Dec 10 2015

Promote Community

When I present at any given event, I generally assume that the people attending have heard of the event that I’m at. For example, I don’t need to ask people at SQL in the City, “Who here has heard of Redgate Software?” Same thing goes for a SQL Saturday event “Did anyone here know that there’s a local, free, event being held that provides free training and networking in your area?” seems like a waste of time while at the event. However, what about the rest of the community?

If you’re working on your presentation skills, I’d like you to add one more bit of work to everything else you’re doing (yes, yes, you’re welcome). I’d like you to get in the habit of taking 3-5 minutes prior to the start of your presentation to promote community. If you’re at a SQL Saturday event, talk about the local chapter and any other nearby upcoming SQL Saturday events. If you’re at a SQL Server event, mention the upcoming BA event. Cross-pollinate your communities as much as possible. Be respectful though. If you’re at a paying event, it’s not really good form to promote another, competing, paying event. However, passing along word of a meet-up or virtual chapter where people can get additional information on the topic you’re presenting, that’s fine.

Don’t assume that everyone knows what you do. I’ve made a habit of checking at the beginning of my sessions, “Who attends their local PASS Chapter? Who hasn’t heard of PASS? Anyone here who hasn’t heard of SQL Cruise? Who is going to PASS Summit this year? Let me tell you about PASS Summit…” I know I’m introducing people to the size and depth of the community that we all take part in because over and over, I get large sections of the room who haven’t heard of the different topics I bring up.

Talking to the people in your session like this serves a dual purpose. First, and I’d argue most important, you’re promoting the community. Second, you’re warming up and you’re warming up your audience. They’re getting used to you and you’re getting a sense of them. This will help you deliver your session because you’ll know better how the crowd is responding.

Dec 09 2015

PASS Board Update: First Year

This represents my 12th month on the board so I thought I would recap my time there so you know what I’ve done, haven’t done, etc.

A year ago I took over Chapters as my area of responsibility, what’s known as my Portfolio. Wendy Pastrick had been ably running it quite well, so I had big shoes to fill. The first thing I had to prepare was a set of goals for the Chapters. I’ve blogged about them and the process and I reported on my success in meeting them (mostly) at PASS Summit this year. Over the year I’ve welcomed a number of new leaders, new Regional Mentors and new chapters into the fold. I’ve worked with Carmen and Karla at HQ, and we’ve done a good job (in my opinion) in meeting the requirements of the Chapters. We put together some very useful meetings at Summit for the Chapter Leaders and Regional Mentors (even if I did scare the RMs, just a little).

I’ve put together 14 posts this year directly related to my time and work on the board. I’ve reported on the work I’ve been doing and my thoughts on various topics related to the organization and the community. One of my promises when I ran for the office was that I would be as open, as approachable, as communicative (without violating Board confidentiality) as I could be. I know that I’ve been pushed to be more communicative and I’ve tried to meet those challenges. I think I’m still probably a little overly conservative in what I say and share here, but I’m attempting to be as open as is appropriate. I’ll push myself on opening up more. Feel free to call me on this too.

I’ve been assigned a new portfolio for next year, SQL Saturday. I’m working with Tim Ford now to understand, in more detail, where everything is at, his current goals and status, and, frankly, create some goals of my own. I’ll gladly share what I’m thinking about. First, yes, we need to continue to improve the web site. There are a bunch of enhancements underway, but I’m not going to talk about any of that until it’s more under my control (and I know I’m not stepping on IT or HQ). Next, I’m thinking that, while completely and utterly protecting the brand, I’d like to find a way to increase the level at which we let people localize the event branding so that it feels more like their own. For example SQL Saturday in the local language instead of English. Possibly localizing the logo (again, we have to protect the brand and the trademark first, assume that). This comes out of the conversations I’ve had with people at Summit (I think those conversations, which I had last year and again this year, are the most useful thing I’ve done as a member of the Board. I’m going to continue doing that regardless of my role in the organization). I’ll be reviewing the notes I took from those conversations so that I can glean any other good goals from them.

We have another board meeting this week to round out the year. This makes 15 posts. I’ll continue to share next year, especially early on when addressing the goals, plans and delivery. As always, I’m actively soliciting your feedback. Let me know what you want done.

UPDATE: 16 posts for the year. I have an update to this post available here.

