Our Vision for PASS

by Thomas LaRock

July 26, 2013 – Last week’s Executive Committee election saw myself (Thomas LaRock), Adam Jorgensen, and Denise McInerney join the 2014 PASS ExecCo team as President, Executive Vice President Finance, and Vice President Marketing, respectively. Along with Bill Graziano as Immediate Past President, we will serve the community for 2 years beginning January 1, 2014.

As part of the ExecCo elections process, we were asked to outline and discuss our vision for PASS for the next 2 years and beyond. When the elections were over we compared notes on the handful of items we feel are most important. The ones we believe deserve the most attention include:

  • Establishing PASS as the community leader for Microsoft data technologies. The Business Analytics Conference was a great first touch into the BA/BI/IT-Pro markets. We plan to continue our efforts to serve this new audience with BA-related Virtual Chapters, the onboarding of new chapters, and a confirmed second Business Analytics Conference in the Silicon Valley next May. We’re proud of our efforts over the last 10 years to help the SQL Server community connect, share, and learn, and we’re looking forward to broadening our reach to all database professionals.
  • Expanding our engagement and activity in regions outside the US. The EMEA region continues to grow within PASS, and everyone is excited about the EMEA Board of Directors seat up for election in September. More emphasis on LATAM in the coming year will be necessary to build an equally strong community in that region for eventual representation on the PASS Board. We’re also continuing our APAC efforts, although establishing more engagement and activity will require a longer time frame for success. The Global Growth Board portfolio is likely to dissolve as international effort and activity continue to permeate all Board portfolios.
  • Establishing strategic relationships with our partners. We all recognize the need to institute a simplified engagement model for vendor participation within the PASS community. Merging our sponsorship and marketing efforts into one unified team is the first step to achieving this vision.

Thoughtful comments and questions in a recent blog post by Kevin Kline spurred this post. Kevin mentions two additional initiatives he’d like to see the new ExecCo focus on: a better volunteer structure and process and improved utilization of social media.

A PASS Volunteers portfolio was established at the start of the year, headed by PASS Board Director Sri Sridharan. Efforts are underway to better help PASS identify active volunteers and to provide a mechanism for PASS HQ and community leaders to publish volunteer opportunities. Look for updates on this project during PASS Summit 2013.

Kevin’s comments about PASS’s use of social media have not gone unnoticed, and the marketing team is looking at ways to take better advantage of all social media opportunities. You can expect to see more of PASS through various social media channels over the next 2 years.

So what are your thoughts about the direction we’re working on for PASS? Have feedback or suggestions? Drop the 2014 ExecCo Elect a note with your comments or post a response below.

2012: Oh, the Places We’ve Been!

2012 has been an amazing year for PASS in so many ways, it’s hard to know where to begin reflecting on the last 12 months. So let me start by simply saying “Thank you.” Thank you to the thousands of incredible PASS volunteers and everyone who organized, presented, or participated in over 540,000 technical training hours delivered to the global SQL Server community this calendar year.

PASS is 127,000 members strong and growing, and we owe it all to our vibrant grassroots communities. We currently have over 250 local PASS Chapters in more than 65 countries and 20 Virtual Chapters, including six new this year: Big Data, DBA Fundamentals, Master Data/Data Quality, and the language-based PASS Portuguese, Spanish and Global Chinese Language.

Beefing up our support for Chapters, Virtual Chapters, and local event organizers worldwide, PASS welcomed the addition of Niko Neugebauer as a Community Evangelist working alongside Karla Landrum. We also rolled out new and improved chapter tools to help leaders better and more easily serve their communities (see Allen Kinsel’s blog post about the enhancements) and debuted new MyPASS functionality that helps members easily manage their profiles and chapter subscriptions.

Local communities hosted 79 free SQLSaturdays this year – nearly an 80% increase over last year – with 30 of those events outside the US. (See Kendal Van Dyke’s SQLSaturday fiscal year-end report for some great details.)  Just this month alone, we’ve had SQLSaturdays in Tokyo, Istanbul, and Washington, DC, with Nepal rounding out the year this weekend. And the 2013 SQLSaturday schedule is filling up fast.

