My Application to the PASS Board

 

The application form mentions that the quite a bit of what you include will be made public. While I won’t want to repeat everything, I’ll include a few of my responses about why and what I want to do with PASS and take some early comments.

I have to give thanks to Andy Warren, Andy Leonard, and Joe Webb for agreeing to write recommendation letters for me. I greatly respect the opinions of those three men and am honored they were willing to lend me support on this endeavor.

I am including the question in bold/italics and then my answer below.

Please discuss why you would like to serve on the PASS Board of Directors:

I have been a member of PASS since 1999 and have worked with the organization in various ways over the years. It is an organization that I both support and believe in, and I would like to see the organization help the SQL Server community and the professionals that work with SQL Server more. I have been frustrated at times by the way that the organization has been run and would like to try and influence PASS to be more relevant in the lives of its members as well as grow the organization’s membership to encompass more SQL Server professionals by contributing to the decisions made by the board of directors.

If elected to the PASS Board, what goal would you set to contribute to the benefit of PASS? How would you work to accomplish that goal?

I think that one of the failings of PASS over the last decade has been a lack of communication with its members. While PASS has matured as an organization in the last decade, it has also appeared to stagnate in its membership growth. I have felt that the lack of communication has been one of the issues that has slowed growth in the SQL Server community. I would like to work towards finding ways to better engage and speak with the community about what PASS does for them, and what they would like to get out of a professional organization. I feel this would go a long way towards helping PASS grow its membership. One of my contributions would be to use my skills in communicating and inspiring people to spread the message about PASS.

I also feel that the SQL Server community is much larger than PASS, but I don’t think it needs to be. I would like to see more events, engagements, and/or benefits from PASS that convince more people working with SQL Server to join PASS. I think that PASS can help provide some additional certification resources, either with their own certification/testing process or with formal study groups/sessions/materials for MS certifications. These would add member value. I would like to see more training opportunities alongside the current SQL Saturday/SQL Rally/Summit choices, some of which could be paid events and help grow PASS revenue. These could be separate events, perhaps Beginner 101 days or boot camps or pre-conference sessions at other events. Having helped to get SQL Saturday off the ground, and working with other events in the past, I think that some of the volunteer efforts and speaker enthusiasm could be channelled into other events, and that the board of PASS is in the position to help promote those events. I would be willing to help organize and promote these events.

I also feel that PASS has at times not been relevant to the average SQL Server professional on a regular basis. There has not been a reason to be interested in PASS aside from the annual Summit in the US. I would like to see PASS doing more to engage with SQL Server professionals and becoming a more valuable part of their lives each year. Not every week, but at least once a quarter I’d like to have more people finding some reason to interact with PASS. I am not sure of what the best way to accomplish this is, but one thing I think needs to happen is more interaction from the board, and committee volunteers, with the average person and soliciting and responding to the feedback they may have. One of my strengths over the years has been communicating with people, motivating them, and encouraging them to move forward in their careers. I think I can bring that same efforts to PASS communications and find ways to make PASS more relevant in their career.

Please describe your past involvement with PASS:

  • I have presented sessions at PASS Summits and SQL Saturdays.
  • I have hosted numerous SQL Server user groups to help them function as PASS chapters when PASS was unable to provide the hosting support in its early years.
  • I have both presented at, and sponsored the PASS Camp events in Colorado in an effort to reach out to the local community.
  • I participated in the first 24 hours of PASS as a speaker.
  • I worked with PASS to provide the printed version of the SQL Server Standard to PASS membership and attended a few board meetings. I was responsible for coordinating content and advertisements with the PASS management group.
  • My company, SQLServerCentral, has had a promotional arrangement for the PASS Summit for many years in which we drive significant traffic to PASS and host an opening night party that has become very popular.
  • I worked with Andy Warren to create SQL Saturday, grow it, and then arrange for its transition to PASS.
  • I served on the Program Selection Committee for the 2010 Summit.

Please describe your volunteer experience with PASS, including an example of a project you worked on, that you followed through to completion. Describe how your specific contribution has benefited the PASS organization:

My main volunteer experience with PASS has been on the Program Selection Committee. I had complained about the selections the previous year and decided to volunteer and try to improve the process. I attended a training session, communicated with other volunteers and speakers to ensure that my criteria and process were similar to others. I completed my ratings in a timely manner and then debated the selections in real time with the committee and made selections.