Nov 02 2015

PASS Summit 2015: Wrap-up

WHOOP!

Another PASS Summit is complete. This one was amazing. It’s my first time ever as a member of the Board of Directors of the PASS organization to attend the Summit and take part in the full process of making the sausage. It was hard. It was exhausting (more so than usual). It was one the most exhilarating, fascinating and wonderful experiences of my life.

First the sad news, Rimma Nehme and Dr. DeWitt have delivered their last presentation at the PASS Summit. It’s the end of an era. I was at the first session delivered by Dr. DeWitt. It was one of the most amazing technical keynotes I’d ever seen until the next one that he gave. The two of them became absolute rock stars in the SQL Server and PASS community because of their deep technical, hilarious, informative sessions. They will be missed. I think the Board has a challenge next year to attempt to match them. Just saying. Personally, I’m ecstatic that I’ve been lucky enough to attend every one of their keynotes. Just in case the two of you read this, thank you!

Thursday I attended my first Board Q&A. It was interesting. The recording of it will be published. I even got to answer a question on stage. I spent a lot of time in the Community Zone, any time I could between meetings, talking to people, anyone who would come up. I also had duties at the Redgate booth, but I was able to talk to people there as well about PASS. It was a great day.

Friday I spent even more time at the Community Zone. I’ve really tried to make every effort to be available to anyone who has anything to discuss about the organization. I took notes from a bunch of the conversations about issues people were having, suggestions for improvements and just general stuff about the organization, Chapters and SQL Saturday. I arrived late to the Speaker Idol finale (in a meeting), but I was able to see a session and see the winner crowned.

My biggest takeaways from the Summit were, first, that Christianson & Company, the management company for PASS, who runs the Summit (among a few thousand other things), does a fantastic job. It was pretty amazing watching them work. Second, my fellow board members are wonderful people. I’m learning so much from being able to work with them. Thomas LaRock… Hi Tom… is a rock (no pun intended, but hey) of stability. Adam Jorgensen, is a font of knowledge on technical topics and leadership that I wish I could just bring with me everywhere I go. James Rowland-Jones is the man who convinced me that I needed to run for the board and he continues to be an inspiration. Denise McInerney is gloriously brilliant, hilarious and fun to be around, and is helping me learn absolutely tons about the proper way to do marketing (and I want this information badly). Wendy Pastrick is a bundle of joy and passion who helps keep me in line and on target. Jenn Stirrup has a very quiet voice, but has huge ideas wrapped inside of it. Tim Ford is a great source of ideas and direction who can slice to the heart of a situation like a surgeon. Bill Graziano, our outgoing past-president, is not only a great guy, but acts as an excellent source of history and guidance.

Somehow, I’ve been lucky enough to get to sit in a room with these people and we do what’s necessary to create a space in which the SQL Family can realize the amazing results that it is capable of. I had a couple of moments this week where I just stopped for a second and looked around in amazement that I was able to be counted among them.

Oct 29 2015

PASS Summit 2015: So Far

It’s Kilt Day!

I want to give a quick assessment on how the Summit has been for me so far. Monday, as is true for the rest of the week, I served two masters. In the morning I went to the Redgate SQL in the City event. In the afternoon I attended our in-person board meeting. The minutes for the meeting will come out after they’re approved. The meeting largely consisted of reporting on how we had done this year and starting the process of getting going for next year. I left that meeting and went back to SQL in the City. Yeah, I’ve been running all week.

Tuesday was my community day. It’s been announced that I’m moving from the Chapters portfolio to the SQL Saturday portfolio. I went to the two hour meeting we had with all the organizers of SQL Saturday events from all over the world. It was a celebration and a chance for feedback. What things do we need to stop, start or continue. Here are a few of the notes I took during the meeting:

  • We need a better way to share sponsor info, a report or forum
  • Regional Mentors (RMs) could be a clearing house for sponsors in regions
  • We need to promote having people bring a friend (actually, this is something I’d like to find a way to formalize or reward somehow)
  • We need a better way to automate lead generation for the sponsors
  • Sponsors would like to get the layout ahead of time
  • If you want to get sponsor money, get them a list of topics and speakers as soon as possible

There was more discussion around improvements in the web site and speedpass. Overall, it seemed like a successful meeting.

