Category: PASS Community Summit

PASS Summit 2015 Speaker Q&A: Jes Borlund

September 2, 2015 — Go inside PASS Summit 2015 session in this Q&A series with our presenters. In this interview, Jes Borlund takes us inside her session, “Minimize Data Loss with Advanced Restore Methods”.

Q: Who is your favorite super-hero, and which SQL Server or BI super-power do you hope your session will give attendees?

Jes: Those who know me won't be at all surprised: It's Wonder Woman. She embodies truth, justice, strength, and wisdom. She is always helping those who are in need—the same thing DBAs do day in and day out! After attending my session, "Minimize Data Loss with Advanced Restore Methods", DBAs will be even more prepared to help. I'll give them the "lasso of truth" for recovering data when there's been corruption!

Q: What’s your origin story? How did you become interested in working with data, and how did you take that initial interest to the expert level?

Jes: I took a Structured Query Language class in college. The DBA then handed me a stack of report requests, showed me how to open SSRS, and said, "Have fun." I loved making the data tell a story. After the DBA left, I became the "accidental" DBA, and realized I liked that, too—so much so that I became a purposeful DBA. I've spent years learning how SQL Server works, and how to work with it, so I can help businesses make the most of their data.

Q: What’s your favorite data solution’s secret power—the biggest strength that most people don’t really know about or use to full advantage?

Jes: SQL Server is a powerhouse of features. One of the most under-utilized tools in it is the SQL Server Agent. Most DBAs will set up jobs to run backups, but beyond that they don't tap into the power of jobs that can have multiple steps or run PowerShell scripts, Alerts based on Performance Monitor counters, or have an Alert kick off a job. I suggest DBAs dig into it more!

Q: What about data’s biggest kryptonite or nemesis--the biggest mistake you see data professionals make?

Jes: Not knowing how to restore data. The business's data is the business. Without proper backups, companies have gone out of business. But if the wrong type or schedule of backups is being taken, or no one knows how to restore the backups, or there's corruption within a backup, the business is still vulnerable. The best skill a database professional can have is a working knowledge of restoring data.

Q: What still excites you or trips you up in the real world when working with SQL Server or BI?

Jes: I really enjoy creating high-availability and disaster-recovery solutions for businesses. When I've built a system, and I hear that there was a problem over a weekend, but no data was lost and there was no business interruption because of what I built, I'm happy. It shows that SQL Server is an enterprise-level RDBMS, and the data is safe.

Q: What do you see as the next step after attending your session?

Jes: I have instructions and resources for all the attendees to create a VM, download a sample database, create corruption, and fix it. I want everyone that attends to spend an hour the following week practicing what they learned. It's much easier to learn to fix corruption when it's a test database than when the business data is really in trouble!

Find Jes at PASS Summit 2015, and check out our other Q&As with PASS Summit 2015 speakers.

PASS Summit 2015 Speaker Q&A: Dmitri Korotkevitch

September 1, 2015 — Go inside PASS Summit 2015 session in this Q&A series with our presenters. In this interview, Dmitri Korotkevitch takes us inside his general session “Thinking Outside the In-Memory Box” and full-day Pre-Conference Session “SQL Server Internals: The Practical Angle”.

Q: Who is your favorite super-hero, and which SQL Server or BI super-power do you hope your session will give attendees?

Dmitri: As you can guess by my name, I grew up in a culture that had very little knowledge of super-heroes, and I missed an opportunity to pick my favorite one. Nevertheless, I think that concept is overrated. Every one of us can obtain superpowers by motivating ourselves and working hard toward our goals. It is a long, challenging, and often painful process, but the results are well worth it.

In my Pre-Con, I will help soon-to-become SQL Server super-heroes to better understand their super-powers and use them in the most advantageous way. As a bonus, I will teach people how to knowledgeably answer, "It depends," to any SQL Server-related question.

Q: What’s your origin story? How did you become interested in working with data, and how did you take that initial interest to the expert level?

Dmitri: I started my career in IT as an application developer, slowly migrating towards backend and database development. I quickly discovered that it was impossible to write efficient code without understanding how SQL Server executes it and decided to learn SQL Server Internals. Since then, my life has never been the same.

