Category: PASS General

SQLSaturday: Setting New Records

Congratulations to PASS SQLSaturday organizers, speakers, sponsors, and attendees for another record year. This past fiscal year, dedicated volunteers from the global PASS community hosted over 86 free SQLSaturday training events – 34 international SQLSaturdays and 52 US events. The accomplishments below wouldn’t be achievable without the amazing work of our volunteers, helping new and returning attendees connect, share, and learn throughout the year. If you haven’t attended a local SQLSaturday, we encourage you to find the next event near you!


Virtual Chapters in Flight


July 9, 2014 -- FY2014 has been a huge year for PASS Virtual Chapters (VCs), now encompassing 27 special-interest and global language VCs.

Over 5,000 data professionals have attended at least one of the 160+ webinars that have taken place over the past 12 months, participating in more than 21,000 hours of technical training since July 1, 2013.

A huge thanks goes to all of our VC leads, co-leads, volunteers, and of course, our speakers, who make these free training opportunities possible every month. Remember, if you missed out on a webinar, you can view archived recordings by going to the VC’s individual webpage.

Calling All Speakers
Presenting a VC webinar is a great way to build up your technical speaking experience and share your expertise on your favorite topics. Why not contact one of our VCs to see if they need a speaker for an upcoming webinar? Topic suggestions are always welcome, too. VC leaders are happy to walk you through your first webinar and give you all the help you need to make it a success.

Thinking of Starting a New VC?
We’re always looking for suggestions on new VCs. Right now, on the back of the World Cup excitement, we’re considering a Sports VC that would meet regularly to discuss predictive analytics topics with a sports focus. Think Moneyball, NCAA brackets, and more. If you’re interested in leading, volunteering, or speaking for this VC, please get in touch.

VCs for the Business Analytics Pro
This past year also saw a lot of growth in our Business Analytics-focused VCs, including the addition of the Excel BI VC. The Business Analytics, Business Intelligence and Data Warehousing, and Big Data VCs continue to meet regularly on the latest topics for getting the most out of your data and staying ahead of the curve with best practices and new technology.

VCs Go Global
Our VCs not only span a variety of special-interest technical topics, but we also have leadership and participation around the world. We have VC leaders in most areas of the globe, and this past year has seen nice growth within our Global Language Virtual Chapters; With seven language-based VCs to choose from, you can tune in to learn in Chinese, French, Hebrew, Italian, Portuguese, Russian, and Spanish. Many of our special-interest VCs have also instituted additional webinar times to suit data pros in different time zones.

Keeping VCs Growing
In conjunction with our passionate volunteers, we are working hard to revive some older VCs and jump-start new ones to ensure that all groups are providing the best free technical training on a regular basis. We recently welcomed new VC leads to the Business Analytics, Cloud, Global French, and Oracle VCs. If you are interested in serving as a VC lead or co-lead or helping create or moderate webinars, stay in touch with us for upcoming opportunities.
– Jen Stirrup
Director of PASS Virtual Chapters

PASS Summit Session Selection

July 2, 2014 – It’s been exciting to see all the blog posts and tweets from speakers selected for PASS Summit 2014 – especially those who will be presenting at Summit for the first time. It’s also a bittersweet time as we commiserate with those who weren’t selected for this year’s program.

The hardest part of the Program Committee’s monumental task of reviewing, rating, and selecting sessions and speakers is not being able to include all the quality sessions and speakers we want to. This year’s 88-member team of community volunteers worked extremely hard and had to make some difficult choices. As the Program Committee reviews this year’s processes as well as feedback from its members and the community on how to improve and deliver the best possible Summit program, we wanted to share some ideas around the main discussions regarding the 2014 session selection process.

A Great Place to Start Is with Data
As both the SQL Server and Business Intelligence space and the attendance at PASS Summit continue to grow, our program also continues to grow to cover key topics and meet the needs of our community. For PASS Summit 2014, we increased the number of community sessions to 135 (not counting Lightning Talks), nine more than last year, and the number of community pre-conference sessions from 12 to 16. For the 135 session slots, we received a record 943 abstracts from 335 speakers, meaning that from the outset, we would be able to select only about 15% of submissions. (For an overview of the session selection process, please see PASS Summit: Already Setting Records.)

