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From category archives: PASS Blog

Board Portfolios for the New Year

As 2012 draws to a close, I’m growing increasingly excited about the start of another year full of opportunities for PASS. With the Board of Directors elections completed and a new Board starting in 2013, it’s time to assign portfolios for the upcoming year. Next year sees the return of an old portfolio and the combining of some existing portfolios. It also brings us both returning Board members and new leaders.

Adam Jorgensen headed up the Summit Program portfolio this year and will return to that position next year, leading the team that selects the amazing educational sessions for the largest SQL Server and BI training and networking event in the world. The Program Committee just completed its work for Seattle and is gearing up for PASS Summit 2013 in Charlotte.

Denise McInerney will return to the Virtual Chapters portfolio next year and will also handle 24 Hours of PASS. There are many similarities between these portfolios as well as cross-portfolio opportunities, so it makes sense to assign them to a single director.

Rob Farley
 will guide the SQLSaturday portfolio. These events are seeing tremendous growth throughout the world. With our continued focus on serving members around the globe, we expect these free events to reach and positively impact even more members in 2013.

James Rowland-Jones, elected to the Board after serving a 1-year appointment, will continue leading the Global Growth portfolio. We’ve made great strides in the past year getting feedback and laying the groundwork for better supporting the global community. Now it’s time to build on that work and put the next steps into action.

Wendy Pastrick will begin her term on the Board by leading our Chapters portfolio. PASS’s support of local Chapters through Regional Mentors, Community Evangelists, tools, best practices, and more has grown tremendously over the last few years, but there’s still much to do.

Sri Sridharan
, also newly elected to the Board, will guide the returning Volunteers portfolio. As we continue to grow PASS’s volunteer pool, it’s important to have a dedicated a team to coordinate volunteer activities across the organization. Although this portfolio has existed in the budget, it hasn’t had anyone assigned to it for several years. We are still defining exactly how the Volunteers portfolio will align with our other portfolios, but by the end of 2013, we expect to see more volunteers, better organized, and with greater recognition for their valuable contributions.

In addition to the PASS Executive Committee – consisting of myself; Executive VP, Finance, Douglas McDowell; VP, Marketing, Thomas LaRock; and Past President Rushabh Mehta – as well as Founding Partner Board members from CA and Microsoft, this is the team that will lead PASS for the upcoming year. Please congratulate them on their portfolio assignments and offer them all the support you can. We’re expecting great things from them.
 

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SQLSaturdays #171 and #174: North by Southeast

October featured seven SQLSaturdays, all US-based and three of which were first time cities: Pittsburgh, Lincoln, and Nashua (which was also the first SQLSaturday for New Hampshire). A big treat for those of us in the Southeast were the long- awaited returns of Nashville and Charlotte, which hadn’t seen a SQLSaturday in over 2 years.

For my travel this month, I decided to go one of the first-time cities, Pittsburgh, and one of the Southeast options, Charlotte. I chose Pittsburgh because I haven’t been able to make any of the other Northeastern events this year, and it was led by first-time event organizers Gina Walters and Madhu Kudaravalli. Nashua, even though a first-time host city, was being led by Mike Walsh and Jack Corbett, two seasoned SQLSaturday organizers.

I’m a huge fan of Nashville, but again, that event was being organized by a team with lots of SQLSaturday experience: Joe Webb, Kevin Kline, Lou Davidson, and Christina Leo. That brings us to Charlotte, and its new BI Edition SQLSaturday led by another team of first-time organizers. Rafael Salas, Melissa Coates, Javier Guillen, and Jason Thomas all had been working on this SQLSaturday since the beginning of July. The idea for the Charlotte BI-only SQLSaturday came in May when Rafael began investigating starting a new PASS BI Chapter in Charlotte. After discussing the potential, we decided that first hosting a BI SQLSaturday would let the team see if there was enough interest in the area to spin off a BI-specific user group from the current strong Charlotte SQL Server User Group, led by Peter Shire.

First up: Pittsburgh. The Pittsburgh SQLSaturday had a unique venue for its speaker dinner: a restaurant inside a casino. What really made this casino stand out was the tribute to National Breast Cancer Awareness Month - the entire building was surrounded by intricately woven bras of all shapes, colors, and sizes. It was a work of art indeed! Another bonus was the beautiful evening lights over the Ohio River right outside the restaurant’s patio. 

