PASS Summit 2015 Speaker Q&A: Mark Vaillancourt

August 5, 2015 — Go inside PASS Summit 2015 session in this Q&A series with our presenters. In this interview, Mark Vaillancourt takes us inside his General Session, “A Bigger Boat: Data Visualization Lessons from the Movie Theater”.

Q: Who is your favorite super-hero, and which SQL Server or BI super-power do you hope your session will give attendees?

Mark: I would have to pick Professor Xavier of the X-Men: his ability to see the truth in people's minds and cut through the false picture they try to present. I am hoping my attendees will learn how to use powers of Data Visualization to help find and show the truth in their data rather than the fantasy that might be more convenient.

Q: What’s your origin story? How did you become interested in working with data, and how did you take that initial interest to the expert level?

Mark: I was working at a regional Theater in IT and part of my job was pulling lists for the fundraising folks. I just kept pushing forward and ended up getting into consulting around SQL Server, mostly with Reporting Services, initially. That led me to BI.

Q: What’s your favorite data solution’s secret power—the biggest strength that most people don’t really know about or use to full advantage?

Mark: My favorite is actually not much of a secret. I love how easy it is becoming to get work done in the BI space. The new Power BI is a great example of that. BI does not have to be hard. There are some situations and problems that are, but there are great applications for simplicity.

Q: What about data’s biggest kryptonite or nemesis--the biggest mistake you see data professionals make?

Mark: I see people get really caught up in how to build something, how to make it work, and sometimes forget to ask if that is the right thing to build. Building the wrong solution really, really well is still building the wrong solution.

Q: What still excites you or trips you up in the real world when working with SQL Server or BI?

Mark: I am excited by the fact that I will never stop learning. Things change so fast and opportunities come up that I never would have dreamed. For people interested in stretching themselves and learning new skills, this is an amazing time to be a data professional.

Q: What do you see as the next step after attending your session?

Mark: I would love to see people take the new Power BI for a spin and act on what they learned in my session. For me, there is huge satisfaction in helping to show someone how to do something themselves that makes their lives easier.

Check out our other Q&As with PASS Summit 2015 speakers.

PASS Welcomes Global Alliance Partner Pyramid Analytics

August 5, 2015 – PASS is excited to welcome long-term sponsor Pyramid Analytics to the Global Alliance Program, a strategic partnership that supports the worldwide PASS community.

Pyramid Analytics strives to help customers get the most of their investments in the Microsoft BI stack. To that end, the company prioritizes three key relationships:

  • · Engaging mutual Microsoft customers and channels as a best-in-class analytics platform on top of Microsoft SQL Server Analysis Services (SSAS).
  • · Partnering closely with Microsoft, with whom Pyramid Analytics recently unveiled a strategic agreement, collaborating on integrated technology and go-to-market.
  • · Committing to the SQL Server community as a long-term sponsor of PASS SQLSaturday events and other global training and leadership events.


“PASS has a history of commitment to SQL Server professionals,” notes Alberto Sutton, Vice President of Marketing for Pyramid Analytics. “Its resources, events, training, and networking opportunities are extremely helpful to build knowledge and careers. Pyramid Analytics has been a long-term sponsor of the SQL Server community and PASS, so becoming part of the PASS Global Alliance Program furthers our ability to connect with our most avid users: professionals looking for the best-in-class BI platform on top of SQL Server and SSAS.”

As a Silver Global Alliance Partner, Pyramid Analytics will be participating as a sponsor at PASS Summit 2015, supporting PASS SQLSaturday events throughout the year, and more.

PASS sponsors are a vital part of the community, supporting the organization’s many training and networking opportunities, including free learning events. Through the Global Alliance Program, PASS looks forward to bringing many new opportunities and added value to our community and to our partners. For information about becoming a PASS Global Alliance Partner, please contact Craig Ellis.

