SQLRally: A Chance to Inspect and Adapt

After running three SQLRally events, both in the US and overseas, the PASS Board feels it’s the right time to step back and re-examine our SQLRally event options in the US. Orlando, Dallas, and Sweden have all been well supported, community-oriented, and successful events, but we’ve observed that the North American SQLRally events, compared to the international one, are more resource intensive for PASS.
So instead of charging ahead with the next SQLRally in the US, we want to take some time to review the model and determine what will work best going forward. This means no US-based SQLRally event will take place in 2013.

It is important to note that SQLRally is not going away. The event is modeled differently overseas and is so far working very successfully and efficiently. We hope to learn more from the international model with SQLRally Nordic taking place in October. We are also planning one or two more international SQLRally events in the upcoming fiscal year.

In the meantime for the US, our widely popular SQLSaturday events—40+ events in 2012, several with pre-conference days—are cropping up everywhere and giving members ample chance to improve their SQL Server skills in person. And, along with a review of the SQLRally model, we’re actively investigating other types of US-based event opportunities.

As always, we welcome your feedback. Please let us know if you have any questions, comments, or concerns.
 

Brazil: Connecting a Vast Community

How do you connect a SQL Server community across the world’s fifth largest country? If you are the leaders of the PASS Brazil Virtual Chapter, you create an online spring of free information and interactivity that flows like the mighty Amazon.

The Brazil Virtual Chapter started from a quick talk at TechEd 2010 among the people who now serve as the VC’s Board of Directors. “We were all involved in local PASS Chapters, and we all faced the same situation,” explains VC leader Felipe Ferreira. “Brazil is so huge that we constantly have people from all over the country asking for content and events, but when we organize a local meeting, we usually get only 20 or 30 people in the room. So we wanted to bring people together through an online portal, where we could organize and store all session videos, webcasts, and event calendars. But more than that, we wanted to create a central repository of content in Portuguese, where we could aggregate all the articles that people write on their personal blogs.”

The group approached their PASS Regional Mentor, Alexandro Prado, who was excited about the idea and organized a meeting with all the PASS Chapters in the country. After some discussions and brainstorming about the model and more ideas for the project, the team created the BR Virtual Chapter. Almost all the local PASS Chapter leaders in the country sit on the VC’s Board of Directors, and in 2 years, it has more than 350 active members, 50 videos/webcasts on its portal, and of this writing, just posted its 1000th technical article.

The VC has over 40 authors writing content for its portal, with the latest posts also featured on the Brazilian SQL Server MSDN site. Authors simply write on their personal blogs and use a specific tag on articles they want pulled onto the VC site.

In addition, the VC hosts live webcasts the third Thursday of every month, covering SQL Server administration, development, and BI topics. All are recorded and uploaded immediately to the site. In May, featured speaker Thiago Iacopini, a Microsoft PFE, talked about SQL Server security. The next presentations are June 21 with Laerte Junior speaking on Troubleshooting SQL Server with PowerShell and July 19 with Microsoft PFE and Microsoft Certified Master Fabricio Catae. An average of 50 people attend the webcasts live, with typically 150 more watching the recorded versions, although the BI sessions are in even higher demand. One of the BI basics session recordings from Felipe is the most visited video so far with 795 views.

The VC’s leaders and volunteers are also active in their local user groups and in organizing other in-person events, such as SQLSaturday #100 - São Paulo 2011, the first SQLSaturday in Latin America.

“The SQL Server community here in Brazil is incredible,” Felipe notes. “People are very united and passionate about what they do, and they are always hungry for more information, which serves as a great motivator for us. We have a lot of people who are trying to start or improve their careers in the database world, and sometimes they feel a little lost and don’t know where to start, what to read, or what to learn. Thanks to the BR VC, they can find a lot of information, articles, and Microsoft certification exam preparation advice and keep in touch with their peers all over the country. We have people who joined the group as newcomers to SQL Server and today sit right beside the original members at the same level of knowledge – and both are now helping the new generation.”

