Category: PASS General
Sept. 16, 2014 – With registration for PASS Business Analytics Conference 2015 opening early next week, I wanted to share some of the exciting new things we have in store for business and data analysts in April and throughout the coming year.
Who’s the BA Conference For?
The BA Conference is for those who work in business and data analytics using Excel and PowerBI, as well as other technologies such as SQL, Hive, and R.
Unlike other BA-related conferences, our BA Conference – true to PASS tradition – is focused on real-world training and connections designed to have an immediate and direct impact on attendees and their organizations.
As both our new BA and core SQL Server/BI communities continue to grow, we’re seeing a greater demand for training and support specific to each group. While SQL Server and BI pros are typically architects, builders, and facilitators of data and analytics systems, business and data analysts extract data from these systems to gain insights and drive the decision making process. They are the data consumers – the customers, clients, and colleagues of PASS’s DBA, developer, and BI community members.
This year, through the BA Conference (as well as upcoming webinars and analytics-focused content), we’re answering the call to meet the unique needs of business and data analysts, who are asked to do more with data every day. Every BA Conference learning and networking experience will be concentrated on the BA perspective and focused on the skills, technologies, and methods they need to investigate business performance and influence business planning.
PASS launched the BA Conference in 2013 to support our data colleagues on the business side, and since then we’ve been fine-tuning our session content, formats, and networking offerings. Next year’s event takes that a step further with a program laser-focused to deliver practical, best-practices information, hands-on training, and visionary thought leadership.
Experienced business and data analytics professionals are in high demand and short supply. Leading organizations are looking for people with a unique combination of data technology skills, business knowledge, and analytical expertise – paired with strong professional skills – to drive decision making and core profitability.
Our BA Planning Committee has done an excellent job mirroring these requirements with an outline of classroom sessions, hands-on workshops, and expert panels organized into five real-world tracks. We’ll be covering everything those in business and data analytics need to know about Excel, Power BI, SQL, R, Hive, Machine Learning, and more.
As PASS works to grow and support our young BA community, we’re also working to grow our pool of business and data analytics experts and speakers.
PASS is about community, and we believe that to serve and grow the BA community as part of PASS’s expanding membership, we need to provide the best possible program and experience for our BA Conference attendees and future PASS members. We are fortunate to have seen such amazing growth and maturity in our speaker pool from PASS’s traditional SQL Server/BI Pro membership, and we want the same level of excellence for our growing BA audience.
As we’ve refined our program approach and reviewed the feedback from previous years, it’s become clear that we need to target the right mix of BA topics and expertise. So this year’s conference speaker lineup will be comprised of a group of handpicked experts – an approach used by many conferences – to bring the highest quality experience to attendees; we will not be having an open call for speakers. Our goal is to accelerate our BA community-building efforts through this process. Identifying and growing knowledgeable and talented community contributors will allow us to integrate a community speaker component in next year’s event while maintaining the level of excellence and real-world value that we are committed to for all our members and attendees.
I can’t wait to share our program and speakers list for BA Conference 2015! Watch for the initial lineup in early November.
Following a Great Lead
Founded in the database space, PASS was brought to life by passionate SQL Server pros with a vision to connect, share, and learn.
PASS is all about meeting the needs of data professionals, providing world-class training and thought leadership, and supporting and promoting a community of like-minded people. It’s a great model to follow and a firm foundation for a growing conference and community that supports our Business Analytics brothers and sisters.
To all the SQL Server and BI community members who’ve paved the way, we ask for your help in reaching out to your business and data analytics colleagues, letting them know how important the PASS community has been in your own career, and encouraging them to check out the PASS BA Conference and our other BA offerings. We couldn’t ask for better community evangelists!
– Denise McInerney
PASS VP, Marketing
Plus, Black Girls Code founder Kimberly Bryant taking center stage at Women in Technology luncheon
Sept. 2, 2014 — Polybase and SQL Server query optimization guru Dr. Rimma Nehme, senior research engineer at the Microsoft Jim Gray Systems Lab, will kick off Day 2 at PASS Summit 2014 in Seattle, WA, Nov. 6, with Black Girls CODE founder Kimberly Bryant headlining the conference’s popular Women in Technology (WIT) luncheon.