We want PASS Summit to be a showcase of the best and brightest technical experts and compelling speakers – from seasoned experts to rising stars. That means creating a mix of returning and first-time Summit speakers; this year, 26% of our speakers will be new to Summit. Because we continue to see an increase in the number of great session proposals from quality speakers, we will continue to look at ways to increase the number of community speaking slots.

To Publish or Not Publish Ratings
Members of the speaker and abstract review teams separately rate each speaker or session they’re assigned. The Program Managers and myself then use those speaker scores and abstract ratings, as well as topic balance, speaker balance, and skill level considerations, to build a cohesive program. Even a highly-rated session in a particular track might not be selected for the final program if that speaker already has the maximum two general sessions, for example, or to achieve a balanced program in terms of topics and skill levels.

So why not make the ratings public? First, the Program Team doesn’t want to embarrass or discourage anyone whose session received a low rating. Publishing the ratings would also open the door to questions and disagreements about why speakers or sessions received certain ratings – even among sessions that were selected. Although it’s unlikely we will publically share the session ratings, we are continuing to look for ways to improve feedback on why a session wasn’t accepted, some of which we instituted this year (see the next point).

Providing a Feedback Loop
As part of the session review and rating process, each session is typically reviewed by three or more team members. Reviewers are encouraged to provide written comments about the abstract along with a rating. The Program Managers then use the comments and ratings to build the best possible program. Unfortunately, not all the abstracts have comments, and the quality and quantity of the comments vary greatly. Our current tool, Orator, does not have the capability to combine all the comments from the various reviewers into comprehensive feedback for each session. We are looking at how to improve the use of comments in the abstract review process for next year and enhance Orator with better feedback capabilities.
 
If you submitted a session proposal for Summit 2014 and would like the comments from the abstract review team, please email program@sqlpass.org and we will send you the comments that are available for your abstract. Please note that, as stated above, not all abstracts have comments, and the comments are related to the abstract only and not why the session was or wasn’t accepted.

Based on feedback from the community over the past year, we also worked to improve the wording we use in our speaker notification letters for sessions that weren’t selected, as follows, but we currently do not have more specific comments about why a session wasn’t accepted.

Previous Reason  Updated This Year To 
3rd party or vendor specific topic Session deemed too focused on a vendor product
High number of sessions already selected for topic
Popular topic, higher rated session selected
Limited target audience
Less popular topic than others submitted 
Max sessions allocated for track
Allocated number for track filled based on session rating and topic coverage
Speaker has exceeded number of selected sessions    
Speaker has exceeded number of selected sessions - 2 General Sessions max 

We are forming a Program Committee Special Project Team to review and improve the feedback process for future events and are committed to having the changes in place for the PASS Summit 2015 session selection process.

Pre-cons by Board Members
Members of the PASS Board of Directors are also part of the SQL Server and PASS communities and are allowed to submit session abstracts and speak at PASS events, including presenting pre-conference sessions. All sessions proposals – including pre-con proposals submitted by members of the Board – go through the same blind abstract review, in which the abstract reviewers don’t know who submitted the abstract.

In most cases, pre-conference speakers are offered financial compensation for their pre-con sessions. Section VI.14. of the PASS Bylaws state:
“Directors shall not receive any salaries for their services as Directors, but by resolution of the Board of Directors, a fixed sum and/or expenses of attendance, if any, may be allowed for attendance at each regular or special meeting of the Board; provided that nothing herein contained shall be construed to preclude any Director from serving PASS in an educational or speaking capacity and receiving compensation upon approval by a majority vote from the Board of Directors.

