The official PASS blog provides all the latest announcements, developments, and informative updates from the PASS Community and PASS Board of Directors. The blog is updated regularly, so please check back often or subscribe to be advised when new posts are published.

Standing Down

It is with a mixture of great excitement and some personal trepidation that I am writing to let you know that I have accepted an offer to join the Data Platform Program Management Team at Microsoft. Sadly, that decision isn’t without its consequences. I will therefore be standing down from my position as Director-at Large of PASS and also resigning my position at SQLBits, effective December 10, 2015. I will also therefore not be taking up the Executive Vice President position next year as planned. Adam and the executive have this in hand. It is the subject of another post so I won’t dwell on it here.

The opportunity to help drive new massively parallel processing innovation at hyper scale is a career opportunity I simply cannot ignore. I hope that you, my peers in the community, will understand my decision and not think too badly of me. Serving the community has been an incredibly important part of my personal journey and has helped me to shape my career. Simply put, I wouldn’t be the person I am today without it and am truly thankful for the opportunities it has provided me with.

I couldn’t part without mentioning two areas that have I have been most involved with:

Global Growth
In the global growth portfolio, we have set the tone for international community engagement through strategic long term goals and have enshrined international representation at every level of the organisation. I’d like to thank the entire board, both past and present, for their continued commitment to this effort. I have every confidence that PASS will continue to be globally relevant; embracing the vision to support the worldwide community of data professionals that leverage the Microsoft Data Platform.

Partnerships Special Project
With the partnerships special project, we have overhauled how PASS engages with its commercial partners as we recognise their unique position and value within the community ecosystem. Through the tireless efforts of an outstanding team at PASS HQ the new Global Alliance Partners program is off the ground and is going from strength to strength. I’d like to thank in particular Microsoft and our Alliance Partners namely Dell Software, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, SQL Sentry, Hortonworks, Idera, Kroll Ontrack and Pyramid Analytics for their strategic support and investment in PASS. I look forward to seeing the Alliance program continue to evolve and prosper. PASS has an opportunity to set the gold standard amongst community organisations for partner engagement – that is truly exciting.

Serving the community, especially the PASS board, presents a myriad of wonderful opportunities. I’d like to thank the PASS membership for entrusting them to me. I would encourage anyone wanting to stretch themselves personally and professionally to step up and find out what PASS has to offer. You are unlikely to experience driving an international, multi-million dollar, not-for-profit organisation elsewhere in your professional career. I’ve developed new skills, tackled complex challenges and collaborated with a passionate, diverse group of community oriented people – all looking to make a difference. That last part may sound simple but, trust me, it is not. Building the relationships to work effectively as part of a team is integral to the PASS experience. However, this investment has also been immensely rewarding; many of the people I’ve worked closely with I can also happily call friends. That isn’t something I say lightly. I would therefore like to close by expressing my sincere thanks to the fantastic board members and the entire PASS HQ team with whom I have served for their unwavering support and, of course, friendship.

PASS Board, Director at Large

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EMEA Regional Seat Created for 2013 Elections

April 16, 2013 – Last week was important for PASS. Not only did we hold our first Business Analytics Conference, but the PASS Board of Directors also unanimously passed two motions that enable PASS to take the next steps in growing the organization’s international reach and influence.

Our focus was to increase the international makeup and perspective of the PASS Board, by voting to:

  • Convert a Director-at-Large seat to a regional seat for EMEA
  • Ensure the elected community representatives to the Nomination Committee (NomCom) reflect the regional seat composition of the 2013 Board elections

With the EMEA slot, the 2013 elections will have two seats reserved for specific regional representation: one for the US/Canada and one for EMEA. The recent PASS by-law changes already convert one Director-at-Large seat to a regional seat specifically designated for the US/Canada region every other year. However, the Board had to vote separately to convert another Director-at-Large seat to an EMEA seat.

By aligning the three elected NomCom community seats to match the Board seats that will be up for election this year, we help encourage balance, international influence, and local investment in both the NomCom and the Board elections.

Thank you to everyone who shared feedback and suggestions about streamlining and improving our elections process for candidates and members alike.

As we focus on engaging more qualified candidates and a more invested, involved electorate, we will also create a PASS election ethics and process guidelines document. It will address and clarify existing processes so that community members and candidates know what is expected of them and what to expect during the elections.

With these important steps toward gaining more international perspective on the PASS Board and improving and refreshing our elections processes, I think we can all expect great things.

