Aug 13 2015

PASS Board Update: July 2015

I was actually travelling for most of July and some of that was on holiday with the family, the real family. That’s why I didn’t get a June update posted.

I don’t have anything much exciting to report. We’re finally getting data out of our Chapter database and can report some interesting stuff. We’ve added 29 new chapters in the fiscal year of 2015. 10 in the US, 12 in EMEA, 2 in LATAM and 5 in APAC. There’s a bunch more. Not sure when it’s all supposed to be published, but I’ll share some of it now, just ’cause. Our chapters logged 1,405 meetings in fiscal year 2015. That’s a pretty serious amount of training. Well done everyone! Thanks for all your work Carmen.

I missed the July board meeting (holiday, family, apologies, but priorities). The June meeting minutes are already published for those interested. It was my second in-person meeting with the board. The interesting things for me were the executive committee election and the discussion around SQL Rally. I recognize, at this point, it’s all old news, so I’m unsure what to add. I’m very excited about Adam Jorgensen being the president of PASS (although, I also would have been just as excited about having Tom LaRock for another term). SQL Rally… It was a good idea. Unfortunately it was not doing what it should have done, provide a mid-ranged event with minimal management needs. Rally was costing tons and tons of time & money on order to get put on. With the growth of SQL Saturday events, some of them having 1-2 days of pre-cons, it just didn’t make sense, to me, and evidently to much of the rest of the board, to keep going with SQL Rally when we could put on events just as large as Rally with less effort and cost to the organization. It’s these decisions that you elected everyone to make. The passion that everyone brought to the discussions on Rally, well, I think you elected the right people.

One other thing that came out of the meeting, I’m on the Nominations Committee for the upcoming Board Election. We’ve already had some meetings and we’re working on a process that was updated from last year (although we’ve already identified a couple of small changes we want to make for next year).  I won’t be able to report on what was said during these interviews with the candidates that will be coming up next. I will talk about the process around vetting the candidates and publishing our results. We’re going to publish the scores this time instead of just ordering the candidates (which means, you can order them based on the scores if you choose). I’m mixed on this. For example, I came in last in the rankings by last year’s Nomination Committee (not whining, stating a fact). I can’t say that I’d be real excited for everyone to see what the scores were. Heck, I’m not sure I want to know (and I don’t know) what everyone thought of me after the interview process. I can see how some might not be crazy about this. However, I suspect pretty strongly that everyone we interview is going to be clustered pretty tightly together, so I doubt anyone will complain too much. We’ll see.

 

 

Aug 05 2015

PASS Needs You!

kitchenerIt’s time.

No more procrastinating. No more complaining about the process from the outside. No more excuses.

You have to run for the PASS Board.

The Nominations Committee is all set, off and running. We’ve got great people involved who are going to do their best to ensure that the community gets the right people to run for the board. However, the NomComm isn’t running for the board and the NomComm can’t compel people to run. It’s up to you to step forward and take on this task. If you’ve been out there thinking that maybe you need to step up, you do. If you’ve been thinking that you might be able to give back a little more, you can. If you think you might be the right person to help lead this organization into the future, you are.

It’s you. It’s time.

Applications open today.

Click on this link to find all the information you need to make this happen.

Also, apologies to Lord Kitchener.

May 27 2015

PASS Board Update: May 2015

I’ve had a busy month on the Board.

You may have seen some tweets going by about our compliance with international laws regarding SPAM. This has been something of an education, so anything I say wrong below, it’s because I’m wrong, but not malevolent (at least in regards to this topic), so please be kind. It appears that the mechanisms we had on our emails for showing where the email came from and how to unsubscribe from it, weren’t completely in compliance… IF… we were sending emails that involved advertising. By we, I mean Chapters, not HQ. Now, that IF, could mean that we could skip out of meeting this requirement when our emails didn’t involve advertisements, but then it’d have to be in compliance when it did and we’d have to adjust our footers depending on the type of email… blah, blah, blah. I decided that we can get in compliance, now. Stay that way. Sure, many, most, of our Chapter emails don’t have to meet these regulations, but, if we set it up so that we do, then we never have to worry. I’ve worked with HQ. We’re in compliance. We’re getting the word out to the Chapters so if they use email other than ours, they too can be in compliance. We’re also making it part of the documentation so that future people will also be in compliance. We have some other work to do in IT to make an adjustment to the unsubscribe process, but that’s going to happen to. In short, this is almost completely fixed. Many thanks to Karen Lopez for all her help through this process. We couldn’t have done it with you.