FY2016: Investing in Community Growth

August 4, 2015 — As PASS moves into the next year, I'm happy to announce that the Board of Directors has voted to approve our Fiscal Year 2016 budget. We’re excited about the upcoming year and opportunities to continue building this amazing community.

Last year, our goals for FY2015 were to focus on support for SQLSaturday and chapter growth, as well as for our two major conferences: PASS Summit and PASS Business Analytics Conference (BAC). We also prioritized strategic planning for the business analytics (BA) community and focus for our Global Alliance Program and global growth. We committed to investing in the necessary IT to modernize our platforms to enable a stronger community. Over the past year, PASS has made solid progress on many of these fronts:

· We announced our strides and strategies for building and supporting the BA community.

· PASS Summit 2014 saw our highest attendance to date, and we successfully established our venue through 2019, for significant savings.

· We reestablished the strategic focus and community for the PASS BAC 2015, resulting in positive responses from the community and renewed commitment from the industry.

· We added two regional Board advisors to support our Latin America (LATAM) community.

· We relaunched our SQLSaturday website with expanded support for speakers and leaders.

· We made the difficult but necessary decision to retire the SQLRally brand and reinvest those resources into other portfolios.

This year, our budget’s primary purposes are to continue to strengthen our PASS communities. Some key areas of focus in the FY2016 budget include:

· Add a specific BA portfolio, to maintain consistency in the budgeting for our BA efforts, with the aim of continuing growth in both our BA community and PASS BAC event.

· Refocus our SQLRally investments to our SQLSaturday portfolio.

· Increase our global growth through support for our Global Growth Program.

· Add a Sales portfolio, to diversify revenue streams to help ensure the continued success of the PASS community.

· Add resources and staff to support further technology improvements, including a redesign of the website for better usability and functionality.

You can see this focus in action starting with PASS Summit 2015, October 27–30 in Seattle. With an all-star lineup of expert speakers and can’t-miss sessions, this event represents one of our primary revenue streams as well as offering a wealth of opportunities for community engagement and networking. If you haven’t already registered, contact one of our Local or Virtual Chapters for a discount code.

Next year, don’t miss PASS BAC 2016, May 2–4, 2016 in San Jose. Join influencers in this rapidly expanding industry, to share knowledge and take part in this incredible community.

As far as governance goes, keep an eye out for the PASS Board of Directors elections. Following a successful Nomination Committee (NomCom) election in July, Board applications open August 5. Take advantage of this opportunity to help shape the future of PASS.

As in former years, this year's budget process was successful in large part thanks to our many PASS community volunteers, Directors, HQ staff, portfolio owners, and Finance team. All worked long and hard to assemble the necessary research and crunch the numbers to help us in this important endeavor. Many thanks to you all!

This is a wonderful time to be a part of PASS. I hope that you’re as excited as I am for the future of this community. We often emphasize that “PASS is your organization”—and it’s true. We want to hear your ambitions for PASS; contact us with feedback any time. And thank you for another great year.

Adam Jorgensen
PASS EVP, Finance and Governance

Elections Update

August 4, 2015 — The PASS Board of Directors recently completed Executive Committee (ExecCo) elections. When the current ExecCo completes their terms on December 31, 2015, the new ExecCo will be introduced on January 1, 2016. At that time, James Rowland-Jones will assume the role of Executive Vice President (EVP), Finance & Governance; therefore, his director-at-large seat will be left open for one year—the remainder of his elected two-year term.

According to the PASS Bylaws, when a seat becomes vacant outside of a standard election cycle, the Board of Directors will appoint, by a majority vote, to fill the unexpired term. The initial intention of the Board in writing and passing this particular Bylaw (as shared with the community in 2013) was to add any known vacant seats to the upcoming general election. However, this is the first time since the Bylaw took effect in 2013 that a director-at-large seat will become vacant prior to a full term being filled. In our efforts to follow the Bylaws appropriately, the current Board sought legal advice for clarity around the wording in the Bylaws regarding appointing versus electing a candidate for the unexpired term.

