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.

Nov 11 2014

I’m Still Not on the Board

I’m just back from the PASS Summit 2014. What a great event. But this year, it was a little different. I did a lot of the usual things, presented a pre-conference seminar to about 130 people, helped out at the Red Gate booth, presented a session on execution plans on Friday, went to a few after hours events (that included karaoke). You know, the Summit. My tenth one. But, I am starting the process of transitioning onto the board. This will be my first report on the work I’ve been doing around that. However, please let me point out something, that was made very obvious to me during the event, I’m coming on to the board, but I’m not yet on the board. I say this because whatever work I put in for board business last week, it was nothing compared to the time put in by the people who are actually on the board. Make no mistake, that’s insanely time consuming work.

I went to a series of meetings that reflected my past volunteer work and my upcoming time on the board. I attended meetings with the Chapter Leaders and the Regional Mentors. There were some great discussions around past performance and support of the organization and future needs. I’m not going into details on this stuff. Some of it is NDA, most isn’t, but I don’t think it’s my place to address any of it yet. Let’s just say it was really interesting. I especially loved hearing about why the Regional Mentors do the work that they do. Ask one sometime. We have a lot of work ahead of us and I’m pretty jazzed about some of it.

I also attended a series of PASS Community sessions at the event. I really enjoyed the session on how to build a user group by two of the best Chapter Leaders I know, Kendal Van Dyke and Jes Borland. I also went to a couple of sessions in and around the work I helped with on the Summit Selection Committee. We had a workshop on building an abstract. It was attended by committee members and other speakers. If you didn’t get selected, you both learned why, and we reviewed individual abstracts to help people write better ones. It was a great session and if you needed more feedback on your abstracts, I’m sorry you weren’t there. We then had a mission report session from the Selection Committee. We walked through how the various teams on the committee did their work, how it’s going to change next year, and how well, overall, despite quite a bit of heat generated at the announcement, the process went. Based on the fact that attendance was up all over the board, even on pre-cons sold, I don’t think the committee did too poorly. But, the committee is going to try to make it even better next year, especially around getting better feedback to everyone.

My biggest impression from everything I did in and around the board, is actually not a shock or even news to me, the board is a team of great people who are doing simply amazing work. I’m actually humbled and more than a little fearful to be joining such a great team. I’m also really impressed by the people at PASS HQ. Another amazing team I’m looking forward to working with. If I had to provide criticism about everything I’ve seen so far, I’d say that I think all the work done by all these people isn’t adequately communicated. Maybe it’s better that it all looks like effortless magic, but I think I might have been slightly less critical in the past (slightly), if I had known how much work it was.

If there was a unifying theme to everything being said and done, I’d say it’s communication. More of it is needed. More of it seems to be promised. More of it is wanted. You will see quite a lot more work done in that area. Heck, it was part of Adam’s keynote.

Look for more updates as I get to work with the teams more.

Nov 06 2014

PASS Summit 2014: WIT Luncheon

Since I’m starting on the board in January, I’ve stopped taking part in the bloggers table during keynotes. First time since they had a bloggers. But, I am going to blog through the Women in Technology (WIT) Luncheon because I just love getting to take part in this amazing event.

For the luncheon this year, they have changed the format. Instead of a panel, they’re just talking to some really interesting people who have been doing amazing stuff supporting growth of women within STEM types of work and education.

First up is Kimberly Bryant, the founder of a non-profit organization called Black Girls Code. She started out trying to build a for-profit startup, but when she found that there just weren’t that many women in technology. But when her daughter started to pursue computers, through gaming, she got her into a programming camp. That changed both her daughter’s life and her own.

More than 1/2 of all girls in Middle School are interested in STEM. But it’s only 3% in High School. That drop-off alone could explain where all the women in technology have gone in recent years.

Black Girls Code secret sauce is putting all the girls together and letting the girls teach each other and with adult women mentors. They focus on having women-only instructors in order to model the behavior that they want the girls to emulate.

They use just about any language they can get developers in to teach. They’re also partnering with Lynn Langit’s “Teach Kids Programming” organization (Lynn is one of the more amazing people I’ve had the opportunity to meet and her program to teach kids Javascript is amazing).

Black Girls Code is an international organization, not just local or US only.

If you’re interested in getting involved in supporting your local community, according to Kimberly Bryant, there just aren’t enough teachers in technology in local schools. Schools need to have classes made available by people who know how to do it teaching during the school day. She suggests that doing this, in addition to an after-school program like Black Girls Code, is necessary to make a more profound difference.

She was asked if she advised students about how taking part in STEM, because it’s currently so under-represented by women, is going to difficult for them. They do take part in making sure that it’s part of the stuff that they’re teaching.

12:40
Kimberly Bryant is asked how to keep more women involved in technology past the mid-point of their careers.

