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.
As many of you may now be aware, on January 4, at approximately 11:15 PM PST the VM that runs the PASS Database, which is hosted in Azure Cloud, unexpectedly went down. The database was down until 11:45 PM. A default DNN installation error message screen revealed a single username of a PASS member. There was no security breach and no personal information or passwords were revealed or accessed.
This default DNN installation screen appeared for any user attempting to access all PASS websites. The confusion surrounding the potentially revealed personal information occurred as a result of the default DNN message. This error page has now been revised with more accurate messaging in the event that there is an outage in the future.
Once notified of the website outage, the IT team had to manually reconnect the database and PASS websites, as this had not occurred automatically, which is why website access was unavailable for a longer period of time than the half-hour Azure downtime window. As part of the existing PASS IT disaster recovery plan, two new mechanisms will be put in place: a more proactive monitoring system that will allow real-time database and application monitoring, ensuring we are instantly aware of website failures; and redundancy protection by provisioning PASS websites over multiple Azure data centers.
On behalf of the entire PASS Board, I want to stress that we take protecting your personal information very seriously and implement every reasonable measure to ensure it is kept safe.
I was delighted to see an unconventional abstract submission for the next SQLSaturday in Cleveland, OH recently. This entry came from Evelyn Maxwell, who submitted a session on PowerPoint skills for the event’s Professional Development track. You may wonder why I’d highlight this presentation from the thousands that have been submitted just this year alone. (After all, we have sessions covering non-SQL topics at our events.)
She represents what is special about the PASS community
Evelyn volunteered at SQLSaturday events as a non-speaker and attended many sessions before deciding to submit an abstract and commit to sharing her knowledge with others. That makes her special because, like so many others in our community, she is giving up her valuable free time on a weekend to connect, share, and learn with (and from) other like-minded community members.
She is a non-traditional PASS member
Evelyn is not your typical PASS volunteer and speaker. She is unemployed, she can’t drive, and she likely has a curfew under the laws of her city. You see, Evelyn Maxwell recently turned 13.
In her own words
After being made aware of Evelyn’s abstract I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to write a post that would highlight an example of what good news exists in our community. I also wanted to bridge the gap between my final days leading the PASS SQLSaturday portfolio and moving on to a new portfolio that will strive to enhance engagement with our members and deliver enriched community events. Evelyn’s story of volunteerism, passion for learning, and drive to share highlight the core of our mission and does so in a very unique way.
I reached out to Evelyn through her father, David Maxwell, to see if perhaps she would be willing to share advice with our PASS members who may be looking to become a community speaker or simply more involved in their local SQL Server communities.
TF: Hi Evelyn, thank you for taking time to speak with me and the PASS community at large. Can you tell us a bit about yourself as we begin?
EM: Well, I’m 13 years old, (I just had a birthday), I play percussion in the 7th grade concert band, I’m the second member in a trio of friends, and I help run a student-run club at my school. Other than that, I’m a pretty typical 7th grade girl.
TF: Your dad is very well known in the SQL Server community and just recently won the PASS Speaker Idol contest at the 2015 PASS Summit. What direction has he given you in speaking publicly?
EM: I’ve learned a lot about public speaking from my dad, mostly though watching him present at SQL Saturdays, and just watching him practice in the basement. Practice is, after all, very important in putting together a good presentation. I’ve also learned that when presenting, most people are going to be supportive and encouraging, which is nice, but also that not everyone is going to be positive, and that's something I’ll just have to accept.
TF: Can you speak to some of the things you've done at SQLSaturdays previously? In addition to speaking in 2016 at the Cleveland SQLSaturday, I've heard you've been a volunteer at events in the past.
EM: Generally at SQLSaturdays, I just like to go and attend sessions on a beginner level, and see if I can learn something. I try to take productive notes, and write down questions later to ask my dad. I also like to give feedback to the presenters. Last year I was a volunteer at SQLSaturday Columbus, and got to help register people, set up for lunch, and wipe down pretty much every flat surface there was. I even got to pull names for the raffle and throw T-shirts at people. Now how fun is that?
TF: Besides being a public speaker and PASS volunteer what are your other interests?
