Earlier this year, PASS embarked on a project with the goal to better understand our global membership and educational priorities. Since being founded in 1999, we have not taken the opportunity to survey our membership to understand their educational needs, professional demands and ways in which PASS can enrich the lives of our members. As we continue to growth, it’s critical for us to have a better understanding of you, our members.
When I started my second term, the PASS Board knew this was critical in our ability to continue to provide the level of educational offerings and value to our members as we looked to growing our global community. That’s why I’m excited to say that we have completed key steps in this process, which included surveying all of our members to obtain demographics and data on preferred technologies, training budgets, member satisfaction, and how you all engage with PASS. Additionally, we met with key individuals inside and outside of PASS to get a better understanding of their awareness of PASS, identify what we could do better, and recognize where we're succeeding as a professional association.
One of the critical insights we wanted to come away with from our survey findings was identifying the makeup of our membership. Even though we operate in a fairly narrow field of study and practice we're definitely not all the same. We established that there were 10 distinct personas that make up the PASS membership. For each persona, we identified their gender and age distribution, career and educational requirements, learning preferences and how rapidly they adopt new technologies, alongside those other aforementioned items.
The insights we uncover here build a valuable foundation as we move forward in our goals towards providing improved benefits and experiences for our current and future members. We are still compiling insights and making informed decisions as a result. As we learn more, we will of course share this with all of you.
I personally want to thank those thousands of members who took time to complete the survey or talk to us regarding their experiences with PASS.
I wanted to take this opportunity to follow up on the recent blog from Denise McInerney, The Future of the BA Community. That
blog spoke to the history of BA and PASS, and also detailed why PASS has decided not to host a BA Conference in 2017. I won’t go into any more of that
reasoning here – you can read that in the blog – but what I will touch on are some of the strategies for community building and the BA Community goals for
If it wasn’t already clear enough in Denise’s blog, it should be stressed again, that even though we are not proceeding with a BA Conference next year, we
are still focused on developing and strengthening our BA community. Our team has been prioritizing activities to support meeting our goals and support
PASS’ overall strategic priorities of membership growth and engagement. These priorities were developed based on the status of our current business
analytics community; see infographic:
<Click on image to view PDF>
These priorities include:
- expanding and maturing local and virtual events
- community leadership and engagement (advisory program)
- establishing thought leadership content.
The strategy is designed to take a more localized, grassroots approach to building and supporting the PASS BA Community. Our efforts will include ongoing
thought-leadership development within the business analytics community. We will deliver regular BA Marathons throughout 2017 and will also establish
regular thought-leadership podcasts with leading influencers and business analytics experts. We will also engage our BA Advisors and experts on a variety
of topics throughout the year.
At the core of the strategy is a series of BA Days, one-day events that focus on in-depth training and longer sessions on leading topics specific to
business analysts. We are currently putting together a pilot event set for January 2017 and have invited community members to reach out to us expressing
their interest in partnering with PASS to host a future event.
Finally, we will continue to work with our established Virtual Chapter Leaders to further support their needs and educational content. This includes
thought leadership pieces and new webinar formats (e.g., the ExcelTV and Excel BI VC partnership, with the first event to be delivered on August 16, 2016).
We want to continue to build, strengthen and streamline these efforts using the aforementioned goals. If you have any feedback or thoughts on how we can
build the community, please reach out.
Director, PASS Business Analytics
Earlier this Spring the Board of Directors commenced a discussion surrounding the policy of accepting payment for speaking engagements as a PASS Board member.
Through communications within the Board, posts on my personal blog, as well as conversations with various interested individuals, I solicited feedback about how best to approach this situation. The goal was to provide clarity and transparency around the issue of compensation at PASS-branded and PASS-sponsored events.
The PASS Bylaws are clear about Board members and payments by the organization. Section VI.14 talks about compensation:
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.
To expand on this, when we serve on the Board, we’re doing it as volunteers. However, with the approval of the Board (which requires a recorded vote during an official meeting) we can receive payment to speak at a PASS event (e.g. Summit), and receive payment for a pre-conference session, just like any other community speaker.