The popular 24 Hours of PASS virtual events branched out into Portuguese and Russian versions this year, joining the annual Spanish and spring and fall English editions. And we saw SQLRally events in Dallas and Copenhagen, with a mini-event in Russia. More international SQLRally events are in the planning, including the 3rd annual Nordic SQLRally tentatively slated for November 2013. In addition, PASS was proud to sponsor nine non-PASS community events internationally in 2012.

And of course, we’re still celebrating a record-breaking PASS Summit, with nearly 4,000 attendees joining us in Seattle last month for the largest gathering of SQL Server and BI professionals in the world. All these events and associated recordings add up to 540,000+ technical training hours – or as I like to think of them, touches that improved someone’s SQL Server skills or professional development. With the inaugural PASS Business Analytics Conference in Chicago April 10-12, we’ll increase our data community reach by supporting business analysts, data scientists, architects, and BA/BI practitioners.

Throughout this year, PASS has also worked hard to ensure that global considerations permeate all aspects of what we do, focusing on making content and communications relevant for an international audience across geography, language, and time and validating and updating our event models for international communities. You can learn more about these initiatives on PASS’s Global Growth microsite. Next up is ensuring balanced international community representation on the PASS Board of Directors, with the Board working on proposed by-law changes to allow designating Board seats by geographic region. Stay tuned to provide additional community feedback once the proposed changes are published early next year.

As successful as this year has been, we still have much to do to better serve the community. And I believe the best is yet to come for PASS, thanks to your commitment to connect, share, and learn with each other. Looking forward to 2013, I’m proud to paraphrase the great Dr. Seuss: “Congratulations! Today is our day. We’re off to Great Places! We're off and away!”

PASS Summit 2012: The Most Wonderful Time of The Year

My flights for PASS Summit 2012 are booked and I can’t wait to catch up with and extend my SQL family! There’s so much going at PASS Summit , it’s hard to know where to start. By now you’re all aware of the awesome technical content and pre-conference sessions available but what about some of the other great learning opportunities, the networking and plain old fun that’s always on tap at Summit?

Community Appreciation Party
PASS exists because of the huge groundswell of support and sheer hard work of the SQL community and we’d like to say thank you. On Thursday, Nov 8, all Summit  attendees are invited to the Experience Music Project (EMP) for a light dinner, drinks, laughs, and music. At EMP, everyone can be a rockstar - cheer on your Summit friends as they belt out tunes backed by a live band or enjoy your own moment of fame with EMP’s rock star simulation. A Seattle landmark, the EMP is a cutting edge pop culture museum with rock ‘n’ roll roots.

Connect at PASS Summit
You’ll have ample time to catch up with old friends and make new ones at PASS Summit. From the First-Timers’ Orientation to the Welcome Reception, Exhibitor Reception, and interactive luncheons, PASS will make it easy for you to stay connected and network with other attendees. There will also be many informal after-hours activities taking place throughout the week – before, during, and after the official Summit schedule.

Expert Picks
The PASS Summit session schedule (PDF) was recently published and you’ve got over 190 technical sessions to choose from over the span of 3 days. This can be overwhelming, I know. To help you out, PASS has put together a series of Expert Picks - lists of recommended sessions from the different perspectives of community experts and PASS Virtual Chapters. There is even a DBA 101 list and a DBA Masters’ list is in the works. Check it out, it’s worth your time.

Convince Your Boss
It goes without question that PASS Summit is the biggest and best SQL Server conference going. For those of you who haven’t yet signed up to attend, you need to convince your boss to send you. PASS has put together some information on who should attend, posted testimonials from past attendees, and  created a handy value table to help you justify your attendance.

And If you can’t Convince your Boss…
We’ll bring Summit to you! We’re launching PASSTV this year – 12 hours of livestreamed content that will repeat during the evening so that every single SQL Server professional around the world can join in andbe a part of this great experience we call PASS Summit. Stay tuned for more details in the upcoming weeks.

