April 15, 2013 – Cross-posted from my blog
With each of these quarterly posts, I want to be able to report progress in the areas I'm responsible for. I'm pleased to share some key milestones from the past three months.
New Webinar Platform
Last year it became clear that we needed a more stable, scalable webinar platform for the Virtual Chapters and 24 Hours of PASS. Both the VCs and 24HOP continue to grow and attract larger audiences, and the technology we were using was not meeting our needs.
We discussed requirements with VC leaders and HQ staffers who work on 24HOP. We got proposals from seven or eight vendors and had live demonstrations from those that would meet our needs. In the end, we chose GoToWebinar from Citrix. Several VC leaders have been trained on the new platform, and a couple have started to use it. And we will be using GoToWebinar for the next 24HOP event.
Projects like these require organization and attention to detail. I want to recognize the work of HQ staffer Vicki Van Damme, who has been instrumental in getting us to the finish line.
Our first 24HOP of the year was held at the end of January. It was also our first Business Analytics Edition and featured a number of speakers who [also presented] at the PASS Business Analytics Conference. Focusing a 24HOP on business analytics reflects PASS's outreach to data professionals in this growing sector of our industry. Check out the session recordings to learn more about the work being done in this space.
Virtual events are a key part of PASS global growth. 24HOP Russian Edition was held in March. Thanks to the volunteers who worked hard to put on this event.
We launched two new VCs this quarter. The Business Analytics VC has already hosted four meetings and is playing an important part in PASS's growth into the BA world. The Book Readers VC is a virtual book club, where members get together online to discuss a book. They are starting with Itzik Ben-Gan's "T-SQL Fundamentals for SQL Server 2012." There is still time to read the first few chapters and join the discussion on April 17.
Virtual Chapters provide valuable technical training every month. Sign up for the VCs that interest you to get notified of upcoming events.
The Board met in January and discussed many items, including goals for the year, by-law changes, election process, and Summit. See the meeting minutes for details. In February, we adopted changes to the by-laws. And last week, I was in Chicago for a Board meeting and the BA Conference.
Budget planning is in full swing, and I've been working on the budgets for 24HOP and VCs.
In May, I'll be attending SQLBits, where I'm looking forward to meeting more members of the SQL community in the UK.
Planning for the next 24HOP will get underway soon, work on the budget will continue, and we'll finish rolling out the new webinar platform for the Virtual Chapters.
April 2, 2013 – Serving on the PASS Board of Directors is a rich and rewarding experience. It’s also a responsibility that should not be entered into lightly. As we prepare for this year’s elections season, we have the opportunity to review the process for involving and evaluating candidates and for taking full advantage of this chance for the community to come together and share in the vision for PASS.
As part of a lean, not-for-profit, community organization, we must also evaluate the time invested in the election process to protect the return on community investment. With this in mind, a subset of the PASS Board is leading a review of the election process, and we are seeking your feedback on these objectives and their direction.
The objectives set out by the committee are threefold:
- Inspire more well-qualified candidates to run for the board
- Streamline the election process
- Improve opportunities for community engagement during the process
These objectives may expand or contract based on your feedback. Please share your thoughts with the team by emailing ElectionProcessReview@sqlpass.org or by posting on the Elections Feedback site.
The team has also given serious consideration as to how these objectives may be achieved. We would like to get your input on these proposals too as we will discuss them at the next board meeting, which will take place in Chicago on the 8th-9th of April. We are continuing to shape our plans and ideas, and commit to open communication as we move forward in the coming weeks and months with changes to the election process.
Of the goals identified, this is the most important one to me. We do need to inspire more well-qualified community members to apply and share their experience at the board level. We are also keen to ensure that we attract an international audience. It is important to remember that as part of the Global Growth program, we will have at least one regional seat in 2013 (for the US and Canada). I will also be asking the board to vote in the April Board Meeting to create the EMEA regional seat.
Our focus at this time is to:
- Proactively encourage candidates to apply
- Reduce the burden on candidates applying to run
- Make it easier for candidates to campaign for votes
As part of his work with the new Volunteers portfolio, Sri Sridharan has taken up the challenge to identify ways to encourage members to apply for the board. We realise we cannot simply wait for people to apply nor rely on our own networks. We must make it clear what the benefits of being part of the board are and also outline the commitments involved.
We can make two significant improvements to the application process that will make it less onerous for candidates:
- One form. Currently the candidate needs to fill out an application form and then provide separate campaign materials. We should make this simpler and more coherent.