The bylaws don’t define what happens when the event isn’t being run by PASS. A current example is SQLSaturday. While PASS owns the brand and supports all worldwide events through the website, funding, assistance in sponsorship, and through various other means, PASS doesn’t legally run those events. A SQLSaturday is branded by PASS, but not managed by PASS. As such, if a SQLSaturday wants to host a pre-conference seminar and charge for attendance, a Board member would find themselves in an odd spot if they chose to take compensation because until recently, it was unclear how that was dealt with. The bylaws also don’t talk about events that PASS provides sponsorship to, but isn’t in any other way affiliated.
At the June Board meeting this issue was resolved.
We now have a policy in place, approved by our lawyers, that didn’t require a change to the bylaws, that defines how this works for sitting members of the Board:
PASS recognizes that speaking may be an important part of individual Board member careers and/or community involvement. As such, PASS Directors are empowered to apply for, and take advantage of, any unpaid speaking opportunities, either within or outside of the PASS organization.
PASS Directors are able to take advantage of certain paid speaking opportunities while they serve on the PASS Board. As a Director of the PASS Board it is expected that Board members put the interests of the PASS organization ahead of any personal or professional concerns to avoid a potential conflict of interest. Directors may speak at both “PASS-branded” and “PASS-sponsored” events; however, as per the PASS Bylaws, they may not take paid speaking opportunities at “PASS-owned” events without asking permission of the Board.
PASS Directors may also take advantage of paid speaker opportunities outside of the PASS umbrella (i.e. not PASS owned, branded, or sponsored).
Directors are asked to disclose any paid speaking opportunities during the monthly Board meetings.
On the one hand this is a very minor issue that was quickly resolved. On the other hand, this is about addressing two vital requirements for the Board. First, we must ensure that we are as open and transparent as possible in order to avoid even the suggestion of impropriety. Second, we recognize that Board members may also be active speakers within the community. This new policy clarifies the issue and satisfies those important requirements.
I want to thank all the members of the Board for their assistance and input on this. I also want to thank all the work done at PASS HQ to help us with this issue. Most of all, I want to thank everyone who provided feedback when I asked how this should be approached. Everyone helped to craft a clear policy that will support our organization as we move forward.
EVP, Finance and Governance
Are you passionate about community? Do you wake up in the morning wondering how you can support a global engagement movement by growing a dedicated community of data professionals to connect, share, and learn? PASS is seeking a Community Evangelist to join its team. Read on to learn what it takes to be a stellar community evangelist.
With a global membership of more than 250,000, PASS’ mission is to become the nexus of thought leadership, with the goal of growing its global membership to two million members by 2020. Our primary mission is to support education and networking opportunities for individuals leveraging the Microsoft Data Platform. This is done through local and virtual chapters; free online events; local and regional events, and our annual PASS Summit.
What a Community Evangelist Does for PASS
Acting as ambassadors for the organization and advocates for the community, our Community team members play a key role in helping PASS do great things. Reporting to the Director of Marketing and under the direction of the management team of C&C/HQ, here’s an idea of what you can expect in this role:
- Mentor chapter leaders to help build and sustain their user groups.
- Coach chapter leaders as required.
- Identify new cities to host SQLSaturday / regional events and support existing event organizers annually.
- Look for opportunities to establish new chapters and recruit new chapter leaders.
- Represent PASS in person at events throughout the year (including international events).
- Build and enhance an active network of regional mentors, encouraging them to be active PASS ambassadors at events and user group meetings.
- As part of the PASS HQ team, help execute successful community programs at events like PASS Summit.
- Work with the larger PASS team (HQ and the Board of Directors) to execute the organization’s strategic vision.
- Develop strategic priorities and projects to support the membership growth of PASS.
- Monitor social media and respond/escalate community issues and concerns, as required.
- Maintain a positive dialogue with the PASS community, including blogging and tweeting regularly about community experiences.
What PASS Does for a Community Evangelist
Being an evangelist is incredibly fulfilling both personally and professionally. What can you expect as a PASS Community Evangelist?