Rimma, who has helped prepare Dr. David DeWitt’s celebrated PASS Summit keynotes since 2010, is known for her work on PolyBase, which integrates SQL Server Parallel Data Warehouse (PDW) with Hadoop, as well as the SQL Server PDW query optimizer, a partial results framework for database systems, an automated partitioning advisor for parallel database systems, and more. With her keynote, “Cloud Databases 101,” Rimma will be taking Summit’s 5,000+ SQL Server and BI professionals deep into the what, why and how of data processing in the cloud.
“It’s an honor to help carry on PASS Summit’s rich tradition of helping SQL Server and BI professionals get the most out of their database environments, and I’m thrilled to be sharing some of the exciting work done in the field around working with data in the cloud.” Rimma says. “When talking about cloud databases, people often mean different things. Some may be referring to a pay-per-use service; others may be speaking about a speciﬁc piece of software. In this keynote, we will look under the covers of cloud databases and try to dispel some of the myths.”
WIT luncheon speaker Kimberly Bryant, an electrical engineer working in biotech, was inspired by her daughter in 2011 to launch the non-profit Black Girls CODE (BGC), with the mission of supporting and promoting the underrepresented female and African demographic (25% and 3%, respectively, in 2012) within the technology industry. BGC has grown to 3,000 students across 7 US states as well as in Johannesburg, South Africa, and has received support from many companies both within and outside of the technology industry. Kimberly will be taking questions from the onsite audience and from Twitter during the Nov. 6 live-stream event, hosted by PASS’s WIT Chapter and sponsored by SQL Sentry.
“The motto of Black Girls CODE is ‘Imagine. Build. Create,’” Kimberly notes. “I can’t wait to share with the PASS WIT and data communities how we can all imagine a world where everyone is given the tools to succeed, and get even more data professionals involved in building ways for everyone to access information and create a new age of women and women of color in technology.”
PASS Summit, organized by and for the SQL Server community, is the largest SQL Server event in the world, delivering 200+ technical sessions, 18 full-day pre-conference sessions, and nonstop networking opportunities with the industry’s top SQL Server and BI experts.
For full details and to register at the discounted rate by Sept. 24, visit http://www.sqlpass.org/summit/2014.
Sept. 2, 2014 – The wait is almost over! With just 2 weeks until the announcement of the official candidate slate for the PASS Board of Directors 2014 elections, here’s a quick reminder about this year’s campaigning and voting timeline.
The Nomination Committee is currently interviewing and ranking applicants in preparation for the committee’s slate recommendation to the Board for approval. The official slate of candidates for the three seats up for election – one US/Canada regional seat and two open seats – will be announced in the Sept. 17 Connector along with the opening of campaigning.
In addition to their own campaigning activities, each candidate will have his/her own campaign page on the PASS Elections site and will be participating in at least one of two Live Speech/Q&A campaign events Sept. 18 and 19, before voting opens on Sept. 24.
Emails with the voting link will go out at noon PT Wednesday, Sept. 24, to all eligible voters, consisting of PASS members who updated their profile by June 1, 2014. Voting will be open for 5 days, with all completed ballots due by noon PT Monday, Sept. 29. Election results will be announced in the Oct. 1 Connector.
Good luck, again, to all applicants, and we encourage all PASS members to take every opportunity to get to know the candidates before voting. Here’s to a lively and engaging campaign season!
August 19, 2014 – As PASS moves into a new year, I'm excited to announce that the Board of Directors has approved the Fiscal Year 2015 budget and positioned our organization for another great year of growth and service to the data community.
This year's budget process highlighted – perhaps more than ever before – the incredible community expansion that PASS continues to experience. We saw an array of innovative ideas from Board members, community volunteers, and HQ department heads that build on those successes, and I'm excited that many of those are in the budget and underway.