For the event itself, LaRoche College provided a nice, clean venue with a large area for the opening keynote and comments. All the sponsors were along the sides of this large space, and the team did a good job of making sure attendees funneled directly to the sponsors after they checked in. As much as these spaces are great for gathering the entire audience in one place, it’s often challenging to keep attendees coming back, except during longer breaks such as lunch, because sessions are typically outside of these areas. Overall, everything went smoothly for this new event team - which even had a record of just four attendees out of their first 100 check-ins to not pre-print their SpeedPASS. Nice!

On to Charlotte. With registrations growing rapidly throughout the summer for this event, it became obvious that BI has huge interest in Charlotte. In late August, we decided to move forward with creating the new BI PASS Chapter, fondly name CBIG, and announce the official January 2013 kick-off meeting during the SQLSaturday.

As I worked with the Charlotte BI team leading up to their event, I was impressed with their organization, the great questions they asked along the way, and the creative ideas they had on making their SQLSaturday extra special. The CBIG team added a Microsoft SQLClinic at the event and did a good job of keeping attendees informed, especially the week before the event. The venue, Central Piedmont Community College, was very nice and ideal for this type of event. Sponsors were set up in the main hallway, where everyone had to constantly walk through them. My only recommendation for next time would be to either have a microphone during the opening announcements or stand on the second floor and talk down to the attendees, which has worked well for carrying voices over the crowd at several other SQLSaturdays.

I collected around 30 names of people interested in Peter’s chapter, and CBIG incorporated a few questions in their event survey to ask what topics people would like to see at their meetings. The survey offered an option for attendees to opt in for the new user group’s mailing list, and the team used the surveys for the SQLSaturday’s raffle giveaway.

As I shared details about the two Charlotte user groups throughout the day with attendees, it was clear that the area’s technical community is as thriving as it has ever been. And, boy, you should have seen their faces when I told them that next year’s PASS Summit was going to be in their own city! 
 

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PASS Summit: Get in the Community Zone

There is no doubt that PASS Summit is all about SQL Server and the SQL Server community. While you might know the conference as the best place to learn anything SQL Server-related, it’s also the best possible place to get connected with SQL Server professionals all across the globe.

PASS community volunteers from around the world work hard every year to deliver the best technical training and information to meet the needs of all attendees, no matter what their skill level or technology interest. And this year, we’re extending that mission to provide more knowledge about and connections with the SQL Server community by creating a special Community Zone.

What is a Community Zone? It’s both a location for community sharing at Summit and a state of mind that encourages more community involvement through a variety of organizations and events. You’ll find the PASS Summit Community Zone between the Lunch Hall and the Exhibit Hall. And we are looking forward to showcasing both PASS-related and non-PASS-affiliated community groups and events.

If you represent a not-for-profit SQL Server organization, please join us in the Community Zone. And even if you aren’t able to attend Summit, if you send us information about your group or event, we’ll help spread the word. How much more community can you get?! :)

Talking about community means reaching out to more than just English-speaking attendees, and we have invited volunteers who speak other languages so we can welcome everyone and try to help all members reach their respective community goals. We’re also interested in hearing your suggestions – if you have a great idea for a user group or a not-for-profit event, drop us an email at ce@sqlpass.org.

The Community Zone will be open Wednesday, Nov. 7, through Friday, Nov. 9, with your faithful PASS Community Evangelists – Karla Landrum and me – and many generous volunteers looking to make your visit as fun and valuable as possible. (Hint: We’ll have some great networking games and other activities to help attendees learn about different communities all around the world and connect with each other.)

I am so excited about the new Community Zone and helping PASS members get more involved in and improve their local communities and the SQL Server community at large. So if you’re attending PASS Summit, please drop by the Community Zone to say “Hello,” ask questions, discuss exciting plans for the SQL Server community, or just hang out – who knows, you could also win some amazing prizes! 
– Niko Neugebauer

 

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International Firsts: SQLSaturday #145 Recife, Brazil

After visiting nine straight US-based SQLSaturdays, I kicked off a three-country tour of international SQLSaturdays August 25, starting with SQLSaturday #145 in Recife, Brazil.

