you all kinds of insight into the inner workings of your SQL Server and any issues that might be going on. It's like having mind-reading powers over your SQL instance.

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

Warner: Lack of planning is the arch-nemesis of database projects! Some businesses will not plan, prioritize, or fund their data infrastructure properly—until one day things blow out of control.

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

Warner: The products, analysis, and techniques are always evolving. SQL Server and Microsoft Azure are like X-Men mutants with powers that change every time there's a new movie!

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

Warner: Log in to Azure (or get your free trial pass) and start playing around right away with the elastic database features!

Find Warner on his blog at http://sqlturbo.com or on Twitter @warchav, and check out our other Q&As with PASS Summit 2015 speakers.

PASS Summit 2015 Speaker Q&A: Argenis Fernandez

September 29, 2015 — Go inside PASS Summit 2015 session in this Q&A series with our presenters. In this interview, Argenis Fernandez takes us inside his pre-conference session “The Complete Primer to SQL Server Virtualization” and general sessions “Stored Procedures vs. Ad Hoc SQL: Performance Showdown” and “Zero-Downtime Upgrades: Rockstar DBA”.

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

Argenis: My favorite super-hero would have to be Mr. Incredible. He's awesome. I hope my "Stored Procedures vs. Ad Hoc SQL: Performance Showdown!" session will give everyone the power to see through their SQL Server instance configuration and understand what little things they can change to make it go faster.

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?

Argenis: Back in 1998, I got involved with a project to deploy Microsoft Commercial Internet System (MCIS)—a product that was sold only to ISPs and ASPs at the time, when the Internet was in its infancy. That product ran on SQL Server 6.5, and that was the first time I got involved with massive amounts of data. The one thing that pushed me to get to the expert level was the Microsoft Certified Master certification; that required a lot of training and a lot of studying. But really, becoming an expert is beyond certifications or books—it's all about experience. If you don't spend the time to learn by trial and error, play with features and understand how things work, you'll never really be an expert.

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?

Argenis: That would have to be the people, honestly. Tech is nothing without the people behind it. At the places that I've enjoyed working the most, where things seemed to be really working great, it all came down to having a great team of professionals.

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

Argenis: Not testing with production data, or as close to production as possible. A sizable chunk of the problems I see in the field today are related to this.

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

Argenis: Bad defaults in SQL Server. There are too many little details that people forget about because they don't work off of checklists. Sometimes the simplest things will derail your performance.

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

Argenis: Learn about plan cache analysis, and review ad-hoc query activity against your instances—and put your acquired knowledge to good use!

Find Argenis on his blog at http://www.sqlblog.com/blogs/argenis_fernandez/ or on Twitter @DBArgenis, and check out our other Q&As with PASS Summit 2015 speakers.