See you Seattle!

Last Day: Apply for the PASS Board

Several years ago, someone gave me some advice that changed my life. Now, I’d like to pass it on: “You should run for the Board.”

The year was 2006. I was at PASS Summit in Seattle, talking with someone about PASS when they made that comment. Until then, I had been involved with the PASS Special Interest Groups (SIGs, now called Virtual Chapters), but I wasn’t well known in the PASS community as a whole. I looked over the requirements for serving on the Board of Directors, talked a bit about it with then PASS President Kevin Kline, and in the summer of 2007, I submitted my first application for the PASS Board. (I wasn’t elected that year, but ran again and joined the Board in 2009.)

I can say with all sincerity that applying for (and ultimately serving on) the PASS Board has been one of the most rewarding things I have done as a database professional. I’ve had the opportunity to learn so much by serving the PASS community as a Board member, including leadership and presentation skills, budgets and finance, and communication and marketing strategies. Serving on the Board has made me a better person, and I hope along the way I’ve been able to help others improve their skills, careers, and overall well-being.

I believe SQL Server professionals have tremendous opportunities to grow themselves simply by being members of or volunteers with PASS. They can grow technically (such as learning more about SQL Server Reporting Services) and non-technically (by leading a Virtual Chapter, for example). It is important that we continue to offer such opportunities to develop leaders within the PASS community. Serving on the Board of Directors is one of those non-technical ways you can grow, and for some reason most folks are uncertain if they are right for the Board.

Today is the deadline for applying for 3 seats up for election on the Board. (You can see the complete 2012 elections timeline here.) If you are on the fence about applying, or are interested but aren’t sure if you are good enough, let me help you decide:

You should run for the Board.

SQLRally: A Chance to Inspect and Adapt

After running three SQLRally events, both in the US and overseas, the PASS Board feels it’s the right time to step back and re-examine our SQLRally event options in the US. Orlando, Dallas, and Sweden have all been well supported, community-oriented, and successful events, but we’ve observed that the North American SQLRally events, compared to the international one, are more resource intensive for PASS.
So instead of charging ahead with the next SQLRally in the US, we want to take some time to review the model and determine what will work best going forward. This means no US-based SQLRally event will take place in 2013.

It is important to note that SQLRally is not going away. The event is modeled differently overseas and is so far working very successfully and efficiently. We hope to learn more from the international model with SQLRally Nordic taking place in October. We are also planning one or two more international SQLRally events in the upcoming fiscal year.

In the meantime for the US, our widely popular SQLSaturday events—40+ events in 2012, several with pre-conference days—are cropping up everywhere and giving members ample chance to improve their SQL Server skills in person. And, along with a review of the SQLRally model, we’re actively investigating other types of US-based event opportunities.

As always, we welcome your feedback. Please let us know if you have any questions, comments, or concerns.
 

The New PASS Community Connector

Welcome to the new PASS Connector. Over the years we have received a lot of feedback regarding how PASS communicates to our members through the use of this newsletter. What you are looking at today is our latest effort at responding to that feedback. Besides a new skin this updated version of the Connector has some key features that you may not notice right away. I want to take a moment to explain some of the features that exist today and some that will be rolling out very soon.

  • The Community news section is in a distinct section, as well as the SQL Server product news. This makes it easier for readers to discern what information they are consuming.
  • After many years of using a basic email marketing tool we have partnered with ExactTarget to help us bring you your local news and in your own language. We expect to have this feature rolling out by the end of April.
  • The new design allows for more dynamic content, making it easier for us to update sections of the newsletter but also the skin itself. So if we wanted to make some minor changes we will be able to do so without it being a laborious process.

The use of ExactTarget will also make it easier for us to send out targeted emails for events such as a SQL Rally. This was something that PASS has been needing for a long time. It is also one feature that I am really excited about as it will also allow for PASS to do deeper analysis of our membership to make certain we are providing the very best services that our members are asking for.

