Category: PASS General
Selecting the program for the PASS Summit is a complicated and lengthy process, one that requires a Program Committee of over 100 volunteers to work together to review abstracts, speakers, and session tracks. Starting immediately following the previous year’s Summit, this very committed and passionate group of individuals spends countless hours evaluating the previous year’s program before laying the groundwork for the following year.
This year, we have a Program Committee that includes three managers: Lance Harra, Senior Program Manager; and Angela Henry and Mindy Curnutt, Program Managers. The Program Committee included 28 volunteers representing our global regions (LATAM, EMEA, and APAC), with the balance coming from the United States. Over half the Program Committee members have experience selecting sessions for PASS Summit or other conferences.
The Program team has completed the process of selecting the sessions for the community slots for PASS Summit 2016. This year we received 840 abstracts from 255 speakers, for a possible 112 community sessions, 10 pre-conference sessions, and four lightning talks. As part of the sessions selected, 20% are first-time speakers at PASS Summit and 80% have spoken at least once in the past. The remaining sessions will include Microsoft sessions, vendor sessions, and 10 sessions that we will be selecting as part of the recently completed community survey.
The actual review process takes between eight and 10 weeks, following the close of the Call for Speakers. The initial process, led by Mindy, removes speaker names from session titles and abstracts. Review of abstracts is done without the reviewer knowing who made the submission. While the review of abstracts is underway, another group of volunteers rated the speakers, led by Ben DeBow.
The speaker review team uses the Speaker Profile provided and evaluates each speaker based on their history of speaking at events, and, as much as the data is available, on the evaluation scores of those previous events. The reviews are scored, and the speaker's overall score is then associated with the speaker's ID number. The abstracts are reviewed at least four times, so that no abstract either benefits or suffers from having been first or last on all readings by each team. The ratings are then averaged together and each abstract is then assigned its score.
Once this process is complete, the Speaker ID (not the name) for each session is given to the track team leads, and the teams are given the number of sessions in their track to be selected for Summit, and from that, the track team provides recommendations. Using the combined scores and the track team recommendations, the Program Managers and I selected the sessions for this year's Summit. We rely heavily on the recommendations from the abstract review team to make these decisions.
The Program Managers and I work to ensure that the overall program works together to deliver a balance of first-time speakers, established speakers, industry leaders, and thought leadership from Microsoft. Creating a robust and competitive program ensures that PASS will continue to be the largest community conference that supports technical data professionals who leverage the Microsoft Data Platform.
Thanks for all of your support, and thank you to all of the volunteers on the Program committee, as well as my Program colleagues at PASS HQ, for all of your hard work to put this event together!
Director, PASS Programs
Two weeks ago I invited each member of our community to share their thoughts on the Summit Speaker Contract with us. We received valuable feedback and comments on the process and the Speaker Contract.
I want you to know that we listened to your feedback. We have now produced a revised version of the contract and wanted to make it available for review before the 2016 PASS Summit Speakers are announced later this month.
While we received feedback encompassing the entire contract, we have focused our efforts in the immediate on clauses 14, 15, and 16, which are the sections of the contract that have been modified. Please read the Speaker Contract now. Please provide your feedback by 9 AM PDT next Monday, 13 June, to ensure that any comments and concerns are addressed and incorporated into the final version. You can email firstname.lastname@example.org or leave your comments at the end of this post.
I thank you for your patience and also your continued involvement in this important element of Summit planning.
One of the strengths of the community of professionals that work with the Microsoft data platform is exactly that: it’s a community. People want to contribute, to help one another be better at their jobs and grow their careers. That’s why we contribute so many volunteer hours to putting on events, speaking and writing. We invest in the community because we believe in it. And because we invest in it we feel a sense of ownership over what happens in it.
As the largest organization for these data professionals, PASS is one of the places where decisions that impact the community are made. The sense of ownership people have in this community extends to PASS. It is one of the main reasons why people have passionate debates on topics like speaker contracts, policy changes and elections: they care deeply about the outcome. Debates and exchanges of ideas are good, they make our organization better. The feedback we are getting now on changes to the speaker contract will help us improve that document. As PASS President Adam Jorgensen said in his blog, we recognize that we didn’t quite get it right. We welcome your input so we can fix it.
