The Team at PASS recently sat down with Sharon Dooley, leader of the Database Administration Virtual Chapter, to discuss one of the oldest and most established chapters in the PASS community. Sharon tells the story of how the DBA VC developed over the years as well as where the chapter will go in the future.

Q1. Tell us a bit about yourself and the DBA VC.

Back in the day, PASS formed Technical Advisory Committees (TACs) and Special Interest Groups (SIGs). TACs were intended to provide “wish lists” for SQL Server development to Microsoft. These wish lists were to come from suggestions by members of the SIGs. Today, the TACs no longer exist and the SIGs have morphed into Virtual Chapters. When we were still a SIG, we started having Live Meeting presentations. The Live Meeting Call to Action document I wrote describing this initiative is dated March 15, 2007. I think we were the first SIG to reach out to our membership in this way. We started with one meeting each month. Now we have two meetings each month, except for November and December when the holidays limit us to one. I am grateful for the dedicated assistance of Julie Bloomquist and Mike Clark with the work of this VC. Both have been working with the VC for a very long time, and I know the VC wouldn’t be the same without their help.

Q2. What is the aim of the DBA VC?

Our mission, as stated on our web page (dba.sqlpass.org) is “… to provide a PASS community for the DBA. It provides a forum for open discussion and education on issues that face SQL Server database administrators”.

Q3. You have been a volunteer with PASS for a long time – what keeps you motivated and what would you suggest to your fellow community members looking to get involved?

I’ve been a member of PASS since its first conference in 1999. That’s a long time – 17 years! During that time, I have served in many volunteer capacities. I think PASS provides folks with a wealth of learning activities, from VCs to SQLSaturdays to Summit. I received a lot of help from an online community when I first started working with SQL Server (I’m not going to tell you how long ago that was!) and volunteering with PASS is a way for me to give back. Going to Summit is like going home for me – I have so many PASS friends! Julie echoes this, saying “I have been able to increase my PASS involvement and friendships through my work with the Virtual DBA chapter.” For folks who are on the fence about volunteering, I’d say “Try it, you’ll like it!”

Q3. DELL is one of your sponsors, can you tell us a bit about that relationship and how this benefits the VC audience?

Dell Software has sponsored the DBA VC for several years. We appreciate their support since it allows us to raffle a gift card to attendees at every meeting. When Dell first started sponsoring us, the sponsorship agreement required us to give them a 10-minute speaking spot each quarter. Since I don’t think you can present anything useful technically that time, I offered them full one-hour slots twice a year with the proviso that the talk not be of a marketing nature. More recent sponsorship contracts have followed my original lead. In addition, Dell, as our sponsor, has the opportunity to send targeted mailings to the Chapter membership. These mailings acquaint our membership with products they may find useful and also often offer discounts.

Q4. How does the DBA VC fill training gaps?

Being a DBA is not an easy task, and there seems to be a hunger for training. Today, when organizations often lack the resources to send DBAs for formal classroom training, our bi-monthly webinars (always scheduled at lunch time in the time zone they are targeted for) give DBAs a chance to learn at their own convenience and at no expense to their employers. And if someone can’t attend one of the webinars, we record the meetings for later viewing.

Q5. What have you got planned in the near future for the DBA VC?

We’d like to add a quarterly webinar in a European time zone. This would make it easier for Europeans to present (I’ve just scheduled a speaker in Amsterdam who’ll be doing our Noon Mountain Time session – it’ll be 8PM for him!) and it will make it easier for people in Europe to attend these webinars. We haven’t worked out when this is going to start, but probably during the second quarter.