She says that what needs to happen is that women have to stay within a company for long terms. But they have to have more mentors and advocates of women to grow them, over time, in order to break into the C level jobs.

Q&A with Kimberly Bryant:

How can more women be brought into the graduate degrees?
She says the same thing again, more organizations and support mechanisms for women on that track.

How can I assist my 15 year old girl to be interested in technology and software?
You need to get them interested before high school. It’s extremely difficult to get them interested at that level. But the younger girls, it’s down to getting the right role models in front of them.

How do we deal with the fact that many people don’t have laptops?
Work with libraries. Also find businesses that have high technology turnover to get them to donate older machines.

How do you change the culture to keep women around longer?
Hire more women. In order to change them from the ground-up, have more women in place.

What happens when it’s a woman vs. a man in an interview?
There is unconscious bias in interview processes, so you need to find ways to eliminate that as part of your hiring processes.

12:54

Go to career fairs (not a question).

How do convince children that they need to know about technology, not simply have a degree?
Black Girls Code also works with parents to get them involved in what’s going on with tech in order to enlist them in helping the kids. Other than that, it’s about teaching that technology has to be a part of all classes in schools. Convincing people that everybody is involved in computers.

How do you get a young girl involved?
Find programs that both teach the skill sets, but also have other girls involved.

What are some recruiting strategies for getting more women and minorities?
Have more women doing the recruiting. Women are not going to work for your organization if they don’t see other women working there.

Comment: Women have a hard time climbing the ladder. They should build doors and then open them.
Response: And then reach back through that door and pull other women through it.

Comment: Boys should also be taught that it’s OK to like smart girls.

Missed the question:
Every women’s experience is her own. Some young woman should look around her at her peers. Somehow women are not adequately represented.

What can the person who is not a woman or not a person of color can do to avoid unconscious prejudice?
Asking the question means you’re thinking it through. Mentor someone who doesn’t look like you. Making your company be accountable to what they do in this regard.

Microsoft employee with PHD stands up to thank everyone for their support for women. Her question is what does success look like in five years?
See some definitive actions from companies to make a difference. Have government involved more. Getting women in college or middle management to get them moving into C-level stuff.

 

It was a very interesting discussion. Thanks to the organizers within PASS for putting on something so vital and interesting. Thanks to Kimberly Bryant for her time, thoughts and efforts.

Oct 17 2014

Why Haven’t You Changed Everything?

The first in what I hope will be many regular reports on what I’m doing on the PASS board.

To answer the question that I’ve already been asked (who had 47 hours in the pool?), first, I’m not on the board yet. I was elected to it and my term starts in January. So, don’t expect a lot in the way of ongoing structural changes at the organization instigated by me. Second, I’m the lowest of the low on the board (after I’m actually on the board), so I won’t be making a whole lot of changes at all (whether I wanted to or not). Third, the board is a board, a bunch of people, who get to vote on things, so even if I were able to call a meeting (I’m not) and I had some grand idea for rearranging the Summit (I don’t), I’d still have to get a majority on the board to support what I wanted done. Fourth, on the board, different individuals are responsible for different aspects of the PASS organization. These aspects are organized into what they call portfolios. The portfolio I’ve been assigned (yes, assigned, and I so wanted the “Drink Tickets at Summit” portfolio), is Chapters. So, I won’t be tasked with rearranging SQL Saturdays or whatever your favorite issue might be. Instead, I’m going to be working with the people running your local user group, the regional mentors, and the HQ people responsible for everything around Chapters. Oh, and, a healthy chunk of the decisions for direction in 2015 for this portfolio have already been made. You can read about the portfolio direction for 2015 on the PASS web site (in fact, if you are interested in what’s going on at PASS, you should read all the portfolio plans).

So no, I haven’t, and won’t, change everything. I’m learning about what I can and can’t do as a board member (and what I can do, I still can’t do until January). If you have ideas for things you’d like to see PASS do for the Chapters, I’m open and interested. I have a couple of ideas of my own that I’m going to push for. More on that once I’m actually on the board. I’m writing this just a couple of days after the election, and I’ve already been on multiple phone calls with other board members, getting a handle on this job AND I HAVEN’T EVEN STARTED YET. In short, please, let’s set some reasonable expectations (and no, I haven’t drank any kool-aid, haven’t even been offered any yet).

Expect another blog post after the Summit.

Sep 27 2014

PASS Votes… A little bit more #passvotes

I am putting up an abnormal Saturday morning blog post in support of the actions taken by the PASS Board last night.