Next I met with your Regional Mentors. We had a private discussion that I sort of stirred up (maybe even on purpose a little). I started the discussion by saying, “So, let’s disband this program.” We went from there. The feedback we generated for improving the program is great. A few items I’ll share are:

  • We need to ensure that the RMs are involved in Chapter communications from the org
  • RMs need a way to easily send emails to their org
  • RMs have to communicate better with the board

Finally, I met with the Chapter Leaders. It was, again, a celebration of everything they do for the organization. Also, I reported on my progress on their behalf. I set three goals, increase the number of chapters, find a way to use the PASS email list to market for the chapters, get the chapters access to our extensive speaker list. We’re succeeding in the first goal, easily. You guys form community easily and well. The second goal we’re meeting because marketing has started generating regionalized emails and we’re supplying chapters links in those emails. We’ll continue to work on this. Getting access to the speaker lists is not yet complete. We have a couple of legal hurdles that we have to clear and it’s going to require a few technical changes. The plans are to finish this before the end of the year which means I’ll have met my goals for my tenure as the leader of Chapters.

Tuesday… woof. I spent a lot of time in the Community Zone talking to anyone that wanted to provide feedback on Chapters, RMs, or SQL Saturday or any other thing related to the PASS organization or the Board.

It’s been an exciting Summit so far. It’s very different doing this from the Board. I hope these reports about my perspective of how things are going there are useful.

Oct 23 2015

Talk to Me at PASS Summit

If you’re going to PASS and you want to have a chat, I want to talk to you. If it’s about the Board of Directors for PASS, PASS Chapters, execution plans, crossfit or something else, here are a few places where I’ll be doing my best to make myself available:

Redgate Booth – I’ll be here quite a bunch all next week. Swing by and don’t just talk to me, get a demo of one of our fine products.
Community Zone – I’ll make a point of going here to hang out when I can so you can track me down.
Board of Directors Q&A – Thursday in 307/308 at 3:30 PM, I know exactly where I’ll be.
Receptions – Tuesday night is the welcome reception for Summit. I’ll be somewhere. Wednesday is the Exhibitor reception. Look for me at or near the Redgate booth. Thursday night is the party at the EMP. You’re welcome to try to find me there.

Summit is a crazy busy time. I’d love to say that if you see me in the halls stop me, but if you see me in the halls, I’ll probably be running because I’m already late to the next event or session, so don’t stop me there.

As a member of the PASS Board, in order for me to deliver what you need, you have to let me know. Please, take the opportunities above to get in touch and provide me with the feedback on how we’re doing with PASS.

Oct 22 2015

ZOOMIT!

Guilty.

I’m at least one of the people who yelled Zoomit during a keynote at PASS Summit.

I want to take a moment and explain why I did it and why it was wrong.

I was frustrated. I’m watching a presentation on a HUGE screen, from about mid-way in the room and the presenter is earnestly showing off a cool new feature of SQL Server in about 3 point font and saying “… As you can see …”.

No. No I couldn’t. After a little while of staring at the blur on the screen and hearing the person say I could see this or see that, I popped. I was interested. I was paying attention. I really and truly wanted to see what was on the screen and I honestly could not. So, I yelled at the stage.

I was wrong.

The person on stage probably didn’t have Zoomit installed. Nor did they know how to use it. They probably also didn’t know that Windows has a magnification utility built in (don’t like it, but it’s there). My yelling didn’t help them at all to discover this information. Further, it probably made them even more nervous. Neither of these improved the experience for anyone in the audience. Finally, it was unprofessional behavior. That’s the important one.

What should I have done? Find a positive solution. Get a hold of someone, anyone, from PASS, from Microsoft, and let them know that we can’t see. Nothing is going to get fixed at the moment, but the feedback has to be delivered. It can just be delivered in a way that’s helpful, not hurtful. Write a blog post? Sure, but try to make it a positive and helpful one. Tweet about it at the time? Yeah, why not? Just make the tweets informative as opposed to negative. Communicate the necessary information (and yeah, it was necessary) in a way that does two things 1) It gets heard and 2) It provides help to those who need it.

I seem to frequently serve as a negative example. “Don’t do what I’ve done. It hurts” is a repetitive message I deliver. Please remember. PASS Summit is a blast. It is. The event has changed my life in a positive way and I’ve grown to truly love the giving community that built and continues to improve the PASS organization. So don’t do what I’ve done. Have fun at PASS, yes. SQUEE and hug your friends. Wear a kilt. Go to the parties and imbibe. Just remember, through it all, you’re still expected to behave as a professional. Don’t follow my bad example. Instead, build on the positive aspects of PASS and the community in a positive fashion.