I’ll bet that’s a lot more sausage making on display than most of you bargained for. This is what being on the Board looks like.

There was also a Board meeting this month. I was traveling so I only got in the last half of the meeting (on the phone in a shared van sitting in traffic at Logan Airport I might add, oh the glamorous life of a Board member). Good information was exchanged, largely setting us up for the in-person Board meeting next month.

Other than that, standard stuff, meeting with the HQ people regularly so that we keep the Chapter side of things running. A few minor decisions to move things forward. Still pushing on the goals and I hope to figure out how to get IT support for what we need to meet a couple of them.

I’ll report back after the in-person meeting next month. Please, please, please, any feedback on me, the Board, PASS, Chapters, my updates and other Board-related blog posts, the whole magilla, I want to hear it.

Apr 27 2015

Benefits for Some, All or Only a Few

As a member of the PASS Board of Directors I attended the PASS Business Analytics Conference (BAC) recently. You can read more about it here and here (as well as here).

Let me start with an important note: I am voicing my opinion here as an individual, not an official stance of the PASS organization.

There is controversy around the BAC because of a whole bunch of things, but one question in particular bothered me. It was suggested that the people attending the BAC were just consuming the worth or value that other people who paid for the Summit generated. At first, I just dismissed this concept. It stuck in the back of my mind though. Suddenly I realized why.

Yes, the BAC was partly paid for by Summit. The attendees at the BAC were not all people who would have attended Summit. There were, maybe, 1/3, who have attended Summit, are going to attend Summit, or who might attend Summit. That means, a majority will not.

So?

Money from Summit is used to support Chapters. Anyone ever canvassed their attendees at a local user group for who has gone or will go to Summit? I have. Most of the time, far less than 1/3. Do we cut funding for Chapters?

Money from Summit is used to support SQL Saturday. Once again, I’ve canvassed several of these for people who were going to be attending Summit. Again, way less than 1/3. No more funding for SQL Saturday?

How about the Virtual Chapters that money from Summit pays for? How many of those people are attending Summit? I don’t know, but I’d be shocked if it’s 100% or anything close to that. Are we cutting Virtual Chapters?

24 Hours of PASS is also paid for by Summit.

You know, everything that PASS does, whether you like it, and attend it, or not, is paid for by Summit. There are good arguments to be made that we should not be doing the BAC (and arguments that we should). Where the money comes from is absolutely not a part of that argument. Otherwise, we must pull funding from anything and everything that is done by PASS that doesn’t translate to 100% benefits for the people who paid for it, Summit attendees.

I believe that we, the members of PASS, should be open and accepting and willing to try new things, both from a technical perspective and from a personal one. Providing training and community is what we do. Let’s focus on that.

Apr 23 2015

PASS Board Update: April 2015

It’s been a pretty interesting month on the board.

First, we did have a little problem. I’m sure one or two of you may have noticed that the SQL Saturday web site was down for a moment. Well, three days. Joking aside, this was a serious problem, but my involvement was largely peripheral since I’m in charge of Chapters. I tried to help out a little, offering what support I could and, if nothing else, supplying an ear, willing to listen. Quite a few people took advantage of that. I communicated all their information up the chain to HQ and the other board members. Nothing has been held back.

Next, we’ve started the budgeting process. That’s fascinating. As well as a giant pain in the… well, anyway. Thankfully the people at HQ are helping shepherd me through the process.

We’ve had a number of leadership changes at different PASS Chapters. A couple of new groups have been created. We’re making some progress there.

Also this month I went to the PASS Business Analytics Conference.

Let’s talk about this.

The event was really well put together. The keynotes were amazing. You can read about them here and here.  The venue was great. The speakers I saw seemed good (for the most part). We hosted a number of focus group discussions with attendees and speakers to get feedback on the event. Overall, they were extremely happy with it. They also provided a lot of great suggestions to help improve the event if we do it again.

And there is the question. Do we do this again?

I’m not sure.

