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
Hi, it’s Tom, and I’m here today to tell you about some proposed changes regarding the Elections process. We have used a Nominations Committee (NomCom) election process since 2011 and in the past four years have lengthened the amount of time for the overall election cycle, added additional “noise” in the form of emails asking our members to cast votes, and seen a decline in the overall number of ballots cast in elections.
As Immediate Past President (IPP) I have one assigned duty: to chair the NomCom. As Chair, I want to share with you some important changes to the Elections process that the Board is considering which aim to:
1. Improve the Nominations Committee process.
2. Increase the number of qualified Board candidates.
3. Increase the number of ballots cast in our elections.
4. Decrease the election process timeline.
To this end, the Board is preparing to vote on and approve an important change to the current NomCom process. This change does not require amendments to the by-laws.
In lieu of an election for the NomCom, we will ask for members interested in serving on the NomCom to complete a short one-page letter of interest outlining why they feel they are qualified to set election processes and screen candidates. Letters will be listed publicly on the Elections webpage so that the candidate pool will be known. The names of the proposed committee members will then be submitted to the Board for review and a vote of approval.
The final NomCom composition will aim to represent the seats coming up for election (i.e. a LATAM NomCom member during a year when there is a LATAM seat).
The biggest challenge with having appointments versus an election is the perception that the NomCom is seen as a private club. To help alleviate that concern, we propose the following guidelines for NomCom composition:
• the IPP serves as chair
• one sitting/former Board member
• two former NomCom members
• two new NomCom members
Lastly, no NomCom member will be allowed to serve more than three consecutive years. It is important that we make room for new voices, but it is equally important that the NomCom maintain a level of quality achieved by those persons who have served on the NomCom previously. We are looking to balance those two ideals.
What I’ve outlined here is the result of many conversations, over many years, with our members—including former NomCom members, former Elections Review Committee participants, and of course, Board members. I will be asking the Board of Directors to approve these changes during the March 10 meeting.
If you have questions, comments, or concerns about these proposed changes, please leave them in the comments or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Following this vote we will be having a dedicated Town Hall meeting on March 17 to talk about this change and other important priorities for the 2016 election cycle. I hope to see you there.
Immediate Past President
As Director of the Program Committee for PASS, I recognize that there has been some recent miscommunication surrounding the criteria for submitting a pre-conference session for consideration to this year’s PASS Summit.
As the Program Committee evaluated the requirements for both general and pre-conference sessions, we amended requirements for pre-con sessions to include both required and optional requirements. This was done to provide guidance for speakers on the level and skill necessary to host an all-day session for our data community. Ensuring that PASS is providing the highest level of content is very important to us, especially as attendees face an incredibly competitive choice of conferences to attend every year.
First, the prior optional requirement that a speaker presented a pre-con in the last two years at a selected group of events is now a requirement. We believe that PASS Summit is not the venue for you to attempt your first pre-con. Almost all SQLSaturdays offer pre-cons now, so there are plenty of opportunities to gain and develop that experience.
We also made it mandatory that you be willing to present a regular session in addition to a pre-con. This just makes sense, as we want speakers that are interested in presenting both community sessions and pre-cons.
Now, it was an oversight on our part that we left the nine remaining items with a requirement that you meet five of those requirements. Because we moved two from optional to required, we should have changed the required number to three, and we are currently making that change. We’re sorry for the unnecessary confusion that this caused within the community.
The remaining optional requirements relate to your comfortableness in delivering pre-con-level content, as well as your credentials and knowledge of the Microsoft data platform and the types of pre-con content that members of the PASS community are interested in paying additional fees for.
I hope that you now have a better understanding of our rationale for the requirement changes, both optional and mandatory. If you have any questions about the pre-con speaker requirements, please don’t hesitate to reach out.
Director, PASS Programs
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
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
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
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
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.
The Team at PASS recently sat down with Sharon Dooley, leader of the Database Administration Virtual Chapter, to discuss one of the oldest and most established chapters in the PASS community. Sharon tells the story of how the DBA VC developed over the years as well as where the chapter will go in the future.
Q1. Tell us a bit about yourself and the DBA VC.
Back in the day, PASS formed Technical Advisory Committees (TACs) and Special Interest Groups (SIGs). TACs were intended to provide “wish lists” for SQL Server development to Microsoft. These wish lists were to come from suggestions by members of the SIGs. Today, the TACs no longer exist and the SIGs have morphed into Virtual Chapters. When we were still a SIG, we started having Live Meeting presentations. The Live Meeting Call to Action document I wrote describing this initiative is dated March 15, 2007. I think we were the first SIG to reach out to our membership in this way. We started with one meeting each month. Now we have two meetings each month, except for November and December when the holidays limit us to one. I am grateful for the dedicated assistance of Julie Bloomquist and Mike Clark with the work of this VC. Both have been working with the VC for a very long time, and I know the VC wouldn’t be the same without their help.
Q2. What is the aim of the DBA VC?
Our mission, as stated on our web page (dba.sqlpass.org) is “… to provide a PASS community for the DBA. It provides a forum for open discussion and education on issues that face SQL Server database administrators”.
Q3. You have been a volunteer with PASS for a long time – what keeps you motivated and what would you suggest to your fellow community members looking to get involved?
I’ve been a member of PASS since its first conference in 1999. That’s a long time – 17 years! During that time, I have served in many volunteer capacities. I think PASS provides folks with a wealth of learning activities, from VCs to SQLSaturdays to Summit. I received a lot of help from an online community when I first started working with SQL Server (I’m not going to tell you how long ago that was!) and volunteering with PASS is a way for me to give back. Going to Summit is like going home for me – I have so many PASS friends! Julie echoes this, saying “I have been able to increase my PASS involvement and friendships through my work with the Virtual DBA chapter.” For folks who are on the fence about volunteering, I’d say “Try it, you’ll like it!”
Q3. DELL is one of your sponsors, can you tell us a bit about that relationship and how this benefits the VC audience?
Dell Software has sponsored the DBA VC for several years. We appreciate their support since it allows us to raffle a gift card to attendees at every meeting. When Dell first started sponsoring us, the sponsorship agreement required us to give them a 10-minute speaking spot each quarter. Since I don’t think you can present anything useful technically that time, I offered them full one-hour slots twice a year with the proviso that the talk not be of a marketing nature. More recent sponsorship contracts have followed my original lead. In addition, Dell, as our sponsor, has the opportunity to send targeted mailings to the Chapter membership. These mailings acquaint our membership with products they may find useful and also often offer discounts.
Q4. How does the DBA VC fill training gaps?
Being a DBA is not an easy task, and there seems to be a hunger for training. Today, when organizations often lack the resources to send DBAs for formal classroom training, our bi-monthly webinars (always scheduled at lunch time in the time zone they are targeted for) give DBAs a chance to learn at their own convenience and at no expense to their employers. And if someone can’t attend one of the webinars, we record the meetings for later viewing.
Q5. What have you got planned in the near future for the DBA VC?
We’d like to add a quarterly webinar in a European time zone. This would make it easier for Europeans to present (I’ve just scheduled a speaker in Amsterdam who’ll be doing our Noon Mountain Time session – it’ll be 8PM for him!) and it will make it easier for people in Europe to attend these webinars. We haven’t worked out when this is going to start, but probably during the second quarter.