The story so far…

In order to eliminate all the excess ballots (I received 5 one year although I only used one) being sent to eligible members of the PASS organization, a requirement to update your profiles in such a way as to firmly establish one each was implemented. Great idea. Unfortunately, somehow, the communication just didn’t make it out to everyone. And, some people didn’t quite get their profiles updated the right way. Suffice to say, when the ballots when out on the 24th, there were a lot of very disappointed and frustrated individuals, many of them long-time and dedicated members of the PASS community.

The Board then did the right thing. They gathered the information they had at hand. They investigated the situation in order to understand the possible solutions. They implemented a very substantial fix to the problem after they understood the issues they were dealing with  and the implications of the potential solutions. It’s almost like they’re DBAs or something. I’m extremely satisfied with the approach they took and the solution they have proposed. Further, I think you should take these positive and thoughtful actions taken by the board, and it’s existing membership, into consideration when you vote. These are capable and responsible people.

As for myself, as one of the people running for a position on the board, I could easily whine and complain about changing the rules right in the middle of the process. In fact, you do realize that making these changes actually has to be done, not in some arbitrary fashion, but following the laws of corporations as defined by the state of Illinois? Yeah. They can’t just do what they want. PASS is a legally incorporated entity that is required to obey the law in terms of its governance, which radically reduces the choices open to them. They must follow the law. I think a lot of the sturm and drang of the last few days didn’t take that into account in any way, shape, or form. I’ll tell you what I told members of the board:

I recognize that you are in a no-win situation. I will absolutely support any action you decide to take. Regardless of the outcome of the election, I will post no protest or complaint.

Go. Fill out your profile. Vote for the PASS Board.

Sep 24 2014

Thoughts on PASS Board Nomination Process: #passvotes

Having very recently gone through the nomination process for the PASS Board, I thought I would share a few things about it. Overall, it was a great experience. I feel that I really had to stretch to meet everything required of me. It was quite difficult to put together all the campaign material. Deciding on who to ask to give you recommendations was also very difficult. All, very much, as it should be. We’re talking about stepping up to run for the board of, essentially, a multi-million dollar corporation. It should be hard to do that. The interview process with the Nomination Committee was also no picnic. Most of these people had already served on the board, so they knew exactly what you, the nominee, was going to get into, so they asked about it. Heck, at the end of the interview process I was seriously questioning whether or not I should have run at all. Again, I think, as it should be. In all, I’m extremely impressed with the entire process, how the communications were done, the documentation, the nomination committee, all of it.

Well done PASS. And, special thank you to the Nomination Committee for all your hard work.

Now, i have a question, why didn’t more people do it?

It’s just me and three current members of the board running for reelection who have applied for the slate. Four people for three slots. Why not more? Are people just not aware of this? Or, are people intimidated by this process (not necessarily a bad thing)? Or, do people just not care? Maybe people think things are running swimmingly so don’t feel a need to rock the boat? I’m actually curious. Win or lose, I thought it was a great experience from which I think I learned a few things about myself. But I expected even more competition from a wider variety of people. I think there are a lot more of you that should be considering this. Next time, you need to run. Yes, you.

VOTING BEGINS TODAY!

Check your email for your ballot which will be emailed at 20:00 GMT.

For more information about me, why I’m running, etc., please check here. For more information about the PASS election, please go here.

Sep 22 2014

Communication and the Board: #PASSVotes

The whole idea behind PASS is to build a community of people who can assist each other in their daily work lives. PASS succeeds at that wonderfully. Further, PASS, the organization, tries extremely hard to let you know what it’s doing and how it’s doing things. You can read the PASS Blog to get all sorts of good information. One of my recent favorites was this great summary of how the Summit speaker selection process was run. I think it’s a positive thing that the organization is so open. I intend to take it one more step.

If I get elected (huge “if”), I’m going to make a point of blogging about, well, the stuff I end up doing. No, I’m not going to be the official mouth-piece for the organization, and no, I don’t mean I’m going to tell you secrets or spread silly gossip. I mean I’m going to share my thoughts and processes on the stuff that I’m doing within the board so that you know what you got out of me. Casting your vote is an act of trust. I want to do what I can to show I’m worthy of that trust, so this is my plan.

My name is Grant Fritchey. I’m the Scary DBA. I’m running for the PASS Board.

For more information about me, why I’m running, etc., please check here. For more information about the PASS election, please go here.

Sep 19 2014

A Manager or a Community Person: #PASSVotes

I am running for the PASS Board. You can read more about what I’ve posted and what others have to say here on this page.

Today I want to ask you a question. Should someone on the board be a manger or should they be a community person? Let’s avoid the easy answer of both for a moment, not because that’s the wrong answer, but because it’s the right one. Clearly you need a mix of these skills to be on the board. But, where you fall on my simplistic question could determine the kind of person you want to vote for on the board. Let’s discuss it a bit.