Q: What’s your favorite data solution’s secret power—the biggest strength that most people don’t really know about or use to full advantage? What about data’s biggest kryptonite or nemesis--the biggest mistake you see data professionals make?

Dmitri: I will try to kill two birds with one stone and answer both these questions together. I think the biggest mistake people make is following the separation of duties in the industry. Database professionals limit themselves to either a DBA or DB Developer role and live within those artificial boundaries. I believe it is impossible to succeed in either of those roles unless you step up and look at the entire product. Strong database professionals need to know how SQL Server works, in order to properly design database schema, write and optimize queries and T-SQL code, create sound HA/DR strategies, and so on.

Obviously, I am not advocating a “jack of all trades, master of none” approach. Rather, I view successful database professionals as the “jack of all trades, master of many” type. People like that are the most successful professionals in the industry.

Q: What still excites you or trips you up in the real world when working with SQL Server or BI?

Dmitri: We are living in an interesting time. The amount of data and systems complexity are growing at an extremely fast pace. It is challenging but also exciting and makes you proud of your work. There are also plenty of new and promising technologies appearing on the market. In-Memory OLTP, Azure SQL Databases and PaaS stack, Power BI, Query Store and many others—they are changing how we design, implement, and manage the solutions and open the possibilities we were afraid to even consider before. It is a good time to be on the data side of the house!

Q: What do you see as the next step after attending your session?

Dmitri: I do not want to promise that people will become SQL Server Internals experts just by attending the Pre-Con. It is a broad subject and impossible to learn in one day. My goal is to help lay a foundation upon which people can build their knowledge. I would encourage students to download and play with the demo scripts, read my and Kalen Delaney’s books, watch MCM Readiness Videos—do whatever it takes to continue learning. I will also answer any questions in person at PASS Summit or over email thereafter.

Find Dmitri on his blog at http://aboutsqlserver.com or on Twitter @aboutsqlserver, and check out our other Q&As with PASS Summit 2015 speakers.

PASS Summit 2015 Speaker Q&A: Kathi Kellenberger

August 5, 2015 — Go inside PASS Summit 2015 session in this Q&A series with our presenters. In this interview, Kathi Kellenberger takes us inside her General Session, “Writing Technical Books”.

Q: Who is your favorite super-hero, and which SQL Server or BI super-power do you hope your session will give attendees?

Kathi: I haven’t been interested in super-heroes much as an adult, but of the super-heroes I know about, I would have to say Batman. Batman’s powers were not from some mutation, immigration from another planet, or exposure to radiation. His powers are based on the ability to come up with great ideas and the resources to turn those ideas into reality.

My session is “Writing Technical Books”, which is a rare super-power indeed. I have been writing for ten years, and my words have reached thousands of people around the world. When I think about how many people I have helped, I know that I have used my powers for good, not evil. This super-power is like a key to the world, and I hope that my session will inspire a few future authors to take that first step.

Q: What’s your origin story? How did you become interested in working with data, and how did you take that initial interest to the expert level?

Kathi: I have always loved logic and data. I remember being obsessed with math problems in grade school, usually working ahead until I completed my math textbook during Christmas break. I also spent hours looking at the library card catalog and encyclopedias. Luckily, I relate to people better now than I did back then!

Unfortunately, my interest in math and science led me to the wrong career. I spent 16 years in a field that I didn’t love before becoming a developer in 1997. I first touched SQL Server in 1998, but didn’t switch my focus until 2002, when a DBA job opened up at a law firm where I was working on a six-month programming project. I really wanted to work there, and thought that I would figure things out given a chance. That turned out to be a fantastic move for me. Not only was it a great place to work, but I finally found my niche.

I think that explaining what you know to someone else, be that writing, presenting, teaching, or blogging, really helps get anyone to the next level.

Q: What’s your favorite data solution’s secret power—the biggest strength that most people don’t really know about or use to full advantage?

Kathi: For SQL Server, it is T-SQL window functions. I have been speaking and writing on this topic for at least three years at many SQL Server events. I am always surprised that most people in the audience haven’t heard about them before or at least aren’t using them outside of ROW_NUMBER. By the way, I wrote a book, Expert T-SQL Window Functions, and recorded a Pluralsight course on this topic. The biggest advantage is that they make problems that are difficult to solve outside of cursors easier to solve. In some cases, you will also get better performance over older solutions.