- Grow your network while meeting professionals from all walks of life.
- Visit new places around the world while travelling on behalf of PASS.
- Keep your finger on the pulse of Microsoft technologies while attending events as a representative of PASS.
Who You Are
We’re looking for someone who is passionate and enthusiastic about supporting and growing a global community. Our ideal person is friendly, outgoing, self-motivated and an active volunteer (in the data platform community). You don’t mind talking with people (sometimes for many hours a day!) and you enjoy sharing your community experiences through blogging and social media. You don’t need technical expertise, but you do need to be familiar with the technologies at a high level.
You are as equally comfortable engaging with a data platform professional just beginning their career, as you are a data scientist with many years’ experience, and won’t let a lack of technical knowledge hold you back from establishing and building on these relationships.
As a global organization that needs to communicate with people around the world, we are looking for a candidate that has flexibility in their day to day schedule. Since the position is located remotely, the ideal candidate is someone who exhibits strong self-management traits, has good administrative skills and is well organized.
Travel is part of the job so expect to fly, and because many of our events take place on weekends you’ll be required to work on Saturdays from time to time.
- Bachelor’s Degree in related field plus at least six years’ relevant professional experience required.
- Experience building and fostering community and membership engagement.
- Demonstrated ability to give presentations and speak to groups.
- Strong verbal and written communication skills, comfort with Internet technology and social media.
- High level of attention to detail, flexibility, superior follow through, and the ability to embrace the unexpected with grace and maturity.
- Demonstrated understanding of the Microsoft Data Platform and its ongoing evolution.
- Intermediate knowledge of HTML (for email and for web) and CSS.
- Experience using Google analytics or other web analytics programs.
- Strong Microsoft Office experience, including SQL Server, Office 365 and Power BI.
- Passion for travel (this position is ~30 to 40%+ travel - some weeks gone for a few days, some multiple days).
If you’re excited at the thought of being a Community Evangelist for PASS we’d like to hear from you! Please email Georgia Dahle, Director of Marketing (firstname.lastname@example.org) to learn more or to apply for the position. Deadline to apply is September 2, 2016.
To be considered for this role, you must include:
- An up-to-date resume
- A cover letter outlining your experience and salary expectations
- Links to your blog, Twitter, LinkedIn account, etc.
The PASS community showed their commitment by engaging in an active debate on a recent blog – Making SQLSaturday Sustainable. As a
passionate and dedicated community, these discussions and debates are critical to our success and challenge the Board to look at the business decisions
that need to be made. As we look back from the discussions from last week, we recognize that there were things we should have done differently. We have
heard your feedback – which we are thankful for - and continued dialogue this week and are sharing with you the changes we are making based on the
We should have communicated earlier on the challenges many SQLSaturday organizers and sponsors were expressing to us. Some of these challenges were made
public via social media, others were done quietly and directly to Board members and our Community team.
As the new criteria was evaluated, we failed to share our findings with the organizers of SQLSaturday and in particular those that could be affected by the
changes. We’d like to explain why the radius was increased to 600 miles.
Currently, there is a 400-mile driving radius restriction that has been in place for the past four years. This means that no two
events within 400 miles of each other should be hosted on the same day. This parameter was implemented in FY2012 to help keep two locations from competing
for the same resources - speakers and sponsors.
By the end of FY2016, SQLSaturdays had doubled in size from FY2012. Since January of this year, feedback has been shared from sponsors (both local and GAP
partners) on the number of overlapping events in a region, as well as organizers reporting they are struggling with sponsorship. We recognized that to
prevent further sponsor exhaustion, and ensure the financial sustainability of SQLSaturday, we needed to look at finding an alternative that could provide
support for both organizers and sponsors.