Simply put, any member of the Board is eligible to give a pre-con or other session at Summit. They are eligible for compensation if compensation is approved by a majority vote of the Board of Directors. The Board member selected to give a pre-con at Summit 2014 did not request to be compensated, therefore no vote was required. The Executive Committee did discuss the situation prior to announcing pre-con speakers and ensured that all decisions were in compliance with the bylaws and that the Board member would be able to fulfill all his duties during the week.

Changing Session Titles and Abstracts
All session titles and abstracts are reviewed and rated exactly as they are submitted. After the Program Committee has selected the final session list, all titles and abstracts are proofed for accuracy, clarity, grammar, and marketability, and we work with speakers on any requested updates.

Let’s Put It to a Vote?
There’s been some discussion about supplementing the session review/selection process or avoiding it entirely by putting some or all sessions up for community vote. Although it’s an attractive idea, whenever we’ve invited the community to vote on sessions – as with past Lightning Talks or Community Choice sessions – we’ve received extremely low participation, which leads to skewed results. Well-known speakers also have a distinct advantage in a voting scenario, and even in a “blind voting” situation without speaker names, it would be difficult to achieve a balance of topics, speakers, and session levels.

PASS Summit is first and foremost a community conference – built by dedicated community volunteers around open submissions from passionate community members – and we are always open and looking at ways to improve that process. We appreciate your feedback around the session selection process and helping develop new speakers, and we are working to schedule Program Committee office hours at Summit to hear your ideas, as well as talks on such topics as how to write an effective abstract and a good speaker profile – stay tuned for details. In addition, watch for sessions throughout the year on creating successful abstracts, how the Program Committee works, and how sessions are selected.

The Program Team’s work is never done – as soon as sessions are selected, we’re working on PowerPoint reviews, supporting speakers during the event, reviewing attendees’ feedback, and brainstorming ideas for making the next Summit even better. Please keep your feedback coming all year long; email us at program@sqlpass.org.
– Amy Lewis
Director of PASS Programs


 

PASS Summit: Already Setting Records

June 24, 2014  Congratulations to all the community speakers selected for PASS Summit 2014, and thanks to everyone who submitted abstracts in a record-breaking year! We had the most Summit submissions ever, with 943 abstracts submitted for the 144 community session slots in this year's program.

On behalf of the Program Team, I want to share how much we appreciate the SQL Server community’s ever-growing support in helping build the biggest and best educational program for SQL Server and BI professionals.

Thank You, Program Committee Volunteers
I would like to thank all of this year’s 88 Summit Program Committee volunteers for their dedication and hard work in the session review, scoring, rating, and selection process. The team reviewed all the 943 abstracts submitted by 335 speakers from around the world.

I also want to give a special thank you to this year's Program Managers, Lance Harra and Melissa Coates, who led the Program Committee through all phases of the selection process and spent countless hours analyzing and constructing a well-balanced conference program. Finally, a huge thanks to Marcella McKeown and Emilija Dufresne at PASS HQ – invaluable members of the Program Team who support and help coordinate and execute all program-related functions.

Behind the Scenes: How Are Sessions Selected?
The program-selection process is constantly being fine-tuned and improved based on lessons learned and feedback from each event. We welcome and encourage feedback and look forward to continuing to enhance our processes for a fair and objective approach that ensures a well-balanced program. Here’s a high-level overview of how Summit sessions are selected:

    • Reviewing Abstracts, Speakers, PPTs: Program Committee volunteers are assigned to one of three teams:
      • Abstract Review – Abstract Review volunteers work in sub-teams that match the program’s educational tracks, with each team reviewing and ranking abstracts in its track. The abstract review teams do not know which speakers submitted which abstracts; this "blind rating" is done to remove any favoritism in the scoring process, creating an even playing field for both new and seasoned speakers.
      • Speaker Review – This team separately reviews speaker credentials, experience, and past attendee feedback to help select a slate of quality presenters.
      • PowerPoint Review – After sessions are selected for Summit, the PowerPoint Review teams take over, reviewing speakers’ presentations, including verifying completeness, ensuring that required slides are included, and doing final spelling/grammar checks.
    • Building the Program: When the Abstract and Speaker Review teams are finished, the program managers collect all the scores and ratings and analyze the top sessions from each track to fill the community session slots. Key factors in this analysis phase include:
      • Topic Balance – The goals are to ensure that sessions within each track are inclusive and representative of the track’s key topics and to avoid duplication.
      • Level Balance – We want to ensure a good mix of skill levels for beginners through experts.
      • Speaker Balance – We strive for a lineup that includes both established expert speakers and rising stars. To offer a good variety of speakers, we limit the number of general sessions to two per presenter.
    • Partnering with Microsoft: With the community sessions selected, our next step now is to open the Microsoft call for speakers, collaborating with Microsoft to make sure selected submissions complement the community sessions and create a cohesive overall Summit program. Watch for Microsoft sessions and the complete session schedule in early September.