Q: What about data’s biggest kryptonite or nemesis--the biggest mistake you see data professionals make?

Kathi: I would say blindly following index suggestions from SQL Server. I’ve been doing quite a bit of index tuning for my Linchpin People customers, and I am seeing tons of duplicate and overlapping indexes. The index suggestions might come from the execution plan, Database Tuning Advisor, or even the missing index DMVs, but you have to think about what is in place, not just create the suggested indexes.

Q: What still excites you or trips you up in the real world when working with SQL Server or BI?

Kathi: Twenty years ago, I dreamed of having a computer-focused career. I am still amazed that I get to work in such a fun and exciting field. Sometimes I can’t believe how well things have turned out for me after such a big midlife career switch. I am so grateful to be where I am today.

Q: What do you see as the next step after attending your session?

Kathi: After attending my session, I hope that the participants just start writing!

Check out our other Q&As with PASS Summit 2015 speakers.

PASS Summit 2015 Speaker Q&A: Mark Vaillancourt

August 5, 2015 — Go inside PASS Summit 2015 session in this Q&A series with our presenters. In this interview, Mark Vaillancourt takes us inside his General Session, “A Bigger Boat: Data Visualization Lessons from the Movie Theater”.

Q: Who is your favorite super-hero, and which SQL Server or BI super-power do you hope your session will give attendees?

Mark: I would have to pick Professor Xavier of the X-Men: his ability to see the truth in people's minds and cut through the false picture they try to present. I am hoping my attendees will learn how to use powers of Data Visualization to help find and show the truth in their data rather than the fantasy that might be more convenient.

Q: What’s your origin story? How did you become interested in working with data, and how did you take that initial interest to the expert level?

Mark: I was working at a regional Theater in IT and part of my job was pulling lists for the fundraising folks. I just kept pushing forward and ended up getting into consulting around SQL Server, mostly with Reporting Services, initially. That led me to BI.

Q: What’s your favorite data solution’s secret power—the biggest strength that most people don’t really know about or use to full advantage?

Mark: My favorite is actually not much of a secret. I love how easy it is becoming to get work done in the BI space. The new Power BI is a great example of that. BI does not have to be hard. There are some situations and problems that are, but there are great applications for simplicity.

Q: What about data’s biggest kryptonite or nemesis--the biggest mistake you see data professionals make?

Mark: I see people get really caught up in how to build something, how to make it work, and sometimes forget to ask if that is the right thing to build. Building the wrong solution really, really well is still building the wrong solution.

Q: What still excites you or trips you up in the real world when working with SQL Server or BI?

Mark: I am excited by the fact that I will never stop learning. Things change so fast and opportunities come up that I never would have dreamed. For people interested in stretching themselves and learning new skills, this is an amazing time to be a data professional.

Q: What do you see as the next step after attending your session?

Mark: I would love to see people take the new Power BI for a spin and act on what they learned in my session. For me, there is huge satisfaction in helping to show someone how to do something themselves that makes their lives easier.

Check out our other Q&As with PASS Summit 2015 speakers.

FY2016: Investing in Community Growth

August 4, 2015 — As PASS moves into the next year, I'm happy to announce that the Board of Directors has voted to approve our Fiscal Year 2016 budget. We’re excited about the upcoming year and opportunities to continue building this amazing community.

Last year, our goals for FY2015 were to focus on support for SQLSaturday and chapter growth, as well as for our two major conferences: PASS Summit and PASS Business Analytics Conference (BAC). We also prioritized strategic planning for the business analytics (BA) community and focus for our Global Alliance Program and global growth. We committed to investing in the necessary IT to modernize our platforms to enable a stronger community. Over the past year, PASS has made solid progress on many of these fronts:

· We announced our strides and strategies for building and supporting the BA community.

· PASS Summit 2014 saw our highest attendance to date, and we successfully established our venue through 2019, for significant savings.

· We reestablished the strategic focus and community for the PASS BAC 2015, resulting in positive responses from the community and renewed commitment from the industry.

· We added two regional Board advisors to support our Latin America (LATAM) community.

· We relaunched our SQLSaturday website with expanded support for speakers and leaders.

· We made the difficult but necessary decision to retire the SQLRally brand and reinvest those resources into other portfolios.