Thank you for your time,


Reviewing the Election Process

April 2, 2013 – Serving on the PASS Board of Directors is a rich and rewarding experience. It’s also a responsibility that should not be entered into lightly. As we prepare for this year’s elections season, we have the opportunity to review the process for involving and evaluating candidates and for taking full advantage of this chance for the community to come together and share in the vision for PASS.

As part of a lean, not-for-profit, community organization, we must also evaluate the time invested in the election process to protect the return on community investment. With this in mind, a subset of the PASS Board is leading a review of the election process, and we are seeking your feedback on these objectives and their direction.

The objectives set out by the committee are threefold:

  • Inspire more well-qualified candidates to run for the board
  • Streamline the election process
  • Improve opportunities for community engagement during the process

These objectives may expand or contract based on your feedback. Please share your thoughts with the team by emailing or by posting on the Elections Feedback site.

Achieving Success
The team has also given serious consideration as to how these objectives may be achieved. We would like to get your input on these proposals too as we will discuss them at the next board meeting, which will take place in Chicago on the 8th-9th of April. We are continuing to shape our plans and ideas, and commit to open communication as we move forward in the coming weeks and months with changes to the election process.

Inspiring Candidates
Of the goals identified, this is the most important one to me. We do need to inspire more well-qualified community members to apply and share their experience at the board level. We are also keen to ensure that we attract an international audience. It is important to remember that as part of the Global Growth program, we will have at least one regional seat in 2013 (for the US and Canada). I will also be asking the board to vote in the April Board Meeting to create the EMEA regional seat.

Our focus at this time is to:

  1. Proactively encourage candidates to apply
  2. Reduce the burden on candidates applying to run
  3. Make it easier for candidates to campaign for votes

As part of his work with the new Volunteers portfolio, Sri Sridharan has taken up the challenge to identify ways to encourage members to apply for the board. We realise we cannot simply wait for people to apply nor rely on our own networks. We must make it clear what the benefits of being part of the board are and also outline the commitments involved.

We can make two significant improvements to the application process that will make it less onerous for candidates:

  1. One form. Currently the candidate needs to fill out an application form and then provide separate campaign materials. We should make this simpler and more coherent.
  2. Max two references. In my application during the 2012 election, I provided eight separate references. That’s more than I’ve provided for any job ever!

Finally, by providing a more structured program of events and activities during the campaigning process, we can make it easier for candidates to be heard. It also helps to level the playing field.

Streamlining the Election Process
There are a number of changes we are thinking about to streamline the overall process. By shrinking the timescales, we aim to inject greater interest and enthusiasm into the election process. It is difficult to sustain interest when a process is drawn out. We believe we can optimise the schedule to really help drive interest with these changes:

  1. Reduce Nomination Committee (NomCom) workload
  2. Create a single time period for campaigning and voting
  3. Significantly reduce the time period for campaigning and voting from 23 days to around 7 days

Part of the NomCom’s workload is driven by the data they are provided by the candidates. We need to ensure that simplifying the application process for the candidate doesn’t dramatically increase the workload of the NomCom. In an ideal world, the workload would be reduced for both parties – so that is the goal.

Improving Opportunities for Community Engagement
To date, the opportunities for the community to engage with candidates have been limited to the PASS election forums. We are looking to improve this area significantly and hope to share more with you in due course. Wendy Pastrick will be spearheading this area of the initiative. Items under consideration are as follows:

  1. Increased use of social media
  2. Enhanced layout of candidates web page
  3. Improved reach by making election content accessible to the widest audience we can

By improving the accessibility of campaign materials and providing greater public interaction with candidates, we aim to significantly increase the engagement level between candidate and community during the election process.

We are in the process of defining what this is all going to look like. However, you should expect much greater use of social media, such as hosted Twitter Q&As with candidates, to really drive a deeper, more personal and impactful campaigning period in this election.

Being on the PASS Board is a fantastic experience, but it does not give anyone sole rights to good ideas! Please share yours with us. Feel free to post them to the Elections Feedback site or in private via the email alias.

Thank you for your time,

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PASS Global Growth Initiatives

The PASS Global Growth team has spent considerable time in the last few months thinking through how to evolve PASS into an organisation that is both more relevant to and supportive of the worldwide SQL Server community. We’ve launched our new micro-site containing information that relates to our thinking around internationalising the PASS organisation. More documents and events will be announced in the next few weeks.

On the site you will see documented thoughts and proposals that detail what we have compiled to date. We will also be announcing various opportunities for you to engage with the Global Growth Committee in a variety of interactive sessions, including live Twitter chats, online town hall meetings, a feedback site and more.