New: Improved Filtering and Learning Paths

As part of our commitment to execute a robust and diverse educational program for Summit 2014, we are providing better attendee guidance through role- and skill-based learning tracks. This year, we are introducing Learning Paths, which are being rolled out as part of an improved session filtering and search feature.

Filter options include Track, Speaker, Level, Session Type, and the new Learning Paths, which let attendees further refine their search by leveraging nine cross-track topics:

    • Beginner
    • Big Data
    • Cloud
    • Hardware/Virtualization
    • High Availability/ Disaster Recover
    • Performance
    • Power BI
    • Security
    • SQL Server 2014

If an attendee is interested in sessions related to SQL Server running in a virtualized environment, for example, he/she can select the Hardware/Virtualization Learning Path. Additional Learning Path filters can be applied for an even more refined search.

Recognizing that Cloud/Azure-related topics cross various tracks and interests, this year we have incorporated Cloud sessions into the appropriate remaining tracks and have created new filtering and search options on the PASS Summit 2014 Sessions page. We hope the new filtering and search options will make it easier for all Summit attendees to locate sessions that are best suited to their interests and needs.

We have a phenomenal program this year, planned and presented by the SQL Server Community for the SQL Server Community. Help us spread the word, and don’t forget to register by June 27 to save $300 on your registration. See you in Seattle!
– Amy Lewis
PASS Director of Programs


 


What's New with WIT

June 11, 2014 – Recently at SQLSaturday Silicon Valley, PASS VP of Marketing Denise McInerney shared what's new with Women in Technology (WIT), including the growing commitment of more organizations, academic institutions, and companies to engage women in technology roles, a topic PASS has been passionate about for over 10 years.

You can watch parts one, two, and three of the interview series with Denise.

Want to learn more? Log in to your myPASS account today and follow the prompts to join the PASS WIT Virtual Chapter.


Announcing the 2014 PASS Nomination Committee

June 9, 2014 – A big thank you to everyone who made their voices heard in last week’s 2014 Nomination Committee (NomCom) elections. And congratulations to Erin Stellato, Andy Warren, and Allen Kinsel, the community representatives elected to join NomCom Chair Bill Graziano and Board-appointed representative Richard Bolesta on the committee to manage this year’s PASS Board of Directors election. 

A total of 539 voters cast 1,537 votes in the NomCom elections, featuring a slate of 11 incredible candidates. To be eligible to vote in this year’s NomCom and Board elections, PASS members needed to update their PASS profile by June 1. The IT and Marketing teams analyzed the voting list for any duplication before sending out the NomCom elections ballot link to 9,086 eligible PASS voters.

The NomCom elections also saw the successful debut of PASS’s new online voting system. The secure and easy-to-use web-services-based Simply Voting system doesn’t hold any PASS member email addresses or passwords.

The NomCom community seats reflect the three seats up for election on the PASS Board this year: one US/Canada seat and two open seats. The five-member NomCom will manage the Board elections process, qualifying, interviewing, and ranking potential candidates. A final slate will then be submitted to the Board for approval. In addition, this year’s NomCom is charged with streamlining the process for involving and evaluating candidates and with enhancing opportunities for community engagement in the elections. 