Brazil had already hosted two very successful SQLSaturdays: #100 in São Paulo last November and #127 in Rio de Janeiro in April. Both cities have strong existing user groups, so there wasn’t much risk in supporting SQLSaturdays in those locations. For the most part, SQLSaturdays are led by existing PASS Chapter Leaders, but on a few occasions, some of these events have been part of “planting the seed” efforts to try and establish new user groups in areas that don’t already have one, Recife falls into this category, with the nearest PASS Chapter about 90 minutes away.

The lead organizer for the Recife event was Fabio Avila, who I met at the after party during SQLSaturday São Paulo. He really enjoyed the event and asked a lot of questions about putting on a SQLSaturday, but he seemed skeptical about one in his area as this was the first of this type of event for Brazil. Then along came the Rio event and the recognition that SQLSaturdays were gaining more interest in Brazil. Just before the Rio event, Fabio contacted me ready to bring some SQL Server training to the northeast region.

There are many technical events in Brazil each year, but SQLSaturdays seem to be filling some voids for this country, providing more SQL Server-focused training and another avenue for the many SQL Server MVPs and other SQL experts in Brazil to share what they know. It was great to see at the Recife event a number of the speakers who I had the pleasure of meeting in São Paulo. And even though they knew it would be a much smaller event, they were happy to have made the long trip to present at it.

The mission for me onsite was to see if I could find that “hidden gem” in the crowd - someone so excited about SQL Server and the community that they want to help continue the effort by starting a local user group. Normally, I don’t find this task very difficult; passionate and excited DBAs are pretty easy to find, especially at a SQLSaturday. However, I wasn’t prepared for the gaping language barrier. In larger cities such as São Paulo, plenty of people speak English, and naïve me, I thought it would be no different in Recife. I was wrong, as I discovered the minute I checked into the hotel. For the most part, the only people I could converse with event day were those speakers I had met before, Fabio and one or two of his volunteers, and Denny Cherry [b|t], who was there to do a pre-con.

Although I left a bit discouraged, I haven’t given up. I’ve since had a conference call with some of the MVPs in Brazil, and they are on board with helping start PASS Chapters in parts of Brazil that don’t already have a SQL Server user group. Thanks to them and others in the SQL community, the sowing will continue.

Next stop for me, Cambridge for the first-ever SQLSaturday in the UK. Stay tuned!

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PASS SQLSaturday (Fiscal Year) 2012 in Review

I still remember the buzz in air and the renewed passion for SQL that came from my first PASS SQLSaturday. Unaware there was a community full of other database professionals just like me, my eyes were opened wide as I sat in sessions and talked with other attendees and sponsors. Not only did I learn new things and meet new people but I went home eagerly anticipating the next user group meeting and the next PASS SQLSaturday. I think it’s safe to say I’m not alone - week after week, year after year, that experience has been repeated tens of thousands of times.

PASS SQLSaturday has gained unstoppable momentum and fiscal year 2012, which ended June 30, saw the biggest year ever for PASS SQLSaturday. The following comparison between 2011 and 2012 shows just how much PASS SQLSaturday has grown:


There are a lot of things to feel good about in those numbers! Read in between the lines and you’ll also find the speakers that had their first experience presenting, the leaders who organized their first community event, and the attendees who had their first introduction to PASS. These are the people we’ll see at future chapter meetings, in the halls and on the stage at the Summit, and serving as Regional Mentors and Directors. As PASS SQLSaturday grows and goes, so does PASS.

On that note, while the majority of PASS SQLSaturdays have been based in the US, the 450% increase in non-US events in just one year serves as a reminder that there are a lot of people we still haven’t reached yet. Shanghai (China), Curacao, Sydney (Australia), Rio de Janeiro (Brazil), Istanbul, Bangalore, and Dublin (to name just a few) all held their first PASS SQLSaturday in 2012. It wasn’t too long ago that our goal was to hold a PASS SQLSaturday in every state; now it’s time to think even bigger - just imagine where else in the world you’ll see a PASS SQLSaturday next!

Thank You

I’d like to extend a thank you to all of the leaders, speakers, and volunteers who contributed to the success of PASS SQLSaturday during the last year. It takes a tremendous amount of time, effort, and hard work to make each event happen.  I’d like to thank all of our sponsors for your support, without which there would be no PASS SQLSaturday. It’s a special feeling knowing that you have helped over 12,000 people connect, share, and learn with each other.