The content on the site is not set in stone, it simply reflects how we would approach certain changes based on our current thinking. We are advocating changes that impact the community and PASS in quite a profound way. We therefore need your help and guidance to ensure we make the right changes for the community as a whole.

Your feedback is incredibly important. We want to know what you like, what you don’t, how you think it could be improved, and most importantly of all whether you think the changes we are proposing to make will help PASS support the worldwide SQL Server community more effectively.

Last but by no means least I’d like to welcome Karen Lopez onto the Global Growth Committee. Karen has worked with and represented several other not-for-profit organisations over many years including those attempting similar transformations to the global growth objectives. We are delighted to have her expertise to call on and so are grateful that she has agreed to give up some of her time to supporting the SQL Server community in this endeavour.

I look forward to reading and hearing your thoughts in the weeks and months ahead. Please email us at to share your thoughts or use one of our many feedback mechanisms we’ve set up.

Together I am convinced we will build an even better PASS organisation that truly reflects, represents and supports the worldwide SQL Server community. That can only be a good thing and I am genuinely excited to be part of it.

Cheers, JRJ


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Why Global?

I thought I would try and convey some of the reasons why PASS is investing in international development.

The truth is that PASS is an international organisation. PASS has members all over the world. The Board has representation from at least three continents. Interest in both attending and organising PASS events overseas has never been higher.  At the start of the year PASS had as many international events slated to run in 2012 as they did in North America. Last week we had the first SQL Saturday in Dublin, Ireland. It was an enormous success and people were still raving about it when they came to the SQLBits event in London last week. At the end of last year PASS also held the first SQL Rally outside of the USA and it was a sell-out. Johan Ahlen and Raoul Illyes put on a fantastic debut in the Nordic region. PASS can deliver great international events.

It all sounds like things are going swimmingly. So why are we so focused on investing at the international level?

Whilst PASS is growing it is not designed at present to scale to support this level of international interest. The governance isn’t there and neither are the local resources. Most of the tooling is in English and until we started down this track so was most of the content and communication. Growing globally means a lot more than translating emails to a new language or adhering to a few local laws (although both are important).  There is a lot to consider.

As we look overseas and think about the challenges we face a number of questions begin to form. How do we make the content we generate relevant to a new audience who may not speak English natively? How do we ensure the content we deliver is customized for the region consuming it (ex. Sweden wants to read about upcoming local events in the Nordic Area). How do we identify, support and nurture existing communities and help them grow? What can we do to help develop the community leaders of tomorrow in these new locations? How do we make them care about PASS in the way that our volunteers and members care today? These are the types of questions that the PASS Global Growth Portfolio is faced with tackling.

We also need to make sure that PASS is a good community citizen and recognises its role in the wider SQL Server community. This applies both domestically and internationally. PASS isn’t the only community for SQL Server. It is part of a very diverse community ecosystem where it has an important and privileged role to play in supporting the entire SQL Server family. PASS needs to figure out what its role is and how it can help existing communities flourish as well as create new ones.

That said PASS has significant reach and influence, both directly to members and volunteers and indirectly to attendees of events and through physical and virtual Chapter meetings. By growing internationally this reach and influence will grow exponentially and that will be to everyone’s benefit. A larger, more cohesive and yet diverse community is a stronger, healthier and more vibrant community. One I hope we all want to be a part of.

Cheers, JRJ

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PASS Board Appointments - Response to Feedback

The blog post below is written by James Rowland-Jones (JRJ) in response to feedback surrounding the recent board appointments. The post reflects his personal views.

In the Autumn of 2011 I started several journeys. One of them was to be invited to support and share my knowledge of the international community with PASS. As a Board Advisor I picked up roles for governance, chapters and steering sub-committees reporting into the “Global Growth” portfolio. This work didn’t just constrain itself to international endeavours either I also had to get to know PASS as an organisation. My role in the community to date has not been related to PASS at all. SQLBits has historically been my primary focus for community endeavour. Speaking of which I also had to play my part in the successful execution of SQLBits 9 and in parallel we also launched plans for SQLBits X. This has been no small undertaking. If you haven’t seen we have worked closely with the local Microsoft UK subsidiary and Microsoft Corp to secure SQLBits as the UK Technical Launch event for SQL Server 2012 – a feat that the whole organising committee can feel rightly proud of. 

Before I knew it the elections were upon us. I had a decision to make. It felt very close. We really needed to kick-start the Global Growth portfolio and I was still feeling my way into my position as Board Advisor. I don’t think we had fully bottomed out the scale of the task before us when the elections came around nor the significance of the changes. SQLBits was also taking up an inordinate amount of time and then that meddlesome day job was also getting in the way.