As I said earlier, the EVP elect director-at-large seat will not officially be vacant until January 1, 2016. As this date is nearly six months away, the future vacancy of the EVP elect director-at-large seat cannot be guaranteed to actually occur. We have no reason to think otherwise, but as we cannot predict the future with absolutely accuracy, an unexpected illness, disaster, or other unforeseen event must be considered as a possibility, no matter how slight. Therefore, the vacancy does not exist at the time of the 2015 election. (The full term director-at-large seats that are up for election are known vacancies, as the reason for the vacancies is that the term for those seats expires as of December 31, 2015.)

After legal consultation and discussion, the Board has reached the understanding that to adhere to the letter of the PASS Bylaws, we will need to vote to appoint the unexpired term rather than include it as part of the upcoming PASS Board of Directors election. Still, we realize that the Bylaws likely do not accomplish their intended goal. We are working with our legal team to make sure that going forward, the Bylaws match our intentions.

The PASS Board will announce the appointment of the unexpired one-year term seat in January of 2016 when the EVP elect fills his new role on the PASS Executive Committee. If you have any questions, please contact us at

Adam Jorgensen
PASS EVP, Finance and Governance

Recap: Inside the PASS Board's June 2015 Meeting

July 30, 2015 — Our Board of Directors June 2015 meeting was held in Vancouver, Canada. Most of our meetings occur via conference call every month, but we try to meet in-face at least three times a year. At this two-day meeting we had a lot of topics to discuss and meeting in-person leads to better conversations than a phone call could ever provide.

You’ve already heard much of the news from that meeting from previous posts on the PASS blog and various articles in our newsletters, but here are the highlights.

· On Day 1 we welcomed two recent additions to the PASS HQ team: Georgia Dahle as director of Marketing and Charlie Yates-Bishop as director of Sales. As part of our regular review of internal PASS HQ processes, we also reviewed current IT priorities.

· We revisited a discussion from our January 2015 meeting regarding the introduction of Latin America (LATAM) regional Board advisors. Read more about that discussion here (in English), here (Spanish), or here (Portuguese). After reviewing candidates we voted to approve Eduardo Castro of Costa Rica and Diego Nogare of Brazil as our new regional advisors.

· We reviewed the 2016 budget and set a date (June 24) to vote on it.

· Jennifer Moser introduced guest James Phillips, Microsoft corporate VP of Power BI, who was there to give a presentation on Microsoft’s Power BI roadmap. After the presentation there was a healthy discussion about the PASS BA Community, the BAC, and Microsoft’s role in supporting our PASS family. (Read more about this topic here.)

· Day 2 opened with the PASS ExecCo elections. You can read about the results and your 2016 ExecCo here.

· We made a definitive decision about the 2016 BAC, which will be held May 2-4, 2016, in Santa Clara, California.

· The Board evaluated an offer to extend the PASS Summit Seattle venue for an additional year (2019).

· We made the difficult but necessary decision to retire the SQLRally event model. We explain this decision and what it means for PASS members here.

As you can see, it was a busy two days. If you have any questions, comments, or concerns regarding any of these topics please don’t hesitate to contact us.

I'm looking forward to seeing everyone at Summit in just a few months!

Thomas LaRock
PASS President

Announcing the 2015 PASS Nomination Committee

July 22, 2015 – Thank you to all PASS members who participated in this year’s Nomination Committee (NomCom) elections. Congratulations to Lori Edwards, Robert L. Davis, and Bob Pusateri, the community representatives whom you have elected to join NomCom Chair Bill Graziano and Board-appointed representative Grant Fritchey on the 2015 NomCom.

A total of 540 voters cast 1229 votes in the NomCom elections. To be eligible to vote in this year’s NomCom and Board elections, PASS members needed to update their PASS profile by June 1, 2015. PASS’ secure online voting system, Simply Voting, doesn’t hold any PASS member email addresses or passwords and helped us to ensure that only eligible voters were able to cast ballots and were able to vote only once (with up to three ballots cast).

