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SQLSaturday History Is Made Again!

Last Saturday, the SQL community had a record-breaking five PASS SQLSaturdays, all on the same day and all around the world. The April 14 lineup included one US event, three in LATAM, and one from the fondly called ANZ Tour (Australia/New Zealand) in New Zealand:

  • #111 Atlanta
  • #124 Colombia
  • #127 Rio de Janeiro
  • #133 Costa Rica
  • #136 Wellington, NZ

I was fortunate to finally be able to attend a SQLSaturday in Atlanta – their fifth event. Audrey Hammonds [blog|twitter] and her volunteer team put on quite a show. Much like Tampa, it was a well-oiled machine. You could see where they implemented lessons learned from previous events and pulled everything together – from a smooth registration check-in and good use of room monitors to appropriate signage inside and out – in high-quality style.

It makes me proud to know that in a single day, over 1600 people around the world were able to take advantage of free, quality training. On occasion, someone will tell me they think there are too many SQLSaturdays, but I beg to differ. These events aren’t intended to be the once- or twice-a-year type of conference like PASS Summit or SQLBits. They are more like a “souped –up” user group meeting, in my opinion, bringing more choices to individual communities and providing it for free.

Every community should be able to experience these free learning and networking events, especially when so many community members aren’t able to make it to the larger conferences every year. Not all the national sponsors and frequent speakers, such as MVPs, can support all SQLSaturdays – and we don’t expect them to. SQLSaturdays are intended to grow the local speaker pool, turning to those presenters first and then rounding out the lineup with featured MVP or Microsoft speakers, especially for more advanced sessions. Still, we absolutely appreciate all the more-seasoned presenters who are willing to contribute their own funds and time to present to as many communities as they can. That’s what I love so much about SQLSaturdays – the balance of beginner to advanced sessions. 

In regard to sponsors, as much as many of them wish they could sponsor and exhibit at every SQLSaturday, we know that’s just not possible. Part of my role is mentoring event organizers about how to market to local companies and show them the value in supporting a community event like SQLSaturday. There are a lot of techniques to try with the different industries out there. If you have a SQLSaturday coming up and are struggling to raise funds, be sure to email me. Let’s talk – that’s what I’m here for!

If you are a SQLSaturday organizer who may be feeling your venue isn’t as unique anymore due to the number of events in your area, my recommendation is to change things up every year. As Andy Warren likes to say, “Try new things.” It might also be time for you to take it to the next level and host a SQLRally. 

SQLSaturdays are definitely helping to spread the PASS message and benefits more globally, an important initiative for PASS. If you look at FY 2012’s already held and upcoming SQLSaturdays through June 30, we have 10 new countries hosting SQLSaturdays. FY 2011 had a total of 33 US events; FY 2012 will have 38. Surprisingly to me, there have been only five new US cities added to the SQLSaturday roster. My goal is still to see at least each US state get to host a SQLSaturday, and from what I’m hearing, at least a couple more look promising. Stay tuned for more SQLSaturdays on the schedule soon!

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Data Architecture VC: Building a Firm Foundation

For the past 18 months, the PASS Data Architecture Virtual Chapter has been helping IT pros build a firm foundation in database design via free webcasts with the best and brightest in the SQL Server community.       

The DArch VC has something for everyone, whether you’re a DBA, a database or data integration developer, a data warehousing professional, a data presentation developer, or a client-side application developer persisting data for later retrieval.

“Data architecture provides the blueprints that we all share,” notes VC Chair Thomas LeBlanc. “We want to make data architecture accessible to all data practitioners, and drive the point home that data architecture is a set of practices and a body of knowledge that overlaps almost all database professionals to some degree.”

The DArch VC meets the third Thursday of every month, usually at noon Central Time. And as PASS continues to reach out to SQL Server enthusiasts around the world, the VC is looking at trying other hours so database pros in different time zones can listen in live.