As always we welcome your thoughts. Please let us know what you think of the new design. We value all feedback.

Thanks for reading, and welcome!
 

PASS Board Appointments - additional explanation

Recently the PASS Board of Directors confirmed the appointments of James Rowland-Jones and Kendal Van Dyke to serve the remainder of one year terms that had been left vacated. This action has caused some members of the PASS community to question the methods in which members to the Board are appointed.

The current process is as follows: The President puts forth a recommendation, the Board discusses, and, the entire Board votes. Typically the pool of candidates for an appointed seat comes from the candidates that were not elected and this year we also had the opportunity to consider a current advisor (Rowland-Jones) to the Board as a candidate, an option not available previously. 

It is not the case – as some community members have stated in the last couple of days – that the next highest vote getter in the PASS election is automatically asked to serve for an appointed Board seat. I know this because in 2007 I fell 13 votes short of winning a seat in the general election and was not asked to serve a vacant seat for 2008. That honor went to Pat Wright. I was disappointed, to say the least, but I knew it was the right thing for PASS. Appointments are chosen in order to give the Board the best combination of skills to be successful in the coming year. That was true in 2007, and it is true today.

For these most recent appointments, the Board had thoughtful discussions and gave careful consideration to several potential candidates and the vote was 11:1 to appoint James and Kendal. This was not an easy choice for the Board to make. As is often the case, the hardest thing to do is also the right thing to do. And this was the right decision for the upcoming year.

The process for selecting the appointments used to be done solely at the discretion of the President. It was only recently that the bylaws were altered–based on community feedback–to have it go before the Board as a voting matter. In acknowledgement of some of the questions and concerns we’ve been hearing, I will ensure that some time be set aside during the next Board meeting (in two weeks, in Seattle) to discuss a method or process to properly address community concerns over Board decisions – maybe we can look at some type of PASS Ombudsman role to fill that need. Happy to hear about any other suggestions you may have. Leave comments below or email me your thoughts at Thomas.LaRock@sqlpass.org.
 

Enhancing First-Timers’ Summit Experience

I attended my first PASS Summit in 2004. Why did I go? Because of two words: professional association. I wanted to grow my professional skills as a DBA, and I knew that meant more than just technical knowledge. I knew I needed to join a network of like-minded individuals where we could learn and grow together.

The first morning there I met Pat Wright (blog | @SQLAsylum). Well, more like he met me, as he lumbered over and sat down at my table during breakfast. We ended up attending Kimberly Tripp’s (blog | @KimberlyLTripp) pre-conference seminar together and met Allen Kinsel (blog | @sqlinsaneo) there. The three of us hung out together all week, sharing meals and talking about our shops. We came to the Summit knowing nobody but were fortunate to have met each other. We left the Summit and stayed in touch, returning the next year, and every year since.

The unfortunate truth, however, is that many of our first-time attendees arrive at the Summit knowing nobody. They meet no one, they eat alone, they leave, and we don't see them again. How do I know this? Because every year, we have roughly 800 people at our Summit for the first time. If those 800 came back every year, we would be over 7,000 attendees by now.

Clearly, we need to improve our customer retention. That's what led me to think about putting together an Orientation Committee (OC) to help first-time attendees get connected, share experiences, and learn from each other. I believe this will translate into more repeat attendees, which will result in more knowledge, more sharing, and better growth opportunities for everyone.

We launched the orientation program for first-time Summit attendees last year at PASS Summit, and we are doing it again this year. That means we need Summit alumni to volunteer to serve as "Big Brothers/Sisters" for a group of new members – and we need new attendees to sign up to participate.