The NomCom community seats reflect the three seats up for election on the PASS Board this year: one US/Canada and Open, one EMEA and Open and one Open seat. The five-member NomCom will manage the Board elections process, qualifying, interviewing, and ranking potential candidates. A final slate will then be submitted to the current Board for approval. In addition, this year’s NomCom is charged with streamlining the process for involving and evaluating candidates and with enhancing opportunities for community engagement in the elections.

Applications for the three PASS Board seats up for election open August 5. To learn more about the 2015 NomCom election results and preview the upcoming Board of Directors elections, please see the Elections site. If you have any questions or concerns, please contact PASS Governance.

Congratulations again to Lori, Robert, and Bob. And a special thank you to all the candidates for their dedicated volunteer efforts on behalf of the PASS community and their enthusiastic and professional candidacies in this year’s NomCom elections.

PASS Summit 2015 Speaker Q&A: Michael Fal

July 21, 2015 — Go inside PASS Summit 2015 session in this Q&A series with our presenters. In this interview, Michael Fal takes us inside his general session, “PowerShell and the Art of SQL Server Deployment”.

Q: Who is your favorite super-hero, and which SQL Server or BI super-power do you hope your session will give attendees?

Mike: I've always been a fan of heroes without super powers: iconic comic book personalities like Iron Man and Batman or classic TV characters like MacGuyver and the A-Team. These guys accomplished incredible things with their brains and the tools at their disposal. This is the sort of thing I want to show people with my session, “PowerShell and the Art of SQL Server Deployment”. By leveraging PowerShell, DBAs can do some pretty awesome things—and it doesn't take special knowledge or skills to do it.

Q: What’s your origin story? How did you become interested in working with data, and how did you take that initial interest to the expert level?

Mike: I actually didn't get into technology and databases until several years after college. I originally got my Bachelor of Music Performance from CU Boulder with the intent of being a classical musician. After making a hard decision not to pursue that beyond college, I was working in a warehouse. After showing interest in computers by working with our system administrator, I was given a tech support job in a company that needed me to do a number of things. I gravitated towards databases and managing the company's systems. Fifteen years later, I'm now a Senior DBA at Xero, helping architect our cloud data strategy.

Q: What’s your favorite data solution’s secret power—the biggest strength that most people don’t really know about or use to full advantage

Mike: PowerShell really isn't a "data solution," it's a technology solution. But it's an incredibly powerful one. There are two huge advantages to building automation with PowerShell: working across the computing stack (the OS, SQL Server, the file system, and so on) and the ability to execute across multiple computers in an easy, reliable fashion. This is really appealing to the "lazy DBA," because you can write automation once that executes consistently for any number of systems in your environment.

Q: What about data’s biggest kryptonite or nemesis--the biggest mistake you see data professionals make?

Mike: Fear. Fear of the unknown. You mention PowerShell to a lot of DBAs and there's just not a lot of knowledge around it, so data folks don't really know how to leverage it or what they can use it for. This is why I've focused on speaking and blogging about it, spreading the word about this powerful tool. This becomes its own reward, because when I show it to people who haven't seen it, they're blown away by what can be done.

Q: What still excites you or trips you up in the real world when working with SQL Server or BI?

Mike: There is no one-size-fits-all solution. Although we can make scripts and build processes, it still requires a human brain to break a problem down, mesh it with business logic, and build a complete solution. This is why it's so critical to build out our toolbox. Just as a construction contractor could be building a garage one day and a house the next, we need to be prepared for whatever challenge is given to us. Having flexible, robust tools allows data professionals to better respond to these challenges.

Q: What do you see as the next step after attending your session?