- Max two references. In my application during the 2012 election, I provided eight separate references. That’s more than I’ve provided for any job ever!
Finally, by providing a more structured program of events and activities during the campaigning process, we can make it easier for candidates to be heard. It also helps to level the playing field.
Streamlining the Election Process
There are a number of changes we are thinking about to streamline the overall process. By shrinking the timescales, we aim to inject greater interest and enthusiasm into the election process. It is difficult to sustain interest when a process is drawn out. We believe we can optimise the schedule to really help drive interest with these changes:
- Reduce Nomination Committee (NomCom) workload
- Create a single time period for campaigning and voting
- Significantly reduce the time period for campaigning and voting from 23 days to around 7 days
Part of the NomCom’s workload is driven by the data they are provided by the candidates. We need to ensure that simplifying the application process for the candidate doesn’t dramatically increase the workload of the NomCom. In an ideal world, the workload would be reduced for both parties – so that is the goal.
Improving Opportunities for Community Engagement
To date, the opportunities for the community to engage with candidates have been limited to the PASS election forums. We are looking to improve this area significantly and hope to share more with you in due course. Wendy Pastrick will be spearheading this area of the initiative. Items under consideration are as follows:
- Increased use of social media
- Enhanced layout of candidates web page
- Improved reach by making election content accessible to the widest audience we can
By improving the accessibility of campaign materials and providing greater public interaction with candidates, we aim to significantly increase the engagement level between candidate and community during the election process.
We are in the process of defining what this is all going to look like. However, you should expect much greater use of social media, such as hosted Twitter Q&As with candidates, to really drive a deeper, more personal and impactful campaigning period in this election.
INSERT <Your Idea> HERE
Being on the PASS Board is a fantastic experience, but it does not give anyone sole rights to good ideas! Please share yours with us. Feel free to post them to the Elections Feedback site or in private via the ElectionProcessReview@sqlpass.org email alias.
Thank you for your time,
April 1, 2013 – Congratulations and welcome to all the members of this year’s PASS Program Committee! Guided by Program Director Adam Jorgensen and co-Program Managers Amy Lewis and Lance Harra, the Program Committee is responsible for organizing a world-class PASS Summit educational program that equips SQL Server and Business Intelligence professionals for today’s fast-changing world of data.
The 58-member group – PASS’s largest volunteer committee – reviews and selects speakers and sessions for PASS Summit, builds guidelines and resources for creating top presentations, ensures all PowerPoint slide decks meet the highest standards, and works to improve processes for developing and evaluating speakers and encouraging participation in all PASS speaking opportunities, from local and Virtual Chapters to SQLSaturday and 24 Hours of PASS to the Business Intelligence Conference and Summit.
As the PASS Summit 2013 Call for Speakers draws to a close this week, Program Committee members stand ready to begin their work and deliver an exceptional lineup of sessions and speakers. Without further ado, here is your 2013 Program Committee:
|Application & Database Development
|Angela Henry, Lead
||Craig Purnell, Co-Lead
||Colin Stasiuk, Co-Lead
|BI Platform Architecture, Development & Administration
|Scott Murray, Lead
||Roberto Finger Fonseca
|Venkata Krishna Chintapalli
|David Peter Hansen
|BI Information Delivery
||Kimberly St. Jacques
|Christopher Price, Lead
||Ben Debow, Co-Lead
||Pat Wright, Co-Lead
|Cloud Application Development & Deployment
|Mindy Curnutt, Lead
||Jose Guay, Co-Lead
|Enterprise Database Administration & Deployment
||Yani Robel, Co-Lead
|Nicholas Cain, Lead
|Doug Lane, Lead
March 26, 2013 – It’s hard to believe we’re just one week away from the end of Q1 2013, and the PASS SQLSaturday “firsts” just keep coming all over the world.
At this point last year, we had 12 SQLSaturdays, compared to 13 this year. And even though there’s only one more in comparison, several of last year’s hosting cities have moved to later months in 2013, opening up space for some new locations to join in. This year, Q1 has seen two new countries (Mexico and the Philippines), two new North American states (New Mexico and Connecticut), and two new cities (Detroit in the US and Exeter in the UK). It’s so exciting to see these events continue to grow and provide free, quality SQL Server training - in many cases, in communities that rarely if ever get such an opportunity.