EM: I enjoy reading, percussion, and writing fan fiction. I also help my friend run Special FX club, which is a student-run club that helps teach kids about the art of movie makeup. We do a ton of different stuff, from mild bruises, to zombie skin. It’s a lot of fun. I also was in drama club last year. Unfortunately, there was no club this year, although I would have joined if given the chance.
TF: I know I tend to “nerd-out” about SQL around my house. Does your dad spend a lot of time talking about SQL?
EM: Dad doesn't really talk a lot about SQL at home. If my brother or I have a question, he’ll answer it, and sometimes he’ll give us a heavilysimplified explanation about something at work, but other than that, he saves the SQL talk for SQLSaturdays.
TF: Evelyn, what is your one piece of advice for any new speaker/community member looking to broaden their own experience?
EM: I would say that if you want to try speaking at an event, or do any kind of public speaking for that matter, don’t overthink things. You obviously want to know your topic, and be able to answer questions from the audience, but don't focus on your presentation so much it makes your head hurt. I had this problem when I was first writing my abstract. Instead of just thinking what would be in the presentation and why, I completely overthought it, and ended up having to start over. But once I let all of that go, I was able to come up with a successful abstract, which got my point across.
TF: Christmas is coming. Do you want to share some of your Christmas list with us? Maybe it will improve your chances with Santa Claus, you never know.
EM: To be perfectly honest, I don't have a Christmas list. I have a phone, and a snare drum, what more could I want? Plus, I think there's a lot more to the holidays than just receiving gifts.
My wish for you
Evelyn reminds us all that there is so much more this holiday season (regardless of the holidays your family celebrates) than material things. I want to take this opportunity to wish you, your families, and your communities a happy holiday season and end to 2015. We always have room for improvement though, so my hope is that you will experience greater success, contentment, fulfillment, and peace in the coming year.
Director, PASS SQLSaturday
Na reunião do conselho de hoje, foi votada a proposta para “converter um do Director-at-Large aberto assentos, o que é acima para a eleição em 2016 conselho eleitoral, a um assento regionais LATAM”. Isso foi feito para apoiar o foco que temos no crescimento da comunidade global e em reconhecimento do enorme crescimento que acontece na região LATAM.
Em 2013 o estatuto do PASS foi alterado para permitir estas cadeiras regionais. Benchmarks foram estabelecidos com intuito de fornecer ao conselho uma medida de quanto a região LATAM está pronta para ter uma cadeira no comitê – medidas de saúde e estabilidade das atividades da comunidade na região. A primeira cadeira regional criada foi para Europa, Oriente Médio e África (EMEA), que foi convertida em 2013 para um mandato a partir de 1/Jan/2014. Esta cadeira atualmente é ocupada por Jen Stirrup.
Estou muito feliz em anunciar que os benchmarks de crescimento da comunidade LATAM excederam as referências e o comitê determinou que a região é robusta o suficiente para justificar uma cadeira no conselho do PASS. Isso significa que nas eleições de 2016 haverá uma cadeira para LATAM, e outra para Estados Unidos e Canadá, além de uma cadeira vaga de célula. Os eleitos começarão suas atividades a partir de 01/Jan/2017. Os nossos conselheiros para região LATAM, Diego Nogare do Brasil e Eduardo Castro da Costa Rica continuarão conosco até 02/Jun/2016.
A posição para LATAM vai suportar nosso contínuo esforço de desenvolvimento da comunidade na região, garantindo uma perspectiva global do conselho do PASS. O ocupante da cadeira vai trabalhar junto com todo o comitê para atingir as estratégias e prioridades a longo prazo definida para a comunidade do PASS, reconhecer e abraçar nossas oportunidades únicas de aprendizagem para a região. Já que esta cadeira trás uma perspectiva importante para aumentar nossa abordagem global, esse representante não estará sozinho nessa demanda. Assim como o titular da cadeira EMEA, ele possuirá um programa (portfolio) do PASS como todos os outros membros do conselho (por exemplo Global Chapters ou SQLSaturdays) e irá trabalhar com o resto do conselho para endereçar a saúde da organização ao redor do mundo.
Isso é uma incrível mudança para o PASS e abre uma oportunidade de ajuda para melhor servir nosso crescrimento da comunidade global.
Vice-Presidente Executivo, Finanças e Governança