The VC’s next meeting is tomorrow, April 19, at noon CT (6pm GMT) with Todd McDermid speaking on Data Warehouse Dimension Processing with Integration Services - From Simple to Complex. Mike Fal follows in May with table partitioning, and Louis Davidson and Neil Hambly will be presenting this summer.

If you’re just joining the VC, you can catch up via the online archive, which includes session recordings on data warehouse design (Jeremy Huppatz and John Racer), architecture career paths (Robert Davis), database normalization (Louis Davidson and Karen Lopez), and standards (Thomas LeBlanc), as well as presentations on database modeling (Audrey Hammonds) and design mistakes (Steve Simon).

As the DArch VC grows, it’s also looking for volunteers to manage the following tasks:
•    LiveMeeting hosting - creating the LiveMeeting scheduled task, emailing the presenter link to speakers and hosts, introducing speakers before webcasts, and monitoring questions.
•    Speaker recruiting - reaching out to presenters in the SQL Server community to share their expertise and making sure session recordings are posted on the online meeting archive.
•    Marketing - helping update the DArch website, submitting meetings to the PASS Events page, promoting webcasts via community bloggers/tweeters, and notifying media sites such as, Megaphone Community, and USGS.
•    Website maintenance – acting as webmaster for the VC’s DotNetNuke-based website, hosted by PASS.

“These positions are great for people wanting to become proficient in LiveMeeting hosting, as well as meeting and recruiting speakers from around the world and understanding how to get the most from PASS,” Thomas adds. “Plus, they can lead to even more opportunities to serve in the SQL Server community and grow your career.”

The DArch VC has resources and mentors to help you learn the details of each position, which should take only 4-5 hours a month, but you need to commit for at least a year. If you’re interested in volunteering, please contact the VC at or on Titter at @DArchVC.

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March Madness with PASS and SQL Server 2012

(Reposted from my blog - you can read the original here.)

March brought the much anticipated SQL Server 2012, and with it a slew of events, including Microsoft’s Special Ops tour, several PASS SQLSaturdays, and rounding out the month with DevConnections and SQLBits X.

My own March Madness took me to three of the month’s SQLSaturday events. Two were first-time events: #103 Silicon Valley, organized by Mark Ginnebaugh [blog|twitter] and his team, and #105 Dublin, organized by Sandra Gunn [twitter] and her team. The third, #110 Tampa, was organized for the fifth straight year by Pam Shaw [LinkedIn|twitter] – the Queen of SQLSaturdays and my mentor. All three events were very successful, with strong attendance and fantastic speaker lineups, great sponsor support (all with several exhibiting onsite, always nice to see), and as much SQL Server 2012 content as you could pack into a day.

Registration and logistics flow at the veteran Tampa event coasted along smoothly, with the first-time SQLSaturdays experiencing a few bumps, as is typical. There’s still more we can do with mentoring new events in this area, although sometimes you just don’t know the best layout for registration and sponsors until you’re onsite and shifting things around. The events all resembled each other, as they should since there is a “model” to follow for a SQLSaturday – most importantly providing high-quality free training to attendees. But it’s always fun to see how each team puts its own stamp on SQLSaturday, often expressed in the speaker/volunteer appreciation parties. March brought some very special touches.

Silicon Valley catered to the Big Geek in all of us by having its Friday event at the nearby Computer History Museum. I think we were all more interested in getting our picture taken in front of Charles Babbage’s Calculating Engine than eating what was probably the best food I’ve ever seen at a SQLSaturday appreciation party (my particular favorite was the asparagus spears wrapped in pancetta - had to fight Denny Cherry [blog|twitter] over these).

Closer to home, Tampa’s Friday evening featured the traditional sit-down Italian dinner, fostering that comfortable feeling of family. The SQL Florida Mafia (yes, we really do call ourselves that – ask Scott Gleason [twitter] why) was joined by many of our out-of-state SQLSaturday circuit speakers, and even the godfather of SQLSaturday himself, Andy Warren [blog|twitter], was present, rounding out the #SQLfamily dinner.

