Fresh Start for Azure Virtual Chapter

The sky’s the limit for the refreshed PASS Azure Virtual Chapter, focused on Windows Azure and cloud computing, with a steady breeze of SQL Database flowing through its free training and networking for the PASS community.

“Azure and cloud computing are part of the new wave of technology advancement,” says Nigel Sammy, the Virtual Chapter’s leader. “We’re here to help spread knowledge about the technology and provide information that empowers IT professionals to make decisions about whether and when to adopt this technology and how best to apply it to their needs.”

Nigel volunteered earlier this year to help reboot the PASS SQL Azure Virtual Chapter. While the VC was in reboot phase, Microsoft renamed SQL Azure to SQL Database, causing the VC’s leadership team to consider renaming the group as well as changing its focus. The result is the PASS Azure Virtual Chapter, launched in September, under the leadership of Nigel, co-leader Paras Doshi, and webmaster Jose Rivera.

Microsoft Principal Cloud Evangelist Brian Prince presented the VC’s debut session, “Getting Started with Windows Azure.” And Herve Roggero, SQL Azure MVP and co-author of Pro SQL Azure, spoke on "In-Depth Azure’s No-SQL with Azure Tables" in November, with the VC currently making arrangements with Scott Klein for its December meeting. All sessions are recorded and archived for on-demand viewing.

The VC covers topics on Azure and cloud computing, with the PASS community sure to appreciate sessions on SQL Database (SQL Azure) or those that include information about it. If you are interested in speaking at one of the VC meetings, you can contact Nigel.

With the VC's mission to enable Azure knowledge sharing and create a network of Azure and cloud computing professionals, “the goal for next year is to have at least one meeting every month,” Nigel notes, “and to also have some sessions done in various countries and languages so that the Azure community we’re helping build is truly a global community.”

The VC is still working on its meeting schedule to accommodate the most attendees and is also looking at how to serve members in different time zones. You can find information about future meetings on the Azure VC website, the PASS Events page, and via email notifications to VC members and Twitter.

In addition to meeting information, the VC website also has a resources page, which includes links to related blogs and articles. Anyone interested in joining the Azure VC can do so via the PASS Virtual Chapters page. And the VC is always looking for extra assistance – if you’d like to volunteer with the Azure VC, please contact any of the team members.


 

PASS Summit 2012: What an Adventure

What a whirlwind week of conversation, learning, and laughter. Attendees, speakers, sponsors, and volunteers hit the ground running last week at a record-breaking PASS Summit 2012 in Seattle, where they came and conquered all things SQL Server. From kick-off keynote presentations and deep-dive technical sessions to interactive lunches, creative networking opportunities, and a sold-out Expo Hall, PASS Summit 2012 offered something for absolutely everyone. The sense of community was felt at every turn and knew no linguistic or geographic boundaries - old friends became reacquainted and new friendships were forged.  As evidenced by the community blogs and Flickr photo streams, the SQL Server Community took advantage of every opportunity to connect, share, and learn.

Connect.
Throughout PASS Summit 2012, attendees had to go out of their way not to connect with each other. The PASS Community Zone (a new addition this year) provided a one-stop shop where attendees met user group leaders, SQLSaturday organizers, PASS Community Evangelists, and other SQL Server community groups. First-time attendees participated in a professional networking session and PASS Summit orientation and were connected with an alumni mentor to learn the ropes and get the most out of their PASS Summit experience. Chapter, Women in Technology, and Birds of a Feather luncheons and fun evening events rounded out the experience. It was impossible to leave PASS Summit without making a new connection and sharing in the #SQLFamily love.

Share.
There was no shortage of knowledge at this year’s PASS Summit. Beyond the 150+ speakers sharing their expertise in technical sessions, Microsoft developers talked about the functionalities and features they actually wrote in the  new hit “I Made That!” Developer Chalk Talks, with CSS and SQLCAT experts sharing their troubleshooting and architecture insights in the packed SQL Server Clinic. You can’t get that kind of SQL Server knowledge and one-on-one guidance and support under one roof anywhere else in the world. Everyone was open to sharing their knowledge and skills – in the hallways, at dinner, over coffee - it was a sight to see!