In addition to new events, we’ve welcomed several new sponsors to the SQLSaturday arena already this year. It’s rewarding as a mentor to see organizers get better each year at marketing and getting support for their events, especially at the local level. The skills it takes to show that a SQLSaturday is a good investment will cross over into other areas for these organizers, such as being better able to negotiate a higher salary or convince their employers to provide more training opportunities as part of their annual increase.
Of course, “selling” a SQLSaturday isn’t easy for everyone, especially first-timers, which brings me to something I’ve seen less of these past several months: SQLSaturday blog recaps by organizers, speakers, and attendees. And that’s too bad, because the lessons learned by others have been invaluable to SQLSaturday newcomers for years now.
I encourage the community to get back to blogging their experiences at these events. Organizers recapping the lessons they’ve learned in hosting a SQLSaturday help every volunteer team and event coming up, particularly those considering hosting one for the very first time. Speakers can provide some great feedback and tips to organizers, especially since they often participate in so many of these and other training events. And each attendee has his/her own unique experience at a SQLSaturday.
Everyone can provide some insight as to what worked, what could have been better, and ideas for the next time. For SQLSaturdays in particular, the sharing of these experiences has been key to the growth of one of the most recognizable “grassroots” events in our community. Let’s not stop now!
March 19, 2013 – Last month we asked the community about the sessions, content and speakers they want to see in the line-up for PASS Summit 2013. The results of the survey provided some interesting insights: a ranking of session types indicated that content on tips & tricks and best practices were the top choice and that tracks on Application and Development, Administration and Deployment and Business Intelligence tracks were what people were most looking forward to; the community was also divided 50/50 as to whether a NoSQL/Big Data track should be added.
A PDF of the survey results is available here.
Cross-posted from the BA Conference blog
March 6, 2013 – As the new PASS Business Analytics Virtual Chapter prepares for its third meeting – a gentle, business-focused introduction to Big Data – you can catch up on February’s presentations and plan to make this free training part of your monthly schedule.
Stacia Misner will take the VC’s webcast stage March 14 for “A Big Data Primer” (noon ET/16:00 GMT) to demystify Big Data, look at its implications for traditional data warehousing and reporting, and explore the technology and skill sets you need to successfully implement a Big Data strategy.
“This is going to be a great real-world session,” notes VC leader Melissa Demsak. “You’ll definitely leave with some inspiration and practical steps for tackling your first Big Data project.”
With a mission to provide quality virtual training to business analysts, BA/BI practitioners and architects, and data scientists, the VC’s focus is on creating a community for shared learning and enabling the creation of world-class business analytics solutions based on the Microsoft platform, Melissa explains.
“Our topics will naturally intersect with those presented by several of our sister VCs – Business Intelligence, Big Data, Data Architecture, and Master Data/Data Quality – but we’ll be covering them from an analytics perspective,” she adds. “We’ll also include non-Microsoft solutions and topics outside the traditional SQL Server and BI community, such as data visualization, analytics, and data science.”
The BA VC meetings, scheduled for the second and/or fourth Thursday of every month, will all be recorded and archived for on-demand viewing. Recordings of the group’s first two meetings – Mark Tabladillo’s “A Case for Business Analytics Learning” and Chris Webb’s “What’s New for BI in Excel 2013” – will be available soon.
You can become a member of the BA VC by simply clicking Join next to Business Analytics in the list of VCs on the PASS Virtual Chapters page. “We'll keep you posted of all upcoming meetings, learning opportunities, and the latest and greatest information from Microsoft,” Melissa says. “We also have a special $200 discount code for the PASS Business Analytics Conference coming up in April – if you haven't signed up yet, just use the code BAC941VC when you register for some nice savings."
Interested in speaking at an upcoming BA VC webinar? Email your ideas to firstname.lastname@example.org, and make sure you follow the VC on Twitter at @passbavc.
March 5, 2013 – It’s never too early to start thinking about PASS Summit. This year Charlotte, North Carolina – the home of NASCAR and an abundance of outdoor activities, a lively nightlife and restaurant scene, and a vibrant arts and cultural center – will welcome over 5,000 SQL Server and BI professionals for PASS Summit 2013.
The process is already underway to create the best lineup yet of world-class sessions and speakers. The Community Call for Speakers – your invitation to help shape and participate in the Summit 2013 program – is open until April 3. Thinking about submitting a session (or four)? Check out the FAQs and get started today.