This year, our budget’s primary purposes are to continue to strengthen our PASS communities. Some key areas of focus in the FY2016 budget include:

· Add a specific BA portfolio, to maintain consistency in the budgeting for our BA efforts, with the aim of continuing growth in both our BA community and PASS BAC event.

· Refocus our SQLRally investments to our SQLSaturday portfolio.

· Increase our global growth through support for our Global Growth Program.

· Add a Sales portfolio, to diversify revenue streams to help ensure the continued success of the PASS community.

· Add resources and staff to support further technology improvements, including a redesign of the sqlpass.org website for better usability and functionality.

You can see this focus in action starting with PASS Summit 2015, October 27–30 in Seattle. With an all-star lineup of expert speakers and can’t-miss sessions, this event represents one of our primary revenue streams as well as offering a wealth of opportunities for community engagement and networking. If you haven’t already registered, contact one of our Local or Virtual Chapters for a discount code.

Next year, don’t miss PASS BAC 2016, May 2–4, 2016 in San Jose. Join influencers in this rapidly expanding industry, to share knowledge and take part in this incredible community.

As far as governance goes, keep an eye out for the PASS Board of Directors elections. Following a successful Nomination Committee (NomCom) election in July, Board applications open August 5. Take advantage of this opportunity to help shape the future of PASS.

As in former years, this year's budget process was successful in large part thanks to our many PASS community volunteers, Directors, HQ staff, portfolio owners, and Finance team. All worked long and hard to assemble the necessary research and crunch the numbers to help us in this important endeavor. Many thanks to you all!

This is a wonderful time to be a part of PASS. I hope that you’re as excited as I am for the future of this community. We often emphasize that “PASS is your organization”—and it’s true. We want to hear your ambitions for PASS; contact us with feedback any time. And thank you for another great year.

Adam Jorgensen
PASS EVP, Finance and Governance
@Wadamj

PASS Summit 2015 Speaker Q&A: Michael Fal

July 21, 2015 — Go inside PASS Summit 2015 session in this Q&A series with our presenters. In this interview, Michael Fal takes us inside his general session, “PowerShell and the Art of SQL Server Deployment”.

Q: Who is your favorite super-hero, and which SQL Server or BI super-power do you hope your session will give attendees?

Mike: I've always been a fan of heroes without super powers: iconic comic book personalities like Iron Man and Batman or classic TV characters like MacGuyver and the A-Team. These guys accomplished incredible things with their brains and the tools at their disposal. This is the sort of thing I want to show people with my session, “PowerShell and the Art of SQL Server Deployment”. By leveraging PowerShell, DBAs can do some pretty awesome things—and it doesn't take special knowledge or skills to do it.

Q: What’s your origin story? How did you become interested in working with data, and how did you take that initial interest to the expert level?

Mike: I actually didn't get into technology and databases until several years after college. I originally got my Bachelor of Music Performance from CU Boulder with the intent of being a classical musician. After making a hard decision not to pursue that beyond college, I was working in a warehouse. After showing interest in computers by working with our system administrator, I was given a tech support job in a company that needed me to do a number of things. I gravitated towards databases and managing the company's systems. Fifteen years later, I'm now a Senior DBA at Xero, helping architect our cloud data strategy.

Q: What’s your favorite data solution’s secret power—the biggest strength that most people don’t really know about or use to full advantage

Mike: PowerShell really isn't a "data solution," it's a technology solution. But it's an incredibly powerful one. There are two huge advantages to building automation with PowerShell: working across the computing stack (the OS, SQL Server, the file system, and so on) and the ability to execute across multiple computers in an easy, reliable fashion. This is really appealing to the "lazy DBA," because you can write automation once that executes consistently for any number of systems in your environment.

Q: What about data’s biggest kryptonite or nemesis--the biggest mistake you see data professionals make?

Mike: Fear. Fear of the unknown. You mention PowerShell to a lot of DBAs and there's just not a lot of knowledge around it, so data folks don't really know how to leverage it or what they can use it for. This is why I've focused on speaking and blogging about it, spreading the word about this powerful tool. This becomes its own reward, because when I show it to people who haven't seen it, they're blown away by what can be done.

Q: What still excites you or trips you up in the real world when working with SQL Server or BI?