It is important to recognize that these changes are intended to protect the smaller events. They are designed to guide planning, not to limit events. As
with the 400-mile driving radius currently in place, if an event requests a date that is already committed to by a neighboring city, we approach both
organizers to ensure support. We will continue to be flexible with individual organizers to support and ensure their events are a success, as we have
Hearing your feedback on the guideline, we will be piloting the 600-mile driving radius distance for events in North America beginning January 1, 2017. We
will not include the back-to-back weekend restriction during this pilot, and ask for ongoing feedback from organizers, our sponsors, and attendees. We’ll
share our findings with you once they are compiled and our recommendations for improving SQLSaturday events. Our commitment to you is to ensure the
sustainability of all SQLSaturday events.
To get a better idea of just what this change would look like, below is an example of how it would still be possible to have 5 SQLSaturdays on the same
date, all over 600 miles apart. With at least 20 non-holiday weekends in the calendar year, the growth of SQLSaturdays could continue here in the US; but
if these events are to sustain, it’s going to mean organizers looking to see how they can manage their budgets more effectively at the local level to help
across the entire community. Steve Jones brings up some very good suggestions in his post this past week, Slimmer SQL Saturdays, on ways of cutting costs, and more of these
“best practices” blogs will be showcased in an upcoming series in the PASS Connector newsletter.
In an effort to ensure better communications, we are creating a dedicated distribution list for all SQLSaturday organizers to foster discussions (such as
the introduction of the new radius) with you, so that we receive your feedback before final decisions are made. We realize this is long overdue – and we
hope you will engage with us as we work together toward making our community (and surrounding events) successful.
While we begin to analyze some of the other suggestions around the larger events, these initial changes will be monitored closely to see if they need
revisiting. We will continue the dialogue in the days and months ahead to ensure support and sustainability for our SQLSaturday events around the world. We
want you to be a part of the conversation. Please reach out to us directly, reply to this blog, or send feedback to email@example.com.
Everything we do at PASS is focused on helping members—and the broader data community—connect with each other, share experiences, and improve their skills.
We are dedicated to providing networking opportunities, knowledge sharing, and peer-based learning across all our Local and Virtual Chapters and
communities. In 2012, we embarked on an initiative to reach out to the growing number of business and data analytics professionals tasked with extracting
meaning and value from their organizations’ data.
Over the past 4.5 years we have learned a lot about the needs of those who work in Business Analytics (BA). We have presented thought leadership and
technical training at four annual Business Analytics Conferences, helping thousands of data professionals use technologies such as Excel, Power BI, SQL,
and other analytics platforms to gain insight into their business. And our community continues to grow, with more than 25,000 PASS members from around the
world identifying a professional interest in BA and 27% year-over-year (May 2015 - May 2016) growth in the BA Virtual Chapter.
At the same time, the data professionals who manage the systems that store data are being challenged to support analytics needs in new and different ways.
From running R in SQL Server to providing users with self-service access to data through Power BI, to unlocking the possibilities of advanced analytics
through the Cortana Intelligence Suite, the technical interests and educational needs of DBAs and Developers in IT, and data analysts in the business, are
As more companies across all industries are embracing data to inform their decision making, the growth opportunities for PASS members abound.
I’d like to share with you the evolution of the strategic direction of our BA initiative. The heart of the plan moving forward is community growth, with a focus on expanding outreach to increase visibility, by strengthening local groups, and broadening the scope of
our analytics community globally.
A major component of PASS’ BA initiative has been the BA Conference. At BA Conference 2016 we again attracted the right business analytics audience and
provided them with relevant content. BAC 2016 received an overwhelmingly positive response from attendees; 91% were either very satisfied or somewhat
satisfied and most said they would recommend BAC to a colleague. However, despite very positive attendee feedback for the BA Conference the past two years,
the event has not grown in attendance.
The PASS Board spent time reflecting on all we have learned the past four years and has decided to take a more comprehensive, multi-prong approach to BA
community engagement in FY17. We will emphasize local events and user groups, expanded virtual engagement and Marathon series, and thought leadership,
instead of investing the majority of time and resources into a single large conference. PASS knows that the best way to grow community is to be in the
community, working alongside our members and volunteers. If you are interested in hosting a local event or for more information, contact Teresa Cheung
We believe a more localized effort with a variety of offerings will drive more effective engagement and growth for our PASS community. As the community
evolves, the PASS Board will continue to assess and adjust. While we will not be hosting a BA Conference in the spring of 2017, we are open to holding
another large BA event at a later date.