Thank you to everyone who submitted responses for the PASS Summit 2013 Program Survey – we appreciate your feedback and ideas on the sessions and speakers you want to see. Members of the soon-to-be-announced volunteer Program Committee will be reviewing your responses as they work to build an educational program designed to meet the needs of today’s data pros. Congratulations to SQL Server DBA Dana Stevenson from California, who won a Microsoft Surface for her participation in the survey.
Full-day pre-conference sessions will kick off the event Oct. 14-15, with the main conference beginning with the evening Welcome Reception Oct. 15 and featuring over 190 sessions Oct. 16-18.
If you’re thinking about attending PASS Summit 2013 but haven’t registered yet, you can still take advantage of the discounted rate when you register by April 15. Already registered? Make sure you tell your friends that you’ll be at PASS Summit for the first time or as a proud alumni by adding an attendee Twibbon to your Twitter account.
See you in Charlotte!
February 18, 2013 – Grab a cup of coffee and settle in for a good read with PASS’s new book club. In this Q&A, Ike Ellis, co-leader of the Book Readers Virtual Chapter, shares the group’s first selection, how meetings will work, and how to make time for this important learning activity.
Q: What’s the purpose of the Book Readers Virtual Chapter?
A: Reading a book by yourself is an excellent way to learn. The only problem is, the book can't answer your questions if it isn't explaining something well. Sometimes books don't give you real-world options or tell you actual stories about how a technology or technique has been used in the field. Other times, a book will say something really important, but it's helpful for an expert to point it out and say, "Listen up, this is really important." Book authors also need to be politically correct, so sometimes they may not say, "Yeah, no one really does it this way in the real world." All of these problems are solved with a little book-club mentoring. A mentor can make the book come alive.
Q: The VC’s first book has been selected – Itzik Ben-Gan's T-SQL Fundamentals for SQL Server 2012. Tell us a little about it.
A: The SQL Server community is chock-full of experts, and we could have chosen so many fantastic books. But we had to start somewhere, and who better to kick us off than Itzik?
T-SQL Fundamentals is an excellent way for readers to get a 10,000-foot view of what T-SQL has to offer in SQL Server 2012. We all have blind spots. Maybe some of us aren't using CTEs when appropriate. Perhaps some of us don't know the difference between a table variable and a temporary table or aren’t using the MERGE statement to full effect. This book is a great way to uncover some blind spots and improve our core T-SQL skills.
Q: So how will the book club work, how fast will you be going through a book, and what should people come prepared to talk about at the meetings?
A: Our first meeting, March 20, is an introductory meeting where we’ll frame the importance of the topic, discuss the rules of the group, practice using the remote software, and open the discussion to see what everyone hopes to get out of the group. There might be some kinks to work out since we're brand-new at this and still learning. We'll start reading the book after the first meeting.
We’ll then meet the third Wednesday of every month at 12pm Pacific Time (19:00 GMT). I think we'll end up reading 100-150 pages a month. That's about 4-8 hours of reading, which I think is reasonable. We’ll try not to get too aggressive because we know people have busy lives with too much to do already.
Once we begin reading, everyone should make sure they bring their questions and comments to the meetings. The interaction is why we have this group. I'll be there to answer questions and to verify technical accuracy, but I might not know the answer to every question. I believe that real learning happens when you try to explain what you know to someone else. That's why it's very helpful for readers to help each other – so that both readers benefit from the explanation.
Q: Back to your comment about busy lives – any tips on finding time to read?
A: I read all the time. I read everything I can get my hands on. I think we need to remember that our technical skills all have an expiration date. If we don't sharpen the saw, the blade gets dull – and who needs a dull blade? We have to keep learning, keep growing, keep expanding, or we will atrophy. I love learning and consider it a core skill that every technologist needs to have. Good leaders will allow for time to study and learn during the work day. I would consider approaching management with the need so they can allocate time toward staying sharp.
Q: How can people join the Book Reading VC and send any questions, suggestions, or ideas for future books to read?
A: Joining the VC and getting on our DL is easy: Just go to the PASS Virtual Chapters page and click on the Join button beside the Book Readers VC. We have contact information on the website for any questions. And if we need a separate interface for asking questions throughout the month, we'll start a Google group for our members.
Q: Brad Cunningham is joining you as co-leader of the VC. What can we expect from your co-host?
A: Brad has been a C# MVP since 2008. He's always on the cutting edge of software development, writing new web, mobile, and enterprise solutions. His code has been featured all over the Internet, on numerous podcasts, and at user groups. Brad and I have known each other for years, have co-presented on numerous topics, and have worked on software projects together. We’re good friends and look forward to having a great time sharing our love of technology and books with the community.