If you saw my tweets during the event, I was very supportive. I was also actively promoting the event in the weeks leading up to it. All this is part of my responsibilities as a board member. We were committed to an event and I’m going to help the organization ensure that event is successful. Period.

However, if you had asked me whether I would support doing this again next year, prior to going to the event, I would have said no. Now, I’m not sure. The fact is, there’s a split between the perfect BAC audience member and the perfect Summit audience member. That’s not saying that there’s not crossover. There very much is. But, my concern is, can we, the PASS organization, properly support a community that is business focused using the tools we have for supporting a technology focused community? Should we?

From all the feedback, we supplied an event that people liked and cared about and, most importantly, would suggest to others. So we probably can support a business focused community. Should we?

For myself, and all this is just me, reporting to you, I think that the big question is, does this help our existing membership. Prior to this event, I would have said absolutely not. I would have argued that there was not a path from DBA to analyst. After talking to lots and lots of people at the event, I found that a healthy number of our peers have moved from being a DBA or BI person to being a data analyst. It goes something like “Hey! You know that data stuff, right? Well we need someone to do this data analysis thingymabob and you just volunteered.”

In short, many data analysts are accidental data analysts and they come from our peers, our community, in fact, our #sqlfamily. Now, should we do this thing? I’m on the fence still, but I don’t mind admitting, I’m wavering towards “Hell, Yes.”

Mar 31 2015

PASS Board Update: March 2015

Hello all,

It’s been a while since my last update. Sorry. I’ve just been traveling and presenting and working on books and this slipped through the cracks a bit. I’ll try to do better in the future.

Nothing major to report. As a board member I’ve been working primarily on two things. First, I’ve been polishing my goals for the Chapters Portfolio. I’ll publish those below. Next, I’m working on the budget for Chapters for next year. In between times, a lot of what I do, is work with Regional Mentors (RM) and Chapter Leaders (CL) on an individual basis. As much as the stuff that PASS as an organization is involved with is around technology, the PASS organization, especially Chapters, is all about people. And you know how people are. I’ve already had online meetings with the RMs and CLs in which I let them know what was going on with the Board and with my goals. The one point I made that I want to share is my own focus. I told everyone, and I’m telling you, that I see my role as a means of figuring out what the PASS organization can do for the Chapters rather than telling them what they need to do for the organization. Other than that, at these meetings, I’ve listened and taken notes. I want to know what’s needed by the CLs and the RMs to do their work as volunteers, and, where possible, make that work easier.

I also had the opportunity to have a meeting with the user groups of the UK (whether they were PASS chapters or not). This was an opportunity to listen to what their needs are and to understand whether or not PASS is meeting them. One of the most interesting things I learned revolved around Chapter Leaders and the Summit. There are a number of requirements for a Chapter to be in good standing with the PASS organization. And, if the Chapter meets all those requirements, then they can receive one free registration for Summit. Cool beans… unless you’re overseas where the cost of getting to Summit is much higher than here in the States. Suddenly, this seemingly HUGE benefit just isn’t that big. I’ll see what I can do about this one. Not sure what yet, but I’m thinking about it.

Here is a rough draft of the goals I’ve been working on:

PASS Growth

  • Create a pilot program that allows a regional email to be sent to PASS membership that highlights user group events within that region
    • Purpose is to measure the work involved in order to understand the needs for expanding this to all regions
    • Success is arriving at a measure of work that allows for creating plan for next steps
    • Run for three months to arrive at measure
  • Increase communication between Director for Chapters, HQ and Chapter Leaders by hosting quarterly meetings

Global Growth

  • Create interface to connect Speakers with Chapters
    • Purpose is to provide for Chapters to get in touch with Speakers using our existing local speaker list in SQL Saturday
    • Success is mechanism for Chapter Leaders to find Speakers within their region
    • 3 months to arrive at minimal functionality
  • Complete definition of Regional Mentor Annual Rating process
    • Purpose is to provide Chapters with mechanism for reviewing RMs
    • Success is a completed document that has been reviewed by CL and RM represenatives
    • Time frame requires completion by EOY 2015
  • Continue efforts to establish chapters in countries with no or few existing chapters
    • Targeting Baltics, Mexico, Saudi Arabia, Argentina

That’s about it for now.