According to Wikipedia (deal with it), a board of directors is “meant to oversee the activities of a company or organization.” Well, my question is answered then, a manager is what’s needed. We’re done. Boy that was a stupid question Grant. But hang on a second. Let’s take a look at the mission statement of the PASS organization:

Empower data professionals who leverage Microsoft technologies to connect, share, and learn through networking, knowledge sharing, and peer-based learning.

Now what do you think? Do you just want some manager type, or maybe, just maybe, having a data professional directly involved in peer-based learning, for example, answering questions on SQL Server Central. A person heavily involved with knowledge sharing, maybe, running a blog and presenting webinars.  As for networking, let’s talk at one of the live events where I’ll be presenting technical talks. In short, I think I’m well positioned to answer the PASS mission statement. I have team lead and project lead experience. I’ve also helped run volunteer organizations. But, what I really am is a community guy. My passion and my interests line up directly with the PASS mission statement. This is a large part of why I’m running for the board. I believe in what the organization does and I want to help it do more.

So, I’m pretty sure we need managers, but I really do think we need community people too. If you agree, please consider voting for me, Grant Fritchey, during the PASS Election between the 24th and the 29th of September. Keep on an eye on your inbox for your ballot and your chance to vote. For more information about the PASS election and information on the other candidates, go here.

Sep 17 2014

I Am Running For the PASS Board of Directors: #passvotes

This year, I submitted my application to run for the PASS Board and it was accepted. This then is my announcement to all of you and the beginning of my campaign for election. My name is Grant Fritchey and I’m running for the PASS Board.

It’s traditional to either make all sorts of promises for the things you’re going to do or to attack your opponents. I’m not going to do either. I don’t have any grand promises to make. I’m not going to attack my opponents because I know and respect them. I’m voting for James Rowland-Jones myself and so should you. Let’s do this instead. Let’s talk about PASS, you, me, your career, mine, and how PASS can change your life.

PASS changed my life for the better. Like many people, I’m constantly trying to learn how to do my job better. In 2005, I got the opportunity to go to the PASS Summit in Dallas. Just like many of you, I attended sessions and learned all sorts of things. It was great. Right there, PASS can change your life by teaching you more about SQL Server and related technologies. Not life changing enough? Not for me either. While there, I met some volunteers who were helping to run the organization, so I decided to volunteer too. One thing led to another and suddenly, I knew people from all over the country and our “family reunion” was at the PASS Summit. Yeah, a network. No, not to look for a new job. That’s not the primary reason for having a network. The primary reason for having a network is an extended set of knowledge. I know some things my friends don’t. They know some things I don’t. We can help each other. PASS supplies the medium through Summit, SQL Saturdays, the BA Conference, webinars and the local user groups it supports to provide you with the means to build your own network. That’s pretty life changing, right? Yeah, I’m somewhat underwhelmed too. I also started speaking at the local user group that we set up and I started submitting to speak at PASS and finally made the big stage. Oh boy, I get attention. Yeah, that’s one reason for doing it, but, at work I started presenting a lot more too. I was presenting stuff to my team, my boss, their boss, and ultimately to large sections of the organization. Yeah, PASS can help you there too, again through SQL Saturdays, your user group, and maybe, for a few, Summit. There are also opportunities for you to write, record videos, help run the program committee, all sorts of volunteer positions within the organization that will assist you in building your skill set and your presence which will all be completely applicable inside and outside work. I’ve done many of these and they lead me to becoming an MVP and getting a fantastic job for an amazing company. I absolutely attribute all that to PASS. PASS changed my life, and it can change yours.

So, back to this election business. Why am I running for the board? Because I want to do two things. First, I want to help keep the organization going strong and I think it’s time that I volunteered at a higher level to make this happen. Second, I want you to find and take advantage of the opportunities that PASS offers so that it can change your life too. We need to get the word out to a lot more people in order to show them what the organization can do for them. It’s about teaching technology, sure, but it’s also about networking and mentoring and personal growth. This organization can, and will, change your life. The structures are there. You just have to make the choice to reach out and grab those opportunities. I want to share this with others. Those are my reasons for running.

The only promise I’ll make is that if I get on the board, then the passion I bring to, well, everything, will be applied to whatever work I can do there to keep this organization running and get you the opportunities to change your life. Please vote for me. My name is Grant Fritchey and I’m running for the PASS Board.

For more information about the election, to see if you are eligible to vote, to see the other candidates and all the rest of the details, go here.

Sep 16 2014

PASS Summit 2014 Pre-Conference Seminar

I’m putting on a pre-conference seminar (also known as a pre-con) at the PASS Summit this year. I’m really honored to be able to present this and I’m pretty excited about it. So, if you want to talk query tuning, let’s get together at the Summit. For a few fun facts about the event, check out this Q&A over at PASS. To register for the event and my pre-con, go here now.