Learn.
Learning trumped all at PASS Summit 2012. Microsoft keynote presenters Ted Kummert and Quentin Clark updated the crowd with the latest news, including the in-memory solution code-named Project “Hekaton” and the next version of SQL Server 2012 Parallel Data Warehouse. Whether attendees were soaking it all in at their favorite of 190+ technical training sessions, talking about their implementations over lunch, trying out a Hands-On Lab, or visiting the Expo Hall – they were learning. And community members around the world joined in the experience via PASS TV’s live streaming.  The learning doesn’t need to end there. All PASS Summit Conference session recordings are now available for purchase on USB flash drive (attendees can also choose a download option and will have the opportunity to stream the 2012 sessions for free).

Next Steps: What Did You Think?
For those of you who were able to join us at PASS Summit 2012, thank you. The community is the driving force behind everything that PASS does, and your feedback is very important to us. Today attendees will receive an email with a link to our evaluation questionnaire. Completed evaluations will be entered for a chance to win a complimentary PASS Summit 2013 conference pass, so watch your Inbox for the link.

See You at PASS Summit 2013
Next year, PASS Summit’s incredible training and networking will head east to Charlotte, NC, October 15-18, to keep your SQL Server juices flowing. A discounted registration rate of $1,095 is available until January 4, and alumni can use the special ALUMNI3D code to get an additional $100 off that registration rate. Register now, enjoy the savings, and we’ll see you in Charlotte!

Join in “SQL Around the World” at the Community Zone!

Attending PASS Summit 2012? Want a chance to win a Microsoft Surface? Make sure you come by the Community Zone Wednesday and pick up your official “SQL Around the World” game card. If you’re wondering what the Community Zone is, you can read a couple of blog posts: one here by PASS Community Evangelist Niko Neugebauer and the other here by Jason Brimhall.

In a nutshell, the Community Zone is a place for Summit attendees who want to stay involved in the SQL Server community year-round. Come talk with PASS Community Evangelists, user group leaders, SQLSaturday organizers, and other SQL Server community groups about how you can participate.

During Summit, a variety of daily activities will be going on at the Community Zone, but the one you won’t want to miss is the “SQL Around the World” networking game. We hear about a first-time attendee to Summit who didn’t talk with anyone, or that those who know each other all just hang out in the same groups, making it tough for someone new to feel like they can join in. To help break through some of those barriers, we’ve come up with “SQL Around the World.”

Here’s how to play: 

  1. First, come by the Community Zone and get your official game card. You’ll want to do this early Wednesday so that you have as much time as possible to get your card filled out before the drawing on Friday. 
  2. Then, start finding other attendees who do not live in your home country. You must meet with at least 10 to fill in the 10 spots available on the card. Each person you list must be from a different country than the others on your card, so no two attendees from the same country can be listed on your card. There are 57 countries and over 4,000 attendees represented at Summit this year, so finding people from 10 different countries should be easy. 
  3. But not so fast. Because this is about networking, we want to be sure you are engaging in a conversation with the people you meet. So you must also list on your card an interesting fact about that person or their country. 
  4. By Friday at 11:00am, drop off your “SQL Around the World” game card at the Community Zone. Everyone who meets 10 individuals and fills up their game card will be in the drawing for a chance to win either a Microsoft Surface tablet or a $250 American Express gift card. The drawing will be held in the Exhibitor’s Hall at approximately 11:15am, and you must be present to win.
  5. As part of a spin-off of the above, we have another contest that involves pictures. Those who snap the most photos of themselves with the 10 attendees they’ve met will be entered in a second drawing, and will win whatever the first winner doesn’t select (the Surface or the Amex Gift Card). 