In addition to Felipe and Regional Mentor Alexandro, other members of the BR VC Board are:

  • Andressa Martins
  • Diego Nogare
  • Nilton Pinheiro
  • Marcondes Alexandre
  • Thiago Zavaschi
  • Roberto Fonseca
  • Pedro Galvão Jr
  • Vladimir Magalhães
  • Luciano Caixeta Moreira


The VC is always looking for more volunteers, speakers, and ideas. If you are interested in writing for or helping with the VC portal or speaking to the group, see the contact information on the BR VC site.

 

Call for NomCom Now Open

Are you a dedicated PASS volunteer with a passion for improving our community? Then you’re eligible to apply for three community positions on this year’s Nomination Committee (NomCom), which will oversee the 2012 PASS Board of Directors election.

The call for NomCom applications – open today through June 6 – kicks off the 2012 PASS elections process. The NomCom will manage the PASS Board of Directors general election, ensuring that each applicant for this year’s three open Board seats is qualified and suited to lead PASS as it continues to grow and reach out to all members of the SQL Server community. But first, the PASS community will elect the three community members who will join NomCom Chair/Immediate Past President Rushabh Mehta and another Board member on the 5-person committee.
 
To be eligible for the NomCom, candidates must have a demonstrable track record of volunteering with PASS – such as serving as a Regional Mentor, Chapter or Virtual Chapter Leader, Program Committee member, or frequent community speaker – and participating in other volunteer endeavors. Note that the NomCom is an essential part of the PASS Board elections process and requires a substantial commitment of time and effort. By applying for the NomCom, you are agreeing to the time commitments of the entire general election process, including the applicant interview process currently slated for late August.

If you meet the eligibility requirements and are interested in serving on the NomCom, please review the details and complete elections timeline on the PASS Elections page and download the application today. NomCom applications close June 6, and voting will run June 13-22, with all PASS members as of June 1, 2012, eligible to vote. The top three vote-getters will be elected to the NomCom and begin managing this year’s general election process.
 

Elections Season: Help Shape Tomorrow’s PASS

The PASS elections season is almost here! PASS elections are an important annual event, letting members have their say about where they want PASS to go and who they want to guide the world’s largest independent, user-led organization for SQL Server professionals.

In my previous role as PASS President, I was proud to watch PASS’s impressive growth across the world, thanks to the efforts of our hardworking volunteers and leaders. Now as Immediate Past President, I’m excited to oversee the PASS elections and see a new generation of leaders steer PASS in this time of enormous change and opportunity to better serve the global SQL Server community.
 
The Nomination Committee (Nom Com) manages the entire election for Board of Directors – from qualifying and interviewing potential candidates to determining and ranking the final slate. Joining me on the NomCom will be a volunteer from the Board of Directors and three community members elected by the PASS membership.

The main qualification for serving as a community member on the NomCom is a demonstrable record of volunteering with PASS. Applications for the NomCom will be accepted May 30 to June 6. And all PASS members as of June 1, 2012, are eligible to vote in the NomCom election that will follow. The top three vote-getters will complete this year’s NomCom and will immediately begin preparations for the Board of Directors election.

I encourage you to get involved – whether you’re encouraging others to join PASS as voting members, talking about how to improve the organization, or running for office yourself. If you’re interested in applying for the NomCom or the Board of Directors, you can learn all about the process at the PASS Elections site. As community discussions gear up, let current leaders and candidates know what issues are important to you. And please vote. Support the candidates of your choice, and help shape tomorrow’s PASS!

Regards,
Rushabh Mehta
PASS Immediate Past President/NomCom Chair

Big Data: What's the Big Deal?

Talk of “Big Data” and “NoSQL” is all around us, and given the open-source, non-relational bent of these areas, they may seem largely irrelevant to many SQL Server professionals. But for PASS’s new Big Data Virtual Chapter, the technologies are a big deal in analyzing a whole new world of data.