Coming up I’ll be going to the PASS Business Analytics Conference (use the code BFFGF, that’s my Friends & Family discount, to get some money off the registration). I’ll write something up about that right after it’s over.

Mar 16 2015

How To Speak At SQL Saturday Events

The PASS SQL Saturday events are meant to be a place to grow the pool of speakers, provide a mechanism for the speakers to learn, and fulfill the PASS goals of Connect, Share and Learn. So, you’ve decided you want to start speaking at a SQL Saturday event. Cool. You went to the <Insert Large, Popular, SQL Saturday> event last year, so you submitted this year… and didn’t get accepted. Now what?

First, submit. You won’t get accepted if you don’t try.

SQL Saturday, especially the big, popular ones, may not be the best place to present for your very first time. In fact, with the large ones, you may not get accepted because people who already have a reputation are submitting to those (we all want to talk to big audiences and go to the good venues). So, start smaller. Find your local user group and speak there to get started. Better still, contact the person running the SQL Saturday event. Most of them are also running their local user group, or are associated with it, and most user groups are desperate for speakers. Go and speak at the organizers user group. That’s going to do two things for you. You’ll get some practice in a friendly space, and you’ll get your face and name in front of the SQL Saturday organizer. PASS maintains a list of local user groups that are associated with PASS as Chapters.

Next, go to the SQL Saturday web site. Find the one that you’re thinking of submitting to. Go to the Schedule page. You’ll see a list of people and topics they submitted. At the bottom, there is a place for suggested topics. Sometimes, but not always, you’ll see the stuff there that the organizer wants to see. They’re looking for a session on the VARIANT data type and you’ve written 33 blog posts on VARIANT in the last six months? GOLDEN! Submit under that topic. You can also try contacting the organizer to see what they’re looking for. Ask them, what topics they’re interested in presenting? Now, be sure you actually can present on that topic, but, here’s your in, giving them what they want.

Go to a smaller event. Yeah, presenting at the big event so you can hang out in the speaker room with <Insert Popular Speaker> would be cool. But, it really is hard to get into some of those events because everyone wants to do the same thing. So, start smaller. Some of the events just aren’t drawing lots of big name speakers. Personally, I don’t think that matters at all (people disagree on this topic), but, it’s an opportunity for you. These events need speakers. I know some where they’ve accepted every single session submitted, turning down no one (and I even presented a couple of extra sessions while I was there to help out). So, if you want to speak and, if you drove an extra hour or three you could speak, done.

Finally, your title and abstract do matter. The abstract needs to define a clear problem and solution that you’re going to present. The title… my opinion, let’s have a clear, descriptive title. I intensely dislike the cute and clever titles. Further, I don’t think they help people, especially new people, get accepted. I think they work well for the name speakers because it shows off their personality, and sometimes that’s what people are going for. You’re just getting started, tell us what you’re presenting.

None of this guarantees you get in, but it should all collectively help to get you in front of an audience at SQL Saturday.

Jan 26 2015

My First Board Meeting

Parents, you know that feeling you get after you’ve brought home that brand new baby (or in my case, babies) where you suddenly say to yourself, “Oh damn. What have I done?” Yeah, that’s my feeling after my first board meeting. But let me give you a run-through of how it was. Note, I can’t pre-publish any board decisions. I’m also not giving you a blow-by-blow account of the discussions (especially since there were no blows, at all). This is a story of the types of things we did, how it went, how I feel about it. This is my blog, my blog post, my thoughts and feelings. This does not represent an official PASS communication. We good?

While the board meeting itself is, for me, only a two day affair, we tacked a day on at the beginning to take advantage of an offer from Microsoft to tour one of their data centers. Let’s put the entire day into one word: Nerdgasm.

On to the work of the board.

The first half of day one of the meeting was dedicated to going through Insights communications styles seminar. I found this extremely useful and, I think it’s going to be even more useful over time going forward. Understanding how my fellow board members and the HQ people communicate will help facilitate that communication and will help PASS. I’m glad the board chose to do this before I was involved. Communication can just be hard. Any kind of tools or practices that make it easier are very important.