Therefore to summarise, I did not run for election because I simply would not have been able to do the process justice. It wasn’t a decision I took lightly. I was delighted though that Rob, a seasoned PASS veteran, ran from the pool of Board Advisors and I supported his submission. Raoul clearly could not run as it would have breached PASS bye-laws had he been successful. It was also wonderful to see the dramatic increase in interest in the PASS board elections. As has been pointed out elsewhere it was an outstanding success and I congratulate all who were involved in that process.

When Bill approached me he said that he wanted to recommend the appointment of a Director to manage the Global Growth portfolio. I thought he was making the right strategic choice. Here’s why and note this is not about me but it is all about the role.

PASS is investing in Global Growth. It’s a strategic bet. The interest in the SQL Server Community internationally has never been higher and PASS needs to make the most of this. PASS needs to change to embrace it’s wider responsibilities – it’s an evolutionary step. My role to date has been to advise the Global Growth Portfolio and its sub-committees on what that future shape might be. As time has gone on it has become clear to me that my fellow international advisors and I are doing a lot more than advising. We are shaping the international agenda for PASS. We are spending money on it. There will be budget exceptions and there will be change – significant change. Someone needs to be accountable for that. As a Board Advisor I am not accountable – I am a Teflon coated consultant. Something needed to change and I am glad that Bill spotted this.

I therefore wholeheartedly support Bill’s desire to have a board director owning the international agenda. There is a job to do. 

Now it is true to say that Bill could have appointed Rob, my fellow Board Advisor and now Director-at-large, to the portfolio of Global Growth. He was an elected official and had Global Growth experience. However, in my view, he chose instead to make another strategic choice. 24HOP is an international event – one that Rob has been committed to for a long time. It’s a sensible choice as it also aligns to Rob’s work to date with the International Events sub-committee within Global Growth. I am absolutely certain that Rob will be a huge success in this position and to me makes a very positive statement from the President about his commitment to the international community.

I’d like to close by commenting on why I decided to say yes and accept Bill’s nomination.

I believe that re-structuring PASS needs to start in 2012. I personally don’t believe it can wait for another election.  The scale of the task before us is really quite significant. I have already invested over three months of time and energy into the international role. I know a lot more about this process now than I did back in August / September when this journey started. By accepting this appointment there was an opportunity to cement the global growth portfolio at Board level and allow us to move forward with accountability this year.  Did I realise that there would be this need back when the election nominations first were announced? No – not in this timescale. You only need to look at the number of planned international SQL Saturday events to see that we cannot wait. The time to change is now. My personal view was that this is more of an extension of what I was already delivering for PASS at Board level. Adding someone else in would have in my view arrested our progress and also added cost – and waste - to the PASS organisation. Every Board member added, be it advisor or director, increases cost to the PASS organisation. In this instance we would have basically been doubling up. Remember the vacant slot I have been asked to fill is the Director for Global Growth. It is not a generic Director-at-large position. It was also at the Board’s discretion to fill the position or not. The Board did not have to fill them – they chose to. However, had someone else had been chosen to fill this role then this is what they would have been charged with doing.

That said, I do understand the concern amongst the community for appointing someone who did not go through the election process. Let me say that I think the concern is valid and with hindsight this process might have been easier had I stood for election in the first place. I don’t think anyone is doubting that. However, I have been vetted by your board for the last three months whilst doing the job of international Board Advisor. I can’t think of a more thorough interview. Therefore I do not believe that leaves either me or PASS either ethically or morally bankrupt and I certainly don’t believe that I have usurped anyone else’s right to be on the Board. Look at what has materially changed for me and for PASS. I now have a vote on the board and I am now directly accountable for the successful delivery of the Global Growth Portfolio. Costs to PASS are the same. My investment in PASS has increased. Accountability in place. Velocity protected. I therefore considered this to be a sound decision for all involved and I do not regret the decision to accept.

This year is an exciting year. In 2012 we have a new version of SQL Server containing some of the most exciting changes we’ve seen since 2005. We will also be making some strategic changes within PASS to help us scale this community organisation internationally.  I look forward to engaging with you throughout this process and my only ask would be that you support the effort PASS is making to scale it’s reach so we can help support the international SQL Server community.  You can help. If you want to have your say then do please feel free to contact me at I look forward to hearing from you and working with you in the year ahead.

Cheers, JRJ


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