PASS Blog

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.

Addressing Concerns About the SQLSaturday Driving Radius



The PASS community showed their commitment by engaging in an active debate on a recent blog – Making SQLSaturday Sustainable. As a passionate and dedicated community, these discussions and debates are critical to our success and challenge the Board to look at the business decisions that need to be made. As we look back from the discussions from last week, we recognize that there were things we should have done differently. We have heard your feedback – which we are thankful for - and continued dialogue this week and are sharing with you the changes we are making based on the conversation.

We should have communicated earlier on the challenges many SQLSaturday organizers and sponsors were expressing to us. Some of these challenges were made public via social media, others were done quietly and directly to Board members and our Community team.

As the new criteria was evaluated, we failed to share our findings with the organizers of SQLSaturday and in particular those that could be affected by the changes. We’d like to explain why the radius was increased to 600 miles.

Currently, there is a 400-mile driving radius restriction that has been in place for the past four years. This means that no two events within 400 miles of each other should be hosted on the same day. This parameter was implemented in FY2012 to help keep two locations from competing for the same resources - speakers and sponsors.

By the end of FY2016, SQLSaturdays had doubled in size from FY2012. Since January of this year, feedback has been shared from sponsors (both local and GAP partners) on the number of overlapping events in a region, as well as organizers reporting they are struggling with sponsorship. We recognized that to prevent further sponsor exhaustion, and ensure the financial sustainability of SQLSaturday, we needed to look at finding an alternative that could provide support for both organizers and sponsors.

It is important to recognize that these changes are intended to protect the smaller events. They are designed to guide planning, not to limit events. As with the 400-mile driving radius currently in place, if an event requests a date that is already committed to by a neighboring city, we approach both organizers to ensure support. We will continue to be flexible with individual organizers to support and ensure their events are a success, as we have always been.

Hearing your feedback on the guideline, we will be piloting the 600-mile driving radius distance for events in North America beginning January 1, 2017. We will not include the back-to-back weekend restriction during this pilot, and ask for ongoing feedback from organizers, our sponsors, and attendees. We’ll share our findings with you once they are compiled and our recommendations for improving SQLSaturday events. Our commitment to you is to ensure the sustainability of all SQLSaturday events.

To get a better idea of just what this change would look like, below is an example of how it would still be possible to have 5 SQLSaturdays on the same date, all over 600 miles apart. With at least 20 non-holiday weekends in the calendar year, the growth of SQLSaturdays could continue here in the US; but if these events are to sustain, it’s going to mean organizers looking to see how they can manage their budgets more effectively at the local level to help across the entire community. Steve Jones brings up some very good suggestions in his post this past week, Slimmer SQL Saturdays, on ways of cutting costs, and more of these “best practices” blogs will be showcased in an upcoming series in the PASS Connector newsletter.

In an effort to ensure better communications, we are creating a dedicated distribution list for all SQLSaturday organizers to foster discussions (such as the introduction of the new radius) with you, so that we receive your feedback before final decisions are made. We realize this is long overdue – and we hope you will engage with us as we work together toward making our community (and surrounding events) successful.

While we begin to analyze some of the other suggestions around the larger events, these initial changes will be monitored closely to see if they need revisiting. We will continue the dialogue in the days and months ahead to ensure support and sustainability for our SQLSaturday events around the world. We want you to be a part of the conversation. Please reach out to us directly, reply to this blog, or send feedback to feedback@sqlpass.org.

Argenis Fernandez
Director, SQLSaturday

Karla Landrum
Community Evangelist

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The Future of the BA Community



Everything we do at PASS is focused on helping members—and the broader data community—connect with each other, share experiences, and improve their skills. We are dedicated to providing networking opportunities, knowledge sharing, and peer-based learning across all our Local and Virtual Chapters and communities. In 2012, we embarked on an initiative to reach out to the growing number of business and data analytics professionals tasked with extracting meaning and value from their organizations’ data.

Over the past 4.5 years we have learned a lot about the needs of those who work in Business Analytics (BA). We have presented thought leadership and technical training at four annual Business Analytics Conferences, helping thousands of data professionals use technologies such as Excel, Power BI, SQL, and other analytics platforms to gain insight into their business. And our community continues to grow, with more than 25,000 PASS members from around the world identifying a professional interest in BA and 27% year-over-year (May 2015 - May 2016) growth in the BA Virtual Chapter.

At the same time, the data professionals who manage the systems that store data are being challenged to support analytics needs in new and different ways. From running R in SQL Server to providing users with self-service access to data through Power BI, to unlocking the possibilities of advanced analytics through the Cortana Intelligence Suite, the technical interests and educational needs of DBAs and Developers in IT, and data analysts in the business, are increasingly overlapping.

As more companies across all industries are embracing data to inform their decision making, the growth opportunities for PASS members abound.