And Dublin, the last of my SQLSaturday March tour, provided dinner on a barge, which turned out to be much different than what I first envisioned. The barge wasn’t the large bare-bones steel ship that you see transporting goods or military supplies. This one was a large cabin cruiser-style boat, with a cozy dinner room downstairs, décor in a lavish plum color, and soft lighting. In between courses during the 3-hour canal cruise, we took in the wonderful evening weather from an open upper deck. I’m pretty sure this type of party was a first for a SQLSaturday event.

Everyone who attended these parties took away the special feeling and character of each SQLSaturday.


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PASS Chapters Update

(Reposted from my blog; read the original post here.)

Mission Statement
I was asked by someone to write a mission statement for chapters. I don’t know if this qualifies in the truest definition of a mission statement or not but, I partially stole this from a friend, and I hope he doesn’t mind: 2012 is going to be the year of the chapter.

Its been a busy quarter since I took over responsibility for chapters and there have many changes, hopefully this post can summarize the highpoints.

New Faces
During the past quarter, we’ve seen exceptional growth of chapters, including seeing 12 new chapters formed across the globe!

Budget Exceptions
Last month, I put forward some recommendations to the board of directors for increased spending for the fiscal year 2012 (ends 6/30/2012); two of those proposals were accepted and funded. Yesterday I had the opportunity to lead two separate meetings with our Regional Mentors in order to bring them up to speed on what those proposals are funding.

The first thing this is going to allow us to do is send a “Chapter Kit” or mailing to every PASS Chapter around the globe! I’m not going to spoil the surprise about what’s going to be inside but, we hope that Chapter leaders will find the contents valuable and can put them to good use.

The second program we’re going to implement is to fund some Regional Mentor travel to PASS chapter meetings and SQLSaturdays. The basics are that we’ve given each Regional Mentor a funding allocation and asked them to visit as many chapter meetings in their region as they can, the primary focus being on chapters - especially those that need help with speakers or are otherwise struggling. We are attempting to fill a gap in speakers at local UGs and allow the Regional Mentors to get out in the community and evangelize for PASS.

Both of these programs are new, and both are things that we’ve talked about trying for a good while. I’m expecting both of these efforts to have a positive impact on the community, and I’m expecting to get lots of feedback during the process and learn some lessons while we see exactly how this is going to work and what impact its going to have.

Tools Improvements
Since I started with chapters, I’ve been pushing forward with a plan to revamp the existing tools our chapter leaders use to manage chapters, and I’m happy to say I’m starting to see some real movement towards helping with our needs in this area! I expect the first round of changes to start being rolled out within the next 45 days. As this project continues, I'll continue to write about the new and exciting changes we’re making.

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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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What Do You Want to See at Summit?

Hey, SQL pros!

I’m excited to announce the first milestone from your hardworking Program Team! In the past, we have done a survey that asked you to help us get inside your head. (We were disturbed at what we saw, but we’re coming back anyway. :) We do this so we can find out what you’d like to see at PASS Summit – we use the information you share to help drive the session types and content we’ll be looking for soon when we launch the call for speakers. The survey gathered great information, but it was soooo looong and took a hunk of time to complete, so we’ve streamlined!

You can take the slimmed-down survey today at The new survey has been reduced by over 50% in length and should take you only 60-120 seconds to complete. To help sweeten the pot, we’re giving you the chance to win a complimentary pre-con registration (whoa!) and a blog interview with me to share what you’d personally like to see at Summit. But don’t wait – the survey closes in 1 week, on April 11. Once the survey votes are tallied, we’ll draw for the winner.

This year, the Program Team aims to showcase the new and improved processes we’re putting in place to help make the Summit planning, session selection, evaluation, and feedback mechanisms more straightforward and streamlined. We will keep working with you to make Summit the most community-integrated event possible, always improving and learning.

You represent the strongest technology community out there (in my humble opinion), and your opinions give us the direction we need to implement the continuous flow of great ideas coming out of our volunteer teams. But we need everyone’s feedback. So get started on the survey now. Tell your friends and coworkers to take the survey, and get your dog or cat to take it too (this may not apply to you – maybe only my dog knows T-SQL).