We had a nice discussion around some points of governance that we’re going to be taking out to the community in order to get feedback on. Once we get a feel for how people think, we can make more informed decisions. We got an overview of global growth and it’s current status. It’s important to keep this in mind since it’s no longer a portfolio, but is folded into all the others. There was a long and useful discussion around SQL Rally. We got a review of the speaker selection process from the 2014 Summit. It was a good day. I feel like I have a better understanding of what’s going on. I was able to contribute in areas where I had some knowledge. It was a good day.

The second day was primarily focused around discussions on the Business Analytics Conference. I can’t discuss much about this because there’s a whole bunch of stuff that’s going to have to be context driven and should absolutely come out of the mouth of the executives, not me. Suffice to say, the discussion and information was extremely interesting, very helpful to me personally, and I really appreciate the incredible amounts of work that has gone into this event. I will suggest, if you’re interested in PASS and it’s direction as an entity, you should be paying attention to this. It’s important.

Finally we got to the goals. Interestingly enough, I misunderstood the purpose of the goals. I thought I was going in there to get approval, and man I was armed for bear. Come to find out, nah, it’s a chance for feedback from the board proper and then, “Have fun storming the castle.” It’s up to me to pick the goals I want to achieve for the Chapters and then work through the processes we have in place to get them accomplished. Well heck, that’s easy. Now, my plan was to share my goals right here and now, but, I got such good feedback on the goals, that I want to rework them a little, and then I’ll publish them here, there, everywhere. I’m honestly feeling a little bit better about accomplishing something useful for the Chapters than I was heading into the Board Meeting.

That’s about all I have. The minutes will be posted… on whatever schedule they get posted on (not sure), and I could maybe do another blog post after the decisions & details get released. One point that I took away from everything, and it’s something that’s hard for me as a technologist, decisions get made and stuff gets set in motion. Sometimes, it might be stuff that you certainly would have done differently, but you weren’t part of the team. Regardless, you need to look at it, understand it, and then, figure out how best to add your own contributions in order to make the team successful, even if, given your druthers, you’d have done this completely differently. And no, that’s not some veiled reference at some fight or huge disagreement. It’s an overall feeling and directly relates back to the very first thing I said. This whole Board thing is a bigger, tougher, more fascinating challenge than I realized going in. I’m actually a little more excited about it now because of that.

Jan 16 2015

Two Weeks on the PASS Board

The one absolute promise I made about serving on the PASS Board is that I would let you know what I was doing there. Well, we’re two weeks in and I figured now was a good time for a report.

Next week is my first board meeting (and I will report back on how that goes). I’ll be presenting the goals I’ve worked up for the Chapters and see how many of them we can get approved and then how many of them we can deliver.

In the time I’ve had on the board so far, a big part of what I’ve been doing is learning about what has gone before. What kind of goals did we have for last year. Which of them were delivered. Which weren’t. Why. What’s our budget. That sort of thing. It’s been very interesting and enlightening. I’ll say this right here, send Wendy Pastrick (b|t) a note thanking her for her hard work for the PASS Chapters. She’s done some good stuff.

Another thing I’ve been doing is getting hooked into all the communications with the Chapter Leaders and the Regional Mentors. So far, most of that has just been along the lines of welcoming new Chapter Leaders, “Welcome to your new job, sucker, uh, I mean valued volunteer…” Kidding. I ran a chapter for four years. It’s tough, but rewarding. We’re setting up calls with the Chapter Leaders and with the Regional Mentors so that I can talk to them directly to get a good sense of what the heck PASS is doing for them or needs to do for them.

I’ve also been getting connected with my cohorts at the management company. I won’t betray who they are because they haven’t said I could (although, pretty sure a certain “Wonder Woman” is going to be upset that I didn’t drop her name, you figure it out). These are the people that are doing most of the work managing the relationships between PASS and the Chapters and the Regional Mentors. I wouldn’t say I’m just a figurehead, but I don’t get paid to do what they get paid to do. We’ve had several calls in order to keep things going on the goals already set and to get going on the new goals. I even got to approve a thing. WHOOP!

I’ll post again after the board meeting, especially once I see which of the goals I’m trying to get going I manage to get into the plan.

Anyone not seeing anything you expected to see in these updates or you have any other comments, suggestions, etc., post here or send me an email.

And no, I still haven’t changed everything.