Applications will open August 6 for the three PASS Board seats up for election. To learn more about the 2014 NomCom election results and preview the upcoming Board of Directors elections, please see the Elections site. The discussion forums will be closed until the Board elections open, but if you have any questions or concerns, please contact PASS Governance

Congratulations again to Erin, Andy, and Allen. And a special thank you to all the candidates for their dedicated volunteer efforts on behalf of the PASS community and their enthusiastic and professional candidacies in this year’s NomCom elections.

SQL Server 2014: Hybrid Scenarios

June 9, 2014 – SQL Server 2014 makes it easier than ever to unlock new hybrid scenarios between your on-premises SQL Server instances and Microsoft Azure. Here are three key hybrid scenarios that you can easily deploy with SQL Server 2014 and Azure to help reduce operational costs while improving business continuity:

    • Quickly develop and test SQL Server applications. You can spin up a SQL Server 2014 image in minutes on Azure Virtual Machines (VMs) for your next SQL Server development and test project. And with full SQL Server compatibility and many VM sizes to choose from, you can easily deploy the application into production on Azure or back on-premises. The best part is that you pay only for what you use, so you can reduceyour capital-expenditure investment to set up a dev/test environment for SQL Server. You can also now easily connect to and manage your SQL Server VMs in Azure through SQL Server Management Studio (SSMS).
    • Cost-effectively back up your on-premises SQL Server instances. SQL Server 2014 makes full SQL Server-level backup to Azure storage even easier with a new UI built directly into SSMS.  SQL Server 2014 also offers the ability to encrypt the backup, where you have the option to hold the encryption keys. In addition, a new complimentary backup tool lets you also back up previous versions of SQL Server to Azure.
    • Enable low RTO disaster recovery while improving BI reporting for your global offices. You can enable a low Recovery Time Objective (RTO) disaster recovery solution with SQL Server 2014 that not only improves business continuity but also gives you the ability to enhance business intelligence (BI) reporting for your global offices. The solution takes advantage of up to eight readable secondaries with the AlwaysOn feature in SQL Server 2014 and places them strategically across the many Azure global datacenters. You can use the readable secondaries to offload BI reporting or run backups, and they are much easier to deploy on-premises or on Azure with new the UI in SSMS.

These hybrid scenarios can benefit your on-premises SQL Server instances and help you innovate faster by providing flexible, cost-effective, and efficient ways of developing and testing new database applications. If you haven’t already, download the evaluation copy of SQL Server 2014 and try these new hybrid scenarios with Azure for yourself.  


 


Global Representation in NomCom and Board Elections

June 4, 2014  Discussions around this year’s Nomination Committee (NomCom) elections have raised some questions about global representation on the NomCom. The three community seats on the five-member NomCom match the three seats up for election on the PASS Board of Directors. Here’s a quick summary of where we are in the process of increasing international representation and participation in PASS leadership via regional seats and how that relates to this year’s NomCom and Board elections.

Last year, the PASS Board approved bylaw changes that allowed the transition of its formerly all open seats to a mix of open seats and regionally-reserved seats, paving the way for more international perspectives and representation on the Board. The bylaw changes also set the NomCom to mirror the composition of Board seats up for election in any given year. The Board began this transition by adding two regional seats for the 2014/2015 term: one US/Canada seat (won by Tim Ford in the 2013 Board elections) and one EMEA seat (won by Jen Stirrup).

The bylaws call for a total of two regional seats representing the US/Canada, one each to be up for election annually, so this year defines that second US/Canada seat on the Board. Thus, for the 2014 NomCom and Board elections, community members are voting to fill one US/Canada regional seat and two open seats. Going forward, at least one US/Canada and one open seat will be up for election each year, with the EMEA regional seat up for election every other year. You can review the process for awarding PASS NomCom and Board seats here.

The Board has been diligently working on the next steps for adding other regional seats to promote greater global perspective and representation. We will be sharing this with the PASS community in the coming weeks. As the Board grows globally via regional seats so will the NomCom.