Budget planning and approval can be a long and tedious process, but this year’s tasks were accomplished well within our timeline, thanks to engaged Directors and portfolio owners and the strong relationships they have with their HQ counterparts. In addition, our Finance team worked long hours to assemble research and make the numerous changes that occur during the process, all while keeping our many stakeholders informed. They deserve our huge thanks!
To increase accountability and transparency, we focused this year on budgeting for our current initiatives and goals while committing to revisit further investments through our open budget-exception process for new ideas and future projects. Some key areas of focus in the FY2015 budget include:
- Continuing support for SQLSaturday, Chapter, and Virtual Chapter growth around the world, capitalizing on amazing year-over-year performance in those portfolios
- Exciting growth of our major events, PASS Summit and the PASS Business Analytics Conference
- Strategic planning and activities for growing and engaging our business analytics community
- Increasing focus on our Global Alliance Program to continue its early success in aligning with key partners from the data community
- Continuing IT investments to modernize our platforms and take advantage of technology to enable a stronger, more connected community
As you know, PASS generates a significant portion of its revenue from our event platforms. We are back in Seattle November 4-7 for PASS Summit 2014 and expecting our biggest and best gathering of SQL Server and BI professionals ever. Don't miss our all-star lineup of amazing sessions, non-stop opportunities for community engagement and networking, and perhaps even your first SQL Karaoke experience. We hope to see you there – if you haven’t already signed up, I encourage you to register today.
In addition, the PASS Business Analytics Conference is returning to Silicon Valley in 2015, and we expect this event’s growth to match the increasing community interest and enthusiasm in the analytics space. We have a strong group of influencers helping drive this event, and we're excited about its potential for PASS.
From the governance side of the house, just a reminder that the PASS Board of Directors election is coming up next month. Thanks to our Nomination Committee members for all the time and effort they’ve dedicated to helping streamline the application process for candidates and the work they’ll be doing over the next weeks to help you get to know the candidates. PASS supports the greatest community of technical professionals in the world – it's hard not to want to be a bigger part of that. Thanks and good luck to everyone who applied to run for the Board this year. I’m looking forward to a lively campaign season as the candidates and community discuss how to make PASS even better.
It’s thrilling to see everything happening right now in PASS, our industry, and the data world at large. We're excited to share these experiences with you and help community members continue to connect, share, and learn. I can't wait to see you out there!
– Adam Jorgensen
PASS EVP, Finance and Governance
August 19, 2014 – What’s in a name? For PASS, it’s a proud heritage of 15 years as one of the world’s largest and most vibrant technical communities.
Synonymous with premier technical training and networking, PASS was founded in 1999 by Microsoft, CA/Platinum Technologies, and passionate DBAs and database developers as an independent, not-for-profit professional association dedicated to promoting and educating SQL Server users around the world. Since then, our community has grown in both size and breadth, with over 100,000 members who work with the integrated Microsoft Data Platform in a variety of roles – from DBAs, data and application developers, and IT Managers to data warehousing specialists, business intelligence architects, and business analytics pros.
In the past 2 years, our organization has embraced the increased interest in and growing educational and networking needs of the analytics community through the PASS Business Analytics Conference and PASS-supported BA-related virtual chapters and BA-focused local chapters. Last year at about this time, PASS updated its mission statement to officially welcome and support the broader data community, including those who may not work directly with SQL Server. Over the next few weeks, we’ll also be updating our websites and other communications, replacing most instances of the association’s spelled out name with simply “PASS.”
Run by and for the community, PASS remains dedicated to networking, knowledge sharing, and peer-based learning, with serving data professionals at the core of everything we do. Our legal name will remain Professional Association for SQL Server, meaning we will continue to use the full, spelled out version on legal and corporate documents. But to our members, we will be PASS – representing all the history and excellence of our community as well as the promise of amazing things to come as we set our sights firmly on our mission of empowering data professionals.
