Category: PASS General
As many of you may now be aware, on January 4, at approximately 11:15 PM PST the VM that runs the PASS Database, which is hosted in Azure Cloud, unexpectedly went down. The database was down until 11:45 PM. A default DNN installation error message screen revealed a single username of a PASS member. There was no security breach and no personal information or passwords were revealed or accessed.
This default DNN installation screen appeared for any user attempting to access all PASS websites. The confusion surrounding the potentially revealed personal information occurred as a result of the default DNN message. This error page has now been revised with more accurate messaging in the event that there is an outage in the future.
Once notified of the website outage, the IT team had to manually reconnect the database and PASS websites, as this had not occurred automatically, which is why website access was unavailable for a longer period of time than the half-hour Azure downtime window. As part of the existing PASS IT disaster recovery plan, two new mechanisms will be put in place: a more proactive monitoring system that will allow real-time database and application monitoring, ensuring we are instantly aware of website failures; and redundancy protection by provisioning PASS websites over multiple Azure data centers.
On behalf of the entire PASS Board, I want to stress that we take protecting your personal information very seriously and implement every reasonable measure to ensure it is kept safe.
On January 20, the Board voted on the nomination to fill the vacant Director-at-Large seat, which was vacated by Grant Fritchey when he assumed the EVP position. The successful nomination of Allen White into this vacant seat completes the Board composition for 2016. Allen is well known in the PASS community and brings a wealth of experience and volunteering service that will be a big benefit to the Board.
As a result of Allen’s appointment, there will be some adjustments to existing Board portfolios. Allen takes on Program, while Ryan Adams assumes the Chapters portfolio, and Argenis Fernandez will oversee SQLSaturdays. This realignment brings these portfolios in-line with each Director’s individual skillsets, experience, and interests, ensuring better deliverables for our global community.
Please join me in congratulating Allen on this appointment, along with Ryan and Argenis on their new portfolios.
We recently completed our first in-person board meeting for 2016, and I am extremely excited about what's coming! The Board and members of HQ met for two days and worked through a series of community initiatives and strategic planning priorities for our PASS community. The minutes will explain these in further detail when they are released, but I wanted to share with you a few items now.
We started off day one with the appointment of our newest Board member to PASS, Allen White. With three new members joining the Board, we spent the first part of the morning on leadership development using the Insights program. Insights improves self-awareness on communication styles and interpersonal strengths and challenges. We then focused on some of the big project updates; including the Business Analytics Conference and Community Plan, strategy discussions in support of our Marketing, Sales and IT departments and planning for the year. Later in the day portfolio directors had an opportunity to share an update against their goals and priorities for the balance of the year. We spent time discussing the membership of our organization and new initiatives that will be underway later this year to support the growth of our community in the coming years.
Discussions on the second day turned to recapping where we are at in this fiscal year and how we can finish it in a strong position. We discussed initial planning and prioritization for FY2017, and I’m excited for the new board to help us to continue to move the community forward. We also discussed elections, significant improvements to the PASS website , the Anti-Harassment Policy, potential future event locations for the PASS Summit and annual communications planning.
The Executive Committee also had some meetings with Microsoft executives to discuss new ways to create remarkable opportunities for the community in the next 12 months. The support and passion that the entire Microsoft organization has for our community is inspiring! I’m looking forward to sharing more details with you over the course of the year.
I’d like to finish by saying: keep helping each other. That’s what makes this community great! We should never stop redefining ourselves. I know that’s what motivates so many of you. Tell me one thing you need help with on your journey by leaving a comment below, or email me your suggestions.
Thanks and see you out there!
As our membership increases and we expand our reach globally, the importance of sharing timely and informative communication with you remains a priority for us. In fact, sharing these communications is one of the most critical functions of my role as Vice President, Marketing, and the entire PASS Board.
Last fall, PASS expanded its Marketing team to include a Communications Strategist to help provide annual communication planning for PASS. This has allowed us to develop an integrated communication strategy that supports increased transparency, better planning for key dates throughout the year, and reduced reactive communications. It has also allowed our team to address specific considerations such as consistency in tone, style, messaging, and channels.
These elements have become increasingly important as we have worked to increase our engagement globally, and to ensure that our key messages are translated and made available to wider audiences around the world.
To help support these functions, we now have three tools: an annual communications plan, an editorial calendar, and a social media plan. These allow us to better plan what, when, and how we communicate with you.
In addition, we continue to look at ways to increase member engagement with our Board through Town Halls and social media. Watch our social channels, blogs, newsletters, and website for regular updates and communications throughout the year.
Vice President, Marketing
I want to update you all on an exciting project coming out of the January Board meeting. One of our strategic priorities for the year will be a redesign of sqlpass.org website. The project includes a navigation and usability overhaul, a new visual identity, and improved features. The redesign will ensure the site meets best-practice standards for usability and accessibility.
Included in the project scope is the development of a new learning center portal that supports our educational resources and our community portfolios. The portal will gather all of our existing training and learning resources and put them in one easily accessible, searchable, and coordinated place, while at the same time enabling better access to our Chapters and Virtual Chapters.