February 18, 2013 – There is a lot changing in the data professional’s world these days. More data is being produced and stored. More enterprises are trying to use that data to improve their products and services and understand their customers better. More data platforms and tools seem to be crowding the market. For a traditional DBA, this can be a confusing and even unsettling time. It’s also a time that offers great opportunity for career growth. I speak from personal experience.
We sometimes talk about the “accidental DBA” – the person who finds herself suddenly responsible for managing the database because she has some other technical skills. Although it was not accidental, six months ago I was unexpectedly offered a chance to transition out of my DBA role and become a data analyst. I have since come to view this offer as a gift, though at the time I wasn’t quite sure what to do with it.
Throughout my DBA career, I’ve received tremendous support from my PASS friends and colleagues, and they were the first ones I turned to for counsel about this new situation. Everyone was encouraging, and I received two pieces of valuable advice: First, leverage what I already know about data, and second, work to understand the business’ needs.
Harnessing the power of data to solve business problems is really the heart of the job. The challenge is figuring out how to do that. PASS had been the source of much of my technical training as a DBA, so I naturally started there to begin my business intelligence education. Once again, Virtual Chapter webinars, local chapter meetings, and SQLSaturdays have been invaluable.
I work in a large company where we are fortunate to have some very talented data scientists and analysts. These colleagues have been generous with their time and advice. I also took a statistics class through Coursera, where I got a refresher in statistics and an introduction to the R programming language.
And that’s not the end of the free resources available to someone wanting to acquire new skills. There are many knowledgeable business intelligence and analytics professionals who teach through their blogs. Every day, I can learn something new from one of these experts.
Sometimes we plan our next career move, and sometimes it just happens. Either way, a database professional who follows industry developments and acquires new skills will be better prepared when change comes. Take the opportunity to learn something about the changing data landscape by attending an upcoming Business Intelligence, Business Analytics, or Big Data Virtual Chapter meeting. And if you are moving into this new world of data, consider attending the PASS Business Analytics Conference in April where you can meet and learn from those who are already on that road.
It’s been said that “the only thing constant is change.” That’s never been truer for the data professional than it is today. But if you are someone who loves data and grasps its potential, you are in the right place at the right time.
February 18, 2013 – The PASS Board recently approved an updated set of bylaws that provide improved representation to our members around the world. As part of this process, we solicited feedback from our members for 30 days. During that time we received three pieces of feedback.
The first comment reads:
Although the bylaws discuss an individual director representing a region – what are the rules around who can represent a region? Must one live in the region, or work in the region? Especially when you get into Europe, there will probably need to be very clear rules about that, as well as what happens when someone moves or changes employment.
The Board will define any regions prior to the elections through the published election procedures. We expect that the regions will be quite large. For example, the bylaws define the US and Canada as the first region. Based on the discussion at our last Board meeting, I expect the second region defined will be Europe, the Middle East, and Africa (EMEA). Ideally, we would find people that both lived and worked in the region. We’re going to do the best we can at defining what being “in” a region means so that potential candidates have a clear understanding of their particular situation.
The second comment is about electronic votes. It reads:
I have a question regarding this section: Section VI.5.Mail or Electronic Vote. Any action requiring a vote of the Board of Directors may be taken by written, mailed, facsimile, online, or electronic ballot. The action taken by such a vote shall be effective upon the unanimous approval of the members of the Board. Is this saying that every vote must be unanimous? I don't think that's the case, but I think it can be read that way.
The VI.5 only applies to votes conducted over mail or electronically such as email votes. This section is included to comply with Illinois state law.
The last comment discusses our meetings. It reads:
The biggest thing I find interesting is that we never have meetings though they are specified. Only thing I see that a meeting could do would be to remove a board member, but that would take the board calling for the meeting, and it seems to need to be in person. But I generally trust the board, unlike national politics. I expect that the board will work in our best interest and deal honestly. :)
We consider the PASS Summit as the official annual meeting. This is one of the reasons finances and organizational details are presented at Summit. In general, there’s very little that needs to officially happen at the annual meeting.
I’d like to thank our Governance Coordinators at headquarters, the Global Growth Committee, and the PASS Board for their work on these bylaws. Reviewing revision after revision of these documents isn’t the most glamorous part of our volunteer work, but it is necessary to move our organization forward.