Sound hard? Or feel you can’t possibly randomly walk up to someone you don’t know and talk to them? We can help with that, too. On the back of the game card, we’ve provided some talking points and tips on what you can say to start a conversation with a fellow attendee. No matter where we’re from, everyone here at Summit shares a common language: SQL Server! That alone should make it easier for you to start chatting with someone. So be sure to stop by the Community Zone, get your card, and start networking. Even if you don’t win a grand prize, you’ll be a winner because of the connections you make this week!

SQLSaturdays #171 and #174: North by Southeast

October featured seven SQLSaturdays, all US-based and three of which were first time cities: Pittsburgh, Lincoln, and Nashua (which was also the first SQLSaturday for New Hampshire). A big treat for those of us in the Southeast were the long- awaited returns of Nashville and Charlotte, which hadn’t seen a SQLSaturday in over 2 years.

For my travel this month, I decided to go one of the first-time cities, Pittsburgh, and one of the Southeast options, Charlotte. I chose Pittsburgh because I haven’t been able to make any of the other Northeastern events this year, and it was led by first-time event organizers Gina Walters and Madhu Kudaravalli. Nashua, even though a first-time host city, was being led by Mike Walsh and Jack Corbett, two seasoned SQLSaturday organizers.

I’m a huge fan of Nashville, but again, that event was being organized by a team with lots of SQLSaturday experience: Joe Webb, Kevin Kline, Lou Davidson, and Christina Leo. That brings us to Charlotte, and its new BI Edition SQLSaturday led by another team of first-time organizers. Rafael Salas, Melissa Coates, Javier Guillen, and Jason Thomas all had been working on this SQLSaturday since the beginning of July. The idea for the Charlotte BI-only SQLSaturday came in May when Rafael began investigating starting a new PASS BI Chapter in Charlotte. After discussing the potential, we decided that first hosting a BI SQLSaturday would let the team see if there was enough interest in the area to spin off a BI-specific user group from the current strong Charlotte SQL Server User Group, led by Peter Shire.

First up: Pittsburgh. The Pittsburgh SQLSaturday had a unique venue for its speaker dinner: a restaurant inside a casino. What really made this casino stand out was the tribute to National Breast Cancer Awareness Month - the entire building was surrounded by intricately woven bras of all shapes, colors, and sizes. It was a work of art indeed! Another bonus was the beautiful evening lights over the Ohio River right outside the restaurant’s patio. 

For the event itself, LaRoche College provided a nice, clean venue with a large area for the opening keynote and comments. All the sponsors were along the sides of this large space, and the team did a good job of making sure attendees funneled directly to the sponsors after they checked in. As much as these spaces are great for gathering the entire audience in one place, it’s often challenging to keep attendees coming back, except during longer breaks such as lunch, because sessions are typically outside of these areas. Overall, everything went smoothly for this new event team - which even had a record of just four attendees out of their first 100 check-ins to not pre-print their SpeedPASS. Nice!

On to Charlotte. With registrations growing rapidly throughout the summer for this event, it became obvious that BI has huge interest in Charlotte. In late August, we decided to move forward with creating the new BI PASS Chapter, fondly name CBIG, and announce the official January 2013 kick-off meeting during the SQLSaturday.

As I worked with the Charlotte BI team leading up to their event, I was impressed with their organization, the great questions they asked along the way, and the creative ideas they had on making their SQLSaturday extra special. The CBIG team added a Microsoft SQLClinic at the event and did a good job of keeping attendees informed, especially the week before the event. The venue, Central Piedmont Community College, was very nice and ideal for this type of event. Sponsors were set up in the main hallway, where everyone had to constantly walk through them. My only recommendation for next time would be to either have a microphone during the opening announcements or stand on the second floor and talk down to the attendees, which has worked well for carrying voices over the crowd at several other SQLSaturdays.

I collected around 30 names of people interested in Peter’s chapter, and CBIG incorporated a few questions in their event survey to ask what topics people would like to see at their meetings. The survey offered an option for attendees to opt in for the new user group’s mailing list, and the team used the surveys for the SQLSaturday’s raffle giveaway.