“Anyone working with Business Intelligence or SQL Server in general should be more than interested in Big Data solutions,” notes the Virtual Chapter’s co-leader Paco González. “It opens a new field for analysis related to a whole segment of information that hasn’t been consumed before.”

Microsoft is making significant investments to create the next-generation Big Data platform. And according to the Virtual Chapter’s next speaker, Andrew Brust, whether you’re coming from the relational side of SQL Server or you’re a seasoned pro with the product’s BI components, these new worlds can be surprisingly accessible. Plus, as you add these technologies to your arsenal, your background in more conventional, enterprise-friendly relational and BI tools will make you more valuable than Big Data specialists without that experience.

At the Virtual Chapter’s next free meeting on June 5, Andrew – a Microsoft BI expert, MVP, and ZDNet Big Data blogger – will give an overview of the Big Data space, key technologies, and how you can get hands-on with them. He’ll also explore the career opportunities and strategies available if you decide to take the Big Data plunge while remaining grounded in your SQL Server environment.

“The goal of the Big Data Virtual Chapter is to provide a community for SQL Server professionals to learn about the use of SQL Server software with Hadoop and related technologies,” adds Virtual Chapter co-leader Carl Rabeler. “We invite all PASS members and their colleagues to join us - share your experiences, problems, and solutions and learn new skills.”

In April, 70+ attendees joined Denny Lee of the Microsoft SQL Customer Advisory Team (SQLCAT) for the Virtual Chapter’s first meeting – a Microsoft Hadoop primer and real-world look at customers using Hadoop to gain insights from Big Data. If you missed the session, you can watch the archived recording.

With Microsoft’s Hadoop-based service for Windows Azure nearing release, the Virtual Chapter expects to meet the first Tuesday of every month and ramp up its online resources and forum. If you’d like to speak at or volunteer with the Big Data Virtual Chapter, please contact Paco, and make sure to follow @PASSBigDataVC on twitter for the latest technology and meeting updates.

Top Speakers Invited to Submit Spotlight Sessions

They’re back! Favorite speakers from PASS Summit 2011 were invited late last week to submit special 90-minute Spotlight session abstracts for this year’s conference.

Spotlight sessions highlight top-rated Community speakers, as determined by attendee evaluations. To receive a Spotlight invitation, speakers had to receive an overall rating of 4.6 or higher for their PASS Summit 2011 session (excluding Lightning Talks and Chalk Talks), with a minimum of 15 attendees and 15 submitted attendee evals.

This year, 27 speakers received a Spotlight invitation and are also welcome to submit Regular and ½-Day sessions, up to an overall total of four submissions. If they meet the speaker requirements for Pre-Conference sessions, they can submit two pre-con abstracts as well. All Spotlight abstracts not selected for a 90-minute Spotlight session will be considered for a regular 75-minute session. (See the PASS Summit 2012 Call for Speakers for all the details.)

Congratulations to all the fantastic speakers who received a Spotlight invitation – we can’t wait to receive your abstracts!
– Adam | Adam.Jorgensen@SQLPASS.org | @AJBigData

 

SQLRally–1 Week Out

(Reposted from Tim Mitchell's blog - you can read the original post here.)

It’s hard to believe that after all the hard work, planning, and prep, SQLRally Dallas is just a week away! This time next week the conference will be in full swing for Day 1 of the regular sessions. The pre-conference seminars actually start on Tuesday, so it’s going to be a full week of learning, Texas-style!
 
For my part, I’m going to be delivering a presentation on Thursday. I’ll be talking about SQL Server Data Quality Services, one of the new features of SQL Server 2012 that I’m really excited about. This one is designed for kids of all ages – whether you’ve never touched DQS or have been playing around with it for a bit, you’ll get something from this intro session.
 
“I’ll be there!”
 
If you’re already registered, great! Be sure to stop by my session and say hello – I’d be happy to meet both people who read my blog.
 