I’d like to share with you the evolution of the strategic direction of our BA initiative. The heart of the plan moving forward is community growth, with a focus on expanding outreach to increase visibility, by strengthening local groups, and broadening the scope of our analytics community globally.

A major component of PASS’ BA initiative has been the BA Conference. At BA Conference 2016 we again attracted the right business analytics audience and provided them with relevant content. BAC 2016 received an overwhelmingly positive response from attendees; 91% were either very satisfied or somewhat satisfied and most said they would recommend BAC to a colleague. However, despite very positive attendee feedback for the BA Conference the past two years, the event has not grown in attendance.

The PASS Board spent time reflecting on all we have learned the past four years and has decided to take a more comprehensive, multi-prong approach to BA community engagement in FY17. We will emphasize local events and user groups, expanded virtual engagement and Marathon series, and thought leadership, instead of investing the majority of time and resources into a single large conference. PASS knows that the best way to grow community is to be in the community, working alongside our members and volunteers. If you are interested in hosting a local event or for more information, contact Teresa Cheung (teresa.cheung@sqlpass.org).

We believe a more localized effort with a variety of offerings will drive more effective engagement and growth for our PASS community. As the community evolves, the PASS Board will continue to assess and adjust. While we will not be hosting a BA Conference in the spring of 2017, we are open to holding another large BA event at a later date.

Business Analytics is a natural extension for PASS. We are committed to helping data professionals connect, share, and learn, whether they work in IT or in the business. We are very excited about the opportunities ahead and look forward to the continued growth and success in the area of Business Analytics.

Denise McInerney
Vice President, Marketing

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Making SQLSaturday Sustainable

SQLSaturdays are an important part of PASS’ global community growth and how our community connects, shares, and learns.

PASS took over the license for SQLSaturday in 2010 when there was only a handful of events.  Since then it has grown dramatically, with more than 120 events held in the 12 months ending June 2016. To continue to see this growth and provide you with the best possible training and networking experiences, we need to ensure the financial health and stability of SQLSaturday. This will mean a couple of changes to the existing SQLSaturday model that will take effect on January 1, 2017.

These changes will affect the way some of our community members plan and execute events.  We believe that these changes will help to balance the growth of our SQLSaturday portfolio, while ensuring sustainability for local organizers. These changes are intended to:

  • improve the attendee experience
  • improve the sponsor experience
  • increase PASS’ ROI
  • present a consistent and strong event model.

The first change we are going to make is to the amount of funding support we provide organizers. Currently any organizer, whatever the size of their SQLSaturday event, receives $500. Starting January 1, 2017, we will be reducing this to amount to $250 and targeting those cities/locations that really need the financial support to grow, rather than well-established events that are better capable of attracting sponsors and financial support. When assessing those events that require financial support, PASS will be meeting with event organizers and complete a review of past performance.

Which brings me to the second change: implementing a new 600-mile radius and concurrent event timing restriction to reduce competition between individual SQLSaturday events in Canada/USA.  The event timing restriction means that events within the 600-mile radius cannot occur on the same weekend or one weekend prior or after.  This will help to deliver a more consistent and satisfying experience for sponsors, which will reduce sponsor exhaustion and assist with increasing overall ROI.  The existing 400-mile radius restriction for all other regions will remain. 

We believe that by making these changes we can ensure the future growth and financial success of SQLSaturday. I welcome feedback — please comment below or share your thoughts to feedback@sqlpass.org.

Argenis Fernandez
Director, SQLSaturday

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A Look Back - Five Incredible Years

Five years ago this month an amazing opportunity came my way, to actually work for a community that was near and dear to my heart. On July 1, 2011 I started with PASS in the newly created role of PASS Community Evangelist. A position within PASS to help educate our global community on who PASS was and to work towards the goal of growing PASS globally through Chapters and SQLSaturday events.

In the beginning, as you can tell from my post at the time, the role encompassed all of the community related avenues within PASS, to include VCs and the Regional Mentor program. With the exceptional growth in all of these areas over the years, each started to warrant its own dedicated HQ counterpart with just my time as needed for any historical aspect. Then 2 ½ years ago it became clear that the PASS SQLSaturday events were growing at a pace that had to have someone solely dedicated to overseeing this portfolio full time. The SQLSaturdays have gone from about 35 in a year (with only one outside of the US) to now this past fiscal year of 120 events in over 30 countries.

It’s been an exciting journey, and I’m very grateful to have been a part of the PASS HQ team in working with the Board to help grow PASS. I’ll always cherish all the connections made throughout these years. As they say though, “all good things must come to an end”, thus I’ve made the tough decision to retire from this role. I am looking forward to returning to my technical roots, and while I’ve not made definitive plans on my next adventure, I can only hope it will be as challenging and rewarding as these past five years have been.

With that said, I’ll be departing from PASS at the end of October following PASS Summit. If you’ll be there, please stop by the Community Zone (or should we call it “Karla’s Going Away Party Zone” this year!?!) and slap a big ole’ #datahug on me! 

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