Nov 13 2014

PASS Summit 2014 Speaker Idol

For the first time ever at the PASS Summit, a competition was held to select a speaker for the 2015 Summit. This competition was organized and run by Denny Cherry. You can read all about what he thought of the event right here. I was asked to take part as a judge. I was on the panel for all the preliminaries and then sat in the room for the final. Here’s what I thought of the event.

First off, thank you to the PASS organization for taking a chance. This is a deviation from the way things have been done. Trying new things can be difficult, but the organization stepped right up and supported this addition to the rich pageant that is the Summit. Second, I want to thank Denny for putting it all together. He put a lot of personal time into this event and pulled it off largely without a hitch (there is a minor bit of controversy, I’ll talk to that in a minute).

The speakers…

Wow!

Clearly people brought their “A” game. Every presentation was good. Period. But, some were better than others. The one clear differentiator, the thing that just made the top sessions stand out from the rest was how the presentations were put together. The winners from every day and the final clearly had focused on presenting a five minute session. They had a simple, single, clear idea that they wanted to communicate within the five minute time frame. The people who didn’t win (note, I didn’t say, didn’t do well), took one hour sessions and then tried to boil them down to five minutes. It just didn’t work. It very likely couldn’t have worked (although, I took a five minute session once and turned it into a one hour session). That’s because adding stuff in is easy. Taking stuff away is hard.

I personally learned a few bits of information from the sessions. They were great. But, someone has to win. As of this moment, there is exactly one known presenter at PASS Summit 2015 and that is Pieter Vanhove (b|t) . Flat out, he was amazing. He did things in his first five minutes that I, personally, would never do in a five minute session, and he got away with it. Then, to top it off, instead of coming to the final with his original presentation polished for the judges, he brought in an all new presentation and proceeded to blow everyone away. It was great. All the other presenters, especially in the final four, were fantastic, but Pieter just clearly won.

The weaknesses displayed were somewhat common to what we all do. People didn’t always make good eye contact with the audience. There was some bad time management (see that bit about the 5 minutes vs. hour presentation). A few people were dealing with presentation mice for the first time and just hadn’t practiced enough. Nervousness took over. People wondered aimless around the stage. Actually, I do a lot of these myself, but, when you’re watching good presentations and you need to differentiate between people, you identify the things that need to be improved on, whether you do them or not.

Let’s talk about the judging. What did I learn? I don’t do mean well, at all. Let me rephrase that. I do mean EXTREMELY well. I don’t do mean/funny/I’m not really mean well. I tried to be humorously mean to Reeves Smith, who did a good presentation, and oh, man, I just came off as nasty. It was horrible and I could tell when I was doing it. In fact, I couldn’t sustain it. The next person came up and I utterly broke persona and said I couldn’t do it any more. Luckily, Reeves is a great guy and took it as it was intended (although not as it came across, I really sounded like an ass). I’ve apologized to him personally and let this stand as my public apology for that. I won’t attempt mean/funny again. I’ll still be mean as required, but lesson learned. Sorry Reeves.

The rest of the judging, well, it’s all from people who do a lot of this. Except for my momentary dive into a cesspool, the comments were all constructive and helpful (including mine after Reeves, mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa). If you were there, you were in an advanced presentations class. I hope people took notes and will adjust their presenting and presentations based on it. Heck, I changed some of what I did on Friday after hearing all the other judges speak.

Finally, the controversy. OK, it’s pretty small potatoes, but we were supposed to pick a wild card for the final. We didn’t have any specific instructions on how to pick the wild card. So, after the judges talked a little, we picked someone who had not scored as a runner up in the initial rounds. Why? Because many of us had seen him present before and we knew he could do better (he did, there was ALMOST a second controversy). Was that against the rules? Since there were no rules, I’m going out on a limb and saying no. It’s like when a fighter doesn’t get a KO or TKO and leaves the decision to the judges, you can’t whine about the outcome. We made a decision based on the knowledge we had (and don’t think I was playing favorites, my very first Speaker of the Month was in the competition and he didn’t make the finals). I stand by that decision.

I thought the format worked well. I hope it’s part of the program next year. I’m not sure I’ll get to judge again since I’ll be on the PASS Board by then. However, assuming the schedule allows, I’ll sure go and watch some great presentations.