The transition to additional regional seats is an important process, but I want to remind dedicated volunteers and prospective candidates outside of US/Canada and EMEA that you don’t have to wait until a seat is added for your region. As always, candidates from any region are eligible to run for open seats on the PASS NomCom and Board of Directors, and we encourage you to do so.

Good luck to all our NomCom candidates during this week’s election and to all those thinking about running for the PASS Board later this year. Watch Friday afternoon for announcement of the full NomCom – including this year’s Board-appointed member – after the Board approves the final election results and appointee nomination. And please let us know if you have any questions.
– Bill Graziano
Immediate Past President/NomCom Chair


 

NomCom Candidates Announced – Elections Next Week

May 28, 2014  It’s your turn! The candidate slate has been finalized and voting opens Tuesday, June 3, for three community seats on the 2014 PASS Nomination Committee (NomCom), which will manage the Board of Directors election. Your 2014 NomCom candidates are: 

    • Allen Kinsel - US/Canada & Open
    • Andy Warren - US/Canada & Open
    • Angela Henry - US/Canada & Open
    • Brandon Leach - US/Canada & Open
    • Chris Testa-O'Neill - Open
    • Erin Stellato - US/Canada & Open
    • Kendal Van Dyke - US/Canada & Open
    • Mark Broadbent - Open
    • Ryan Adams - US/Canada & Open
    • Steve Wake - US/Canada & Open
    • Tamera Clark - US/Canada & Open

The community representatives will reflect the three seats up for election on the PASS Board this year: one US/Canada seat and two open seats. Immediate Past President Bill Graziano will chair the NomCom, a five-member committee that manages the PASS Board of Directors elections process, qualifying, interviewing, and ranking potential candidates. A final slate is then submitted to the Board for approval. In addition, this year’s NomCom is charged with streamlining the process for involving and evaluating candidates and with enhancing opportunities for community engagement in the elections. A representative appointed by the PASS Board will round out the committee.

NomCom campaigning will begin June 2 – watch the Elections site to learn more about the candidates. Secure, individualized ballots will be emailed June 3 to all PASS members who have updated their profile by June 1. All ballots must be submitted by noon PT on June 6.

Thanks in advance for participating in the NomCom elections and the running of your organization – and good luck to all 11 candidates who applied for this important role!


Call for NomCom Now Open!

May 14, 2014 – Are you a dedicated PASS volunteer with a passion for improving our community? Then you’re eligible to apply for three community seats up for election on this year’s Nomination Committee (NomCom), which will oversee the 2014 PASS Board of Directors elections.

The call for NomCom applications is open now through noon PT May 22.

What Is the NomCom? 
The NomCom is a five-member committee that manages the PASS Board of Directors elections process, qualifying, interviewing, and ranking potential candidates. A final slate is then submitted to the Board for approval. In addition, this year’s NomCom is charged with streamlining the process for involving and evaluating candidates and with enhancing opportunities for community engagement in the elections.

Immediate Past President Bill Graziano will chair this year’s NomCom, which will include three elected community representatives reflecting the three seats up for election on the PASS Board this year: one US/Canada seat and two open seats. A representative appointed by the PASS Board will round out the committee.

Who’s Eligible to Run?
To be eligible to run for the NomCom, candidates must have a demonstrable track record of volunteering with PASS – such as serving as a Regional Mentor, Chapter or Virtual Chapter Leader, or Program Committee member – and participating in other volunteer endeavors. Note that as an essential part of the PASS Board elections process, the NomCom requires significant time and effort. By applying for the NomCom, applicants agree to the time commitments of the entire general elections process, including Board applicant interviews.

Thinking about running? See what recent committee members have to say about serving on the NomCom.

Get Started Today!
If you meet the eligibility requirements and are interested in serving on the NomCom, please download the application for full details and submit your completed form to governance@sqlpass.org by 12:00pm PT / 19:00 GMT May 22. Successful candidates will be notified by May 27.

NomCom elections will run June 3-6, with all PASS members who have updated their profile as of June 1, 2014, eligible to vote. Good luck and thanks in advance to all applicants!