Remember that there are lots of networking opportunities to go along with the sessions and pre-cons. If you love the night life and/or like to boogie, we’ll be having meetups at the Uptown Bar and Grill on Wednesday and Thursday nights. On Thursday, they’ll have karaoke for those of you who have a good voice or a high threshold for embarrassment. On Friday morning (if you don’t sleep in from the late night singing), meet up with me, Andy Warren, Sri Sridharan, and others at the convention center for coffee and chat. There’s even talk of an unofficial meetup near the convention center on Friday night to watch the broadcast of the Rangers pounding the Angels.
 
If you are registered for the 2-day conference but haven’t committed to a pre-con, I would encourage you to give them another look. Each one of the 7 pre-conference seminars is a full-day deep dive into a single subject, delivered by presenters who are experts in their fields. Whether you want to learn about DBA topics, SSAS, or professional development, there’s a good chance you’ll find a good fit. Remember, these run on Tuesday and Wednesday, so you could even take in 2 of the pre-cons. The full-day pre-cons are priced at $219 each, which is an excellent bargain given the quality of the education you’ll get.
 
“I’m still not sure…”
 
I hear you. Perhaps work is busy and there’s nobody to take the slack if you are gone for two or three days. Maybe the boss says he won’t pay for it. It could be that you’re afraid that the material will be over your head, or that perhaps you won’t know anybody. Getting away from the office and out of the comfort zone is taxing, no doubt.
 
But I’d like to submit to you that your career is worth it. At SQLRally, you’re going to be surrounded by 500-600 people who are a lot like you – problem solvers who want to learn. Every demographic and skill level will be represented, from those just starting out to experts with decades of experience. You’ll get the opportunity to talk shop and compare challenges with hundreds of other database professionals, which is an experience you can’t get from a book or online course. You’ll get to meet and chat with authors, MVPs, MCMs, IT business owners, and other folks who have a lot to teach (and I promise you that they’re just regular people, and most of them truly enjoy getting to know fellow professionals).
 
In addition to the educational benefits, the networking opportunities are probably the most significant element of Rally. If you’ve ever looked for a job, tried to hire someone, or needed a partner to help solve a problem, you quickly realize the need for networking especially in a wired world. There’s simply no replacement for knowing people in this business. I shared with you in my last Rally blog post about how I came into the job that I have now purely because of the networking contacts I’d made at PASS events. Build your network – one day, you’ll be glad you did.
 
So if you’re not already registered, I’d encourage you to do what you need to do to be a part of this event. Beg the boss (give him/her this), skip the double-foam-extra-wheat-skinny-caramel-mochas this month, pull an extra shift or two, whatever it takes – it’s an investment, but you won’t be disappointed.
– Tim Mitchell

 

In the Loop with PASS Summit

We've got some great things going on in the PASS ecosystem and I want to make sure you’re looped in!

The 2012 PASS Summit Preference survey has closed with nearly twice as many responses compared to last year. Thank you! Your feedback will help drive the content at PASS Summit this year.

On that note, the Summit Call for Speakers is open to all community and Microsoft presenters and I encourage you to submit an abstract by the May 13 deadline. You'll need to use your PASS member login to access the Call for Speakers site. If you don't have a login, you can create one now. This year’s program will span over 6 tracks and you can put forward up to 4 session abstracts and 2 pre-conference abstracts. It’s going to be great!

We have selected the remaining folks to help with the program committees. This excited group of volunteers is being notified of their committee assignments and going through training so we will be ready to get going as soon as the Call for Speakers closes. The invitations for spotlight sessions are also going out this week so keep your eye out, you might be invited to submit one of these sessions!

The PASS Summit Program portfolio is moving along nicely with great input and support from the rest of my team of board members. The best feedback I get however is from you, so please keep that coming. Stay on the lookout for my upcoming blog interview with Mike Lynn, our winner from the drawing we held from survey respondents. Mike will get a chance to share what he would like to see at PASS Summit, what he thinks about PASS and how we can continue to become more relevant to each of you in your day-to-day data world.

