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.

PASS Summit 2012: The Most Wonderful Time of The Year

My flights for PASS Summit 2012 are booked and I can’t wait to catch up with and extend my SQL family! There’s so much going at PASS Summit , it’s hard to know where to start. By now you’re all aware of the awesome technical content and pre-conference sessions available but what about some of the other great learning opportunities, the networking and plain old fun that’s always on tap at Summit?

Community Appreciation Party
PASS exists because of the huge groundswell of support and sheer hard work of the SQL community and we’d like to say thank you. On Thursday, Nov 8, all Summit  attendees are invited to the Experience Music Project (EMP) for a light dinner, drinks, laughs, and music. At EMP, everyone can be a rockstar - cheer on your Summit friends as they belt out tunes backed by a live band or enjoy your own moment of fame with EMP’s rock star simulation. A Seattle landmark, the EMP is a cutting edge pop culture museum with rock ‘n’ roll roots.

Connect at PASS Summit
You’ll have ample time to catch up with old friends and make new ones at PASS Summit. From the First-Timers’ Orientation to the Welcome Reception, Exhibitor Reception, and interactive luncheons, PASS will make it easy for you to stay connected and network with other attendees. There will also be many informal after-hours activities taking place throughout the week – before, during, and after the official Summit schedule.

Expert Picks
The PASS Summit session schedule (PDF) was recently published and you’ve got over 190 technical sessions to choose from over the span of 3 days. This can be overwhelming, I know. To help you out, PASS has put together a series of Expert Picks - lists of recommended sessions from the different perspectives of community experts and PASS Virtual Chapters. There is even a DBA 101 list and a DBA Masters’ list is in the works. Check it out, it’s worth your time.

Convince Your Boss
It goes without question that PASS Summit is the biggest and best SQL Server conference going. For those of you who haven’t yet signed up to attend, you need to convince your boss to send you. PASS has put together some information on who should attend, posted testimonials from past attendees, and  created a handy value table to help you justify your attendance.

And If you can’t Convince your Boss…
We’ll bring Summit to you! We’re launching PASSTV this year – 12 hours of livestreamed content that will repeat during the evening so that every single SQL Server professional around the world can join in andbe a part of this great experience we call PASS Summit. Stay tuned for more details in the upcoming weeks.

See you Seattle!

PASS Board Elections: It's Your Turn

Last week, the PASS Board of Directors ratified the official slate for the 2012 Board of Directors General Election. It’s my pleasure to announce the candidates for three Board seats up for election, listed in the order of their Nomination Committee (NomCom) ranking:
•    James Rowland-Jones
•    Sri Sridharan
•    Allen Kinsel
•    Wendy Pastrick
•    Kendal Van Dyke

The NomCom began evaluating applicants for the PASS Board in August, carefully reviewing each application and interviewing each applicant. Now, it’s up to the community to decide who will fill three 2-year terms on the PASS Board.

As PASS’s Immediate Past President, I can tell you that it takes a lot to be effective on the PASS Board. And as Chair of the NomCom, I can tell you that all the candidates have valuable leadership experience and are “PASSionate” people. To decide which candidates you want to lead your organization, especially as PASS continues its rapid growth, it is important to research and evaluate each candidate. You can learn more about each candidate on the 2012 Elections’ Candidates page.

The elections forums and campaigning are open now, and voting will take place September 28 to October 12. If you were a PASS member before June 1, 2012, you are eligible to vote and will receive a ballot by email. The top three vote getters will be elected and will begin their terms January 1, 2013.

I encourage you to have your say – both in the elections forums, where candidates will be replying to your questions, and by voting. Good luck to all the candidates, and happy voting everyone!

Rushabh Mehta,
Immediate Past President/NomCom Chair

Taking That Next Step

In IT, if you’re not moving forward, you’re falling behind. And whether you’re seeking a career change or to strengthen your current position and value, the PASS Professional Development Virtual Chapter is there to help you take that next step.

“Our mission is to provide tools, advice, encouragement, and insight for technology professionals at all levels to ‘take the next step’ in their career,” explains VC leader Mark Caldwell. “We provide free LiveMeeting presentations each month on topics related to our mission. We also have an active blog that features great interviews with SQL professionals, book reviews, and other related commentary – much of it provided by Kathi Kellenberger.”

The VC, initially formed in the Fall of 2009, got rolling with regular webcasts in 2010. Live attendance at the webcasts has grown from seven in the early days to 49 as recently as last week. However, with nearly 4,000 PASS members having registered an interest in the VC’s happenings, many more may be watching the session recordings on-demand, Mark notes.

As a resource for information and conversation on professional development for people in the technology industry, the VC has covered everything from professional networking, effective meetings, and managing teams to consulting tips, communication skills, career advice for turbulent times, and much more. In June, a panel of PASS Board members talked about thinking strategically and shared lessons they’ve learned from serving on the organization’s leadership team. “We also recently expanded our scope to include topics on technology management with the help of Kevin Kline,” Mark adds.

If you missed the VC’s September meeting with Brian Moran on “The Art of Questions – How Can IT Pros Be More Successful?” you can listen to the recording and read Mark’s blog post inspired by the session. Next up is Joe Webb presenting on “Effective Delegation Techniques” Oct. 10.

To make sure you receive meeting reminders from the VC, simply include the Professional Development VC on your My Chapters list on the PASS website. If you’re interested in speaking or volunteering, the VC would love to hear from you – contact Mark today.
 

International Firsts: SQLSaturday #145 Recife, Brazil

After visiting nine straight US-based SQLSaturdays, I kicked off a three-country tour of international SQLSaturdays August 25, starting with SQLSaturday #145 in Recife, Brazil.