Mike: There is no one-size-fits-all solution. Although we can make scripts and build processes, it still requires a human brain to break a problem down, mesh it with business logic, and build a complete solution. This is why it's so critical to build out our toolbox. Just as a construction contractor could be building a garage one day and a house the next, we need to be prepared for whatever challenge is given to us. Having flexible, robust tools allows data professionals to better respond to these challenges.

Q: What do you see as the next step after attending your session?

Mike: The goal of my session is to show DBAs how to quickly and reliably deploy SQL Server. When folks walk out of this session, I expect that they will go back to their jobs to refine their own deployment processes for SQL Server, to make them more consistent and reliable. More than that, though, these methods open up new design patterns for managing SQL Server environments, whether they're on premises or in the cloud.

Check out our other Q&As with PASS Summit 2015 speakers.

PASS Summit 2015 Speaker Q&A: Allan Hirt

July 21, 2015 — Go inside PASS Summit 2015 session in this Q&A series with our presenters. In this interview, Allan Hirt takes us inside his Pre-Con, “Advanced SQL Server Availability Architectures and Deployments”.

Q: Who is your favorite super-hero, and which SQL Server or BI super-power do you hope your session will give attendees?

Allan: When I grew up and started collecting comic books, I was more drawn to the DC characters, specifically Batman. He is a guy who is a mere mortal, yet can outwit and has the strength to stand up to people who have powers that could literally crush him. I think that is the challenge a lot of DBAs and IT workers face. We are given some parameters and limitations and have to make magic happen. More often than not, we can. I think we are at our best when we think outside the box.

Q: What’s your origin story? How did you become interested in working with data, and how did you take that initial interest to the expert level?

Allan: During college, I was an intern at SQL Solutions in Burlington, MA; it was bought out by Sybase while I was there. So I started using SQL Server in the pre-Windows days—I even remember helping someone install Windows NT 3.5. My internship was with the QA folks, so testing has and continues to be intrinsic to what I do. But the obvious link from then to now is the fact that I was exposed to relational databases so early. I have always been more interested in the infrastructure side of things, even before my internship (which involved that stuff). But I was lucky in my career path to be exposed to things like clustering fairly early into my career, which clearly had a profound impact on who I am today.

I would say that to become an expert, the key to success is to follow your passion and keep learning. You will hopefully have good mentors along the way. Do not be afraid to fail or make mistakes.

Q: What’s your favorite data solution’s secret power—the biggest strength that most people don’t really know about or use to full advantage?

Allan: The Windows platform has a lot of cool things that are prevalent in the non-SQL Server world, such as Scale Out File Server and Windows’ native ability to use RDMA. Such things could be used for SQL Server but are not. If DBAs understood what lies under the hood a bit more, I think we would see more innovative solutions. I will be talking a bit about those kinds of things throughout my Pre-Conference session, “Advanced SQL Server Availability Architectures and Deployments”.

Q: What about data’s biggest kryptonite or nemesis--the biggest mistake you see data professionals make?

Allan: The two biggest mistakes I see are:

· Not understanding what it is you are implementing. That leads to a lot of assumptions and bad decisions in architecture, which ultimately results in bad solutions.

· Not doing the basics well. You cannot have a good availability solution if you are terrible at, say, backups. If you start from a solid foundation, your chances of succeeding at the more advanced stuff increases significantly.

Q: What still excites you or trips you up in the real world when working with SQL Server or BI?

Allan: There’s plenty that can trip all of us up, expert or not; too many things to list. That said, I think that because SQL Server is such a deep and broad product, there is some aspect of it for nearly anyone who is interested in databases, whether BI or relational. That by no means equates to queries and data itself. Sure, I’ve done a lot of that over the years, but the infrastructure side is a whole other aspect of SQL Server that many people do not dabble in—but is immensely rewarding.

Q: What do you see as the next step after attending your session?

Allan: I truly believe that people learn better by doing than by just seeing slides and demos. As with my Pre-Con session at Summit 2014—which sold out, so don’t wait to register this year; the number of students is capped—everyone will get hands-on experience via lab exercises designed specifically for that day. Each attendee will access, via a browser, their own set of virtual machines (VMs), which simulate a full working environment (domain controller, cluster nodes, and so on). I know many attendees will want to try the labs again and will most likely not have time during Summit to do that, so my plan is to provide access for at least a few days post-Summit so that you can do them again back home.