But there can be a shadow to all the passionate debate and that shadow is revealed when the tone of the discussion stops being professional, when it ceases to be civil. PASS as an organization has no room for insults, name-calling or misogyny. Personal attacks of any kind, be they based on gender, race, political affiliation, religious beliefs or anything else, are not welcome in PASS and should not be welcome in the community as a whole.
Let’s all channel our passion for this community in a constructive way and keep our discussions professional and respectful.
Send us your feedback on the speaker contract, or any other any other PASS topic, to email@example.com. Together let’s continue to make our organization better and fulfill PASS’ mission to help our members connect, share and learn.
Vice President, Marketing
Since PASS was founded in 1999, we have developed a dedicated global #sqlfamily. We are focused on becoming the leading professional association for all data professionals. With both the technical and non-technical data professional relying on business analytics (BA) more significantly in their roles, this is the perfect time for PASS to support and develop that segment of our global membership.
The numbers are certainly encouraging. We currently have over 25,000 global members who identified a professional interest in BA. This is an excellent position to be in, given we only started to diversify our membership and training focus to include BA five years ago. That is why we will implement a number of strategies this year to continue that momentum.
We also saw about 27% YoY growth in our BA Virtual Chapter, adding 1100 members between May 2015 and May 2016 to a total of 3987 members. Recognizing this growth, we will work closely with our Chapter leaders to better understand the BA community, their training needs, and preferred learning modes.
Following detailed discussions with the community, we announced at the Business Analytics Conference this year that we will be rolling out intensive Business Analytics Days. These will be regional events focused on training and professional development, designed to provide more in-depth information than is possible in the standard conference format. The aim is to develop programming that meets the needs of our BA professionals, including seminars, hands-on labs, and half- and full-day sessions.
We will also undertake a number of other initiatives to continue supporting our BA community. Our next BA Marathon will be hosted in July. The BA Marathons work similarly to the 24 Hours of PASS events, where BA specialists present back-to-back virtual webinars on a variety of BA topics. We will also look to develop a series of a podcasts with leading analytics experts, intended to explore a variety of industry-related topics.
These are some of my portfolio responsibilities as we work towards building and supporting the global BA community. If you would like to provide any feedback, or help us to support these efforts as a volunteer, please reach out or comment on this post below.
Director, PASS Business Analytics Community
I'd like to address some concerns that have been brought up surrounding the recent changes to the PASS Anti-Harassment Policy (AHP).
There are concerns that the policy will be used to ban someone from PASS Summit for swearing or that joking among friends will be policed. The PASS AHP has been in place since 2012; in that time there have been no examples of the policy being used in this way.
This policy is about protecting people against real harassment: women being groped, people being subject to unwanted sexual advances, people being threatened with physical harm. These examples are not hypothetical; they have occurred at other industry events, and unfortunately some have occurred at PASS events. When considering the AHP I'd ask every member of the community to keep this top-of-mind.
Before the recent changes we could only take action if an incident occurred at an activity directly sponsored by PASS: a session room, in the convention center, or at a PASS-sponsored social event. If the same incident occurred at a partner-sponsored party, in a taxi cab or in the hallway of a hotel, we could not take any action under the original version of the policy. Think about that for a minute: if a woman was groped by another attendee at an off-site party we had to tell her "sorry, we can't do anything."
There have been concerns raised that any complaint will result in someone being removed from PASS Summit. To be clear: we are committed to investigating every complaint; that does not mean that every complaint will result in an action being taken. The AHP is not a zero-tolerance policy, as some have suggested. The Anti-Harassment Review Committee (AHRC) has discretion as to what action it takes, if any. And all AHRC activities are reported to the full Board of Directors.
I hope this clears up some of the confusion and misunderstanding about what the AHP is actually designed to do. I encourage every PASS member to read and better understand this important policy document.
Vice President, Marketing
The first PASS Summit I attended was in Seattle in 2003. It was the first time I'd been to Seattle since I attended the 1962 Seattle World's Fair as an eight-year-old. It was the start of a significant change in my life, one for which I'm eternally grateful as I met people who were as passionate about data as I am.