As I shared details about the two Charlotte user groups throughout the day with attendees, it was clear that the area’s technical community is as thriving as it has ever been. And, boy, you should have seen their faces when I told them that next year’s PASS Summit was going to be in their own city! 
 

Pop Quiz: What’s PASS’s 20th Virtual Chapter?

School will soon be in session with the debut of PASS’s 20th Virtual Chapter, dedicated to free training and support of SQL Server and Business Intelligence professionals in the education sector.

“Our mission is to provide SQL Server training that uses educational data and that shows how to take advantage of SQL Server tools for education-related tasks,” says VC leader David MacLean. “We want to start monthly online sessions in December, depending on how quickly we can get speakers lined up.”

David got interested in launching the VC when he registered for PASS Summit 2012 as a first-time attendee and asked if there was anything special for the education sector happening at the event. “Lana Montgomery and Karla Landrum said. ‘There is now,’” he notes with a laugh. “Karla and others at PASS really moved on this, and I am very excited and pleased that we are the 20th PASS Virtual Chapter.”

David will be meeting at Summit with other database pros working in education to recruit VC volunteers, speakers, and members and gather suggestions for meeting topics and web resources. You can find him at the VC tables during the Welcome Reception or leave him a message at the Community Zone.

Some session topics might include:

  • How to import SAT/ACT scores from the College Board using SSIS
  • How to import the Common application or other vendor application data using SSIS
  • Designing SSRS reports tracking candidate stages across multiple years or reports that combine candidate/student data with financial aid data
  • Using SSAS to predict the factors that get candidates to enroll

“Speakers don’t have to have a background in education because we all use the same tools,” David notes. “And if need be, I can assist with how they might make some changes to their presentation that would relate it specifically to those working in education. For consultants, this is a great opportunity to develop contacts in the education sector.

If you are interested in speaking, volunteering, or suggesting meeting topics, you can contact David at david.maclean@msmc.edu with “Education VC” in the Subject line or on Twitter at @DavidAMacLean1. To join the chapter, just go to the PASS Home page and click the “Join a Virtual Chapter” button.

“I will note that Scotland had an Education Act in 1496, so I think it is appropriate that a MacLean start the Education Virtual Chapter for all the fine laddies and lassies of PASS.” He adds. “If someone buys me a glass of Glenfiddich Special Reserve at one of the Summit After Hours events, I might just sing an old Scottish tune for all fellow Scots.”

PASS TV at PASS Summit 2012

PASS TV will make its debut on November 7 at PASS Summit 2012. Over the course of the conference, PASS will live stream three 12-hour days of technical sessions with overnight replay. Camera and crew will be at the ready to stream these sessions as well as candid interviews to the global SQL Server community. If you can’t make it to PASS Summit 2012 then we’ll  bring a piece of the conference to you! You’ll be right in the heart of things as our roving camera captures conversations with attendees, speakers and industry influencers. In addition to broadcasting many of the top-notch technical sessions being delivered at Summit, we’ll also give you a close look at the SQL Server Clinic, Hands-On Labs , networking activities and other professional development content.

How Can I Tune In?

PASS TV will be broadcast from the Live Summit website beginning at 15:45 GMT/UTC on November 7 and ending November 10 at 15:45 GMT/UTC. No username or password is required so spread the word with colleagues and friends and invite them to tune in for the high quality programming that PASS has to offer.

Which Sessions Will Be Featured?

Catch the keynote sessions with Microsoft’s Ted Kummert and Quentin Clark, Women in Technology panel discussion, featured spotlight sessions including the always-popular Dr. David Dewitt among others. For full programming information, please visit the PASS Summit website.

Anti-Harassment Policy Guidelines and Process

In August the PASS Board of Directors approved an Anti-Harassment Policy (AHP)  for PASS Summit. After the policy was established a subcommittee continued work on guidelines for addressing alleged violations of the policy. The final version of the process was discussed at the September Board meeting and is now available here.
 