PASS SQLRally Dallas is upon us next week and this is incredibly exciting. I’ll be attending my second board meeting at the event and delivering some sessions with the rest of a tremendous cast of characters (yes I think you are all characters)! If you have not already done so, please consider making it out to the event and if you’re coming, take advantage of some of the amazing pre-cons that are happening. 

Speaking of board meetings, I am looking forward to this one. My first experience was better than expected and the group really aligned quickly to begin delivering on some commitments and planning for awesome happenings this year. There are some big topics to discuss, fun Summit planning, and some special projects being worked on by some great volunteers. Stay tuned for more info on some of these great initiatives.

– Adam | Adam.Jorgensen@SQLPASS.org | @AJBigData
 

SQLSaturday #118 Madison Recap – Energy and Organization

The “Go Jes Go” tweet chanted by the SQL community whenever @grrl_geek Jes Borland [blog] goes on her daily run took on a new meaning last Saturday. That’s when Jes and her team hosted the first-ever SQLSaturday in Wisconsin to great reviews.

Not only was this the first SQLSaturday for this organizational team, but it was also the first SQLSaturday for many attendees.  When I asked at the end of the day how many were attending a SQLSaturday for the first time, almost everyone in the auditorium raised their hand. I was pretty shocked, since there have been several events in the Midwest region, including Chicago’s SQLSaturday just three hours away.  My initial thought was, “Wow, where have these people been?” Right behind that was, “How proud Jes must be at how the community embraced this opportunity” - a feeling all of us event organizers cherish.

Two words come to mind when describing this day: “organized” and “energized.” (You can read Jes’s recap of the day here.)The core team spent a great amount of time planning and coordinating the event, and it showed in the smooth flow throughout the day. All the volunteers - possibly the most I’ve ever seen for a first-time event - executed their assignments like pros. Volunteer team leader Gina Meronek  [twitter] was constantly moving or on her walkie-talkie, checking in with all the volunteers and making sure everything happened on cue.

This event used the recently implemented SpeedPASS for registration. SpeedPASS allows for a quicker flow at check-in, and eliminates some pre-event tasks like printing and organizing all the name badges and raffle tickets for attendees. Even with some attendees who didn’t print their SpeedPASS in advance, there were never more than two or three people in line waiting for their pass to be printed. Kudos to Leonard Murphy [twitter], who worked diligently the week before with the Manage SpeedPASS section of the admin site, even finding a bug that PASS IT fixed before game day. His attention to detail has now helped the next events that use this process.

The speaker lineup was a great mix of locals and seasoned pros, including former PASS Board member Chuck Heinzelman [twitter] of the Microsoft SQLCAT community team. Another key to the success of SQLSaturday #118 was the great venue… for FREE! The event was held at the local college in Madison, MATC, which was spacious and looked brand new. The team did a great job of utilizing the space appropriately, having sponsors near the meeting rooms, where attendees had to walk by if they wanted refreshments. The cafeteria was large and provided a great platform for the event’s “Cows of a Spot” tables, a local spin on PASS Summit’s Birds of a Feather luncheon. With a whopping 21 different topics for attendees to choose from, this was a great added value at lunch, featuring burgers and, of course, Wisconsin brats.  The end-of-day raffle was held in a large theatre-style auditorium, with glowing purple spotlight lighting up the stage.  And Jes did a great job covering all the PASS events and free resources beyond SQLSaturday that community members can take advantage of.   

As I reflect more on SQLSaturday #118, I think it clearly helps if organizers have been to other SQLSaturdays before planning one their selves. Jes and team clearly by-passed most of the usual obstacles you see at first-time SQLSaturdays. Jes has volunteered to help mentor other new event organizers, and I’ll be having her join me on some pre-event calls with new SQLSaturday organizers so she can share some of what she went through.  If anyone else is interested in mentoring event organizers, send me an email. The more the merrier!