Check out our other Q&As with PASS Summit 2015 speakers.

Future of PASS Summit: Conference Location Through 2019

July 21, 2015 — The location of future PASS Summit conferences was a topic of discussion at the June 2015 PASS Board of Directors meeting. Currently, we’ve booked the Washington State Convention and Trade Center as the PASS Summit venue through 2018. A time-limited opportunity was presented to us to continue that booking for an additional year—2019—with a decision required by June 15.

In 2013, we moved PASS Summit to Charlotte, North Carolina. Our main intention was to determine whether hosting the conference in a different state would make it more accessible to PASS members who might not have been able to travel to Seattle.

While changing cities at some point in the future isn’t out of the question, the Board noted that staying in Seattle offered two important benefits:
· Extending our venue agreement for the additional year offers significant savings over the length of our multi-year contract with the Convention and Trade Center.
· Holding the conference in Seattle results in a stronger exhibitor presence, particularly in regards to Microsoft. Community members and attendees have greater opportunity to interaction with members of the Microsoft product teams.

Considering these benefits, the Board voted to keep PASS Summit in Seattle for 2019.

PASS Summit 2015 Community Sessions

June 26, 2015--Have you heard the news? We’ve announced the speakers and session lineup for PASS Summit 2015 – and we think it’s the best one yet! Each year, the Program Team has the difficult task of choosing sessions from amongst a wealth of wonderful submissions. I want to tell everyone who submitted this year how much we appreciate the support and dedication of this community.

How We Choose

The program-selection process is a continually fine-tuned process designed to help ensure a fair, objective, and well-balanced program. Program Committee volunteers are assigned to review abstracts, speakers, or PowerPoint decks. Each team has specific duties that help ensure the integrity of our selection process. Scores and ratings are used to determine the top sessions from each track, and we used these to fill the community session slots. We look for a balanced track that contains sessions that represent all the key topics across a variety of skill levels and without a great deal of duplication. We also look for a good mix of both seasoned speakers and new voices. Still have questions about the process, we have a helpful FAQ you page you can refer back to. 

This year, 67 of our volunteers reviewed a total of 886 abstracts. Of those submissions, 20% were chosen for our community sessions, representing 52% of the speakers who submitted. 28% of those speakers will be speaking at PASS Summit for the first time!

Next Steps

Now that the community sessions have been selected, the next step is to open the Microsoft call for speakers. We’ll work with Microsoft to make sure that these submissions complement the community sessions; stay tuned for these sessions to be announced in August.

We’ll also begin constructing learning paths to make it easier for attendees to choose between sessions.  As always, we welcome your feedback on any step of this process.  
Finally, we will work to build the schedule, including partnering with Microsoft and the Program Committee Special Project team of volunteers to utilize data science to predict session attendance and schedule sessions into the appropriate sized rooms and timeslots. You can read more about the success of this additional process last year in Dev Nambi’s blogs: PASS Attendance and Summit Feedback

A Big Thank You 

Once again, thank you to all who submitted—and to all the volunteers who worked so hard these past few months during the selection process, particularly our Program Team Managers Lance Harra, Mindy Curnutt and Angela Henry. 

We can’t wait for you to dive into the lineup for this year’s PASS Summit, the premier event by and for the SQL Server Community. Help us spread the word, and don’t forget to register by July 12 to save $400 on registration—plus contact your Local or Virtual Chapter for an additional $150 savings! See you in Seattle!

– Amy Lewis
PASS Director of Programs


PASS Town Hall Q&A Webcast

June 18, 2015--The second quarterly Town Hall Q&A webcast took place on May 27, with more than 70 people in attendance. Thomas LaRock welcomed the audience and spoke about how the Board is continually looking at facilitating two-way communication within the community and how to contact the Board on the SQL PASS website. Before kicking off the session, Thomas introduced the panel:

    • Denise McInerney: PASS VP, Marketing (and moderator)
    • Amy Lewis: PASS Board Director at Large, Programs
    • Jennifer Moser: PASS Board, Microsoft-related questions
    • Lance Harra: Lead Program Manager, PASS Program Committee

With a focus on the Summit Speaker Selection process, the one-hour long webcast included an overview from myself (Amy Lewis, PASS Board of Director at large, Programs) on the process and timing from this year’s committee along with a considerable number of questions from the attendees for the Program Committee and the Board.