I’d thought about a seat on the PASS Board of Directors over the years and always felt that I'd most be interested in the PASS Programs portfolio, because the content of Summit is what brings people together (at least initially). Once there, the connections made and the relationships formed provide meaningful value, but as in so many other aspects of life, content is king. Those are some of the reasons why I feel so passionate about this portfolio.
The program portfolio will deliver 160,970 technical training hours in 2016 and there are a number of activities that I will be overseeing throughout the year to ensure that we continue to deliver the best possible program content.
This includes refining our current conference programming and better understanding attendee data to ensure that our program offerings will continue to meet the changing demands and needs of data professionals, now and into the future. This will also include reviewing the structure and format of Summit (e.g. number of pre-cons, lab offerings etc.) to ensure that we balance great content with financial considerations, and continue to uphold the quality of our events.
In addition, we will look to provide attendees with learning paths for their individual learning objectives, a way for them to define for themselves the direction they want to go with their learning and then also help to provide the content necessary to meet those goals.
A large part of continuing to deliver quality education and training is our speakers. I am proud of the fact that we are one of the only major technology conferences where we encourage the participation of new speakers. We will continue to grow our community speakers and help them to put their best foot forward for speaker selection with efforts like the abstract coaching service and speaker resources.
All of this is designed to deliver the best possible training and development opportunities for all of you in 2016 and beyond.
If you have any ideas about improving our program offerings, please reach out in the comments below.
Director, PASS Programs
As I have only recently transitioned into this portfolio, I will provide a mid-year update based on Tim Ford’s previous strategic focus for the remainder of the PASS fiscal year. Later in the year, I will provide an update on 2016-17 priorities, once I have had the opportunity to explore the portfolio in more detail and start to develop some of my own priorities and deliverables.
I should start be mentioning that the SQLSaturday portfolio is in really good shape. We saw a record 115 events in 2015, with the largest increases in EMEA and LATAM for new events, which is very encouraging as far as our global growth.
In addition, updates to the website have made it possible to link speaker evaluations and help to develop new speakers. Leveraging this information aids the PASS Programs team during the speaker review process for PASS Summit. However, the evaluator tool is only used by some SQLSaturday organizers and I encourage you all to use this valuable tool.
While many of you share enhancement/design suggestions on the SQLSaturday website, and we do appreciate that, we will only be responding to existing support tickets/issues, and are not currently looking at feature enhancements. Any such changes will need to be planned as part of the IT roadmap for FY2017 and beyond.
For the remainder of this year, we are looking at making improvements to onsite logistics, registration, and reporting for organizers of SQLSaturday events. This will include registration efficiencies achieved through enhancements to ticketing and the event package that attendees receive.
As part of this process, I will be working closely with Tim to collect and analyze more of our attendee data. Tim has already covered this off in his recent blog post, so I won’t spend any more time on that here, except to say that collecting this data will help us to improve not just future SQLSaturdays, but other PASS events and activities, as well.
As a SQLSaturday organizer or attendee, if you have any questions or comments, or would like to provide feedback on anything related to SQLSaturday events, please get in touch.
At the March 10 Board Meeting, the Board voted to approve the proposed process to select the Nominations Committee (NomCom). For further details on what these changes involve, please read my blog post.
This is a significant change from the current process as there will no longer be an election to select the NomCom. Instead, community members who are interested will submit a brief one-page letter of interest (using this template), outlining their experience relevant to holding a position on the NomCom.
The PASS Board is looking to produce a practiced body (NomCom) to qualify Board applicants. Letters will be reviewed by the NomCom chair (that’s me) as well as the PASS Executive. We will then put forth a recommendation of NomCom members to the Board for approval. The criteria we will consider favorable in applications are as follows:
- · must be a current voting member of PASS (required);
- · have served on the board of a previous professional association/organization (preferred);
- · have previous experience (either as a candidate or as a committee member) with the PASS NomCom (preferred);
- · have experience in a leadership position (chapter leader, regional mentors, SQL Saturday organizers, etc.) within PASS (preferred).
Applications open today, Monday 14 March and will close Wednesday 23 March. To be considered, please email your letter of interest to PASS Governance.
A Town Hall Q&A with the ExecCo will also be held at 8:30–10:00 AM PST on 17 March to discuss this process and other election items for 2016. You can register for the Town Hall here.