Any alleged violations to the AHP can be reported to a member of the conference staff. Staff receiving such a report will contact the Duty Officer. The Duty Officer is a designated member of the staff who is reponsible for taking a full report. The Duty Officer will also notify the Anit-Harassment Review Committee (AHRC) that a complaint has been made.
 
The AHRC is the body authorized by the PASS Board of Directors to take action in response to a violation of the AHP. The process document provides guidelines for how the AHRC will conduct its inquiries. 
 
Publication of the AHP and an accompanying blog post  elicited some feedback from the community. Some expressed concerns about how the policy would be implemented and wondered if behaviors such as swearing could cause someone to be removed from the Summit.
 
We could never come up with an exhaustive list of everything that might result in someone being removed from the Summit. Both the behavior and the context in which it occurs would be important in making such a decision. But the AHP Process document provides some general examples of reasons why someone could be expelled from the conference. The emphasis is on the seriousness of the incident. Repeated harassing behavior could also result in expulsion.
 
The purpose of the Anti-Harassment Policy is to ensure the PASS Summit is safe and welcoming for all attendees. The AHP process guidelines support that goal.

 

 

PASS Summit: Get in the Community Zone

There is no doubt that PASS Summit is all about SQL Server and the SQL Server community. While you might know the conference as the best place to learn anything SQL Server-related, it’s also the best possible place to get connected with SQL Server professionals all across the globe.

PASS community volunteers from around the world work hard every year to deliver the best technical training and information to meet the needs of all attendees, no matter what their skill level or technology interest. And this year, we’re extending that mission to provide more knowledge about and connections with the SQL Server community by creating a special Community Zone.

What is a Community Zone? It’s both a location for community sharing at Summit and a state of mind that encourages more community involvement through a variety of organizations and events. You’ll find the PASS Summit Community Zone between the Lunch Hall and the Exhibit Hall. And we are looking forward to showcasing both PASS-related and non-PASS-affiliated community groups and events.

If you represent a not-for-profit SQL Server organization, please join us in the Community Zone. And even if you aren’t able to attend Summit, if you send us information about your group or event, we’ll help spread the word. How much more community can you get?! :)

Talking about community means reaching out to more than just English-speaking attendees, and we have invited volunteers who speak other languages so we can welcome everyone and try to help all members reach their respective community goals. We’re also interested in hearing your suggestions – if you have a great idea for a user group or a not-for-profit event, drop us an email at ce@sqlpass.org.

The Community Zone will be open Wednesday, Nov. 7, through Friday, Nov. 9, with your faithful PASS Community Evangelists – Karla Landrum and me – and many generous volunteers looking to make your visit as fun and valuable as possible. (Hint: We’ll have some great networking games and other activities to help attendees learn about different communities all around the world and connect with each other.)

I am so excited about the new Community Zone and helping PASS members get more involved in and improve their local communities and the SQL Server community at large. So if you’re attending PASS Summit, please drop by the Community Zone to say “Hello,” ask questions, discuss exciting plans for the SQL Server community, or just hang out – who knows, you could also win some amazing prizes! 
– Niko Neugebauer

 

PASS Board Elections: The Results Are In!

After a record-setting elections season, PASS is pleased to announce the three candidates elected to serve on the PASS Board of Directors for the 2013/2014 term. Wendy Pastrick of Calamos Investments, James Rowland-Jones of the Big Bang Data Company, and Sri Sridharan of GNET Corp were the top vote-getters in a competitive race for the director-at-large seats.

Continuing the trend of increased voter participation, a record 1,957 voters participated in an active 2012 campaign season of great community forums questions, blogs, open-mic activities, and tweets. A tight race, the difference between second and fifth place was less than 200 votes:

  1. Wendy Pastrick – 1127 votes
  2. James Rowland-Jones – 996 votes
  3. Sri Sridharan – 966 votes
  4. Kendal Van Dyke – 818 votes
  5. Allen Kinsel – 798

Community members across 64 countries voted in the 2-week election, casting a total of 4,705 votes. Although six more voters participated in 2012 compared to 2011, 338 fewer votes were cast, with 2012 seeing an increase in single-vote ballots. In such a close race, every vote makes a difference. And for those who may think the election is decided in the first 2 days, the 2012 candidate standings actually changed from the midpoint of the elections to the final results. It’s never too late to have a say and impact the elections.