And of course I’d like to thank everyone who attended a PASS SQLSaturday in the last year. I hope that you enjoyed the experience, learned new things, made new friends, and were motivated to become even more active in the PASS community.

Looking Ahead to FY 2013

Although we’re 2 months into fiscal year 2013 there have already been 12 PASS SQLSaturdays, 26 more officially scheduled, and even more in the pre-planning stages. Current estimates suggest we’re in for at least 80 PASS SQLSaturdays  this fiscal year, including first time events in Cambridge (UK), Munich, Lima, Bulgaria, and Pordenone (Italy) along with a host of others in the US.

Karla Landrum, PASS’s Community Evangelist, has done a tremendous job scouting out new locations and coaching event leaders but it’s become apparent that we need to add to the team if we want to reach that goal of at least 80 events in the next year. Last month we accepted applications for another Community Evangelist and received an incredibly enthusiastic response. We are currently in the interview process and expect to have our second Evangelist on board with PASS HQ in time for the annual Summit in November.

Finally, we’re continually focusing on how we can make the PASS SQLSaturday experience from the planning stages all the way through to the after party smoother for everyone. We’re always making improvements, but we also realize that the best ideas come from the PASS community. We welcome your suggestions and feedback – simply email them to webmaster@sqlsaturday.com and they’ll get to the PASS SQLSaturday team at PASS HQ.

FY2012 was a breakout year for PASS SQLSaturday and I can’t help but be excited at the possibilities for what will come in 2013!

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SQLSaturday #144 Sacramento: Northern California Makes Its Mark!

After a much needed 6-week break in travel, my FY2013 adventures began at Sacramento’s very first SQLSaturday. Having lived there long ago, I was a little leary of Sacramento in the middle of summer, but was pleasantly surprised to arrive at record low temperatures in the 70s. It made for a beautiful weekend at what was a superbly run event!

Let’s start with the speaker dinner. More and more organizers are hosting the dinner at a home versus a restaurant. It makes for such a nice environment for conversation and for being able to move around and talk to everyone without being confined to a table. For SQLSaturday #144, one of the organizers, Will Meier [t], hosted the dinner and prepared all the good eats, featuring North Carolina-style BBQ right down to the slaw. Dinner entertainment was provided by another organizer, Angel Abundez [b|t], who sang and performed an amazing array of upbeat music via, of all things, a harp. Don’t believe me? Check out the unique treat here.

Onto event day and a quick look at what worked well and lessons learned. The event had to be moved from a local university to a hotel late in the game, which always makes me nervous because of costs involved with hotels. SQLSaturday budgets typically can’t afford such a venue, but the Courtyard Marriott gave the team a really good deal because they were in a crunch. The hotel provided the back lobby area for registration, which was one of the smoothest registrations I’ve seen for a first-time event.

Sacramento used SpeedPASS and never had a line waiting at check-in. The team did a great job the week before the event reminding registrants to pre-print and cut their SpeedPASS. In the first hour registration was open; only eight attendees hadn’t pre-printed their SpeedPASS. Lead organizers Eric Freeman [b|t] and Dan Hess [b|t] were pleasantly surprised, but the team was prepared for the worst case, having pre-printed and organized all the SpeedPASSes in advance. Now, they know they won’t have to go to the extra effort and cost at their next event.

The hotel provided four meeting rooms and the hallway in front of those rooms for the sponsors. It also catered a nice variety of box lunches, which included some of the best wraps I’ve ever eaten. However, although the event’s final head count was around 200, it did have an unexpected high dropout rate, so a lot of pre-ordered lunches based on registration numbers had to be donated.

The Sacramento event had a few factors working against it. Two other events were going on in town the same day, one of which was the State Fair in its final weekend. Why would anyone go to a State Fair when they can be going to a SQLSaturday? :) While the DBA in the family might have preferred the SQLSaturday, their family likely had other desires. The lesson here would be for event organizers to do more messaging the week before the event to make sure those who have made other plans opt out. A lot of people fear they are spamming the week before the event, but we’ve seen that the SQLSaturdays with lower percentages of no-shows are typically those that have done a lot of messaging those last few days. It really does help organizers get a more accurate headcount and keep costs down.

Something else to mention on the topic of competing activities in your area, especially since it has affected two recent events, is to be sure you check with your local Better Business Bureau (BBB) before locking in your date. The BBB should know in advance if any major events are happening in your city the same day you are looking to host your event. 