Brazil had already hosted two very successful SQLSaturdays: #100 in São Paulo last November and #127 in Rio de Janeiro in April. Both cities have strong existing user groups, so there wasn’t much risk in supporting SQLSaturdays in those locations. For the most part, SQLSaturdays are led by existing PASS Chapter Leaders, but on a few occasions, some of these events have been part of “planting the seed” efforts to try and establish new user groups in areas that don’t already have one, Recife falls into this category, with the nearest PASS Chapter about 90 minutes away.

The lead organizer for the Recife event was Fabio Avila, who I met at the after party during SQLSaturday São Paulo. He really enjoyed the event and asked a lot of questions about putting on a SQLSaturday, but he seemed skeptical about one in his area as this was the first of this type of event for Brazil. Then along came the Rio event and the recognition that SQLSaturdays were gaining more interest in Brazil. Just before the Rio event, Fabio contacted me ready to bring some SQL Server training to the northeast region.

There are many technical events in Brazil each year, but SQLSaturdays seem to be filling some voids for this country, providing more SQL Server-focused training and another avenue for the many SQL Server MVPs and other SQL experts in Brazil to share what they know. It was great to see at the Recife event a number of the speakers who I had the pleasure of meeting in São Paulo. And even though they knew it would be a much smaller event, they were happy to have made the long trip to present at it.

The mission for me onsite was to see if I could find that “hidden gem” in the crowd - someone so excited about SQL Server and the community that they want to help continue the effort by starting a local user group. Normally, I don’t find this task very difficult; passionate and excited DBAs are pretty easy to find, especially at a SQLSaturday. However, I wasn’t prepared for the gaping language barrier. In larger cities such as São Paulo, plenty of people speak English, and naïve me, I thought it would be no different in Recife. I was wrong, as I discovered the minute I checked into the hotel. For the most part, the only people I could converse with event day were those speakers I had met before, Fabio and one or two of his volunteers, and Denny Cherry [b|t], who was there to do a pre-con.

Although I left a bit discouraged, I haven’t given up. I’ve since had a conference call with some of the MVPs in Brazil, and they are on board with helping start PASS Chapters in parts of Brazil that don’t already have a SQL Server user group. Thanks to them and others in the SQL community, the sowing will continue.

Next stop for me, Cambridge for the first-ever SQLSaturday in the UK. Stay tuned!

PASS SQLSaturday (Fiscal Year) 2012 in Review

I still remember the buzz in air and the renewed passion for SQL that came from my first PASS SQLSaturday. Unaware there was a community full of other database professionals just like me, my eyes were opened wide as I sat in sessions and talked with other attendees and sponsors. Not only did I learn new things and meet new people but I went home eagerly anticipating the next user group meeting and the next PASS SQLSaturday. I think it’s safe to say I’m not alone - week after week, year after year, that experience has been repeated tens of thousands of times.

PASS SQLSaturday has gained unstoppable momentum and fiscal year 2012, which ended June 30, saw the biggest year ever for PASS SQLSaturday. The following comparison between 2011 and 2012 shows just how much PASS SQLSaturday has grown:


There are a lot of things to feel good about in those numbers! Read in between the lines and you’ll also find the speakers that had their first experience presenting, the leaders who organized their first community event, and the attendees who had their first introduction to PASS. These are the people we’ll see at future chapter meetings, in the halls and on the stage at the Summit, and serving as Regional Mentors and Directors. As PASS SQLSaturday grows and goes, so does PASS.

On that note, while the majority of PASS SQLSaturdays have been based in the US, the 450% increase in non-US events in just one year serves as a reminder that there are a lot of people we still haven’t reached yet. Shanghai (China), Curacao, Sydney (Australia), Rio de Janeiro (Brazil), Istanbul, Bangalore, and Dublin (to name just a few) all held their first PASS SQLSaturday in 2012. It wasn’t too long ago that our goal was to hold a PASS SQLSaturday in every state; now it’s time to think even bigger - just imagine where else in the world you’ll see a PASS SQLSaturday next!

Thank You

I’d like to extend a thank you to all of the leaders, speakers, and volunteers who contributed to the success of PASS SQLSaturday during the last year. It takes a tremendous amount of time, effort, and hard work to make each event happen.  I’d like to thank all of our sponsors for your support, without which there would be no PASS SQLSaturday. It’s a special feeling knowing that you have helped over 12,000 people connect, share, and learn with each other.

And of course I’d like to thank everyone who attended a PASS SQLSaturday in the last year. I hope that you enjoyed the experience, learned new things, made new friends, and were motivated to become even more active in the PASS community.

Looking Ahead to FY 2013

Although we’re 2 months into fiscal year 2013 there have already been 12 PASS SQLSaturdays, 26 more officially scheduled, and even more in the pre-planning stages. Current estimates suggest we’re in for at least 80 PASS SQLSaturdays  this fiscal year, including first time events in Cambridge (UK), Munich, Lima, Bulgaria, and Pordenone (Italy) along with a host of others in the US.

Karla Landrum, PASS’s Community Evangelist, has done a tremendous job scouting out new locations and coaching event leaders but it’s become apparent that we need to add to the team if we want to reach that goal of at least 80 events in the next year. Last month we accepted applications for another Community Evangelist and received an incredibly enthusiastic response. We are currently in the interview process and expect to have our second Evangelist on board with PASS HQ in time for the annual Summit in November.

Finally, we’re continually focusing on how we can make the PASS SQLSaturday experience from the planning stages all the way through to the after party smoother for everyone. We’re always making improvements, but we also realize that the best ideas come from the PASS community. We welcome your suggestions and feedback – simply email them to webmaster@sqlsaturday.com and they’ll get to the PASS SQLSaturday team at PASS HQ.

FY2012 was a breakout year for PASS SQLSaturday and I can’t help but be excited at the possibilities for what will come in 2013!