** Disclaimer: I wrote this at 12:58 Saturday Morning. So all bets are off to an overly intelligent argument. Just my thoughts on it all. At least, it shows how passionate I am about the community.

 

Well, lucky ..lucky me.. in the aspect that I had looked over the board of directors election application a few months ago and was actually asked by a couple of people to throw my hat in the ring because they thought I fit the bill. So my employer backed me in submitting my application and I went ahead to fill it out….got lucky enough to be interviewed…and didn’t make the cut. No biggie.

Now a couple of weeks later I get to the SQL Saturday in Louisville only to find out, (excuse: I have been in a big time rollout of code for the past couple weeks), that there is some controversy that has been brewing. So after having some people vent to me over the last week, I copped to being involved in the process , read some of the blogs, and thought it would be a decent opportunity to throw my 2 cents into the ring. Especially, since there has been an abundance of thought on several topics that are relevant…

Directors Litmus Test

Poor Andy Leonard has taken a beating on his post for a couple of days now. I do not think that he was saying that you had to be a DBA but more importantly that you should be involved with the actual environment that you are trying to lead. I totally agree with this statement. Even when he talks about marketing, you have to believe..and I know for a fact that there are marketing experts out there that deal specifically in the IT world and some have even worked with SQL Server. So I do not think that it would be that far of a stretch to look for people with at least some background knowledge of the environment.

What is PASS?

I think that  PASS should be a community organization that champions causes for the ‘SQL Server Database Professional’ …not specifically for the DBA. The reason for this is simple. All of the personnel that I have ever managed, I have taught them one basic principle….. ‘Flexibility is paramount’. I make an effort to cross train my people in different skill sets, all complimentary to the database work, so that they become more flexible in their careers.  Too many ‘I am only a DBA’ people have lost their jobs here in the recession and have had a difficult time getting another job simply because they didn’t have other skill sets to fall back on.

Additionally, something that I take pride in working in the Microsoft environment is because the people here are not ‘one trick ponies’. When you normally ask someone at one of the meetings what they do…they do Administration & Development…or Development & Business Intelligence…or Dynamics & Administration. That’s pretty cool when you consider that you ask that question to a group of Oracle people and they are normally very stove-piped. They do Administration or Development or Application Server or Oracle Reports or Oracle Forms but not a lot of cross pollinating. Now, if there are Oracle people reading this .. I am certified in Oracle…have been trained all the way up to Oracle data warehousing and have worked for several years with Oracle. So it’s not like I am pulling this out of my rear.

I think the most prudent question asked during the interview process was one in which they asked ‘ What do you see as the hurdle[sic] that PASS faces in the next couple of years?’. A good question because leadership should be about direction. My response was simple. I basically think that PASS has and will have a problem with membership. I was challenged on that assertion and so I went into a little more background. Basically, I think PASS is missing the boat here. If you look at some of the blogs below you will notice a common thread of ‘What the hell is PASS?’. Worse yet is that these comments come from what I , at least, consider to be people in the know. What does the general member think then? PASS needs to define itself. (Any PASS people whom are reading this may steal my definition above 🙂 ) . 

Strangely enough, in Kevin Kline’s blog post he mentions what people want to be a requirement for being a director..and he says

Do you want to require a director to have attended one or more past PASS Summits?

Now come’on! Surely, he must realize that this feeds into the whole PASS is only about PASS Summit argument that is on the web. If PASS is going to be only about the PASS Summit then they are going to see their attendance trail off because someone is going to step up and take control of the user groups from outside the PASS org….. a sort of soft revolt if you will. Don’t believe me…just take a look at all the new groups popping up all over the place…….Remember the question above that was asked in the interview process?? Well, for an example I pointed out to the fact that I speak for both .NET user group meetings and also PASS group meetings. I go to the .NET users groups and there are like 125+ attending a meeting. I go to some PASS meetings and there are more like <50. Which is totally fine, but if you want to make the organization better you do that by inclusion not exclusion and I know for a fact that there are more database professionals out there than that. However, the local leadership needs more support in order to get people to come out.

At some time or another the PASS BoD needs to recognize that more importance needs to be steered towards the membership. Not just members in general but the whole organization going down. Next time you run into one of your BoDs out there ask them a couple simple questions…

1. When was the last time you touched base with the regional people?

2. Are the regional people keeping in touch with the local PASS chapters underneath them?

I think if they answer honestly then what you will find is that there is a little lack of coordination from the top down. Heck just ask your local PASS president how often they communicate with their regional rep. I think you will be surprised by a lot of the answers.

Elections Process

Personally, I found the process to be a little confusing…we were supposed to find out about X one day and then it was another …someone was showing me that the BoD website had said there were 4 positions …so it just seemed a little off.

The interview process seemed fairly straightforward although the topics could have been a little more predefined so that you weren’t necessarily answering off the top of your head. For the most part it was ‘Tell me about a time’ stuff and seemed to be geared more towards a PM style interview process rather than a true leadership process. I guess that is okay… as Kevin Kline is sort of right in the aspect that it is their prerogative. Fair enough, but I think that the leadership needs to take a look at what those outside of the inner circle are thinking as they are less forgiving than what you may think. A regular member see 4 candidates for 3 positions and thinks…’Hmmmm something not quite right here’. How do I know that because I had 20+ people emailing me about it after they were announced. Whether that is right or wrong doesn’t matter as now it has become an issue of perception. Do people perceive PASS to be an open community organization? In the words of a famous poet(Ice Cube) ..

‘You better check yo self before you wreck yo self’

I tend to think in terms of Geoff Hiten’s ideas, but without necessarily this ‘you go to PASS Summit X number of years’ criteria….I still cannot get the point of tying this so heavily to the Summit. It just needs to be a little more transparent with a little less emphasis on what the board thinks. After all, what the heck is the point of an election if you have no choice?

Consultants

I saw a couple of mentions about consultants. It would be nice if people could preface that with maybe …..self employed a little better. Mainly because I am a consultant and I take pride in being one. Granted my company is a little outside the mold as I don’t try to go in an take over an organization like some of these yahoos do. So be nice to consultants….

Volunteerism

I also noticed that in several posts it looked like the definition of volunteerism or being involved in PASS meant that you volunteered for the local organization. I go out speaking all around the country….about 50+ sessions per year. Doesn’t that count as well? I think we need a broader concept of this since the speakers that give up their time for the event end up spending 10+ hours per session(not counting presenting it!) which should be valued.  Every event that I go to, I pass out my email, tell people to contact me, and actually respond. Do I have to volunteer to do registrations at the local meeting to be counted?

 

Conclusion

So I think that in the end this discussion is one that needs to be had within the community. I have to totally agree with Steve Jones and Tim Mitchell and Andy Warren that this discussion is another level of involvement in the community. The more we discuss these topics the more of a chance that some of our ideas will be taken into consideration which is a HUGE plus. So let me know what your ideas are.

Please excuse my lack of placing nice inline links to the various references in this post but I though it would be better to just list them out below.

Cheers,
AJ

References:

Steve Jones’ Blog (no relation) 

Tim Mitchell’s Blog

Andy Warren’s Blog

Geoff Hiten Blog

Andy Leonard’s Blog