We are thinking most groups will have about 9 people (8 newbies and 1 alumni). The Big Brothers/Sisters will help the first-timers feel welcome, introduce them around, help facilitate discussions, answer questions, etc. The alumni volunteers will be in contact with their assigned group well ahead of Summit and ideally will arrange a meeting with their group before the Welcome Reception. In case that is not possible, we are going to reserve a room at the Convention Center so that all Big Brothers/Sisters can meet with their groups just prior to the Welcome Reception

If you are interested in serving as a Big Brother/Sister, drop us an email at OC_DL@sqlpass.org. And if you are attending the Summit for the first time and want to participate in the program, I encourage you to sign up – just email newcomer@sqlpass.org. Watch for updates on Twitter as we finalize the details, and participate in the discussion by using the #sqlpass #firsttimers hashtags.

See you in Seattle!
-- Thomas LaRock

Upcoming 24 Hours of PASS

We are four weeks away from the next 24 Hours of PASS event, and the registrations continue to mount. I have participated in all four 24 HoP to date and each one holds a special memory for me. But when all is said and done this coming event has the potential to be my favorite of the bunch.

Past 24 HoP events have been focused on giving viewers a preview of PASS Summit content. The event last Spring was focused on SQL 2008 R2. This event is not a preview. Instead it is simply full of SQL-goodness and I can't wait for it to get started. I'll register, and likely watch, all 24 sessions so it would be hard for me to pick a few favorites that I want to see next month. But here goes anyway:

SQL SERVER PERFORMANCE TOOLS (Cindy Gross)

Tools for troubleshooting performance issues. Best practices around troubleshooting methodology, SQLDiag/PSSDiag, SQL Nexus, Profiler/Trace, and PerfMon. Narrow down a performance problem & focus on where to spend your time.

T-SQL CODE SINS: THE WORST THINGS WE DO TO CODE AND WHY (Jen McCown)

"Code sins" are those things we do to our code that make stored procedures wish they’d never been created. Learn common code sins that make it difficult to read, support, run and extend.

T-SQL AWESOMENESS: 3 WAYS TO WRITE COOL SQL (Audrey Hammonds)

There are some truly awesome ways to make your data do just what you need it to do, while improving performance and/or readability. Come learn new-school ways to expand your T-SQL repertoire.

INDEX INTERNALS FOR MERE MORTALS (Michelle Ufford)

This in-depth session covers the internals of indexes including index filtering and partitioning. Walk away with a better understanding of indexes, which is helpful when designing and tuning databases.

If you haven't taken a moment to visit the 24 HoP website and register, what are you waiting for?

PASS Summit 2013

[cross-posted from Thomas LaRock's blog at thomaslarock.com]

As some of you are aware, the PASS Summit for 2013 does not yet have a home. We have already sent out an RFP to roughly 15 cities. At the most recent PASS Board meeting we narrowed the list of cities down to five. I am not able to name those cities at this time, as we have asked those five cities to prepare their final  numbers for us to review. We expect to have those numbers in about a month or so at which time the Board will call for a vote and we will select a city.

Even though this decision is weeks away I have been spending a good amount of time trying to figure out what would be the deciding factors for me to support a Summit in one city versus another. My short list is as follows:

  • Microsoft support (in terms of employee attendance, not in terms of sponsor dollars)
  • Location to a safe, walkable downtown (ideal for networking and socializing)
  • Easily navigable conference center (you don’t need to walk for 20 minutes to get from one end to the other)
  • Affordable hotels
  • Affordable dining
  • Airport hub (need to minimize travel for all attendees)
  • Length of travel time to and from Summit

Those are the ones that immediately come to mind. Please let me know if you feel there is something else to consider, I am certain I am forgetting something.

In addition to the list of considerations I also need to weigh the importance of each. So, which would have more weight, affordable hotels or Microsoft support? Maybe being a downtown is better than having affordable dining? I don’t know I have the answers. But I do know that the more people I talk with the more I find that everyone has a different focus. Some people want a city like Seattle strictly because of Microsoft being there in full force, while others are tired of traveling to Seattle every year (myself included).

It is not an easy decision for us to make and I wanted people to know and understand it is on our minds now, well in advance of the decision. If you want to provide feedback in the comments below, please do.