– Denise McInerney
PASS VP, Marketing
August 5, 2014 – The five-member PASS Nomination Committee (NomCom) has had a busy summer streamlining the application process and timeline for this year’s PASS Board of Directors elections and working on new campaign events to better engage the community and help them get to know the candidates before voting opens.
First up was a detailed review and update of the PASS Board application, which resulted in two focused documents. The PASS Board Elections Overview covers election processes, rules, and requirements, including everything from applicant criteria, recommended qualifications, and references to time commitments, procedures for ranking applicants and awarding seats, and campaign guidelines. With more requirements details and clearer examples all consolidated in the overview, the application itself is now shorter and easier to navigate.
The NomCom also adjusted the elections timeline so that campaigning opens before balloting and to reduce the time between when candidates are notified of elections results and when those results are announced to the community.
Although the NomCom is still working on PASS-hosted campaign events for this elections season, it has announced two official campaign events for Sept. 18 and 19, before ballots go out. These online Live Speech/Q&A events will feature a time slot for each candidate to give opening and closing statements and have an open Q&A session with the community. The events will be hosted via GoToWebinar; GoToWebinar will provide the audio, with each candidate responsible for providing the video portion of the session, which will depend on the candidate’s webcam and bandwidth capabilities.
“Serving on a previous NomCom and being a former Board candidate, I am happy with the changes we’ve been able to make to this year’s processes,” said NomCom member Allen Kinsel. “The streamlining we did on the campaign timelines and changes to the election events should have a great impact on candidates’ ability to execute successful, interesting campaigns – which should also increase voter interest in who is running and what they can do to make PASS a more successful organization.”
Added Erin Stellato, who has served on both the 2013 and 2014 committees: “The highlight for me has been the significant progress we’ve made on what last year's NomCom started. I think that we have improved the application process for candidates, and we are working to give the community an even better opportunity to get to know the candidates prior to elections.”
The NomCom is continuing to work on ranking methods for future elections and streamlining the overall elections process even more. These items will be reviewed post-election so that the NomCom can get a better idea of what can be improved. The current ranking methods will remain in place for this year’s elections, and as in the past, all applicants’ rankings will be posted to the public unless they opt out.
“We’ve identified some tweaks that I think will be good for candidates and voters,” noted NomCom member Andy Warren, “and we know that we need to put more time into a document that explains the ‘why’ of parts of the process to future NomCom members. It’s also a lot of fun to work with a group that is serious, diverse, and open minded, so much so that I think when we finish the work of the NomCom, we should find another project to tackle!”
August 5, 2014 – PASS is excited to welcome Hortonworks as a Gold Level Global Alliance Partner as the company expands its event and program sponsorships into a comprehensive, strategic relationship that supports the worldwide PASS community year-round.
Founded in 2011 by the original architects, builders, and operators of Hadoop, Hortonworks develops, distributes, and supports the only 100% open source distribution of Apache Hadoop explicitly architected, built, and tested for enterprise deployments. The company became an active PASS event sponsor in 2012, drawn by the organization’s dedicated professional community and mission to provide excellence in technical education and networking.
“Understanding data and making the best use of it for your business has never been more important,” says Audrey Ng, Hortonworks Sr. Director, Strategic Alliances. “We’re committed to delivering innovative big data solutions and helping data pros as they transition to a modern data architecture and build the next generation of applications. We’re thrilled to be working more closely with PASS to support this passionate data community.”
As a Gold Level Global Alliance Partner, Hortonworks is a Gold Sponsor of PASS Summit 2014, will be supporting the PASS Big Data Virtual Chapter as its sponsor, and will be a Silver Sponsor at PASS Business Analytics Conference 2015. The company will also be supporting the entire PASS community through Connector sponsorships, web advertising, and more.
PASS sponsors are a vital part of the community, supporting the organization’s many training and networking opportunities, including free learning events. Through the Global Alliance Program, PASS looks forward to bringing many new opportunities and added value to our community and to our partners. For information about becoming a PASS Global Alliance Partner, please contact Craig Ellis.
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!
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
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 email@example.com 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.
||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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
– Amy Lewis
Director of PASS Programs