Mike: The goal of my session is to show DBAs how to quickly and reliably deploy SQL Server. When folks walk out of this session, I expect that they will go back to their jobs to refine their own deployment processes for SQL Server, to make them more consistent and reliable. More than that, though, these methods open up new design patterns for managing SQL Server environments, whether they're on premises or in the cloud.

Check out our other Q&As with PASS Summit 2015 speakers.

PASS Summit 2015 Speaker Q&A: Allan Hirt

July 21, 2015 — Go inside PASS Summit 2015 session in this Q&A series with our presenters. In this interview, Allan Hirt takes us inside his Pre-Con, “Advanced SQL Server Availability Architectures and Deployments”.

Q: Who is your favorite super-hero, and which SQL Server or BI super-power do you hope your session will give attendees?

Allan: When I grew up and started collecting comic books, I was more drawn to the DC characters, specifically Batman. He is a guy who is a mere mortal, yet can outwit and has the strength to stand up to people who have powers that could literally crush him. I think that is the challenge a lot of DBAs and IT workers face. We are given some parameters and limitations and have to make magic happen. More often than not, we can. I think we are at our best when we think outside the box.

Q: What’s your origin story? How did you become interested in working with data, and how did you take that initial interest to the expert level?

Allan: During college, I was an intern at SQL Solutions in Burlington, MA; it was bought out by Sybase while I was there. So I started using SQL Server in the pre-Windows days—I even remember helping someone install Windows NT 3.5. My internship was with the QA folks, so testing has and continues to be intrinsic to what I do. But the obvious link from then to now is the fact that I was exposed to relational databases so early. I have always been more interested in the infrastructure side of things, even before my internship (which involved that stuff). But I was lucky in my career path to be exposed to things like clustering fairly early into my career, which clearly had a profound impact on who I am today.

I would say that to become an expert, the key to success is to follow your passion and keep learning. You will hopefully have good mentors along the way. Do not be afraid to fail or make mistakes.

Q: What’s your favorite data solution’s secret power—the biggest strength that most people don’t really know about or use to full advantage?

Allan: The Windows platform has a lot of cool things that are prevalent in the non-SQL Server world, such as Scale Out File Server and Windows’ native ability to use RDMA. Such things could be used for SQL Server but are not. If DBAs understood what lies under the hood a bit more, I think we would see more innovative solutions. I will be talking a bit about those kinds of things throughout my Pre-Conference session, “Advanced SQL Server Availability Architectures and Deployments”.

Q: What about data’s biggest kryptonite or nemesis--the biggest mistake you see data professionals make?

Allan: The two biggest mistakes I see are:

· Not understanding what it is you are implementing. That leads to a lot of assumptions and bad decisions in architecture, which ultimately results in bad solutions.

· Not doing the basics well. You cannot have a good availability solution if you are terrible at, say, backups. If you start from a solid foundation, your chances of succeeding at the more advanced stuff increases significantly.

Q: What still excites you or trips you up in the real world when working with SQL Server or BI?

Allan: There’s plenty that can trip all of us up, expert or not; too many things to list. That said, I think that because SQL Server is such a deep and broad product, there is some aspect of it for nearly anyone who is interested in databases, whether BI or relational. That by no means equates to queries and data itself. Sure, I’ve done a lot of that over the years, but the infrastructure side is a whole other aspect of SQL Server that many people do not dabble in—but is immensely rewarding.

Q: What do you see as the next step after attending your session?

Allan: I truly believe that people learn better by doing than by just seeing slides and demos. As with my Pre-Con session at Summit 2014—which sold out, so don’t wait to register this year; the number of students is capped—everyone will get hands-on experience via lab exercises designed specifically for that day. Each attendee will access, via a browser, their own set of virtual machines (VMs), which simulate a full working environment (domain controller, cluster nodes, and so on). I know many attendees will want to try the labs again and will most likely not have time during Summit to do that, so my plan is to provide access for at least a few days post-Summit so that you can do them again back home.

Check out our other Q&As with PASS Summit 2015 speakers.