And as always, let us know how we can keep making your PASS experience better. Reach out to me any time at with questions or feedback.

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SQL Server/Oracle VC: Supporting the "Bilingual DBA"

Living in two database worlds? Join fellow SQL Server and Oracle enthusiasts in a unique and re-energized PASS Virtual Chapter where members can collaborate, learn, and grow their careers.

Created last year to support DBAs and developers who work with both SQL Server and Oracle database systems, the SQL Server/Oracle VC’s mission is to provide a forum to help resolve issues, encourage knowledge sharing, and build a stronger “bilingual” community.

“Our goal is to create a rich environment of free webcasts – from both the SQL Server and Oracle camps – web-based articles, and a cross product/cross pollination of concepts and ideas to help our members succeed in both spaces,” says VC leader Steve Simon.

Steve is speaking on "Data Access Layers: A road map to smarter, efficient and effective queries” to kick off the refreshed VC’s first meeting April 11 at 11am ET. And from there, the VC will be meeting via Live Meeting the second Wednesday of every month, with its webinars being recorded for replay in case you can’t attend live.

In between meetings, the VC is looking to foster discussions, provide resources and troubleshooting help, and promote idea sharing and suggestions about future meetings on its new LinkedIn group.

“Everyone is welcome, and we would love to hear what topics you’re interested in,” Steve notes. “We’re also looking for presenters and volunteers who want to help grow and support the chapter - if you’re interested, just contact me.”

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New on the Job: PASS Board Year 1, Q1

(Reposted from my blog; read the original post here.)

When I got elected to the PASS Board of Directors, I decided I would plan my goals for the job in 3-month intervals. I also plan on blogging about the experience of being on the Board at the end of each quarter, at least.

Getting Started
Prior to being elected, all of my time and energy was focused on the election process. Because the election ended so close to the start of the new Board term, there was not much time to transition from being a candidate to being a director. I set a rather modest goal for Q1: learn my new role. This really broke down into two major areas:
learning what it means to be a member of the body responsible for the overall running of PASS and learning about my portfolio of Virtual Chapters.

In January we had our first in-person board meeting after the election. We covered a lot of topics, from Summit floor plans to global growth strategies to the SQLRally selection process and much more. (See the meeting minutes for more detail.) I was struck by the thoughtfulness with which the entire body took up each question and discussion. I thought it was particularly productive for the first meeting of a board that had not worked together as a group before.

The challenge to being a director is that you need to transition from the more tactical, execution-focused role of a volunteer to a role that requires you to think about the longer term strategic goals of the organization. I knew this going in, but the board meeting helped me get a better understanding of what that shift looks like.

Virtual Chapters
Each director is responsible for at least one portfolio; in my case, it's the Virtual Chapters (VCs.) I believe VCs provide a lot of value to our members as a source of both technical education and networking, and I'm excited about the possibilities for growing and expanding them. I think of myself as an enabler and evangelist for the VCs. The VC leaders and committees do a great job organizing speakers and events. I can help by removing obstacles, securing resources, and promoting the VCs and their work.

To that end, I've made some progress in the areas of marketing and finance. The PASS marketing team has some great ideas for ways to support the VCs. We've already seen a couple of articles in the Connector, and more are planned. We've clarified the process for getting and managing sponsorships and also discussed VCs' budget needs for the coming fiscal year. One of my goals is to communicate relevant information with the VC leaders in a timely way and to seek their input. I think I've been pretty good at that so far, but in the end, it will be the VC leaders themselves who will grade my performance.

We've also launched three new VCs since January: Global Chinese Language, Big Data, and Master Data/Data Quality. I think each of these is a great addition to the portfolio, and I look forward to seeing how they develop.

Next Up
The next 3 months will include an in-person board meeting in May, the end of the budget planning cycle, as well as some work-in-progress with the VCs.


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