I thanked the panel and the program committee team and then summarized the committee’s processes for speaker selection.

In late January or early February, the Program Committee conducts a Call for Volunteers. Volunteers play a critical role in evaluating abstracts and helping to select community speakers. A total of 70 volunteers work together from mid-March until Summit. After the Call for Speakers closes in mid-March, the volunteers are broken into four teams:

Speaker Review Team: This team of eight volunteers review credentials, experience, and past attendee feedback to qualify speakers. This year, a total of 285 people submitted abstracts for Summit 2015, and the team goes through and rates each possible speaker. After all scores are submitted, the Speaker Review Team provides the Program Managers with the rankings.

Abstract Review Team: This team is tasked with reviewing the 886 abstracts submitted by the 285 potential speakers. Abstracts are reviewed by a minimum of three people. The team is divided into smaller teams for each of the five learning tracks and review accordingly. Feedback is given to every single abstract. The abstract review team first rates the abstract (without any speaker information or speakerID). After the teams have rated all the abstracts, they are tasked with ranking the abstracts for each track and recommending sessions to the Program Development Team.

The Program Committee offers guidance on the need for diversity of topics and speakers. At the outset, each speaker is assigned a speakerID number to maintain anonymity during scoring. Scorers can see whether they have ranked or recommended multiple abstracts from the same speakerID within a particular track, but they don’t know who that speaker is. This provides the team enough visibility to evaluate sessions and speakers for balance.

Program Development Team (Program Managers/Director): From May until the beginning of June, the program is built. The contributing factors include:

    • Rankings and recommendations from the individual teams
    • Topic, speaker, and session level
    • Repeat sessions from prior year
    • Session types (Pre-cons, Lightning talks, Half-day sessions, General sessions, and Labs)
    • Duplicate sessions
    • Depth and breadth of sessions across all tracks

After the Program Development team builds the Program, submitters are notified of their session status and, as of last year, are sent feedback on their abstract. After all submitters are notified, the community sessions are announced publicly by the end of June.

Special Project Team: From July onwards, the Special Project Team looks at the learning paths, predicting room assignment to ensure that rooms are not overcrowded and improving the schedule builder to be useful to both attendees and PASS Summit Operations teams.

Microsoft Sessions: Around early August, the Program Development Team works with Microsoft to understand what it wants to present and to ensure there is no overlap between Microsoft and the community sessions. This partnership has led to a more cohesive program where both the community and Microsoft sessions build upon and complement one another, leading to a fantastic and well-rounded program.

The Program Team is always open to feedback and ways to improve the Selection Process and the PASS Summit Program. We received feedback over the past year, and some of those changes were implemented this year:

    • In the process to review abstracts and the workflows for the team leads, all abstracts across all teams are now reviewed by at least three people.
    • The speaker profile was updated to allow for the submitter to list all their PASS and non-PASS presentation history. We are also working with IT to incorporate a lot of the SQLSaturday, Virtual Chapter, and User Group speaking events. We have been waiting until the rebuild of the SQLSaturday site is completed so that we can incorporate that functionality automatically. We wanted to be sure speakers could do that this year so we have implemented a table where you can add your speaker history. We added the video review, which was a request from the Speaker Review Team, so we can see samples of people speaking.
    • Improvements to the speaker resource page included updating the handbook, adding an FAQ page, and improving the process for the team leads.
    • Finally, the Program Team has improved the communication with the team leads through weekly calls and is working closely with PASS HQ and IT. Marcella and Leeza at PASS HQ were recognized for their support and commitment.

Amy introduced Lance Harra and explained that he has volunteered with the Program Team for 10 years and this year was promoted to Lead Program Manager.  In addition, Mindy Curnutt and Angela Henry have joined the Program Management Team to lead all the Program-related efforts throughout the year.

With an overview of the team and their responsibilities complete, the Q&A commenced with questions from the community. The full recording is available here. Look for more information about the next Q&A on the Board Contact Us page and in the Connector as we head into the next quarter.

Amy Lewis
PASS Board Member, Programs