Newly elected board members will officially begin serving their term on January 1, 2013. For more information about the candidates and the elections process, see the 2012 PASS Elections site.

Thanks to everyone who asked a question in the candidate forums, blogged and tweeted about the elections, and helped shape the future of PASS by voting. And PASS still needs your ideas and involvement.

As PASS continues to grow, it will also need more dedicated individuals to step up and lead. If you are interested in moving into a leadership role within the PASS community, please check out your local PASS Chapter or a Virtual Chapter. Chapters require a strong team of volunteers to help forge the way and are a great first step to one day serving on the PASS Board yourself.

Congratulations to the newly elected directors, and thanks to all the candidates for a passionate and tightly fought race and enhancing the dialog about what PASS means to all of us.

WIT: Something to Talk About

Supporting women in technology is more than just talk in the SQL Server community, thanks to the PASS Women in Technology (WIT) Virtual Chapter and its popular luncheons and panel discussions at PASS Summit, SQLSaturdays, and other events.

“Our mission is to provide a forum to discuss issues that touch women working in technology and to provide opportunities for women in PASS to network,” explains VC Chairperson Meredith Ryan. “We do this primarily through the Summit Luncheon and our SQLSaturday events. And we use our monthly conference calls to plan the logistics of the annual luncheon and to provide support for SQLSaturday planners and organizers for their WIT sessions.”

With this year marking the 10th anniversary of the PASS Summit WIT luncheon, VC leaders and volunteers are gearing up for a special panel discussion on “Women in Technology: Where Have We Been and Where Are We Going?” with panelists Stefanie Higgins, Kevin Kline, Kendra Little, Denise McInerney, and Jen Stirrup.

What’s happened in the PASS WIT VC since that first luncheon and panel discussion in 2003? Well, attendance at the event has grown from 65 people to over 400 in 2011, Meredith says, and the VC is planning for 560 attendees at this year's luncheon, sponsored by SQLSentry. Attendees at that launch event wanted to continue the networking and formed the PASS WIT Special Interest Group (SIG), which is now a Virtual Chapter with well over 1000 members on its distribution list.

You can also find a WIT session at just about any PASS SQLSaturday in the US. “And thanks to Jen Stirrup, we are making great progress at SQLSaturdays and other PASS events internationally,” Meredith adds. Some WIT sessions at these events have pre-set topics, and others are driven by attendees’ questions. Topics have ranged from dealing with work-life balance and ways to negotiate at work to mentoring the next generation and how to get children excited about Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) programs.

The VC encourages men as well as women to attend WIT events, volunteer with the group, and join in the discussion as coworkers, managers, mentors, fathers, husbands, and all-around advocates of women in technology. “We’re open to everyone and welcome all perspectives,” Meredith notes. “We are also always looking for new volunteers. Right now, we need someone to help us get periodic webinars going. The chapter has been discussing hosting quarterly web sessions for some time now, but we haven't had the right person to champion the effort. Even if hosting and managing webinars aren't your thing, we can always use more hands and minds!”

In addition to Meredith, the VC’s leadership team includes:  Donna Shaver, Secretary;  Yanni Robel, Marketing/Social Media Manager; Wendy Pastrick and Kathi Kellenberger, Regional Activity Coordinators; Denise McInerney, Chapter Advisor; and Christina E. Leo, Webmaster.

The WIT VC’s monthly planning conference call is the fourth Wednesday of each month at 1:00pm Pacific Time/4:00 pm Eastern Time, and all volunteers are welcome. To join the VC and help with the work it does, just send an email to wit@sqlpass.org. And follow @PASS_WIT on Twitter for updates and items of interest.