Future of PASS Summit: Conference Location Through 2019

July 21, 2015 — The location of future PASS Summit conferences was a topic of discussion at the June 2015 PASS Board of Directors meeting. Currently, we’ve booked the Washington State Convention and Trade Center as the PASS Summit venue through 2018. A time-limited opportunity was presented to us to continue that booking for an additional year—2019—with a decision required by June 15.

In 2013, we moved PASS Summit to Charlotte, North Carolina. Our main intention was to determine whether hosting the conference in a different state would make it more accessible to PASS members who might not have been able to travel to Seattle.

While changing cities at some point in the future isn’t out of the question, the Board noted that staying in Seattle offered two important benefits:
· Extending our venue agreement for the additional year offers significant savings over the length of our multi-year contract with the Convention and Trade Center.
· Holding the conference in Seattle results in a stronger exhibitor presence, particularly in regards to Microsoft. Community members and attendees have greater opportunity to interaction with members of the Microsoft product teams.

Considering these benefits, the Board voted to keep PASS Summit in Seattle for 2019.

PASS NomCom Elections

This past Thursday, July 16, 2015, PASS opened voting for the 2015 Nomination Committee (NomCom). Voting is open through noon PDT July 21. PASS members who are eligible to vote will each have received an email with a Vote Now button that enables them to cast their ballot for this NomCom election. 

In preparation for this voting period, PASS has sent multiple communications and ran multiple deduplication procedures to meet our Governance standards and ensure the following:
• We confirmed with each PASS member with a completed profile as of June 1, 2015, their eligibility to vote. 
• Each eligible voter may only cast one ballot.

As you might be aware, on the first day of our NomCom elections we had some communication and technical difficulties with our third party email software. Firstly we want to assure you that the election is not compromised by these matters. Only eligible voters will be able to cast a ballot, and they won’t be able to vote a second time with identified duplicate profiles. 

Having said that, in all matters within PASS, full transparency is one of our core tenets. Therefore, we want to update you on the timeline of events:

• One hour before the ballot was scheduled to open, we learned that a scheduling glitch in our communications software had resulted in ballot emails being sent one hour earlier than expected. As soon as we were made aware of this, we opened the NomCom ballot so that members could vote. Opening the NomCom ballot early did not compromise the validity or security of the vote. Some members who tried to vote prior to the ballot opening may have experienced some confusion during that short period of time. Where possible, we reached out to these members via email or social media to let them know that the ballot was now open. We also posted a notice on social media that balloting was indeed open and that anyone who had not been granted voting access should try again. At no time did this result in individuals being able to vote more than once.

• Soon afterward, we became aware that the address list that had been used to send the ballot notifications was not the correct, finalized list.  Approximately 1,800 community members received emails to their non-voting, duplicate member profiles indicating that they could now vote. In this case, we want to reassure our community members that even though emails were sent to these duplicate profiles, they are still ineligible to vote.  Our voting system, Simply Voting, will not recognize them as eligible. Again, this issue did not compromise the election but might have caused some confusion for those members who received the emails. We have sent follow-up communications to all members who were affected by this issue.

In response to these events, we have taken several steps to further ensure the integrity of the elections and to prevent such issues with the upcoming Board of Directors elections:

• In both situations, we have communicated with the affected PASS members to confirm that those who are eligible to vote have received the necessary link and can access their ballot.

• We have confirmed that the integrity of the voting process is intact and that only eligible members can vote and that they can vote only once.

• We are taking steps to address both the software and human causes of these issues, to ensure that future communication scheduling is error-free. 

I want to thank you all for your patience and encourage those of you who are eligible, to vote in the 2015 NomCom election. Voting is open through noon PDT, July 21. We thank those who submitted an application to serve on the NomCom, as well as those who participate in this election. If you have any further feedback or questions, please email us.

Denise McInerney
VP of Marketing, PASS Board of Directors