Immediate Past President
The Call for Speakers (CFS) has closed and we are pleased to say that we had an enormous response from the community. The Programs Team now begins the challenging process of reviewing and selecting sessions.
Having said that, as you may now be aware, an inappropriate abstract submitted during the CFS was brought to our attention. I would like to take some time to briefly address this issue.
“Professional” was the first word in the original name of our organization, and in my mind, should be the first thought when anyone is working with or for PASS. That said, it’s disappointing that we had to remove this abstract because of unprofessional language.
This abstract has been removed from the submissions process and the speaker has been contacted. All speakers sign a speaker contract that does ensure appropriate behavior, and all participants in PASS Summit are expected to follow the PASS Anti-Harassment Policy.
Because the issues were discovered after the close of the CFS, we are unable to allow the submitter to modify the abstract, to provide a more professional description. We encourage everyone to make use of the Abstract Review process we’ve provided these last few years, to ensure that abstracts meet the standards we expect for all our sessions.
The Programs Team will be working with PASS Governance to introduce a formal policy and communication that will be included in the Speaker Contract and CFS site for all programs moving forward, to prevent this occurring again in the future.
We will continue to work together to provide quality, professional content for the events PASS manages. If you have questions or suggestions, I encourage you to email me.
For many of us, in fact probably for most of us, the PASS Summit has had a dramatic impact on our lives for the better. Help us continue to make that possible for others.
Director, PASS Programs
During the January PASS Board meeting we took stock of where we stand on our current goals for the Chapters portfolio. The goals we set for portfolios follow the PASS fiscal year, July 1 through June 30. That makes this a mid-year review. The current goals were set by the outgoing portfolio owner, Grant Fritchey, so I’ll be overlooking program execution for the rest of the year. New goals for next year are still in the works and more details on these will be shared when they are finalized. Here are the current goals and where we stand today.
Increase Regional Communication
The plan here is to have a mini-Connector newsletter. The desire was to have a smaller version with regionally-targeted content. This would allow chapter leaders to let PASS members be aware of user group meetings, SQLSaturdays, or other regional events that are relevant to them. PASS HQ Marketing was already working on building a way to target our members based on geographical location, and we’ll be able to leverage that to accomplish this. As of right now, we are awaiting completion of that project before we can proceed. The good news is that communications have increased from PASS HQ to the Chapters. As a result, over 18,000 members joined Chapters in 2015, a three-fold increase on 2014, and we are currently on-track to see similar growth in 2016.
Increase Communication from the Board and HQ to Chapter Leaders
Two Chapter Leader meetings were held in 2015: An online meeting in March and onsite at PASS Summit. The monthly Chapter Leader deck and information has been increased to bi-weekly distribution, and later this year we will further support Chapter Leaders by expanding these decks to include more targeted content of interest to Chapter members.
Regional Mentor Scorecards
The Regional Mentor (RM) program has had some ups and downs over the years, so a survey was created to poll Chapter Leaders on their thoughts about the RMs for their region. This adds some responsibility for the RMs and also gives a voice to their direct customer, the Chapter Leaders. This was completed and we are aggregating the results now. Overwhelmingly, Chapter Leaders have supported these efforts and want to see the program continue. Various initiatives are currently being undertaken to strengthen and improve the program.
Connect Speakers with Chapters
This is essentially a speaker bureau, but privacy and legal issues prevented us from rolling out one to date. Remember that PASS is a global organization, so we have to take into account the laws of the countries where we operate Chapters. What we were able to do was add an opt-in to the speaker profile on the SQLSaturday site as a first step. If we are able to navigate the legalities, we still need to be able to target it regionally, which we can’t do until the marketing project mentioned earlier is completed. Although we set the stage with the SQLSaturday speaker profile update, the viability of this goal completely depends on our ability to satisfy the various privacy issues across our community.
Support Growth in EMEA and LATAM
LATAM growth has exploded. Last year, we saw over 2400 members join PASS from LATAM regions, compared to 328 new members in 2014. LATAM has added three Chapters, EMEA grew by nine chapters. For the LATAM region, we started delivering the Chapter Leader deck in both Spanish and Portuguese.
Director, PASS Chapters