Those who didn’t attend SQLSaturday #144 missed a great lineup of speakers, including a fantastic Women in Technology (WIT) lunch panel including PASS Board member Denise McInerney [b|t], PASS WIT Virtual Chapter leader Meredith Ryan of The Bell Group [b|t], Microsoft SQL Server MVP and author Kalen Delaney [b|t], Confio’s Janis Griffin, and Cal State’s Helen Norris. The event sponsors filled the entire hallway and then some, with Southwest PASS Regional Mentor Phil Robinson [b|l] helping me at the PASS table. Team organizer Mitch Bottel [b|t] scored SQLSaturday temporary tattoos at a great price for all the attendees - you know I had to sport one of those! The end-of-day raffle was in the back lobby area with plenty of room to spare, and the After Party was on the back deck at Chevy’s overlooking the Sacramento River, a perfect setting for an evening of networking.

The Sacramento team made its mark on the SQLSaturday map, hosting a very successful event. This makes two Northern California events in just 4 months and the attendance at both SQLSaturdays shows that this region is definitely hungering for more dedicated SQL Server training. 
 

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SQLSaturday #118 Madison Recap – Energy and Organization

The “Go Jes Go” tweet chanted by the SQL community whenever @grrl_geek Jes Borland [blog] goes on her daily run took on a new meaning last Saturday. That’s when Jes and her team hosted the first-ever SQLSaturday in Wisconsin to great reviews.

Not only was this the first SQLSaturday for this organizational team, but it was also the first SQLSaturday for many attendees.  When I asked at the end of the day how many were attending a SQLSaturday for the first time, almost everyone in the auditorium raised their hand. I was pretty shocked, since there have been several events in the Midwest region, including Chicago’s SQLSaturday just three hours away.  My initial thought was, “Wow, where have these people been?” Right behind that was, “How proud Jes must be at how the community embraced this opportunity” - a feeling all of us event organizers cherish.

Two words come to mind when describing this day: “organized” and “energized.” (You can read Jes’s recap of the day here.)The core team spent a great amount of time planning and coordinating the event, and it showed in the smooth flow throughout the day. All the volunteers - possibly the most I’ve ever seen for a first-time event - executed their assignments like pros. Volunteer team leader Gina Meronek  [twitter] was constantly moving or on her walkie-talkie, checking in with all the volunteers and making sure everything happened on cue.

This event used the recently implemented SpeedPASS for registration. SpeedPASS allows for a quicker flow at check-in, and eliminates some pre-event tasks like printing and organizing all the name badges and raffle tickets for attendees. Even with some attendees who didn’t print their SpeedPASS in advance, there were never more than two or three people in line waiting for their pass to be printed. Kudos to Leonard Murphy [twitter], who worked diligently the week before with the Manage SpeedPASS section of the admin site, even finding a bug that PASS IT fixed before game day. His attention to detail has now helped the next events that use this process.

The speaker lineup was a great mix of locals and seasoned pros, including former PASS Board member Chuck Heinzelman [twitter] of the Microsoft SQLCAT community team. Another key to the success of SQLSaturday #118 was the great venue… for FREE! The event was held at the local college in Madison, MATC, which was spacious and looked brand new. The team did a great job of utilizing the space appropriately, having sponsors near the meeting rooms, where attendees had to walk by if they wanted refreshments. The cafeteria was large and provided a great platform for the event’s “Cows of a Spot” tables, a local spin on PASS Summit’s Birds of a Feather luncheon. With a whopping 21 different topics for attendees to choose from, this was a great added value at lunch, featuring burgers and, of course, Wisconsin brats.  The end-of-day raffle was held in a large theatre-style auditorium, with glowing purple spotlight lighting up the stage.  And Jes did a great job covering all the PASS events and free resources beyond SQLSaturday that community members can take advantage of.   

As I reflect more on SQLSaturday #118, I think it clearly helps if organizers have been to other SQLSaturdays before planning one their selves. Jes and team clearly by-passed most of the usual obstacles you see at first-time SQLSaturdays. Jes has volunteered to help mentor other new event organizers, and I’ll be having her join me on some pre-event calls with new SQLSaturday organizers so she can share some of what she went through.  If anyone else is interested in mentoring event organizers, send me an email. The more the merrier!

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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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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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