See you next week!

Oct 20 2015

Statistics for the New Data Pro

Next week at the PASS Summit I’ll be presenting a session called Statistics for the New Data Pro.

You can read the abstract at the link. I just want to emphasize that this is a beginner level session. I think way too many people who are just starting out with SQL Server don’t understand the role that statistics play in determining how your queries are going to behave. What’s more, too many people don’t know how to get and read statistics to understand how it is that the optimizer thinks you have X number of rows in your database that match a given value. I’m going to make darned sure that the people who attend this session come out with a full understanding of how to read the statistics. This includes the good information available in the header, how the density graph is used, and a complete understanding of the monstrosity that is the histogram (it’s not that bad).

We’re also going to talk about statistics maintenance. You need to know how stats get updated because they absolutely impact how your queries are going to behave. There are a couple of ways that statistics are automatically maintained and I really want to be sure that you know what those are. We’ll also talk about manual maintenance, which must be done.

Overall, this is meant as a session for those who have stumbled into a position at work that requires them to be a Data Professional. You can call it accidental DBA, or reluctant database programmer, or just the poor individual who was left standing when everyone else stepped backwards one pace. If you already feel you have a firm grasp of statistics, awesome. You might not want to attend this session. It’s Summit. There are others during the same time slot. But, I have a request. Could you please direct your junior DBA to this? If you know someone who’s just getting started writing T-SQL code, maintaining a server, developing applications and reports, I think this session would do them good, so please send them on over.

Also, on the topic of statistics, I’d like to suggest that you go to Erin Stellato’s session, Statistics and Query Plans. That’s going to add a bunch of information in addition to what I’m covering. Plus, she’s a great speaker. It takes place the day before my session, but that’s OK. We’re covering different information. They’re very complementary sessions.

Sep 14 2015

PASS Nominations Committee 2015

The Nominations Committee has done their job and the final report has been published.

Good luck to everyone running. Thank you for stepping up and taking part in this process.

This is the first time in a very long time that I don’t get to put out a “You should listen to me and vote for…” blog post. Since I’m on the board I feel more than a little squeamish coming out for any candidate. If I openly support Person Y over Person X, have I just yacked off all the supporters of Person X? Have I yacked off Person X? Most importantly, have I potentially poisoned a relationship that I need in order to be effective while on the Board? Add to that the fact that I was ask to serve on the Nominations Committee this year. Now I’ve been asked to sit in judgement of a number of people and declare their various fitness for the board. Yeah, no one is getting a nod for the election this year.

Instead, let’s talk about the Nominations Committee (NomCom) process. The members of the Committee are publicly announced. The process in support of the NomCom is also published. I was assigned volunteered to be on the NomCom as one of the Board representatives. Kidding. I was very happy to get to take part in it this year since I had just gone through it for the first time last year. The committee operation was great. Not surprising. Look at the people on the committee. We met a few times to be sure that everyone was acquainted with the rules of the election as well as each other. Then we scheduled interviews with the candidates that qualified based on the documentation in the process. We were able to read their applications ahead of time. The interview consisted of us taking turns asking questions. I kept notes of interesting answers, answers I liked, answers I didn’t, and used the notes to come up with my rating of each candidate (No, you can’t see the notes. I burned them and then scattered the ashes). From where I sat, the process was smooth and straight forward. It was a real pleasure to work with all the other committee members. I’m not blowing smoke here. We really had fun. Did I mention we kept a chat going through Skype during the interviews so that we knew who was asking which question next… and so we could have a little fun picking on each other (not the candidates, we are professionals). Evidently Grant and #2 seem to be connected in some fashion (you had to be there).

I honestly can’t think of any major process improvements I would suggest for next year. One minor change I’d like to see introduced is that the documentation we currently have conflates Management and Leadership. I think they’re different, very different, and should be graded differently. It’s a very minor change, but one I think that’s important.

In short, I think the PASS community was well served by the members. We asked tough questions of the people running for the board. Each and every one gave great answers. It’s the kind of experience and process you want to take part in as a volunteer.

Thank you to my fellow Committee members. You guys were great.

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.