Business Analytics is a natural extension for PASS. We are committed to helping data professionals connect, share, and learn, whether they work in IT or in
the business. We are very excited about the opportunities ahead and look forward to the continued growth and success in the area of Business Analytics.
Vice President, Marketing
SQLSaturdays are an important part of PASS’ global community growth and how our community connects, shares, and learns.
PASS took over the license for SQLSaturday in 2010 when there was only a handful of events. Since then it has grown dramatically, with more than 120 events held in the 12 months ending June 2016. To continue to see this growth and provide you with the best possible training and networking experiences, we need to ensure the financial health and stability of SQLSaturday. This will mean a couple of changes to the existing SQLSaturday model that will take effect on January 1, 2017.
These changes will affect the way some of our community members plan and execute events. We believe that these changes will help to balance the growth of our SQLSaturday portfolio, while ensuring sustainability for local organizers. These changes are intended to:
- · improve the attendee experience
- · improve the sponsor experience
- · increase PASS’ ROI
- · present a consistent and strong event model.
The first change we are going to make is to the amount of funding support we provide organizers. Currently any organizer, whatever the size of their SQLSaturday event, receives $500. Starting January 1, 2017, we will be reducing this to amount to $250 and targeting those cities/locations that really need the financial support to grow, rather than well-established events that are better capable of attracting sponsors and financial support. When assessing those events that require financial support, PASS will be meeting with event organizers and complete a review of past performance.
Which brings me to the second change: implementing a new 600-mile radius and concurrent event timing restriction to reduce competition between individual SQLSaturday events in Canada/USA. The event timing restriction means that events within the 600-mile radius cannot occur on the same weekend or one weekend prior or after. This will help to deliver a more consistent and satisfying experience for sponsors, which will reduce sponsor exhaustion and assist with increasing overall ROI. The existing 400-mile radius restriction for all other regions will remain.
We believe that by making these changes we can ensure the future growth and financial success of SQLSaturday. I welcome feedback — please comment below or share your thoughts to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Five years ago this month an amazing opportunity came my way, to actually work for a community that was near and dear to my heart. On July 1, 2011 I started with PASS in the newly created role of PASS Community Evangelist. A position within PASS to help educate our global community on who PASS was and to work towards the goal of growing PASS globally through Chapters and SQLSaturday events.
In the beginning, as you can tell from my post at the time, the role encompassed all of the community related avenues within PASS, to include VCs and the Regional Mentor program. With the exceptional growth in all of these areas over the years, each started to warrant its own dedicated HQ counterpart with just my time as needed for any historical aspect. Then 2 ½ years ago it became clear that the PASS SQLSaturday events were growing at a pace that had to have someone solely dedicated to overseeing this portfolio full time. The SQLSaturdays have gone from about 35 in a year (with only one outside of the US) to now this past fiscal year of 120 events in over 30 countries.
It’s been an exciting journey, and I’m very grateful to have been a part of the PASS HQ team in working with the Board to help grow PASS. I’ll always cherish all the connections made throughout these years. As they say though, “all good things must come to an end”, thus I’ve made the tough decision to retire from this role. I am looking forward to returning to my technical roots, and while I’ve not made definitive plans on my next adventure, I can only hope it will be as challenging and rewarding as these past five years have been.
With that said, I’ll be departing from PASS at the end of October following PASS Summit. If you’ll be there, please stop by the Community Zone (or should we call it “Karla’s Going Away Party Zone” this year!?!) and slap a big ole’ #datahug on me!
I would like to thank every member of our community that took the time to share with us their thoughts and feedback on the Speaker Contract. Over a period of three weeks, you provided valuable feedback on two previous versions. We have now finalized both the Summit Speaker Contract and Summit Pre-Conference Contract.
This is when the PASS Community is at its best, contributing to the continued success of the organization, its community, our events, and our speakers. We will continue to review and improve the contract for 2017 and will welcome your feedback at that time.
Thanks again for your help, folks.
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