Functionality of the mobile experience will be enhanced, ensuring that the new site displays and functions properly on a wide variety of devices and operating systems.
Over the years, the website has unfortunately not kept pace with the global growth of PASS. So we will also take this opportunity to introduce multilingual support to target strategically significant languages, supporting our communities in the LATAM and EMEA regions.
The redevelopment is currently in the initial planning stages. After a thorough review and RFP process, we have selected our vendor and are finalizing the scope of this project. As part of the RFP and scoping requirements, the decision was made to keep the website on the DNN platform. This decision was made after investigating and exploring six alternative platforms. The conclusion of this research was that with proper design DNN is a mature platform that offers the necessary security, reliability and user experience and functionalities to meet our current objectives, and gives us room to grow. With expert design, development and execution we will see significant improvements over our current site.
This project represents a change in our approach to the development of sqlpass.org and will leverage vendor partners, the platform and our community resources in a much better way. Through this scoping project, we have already upgraded our DNN platform to the latest version 7.4.2.
The next phase of the project involves our team conducting a thorough content review and comprehensive site-mapping process before development can begin.
I am pleased to share this exciting information with you. More details will be made available in the coming months as the project progresses.
Vice President, Marketing, PASS
Membership, and in particular adding value to membership in PASS, is important to me. It’s why I’ve volunteered my time to PASS across many roles since 2002. All of the programs PASS provides, including PASS Summit, Business Analytics (BA) Conference, SQLSaturday, and our online and virtual learning are produced for you. PASS strives to build a community for our members in Chapters, both virtual and geographical, and to provide enriched learning experiences for all of you.
At the start of the new term of leadership that began January 1, 2016, a new portfolio was created: Membership and IT. That is because these two efforts are closely aligned. The purpose of this new portfolio is to enhance our understanding of, and engagement with, our members, helping to provide an enriched member experience.
PASS wants to provide great opportunities for all of our members to Connect, Share, and Learn. We want to do more to provide the right opportunities, programs, services, and professional growth initiatives our membership wants. But to provide a better PASS experience, one that extends beyond and between Summits and BA Conferences, we need to know more about your demographics, requests, and needs. Beyond that we need a better understanding of the geographical regions that our events are both over-serving and underserving to make better use of our resources and reach more members.
How are we going to do this? With better data about each member of our community. We need to have a clearer understanding of who you are, your experiences attending PASS events, and what benefits you want PASS to provide. We have already begun the process of updating our website and will reveal a completely new web experience later this year. In the process, we will also re-engineer our membership data structure and will initiate processes to ask our members for more insights into these aforementioned areas as unobtrusively as possible. We will change how we register and account for event attendance, allowing us to provide the best learning experiences based on the interests and experiences of our individual members.
To start things off, we’re about to undertake a research project to better understand and engage our technical data audience. This will provide a better understanding of our member demographics and learning patterns, and identify key insights into your educational needs and interests to help us deliver enhanced learning and professional development experiences. If you are interested in participating in surveys or interviews to support this research, please go to the MyVolunteering section on the PASS website and ensure that you include “Community Feedback” as an area of interest.
Once we have the new website, insights, and improved data sources about our membership, we can then start to develop improvements to existing programs and potentially new programs we’ve not even considered yet.
But these are all efforts that I cannot achieve alone. I’ll need your help as outreach happens, to gather more information about our members. I’ll need your participation. It’s a small thing we ask and in return we build a better understanding about our members for an even better PASS experience for all of you in years to come.
Director, PASS Membership
The Call for Speakers is off to a great start for 2016 and we’re looking forward to receiving even more abstracts. Did you know that we’re offering an abstract coaching service again this year? Last year’s service was extremely successful. Louis Davidson leads the team providing the reviews and he has written a blog with more information to help you with your submissions. I served on this team last year and it was rewarding, both for the participants as well as for the reviewers. Even if you're a seasoned presenter, I encourage you to take advantage of this service, but please do so soon, so the team isn't overwhelmed at the last minute!
We've had some questions about the speaker history listed in the Speaker Portal. While it is our goal to have the data from the SQLSaturday site imported and all speaker history merged, it’s not something that will be ready for this year. The data in the Portal includes last year’s entries, so everything is still there. Please take the time to ensure your histories are complete so the speaker review team has an accurate picture of your accomplishments.
To help attendees get better value at this year's PASS Summit, we're defining a set of paths for specific learning targets. Here are a few examples:
• a Junior Database Administrator learning the skill sets to become a Senior DBA
• a Database Administrator wishing to learn Business Intelligence techniques
• an IT Manager wanting to understand the value of new SQL Server features
We'd like to hear your ideas of other similar paths, and we'll be evaluating abstracts during the review process to see what fits in the learning paths. Hopefully new and returning attendees will be able to better plan their learning goals, and we can align our content with their needs.
Thanks for everything you do for the PASS community.
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
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
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