Throughout this process I also sent feedback to volunteers and PASS about issues or potential improvements that I found in the process. A final follow-up call is being scheduled.

I also publically have blogged about the process and some thoughts, getting feedback from the community: some good, some bad. I think that overall that I have pushed PASS to re-examine the way things are done, and look to improve the process. I don’t know if that was done in the past, so I cannot comment on whether or not PASS is better for my efforts.

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This isn’t necessarily related to PASS, but I’ll include it as it gives a little basis for why I might be qualified.

Please describe your management and leadership background, listing specific examples of teams or projects:

My life has been a constant shift between working and leadership positions. I have been a technical lead in development projects, a manager of people, the owner of a company, and a member of a board of directors.

I took a management position at a company that required me to both manage development resources and operational resources. Since this was a new company for me, I was able to assume charge of the group without and prior relationships with people. Without disrupting existing processes, I did require people to begin explaining the reasons for and documenting their actions. From there I worked with them to re-examine their beliefs and habits to try and build better processes. I was able to, with lots of help from my staff, create a much more stable environment and ensure a few large clients did not leave the company because of the way the IT group had been run previously.

Specifically we had developers that previously had administrator access in production. Early on I found them making a change the resulted in the wrong image appearing for a client. I removed access, apologized to the client, and showed them the change in permissions. I explained that this would not happen again, but balanced that by saying some requested changes would be slower to implement. This large client (40% of our sales) was mollified and ceased negotiations with a competitor. I also had a case where my developers and system administrators were arguing with a large NY bank about network issues. I knew that there fundamentally was a problem and brought in a senior consultant that I knew would be able to explain the issue and have more credibility than I with the bank. They were able to solve the issue in an afternoon since both sides could listen to a third party more objectively.

I worked for a large Fortune 1000 company as a DBA at another time. We were purchased by another large Fortune 500 company and I was promoted to be the operational DBA manager of 10 other people, including two that I had previously worked with. This team was dispersed across two states, which required me to travel monthly to another location and also manage each part of my team remotely at times. I also had to learn to step back and work with these people to get objectives accomplished without doing the work myself. Prior to this I had always been able to step in and lend a hand when needed, but in this role I had to step back and strictly manage people.

I also had to manage former peers, which required a changing of the relationship. I learned to ensuring we could work together and I respected my peers’ opinions, but also that I balance that with the need to make decisions, sometimes unpopular. I had to bring people in to work late hours at times, and required them to complete unfinished documentation, something that I had not liked doing myself. I also had to manage people that made more money than I and were older than I was with more experience on their own systems.

We had large DB2 and Oracle systems that were critical to the company, so I had to manage these people without understanding what specifically they did. My technique when we had technical issues (scalability problems on DB2 and technical issues with Oracle) was to probe their knowledge, their technical decisions and get them to question themselves. Since we often had scalability issues and the corporate culture was to gather a large crisis group together and yell at vendors, I learned how to mediate issues between groups and get people to focus on the technical issues, proceeding more methodically without assumptions than they were used to. I also learned to brief executive management (VP/CIO) on the status of issues while ensuring that I kept more immediate management (director level) in the loop. I am not sure I was that successful at changing the culture, but I did learn to accept small victories and move on.

My HOA experience is listed above in general, but specifically I worked on the architectural committee in discussion a homeowner’s decision to build a large structure on his property. This was approved prior to my election, but constructed during my tenure. As a result I had to listen to complaints, sometimes yelled complaints, from other homeowners, and then explain that this had been approved. I also had to inspect the construction, which the homeowner was not pleased about and expressed his displeasure loudly as well. This was a position that was unwinnable, necessary, and forced me to learn tolerance and patience in working through a problem without quitting. I also had to negotiate changes to a new development adjacent to our community that required our approval. I received concerns from homeowners, solicited others by explaining the potential issues to them and then presented those to the developers, negotiating some changes to their plans that would ensure our community was not adversely affected by parking placement, a proposed golf course, and the obstruction of sight lines.

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I would like any comments you have, preferably on your own blog if you have them and a link posted here. The comment section below doesn’t really do well in allowing a nice, well thought out response or comment.

I’ll look to add in responses and thoughts to the blog every week based on what people ask or want to know.

About way0utwest

Editor, SQLServerCentral
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