Rebuilding SQL Saturday–Picking a Board of Directors

With Redgate planning to donating the SQL Saturday brand, trademarks, and domain to a non-profit foundation, there is a need to build a group of individuals to voluntarily manage the organization. Redgate has tasked me with the initial work, and as I work through this process, I am looking to provide some transparency into how this works for now.

NOTE: This is for the initial board, as someone has to make the first decisions. I expect the board themselves to decide how future directors are chosen, with input from the community.

There are a lot of people, including myself, who have been unhappy with the way that the previous organization’s board of directors functioned. The combination of a contracted managing director and restrictive bylaws resulted in far too little transparency over the years. At least, that is my view.

Moving forward, my vision for the foundation is to not recreate an organization that mandates, but rather serves the community, in an open, transparent way. There should be a minimal budget, and no compensation for directors, and no full-time staff.

I am trying to think aloud here, as I work through this process. None of these items have been decided, and I welcome advice and thoughts from others.

I also welcome interest and nominations. If you are interested, please leave a comment, or contact me. If you think someone else deserves nomination, please contact them first and ask them to contact me. I do not want to pressure anyone to serve that might not wish to or be able to donate time.

Qualities for Directors

I want to outline a few things that I think are important in finding individuals that can serve the foundation and steer it into the future.

Transparency

One of the things that bothered me with the previous organization is that there was not enough guidance on what directors would do on a regular basis, and certainly not enough information on what they had done. To me, this means that one of the main qualities for anyone serving this foundation is that they freely and willingly share information.

My goal is that as close to 100% of debate and discussion, as well as financial information, be publicly available.

Diversity

Much of my career has been US focused, though that has really changed in the last decade. When we started SQL Saturday, we didn’t think about the world outside the US, but many events under the SQL Saturday banner have been outside the US.

We need diverse thought on the issues that organizers and events face.

This means a diversity of not only geography, but gender, race, orientation, and more. We need to understand that each of us only sees a small portion of the world, and only from our perspective. With that in mind, I aim initially aiming for a breakdown something like this:

  • US – 3-4 directors (knowing I am representing Redgate, 1 of these spots is filled)
  • EU – 2-3 directors
  • APAC – 2-3 directors
  • Rest of world – 1-2 directors

I would like to have a number of women on the board, as I truly value the different perspectives they bring. I’d also like to have someone of a different race, ethnicity, or orientation than myself.

If you know of someone that you feel fits this goal, please ask them to contact me.

Financials

I have read Steph Locke’s Lessons learnt on the PASS Board, which I think anyone who cares about this should read. She outlines a number of items, which are important in most boards. While I think that the need to fund the organization is important, when this is the main goal, this becomes a problem. Directors should have some business sense, having either run their own company, or served as a high level executive in some company, however large or small, so that they do treat financials with the appropriate importance.

The goal of this foundation is to run itself on less than US$10,000/year. Any sponsorship funds will go towards events, not expenses.

Community Drive

This foundation will exist to further SQL Saturday events, providing resources and assistance where possible. Directors should be oriented towards doing good for others by supporting education and networking, giving back to the world, and driving events forward. While they will not do the work, they will be the voice and inspiration for many through this foundation.

A director ought to be thinking: how do I get more organizers excited enough to create an event? How can we better support speakers? How do I attract and serve attendees to learn and grow their careers? How can we ensure events feel successful, whether physical or virtual, whether there are 50 or 500 attendees, whether there is one track or 12?

These are the goals of the foundation.

While I started my list thinking about people that are thoughtful, measured in their words, and giving of themselves, that was really the bar of what I was looking for. Finding other qualities outside of these are likely more important.

Candidates

I have asked a few people if they are interested, to start getting a short list together. Ultimately myself and a few at Redgate will have to make some decisions about who to choose. We’ll appoint an initial board and then let them run the foundation as they see fit, including deciding on how the next set of directors are chosen.

I haven’t named any names, as I’m not sure it’s fair, and I don’t want to put any pressure on anyone.

If you are interested in shaping the future of SQL Saturday, please let me know. I have a list, but I’m sure there are people I haven’t considered. If you think someone is a good candidate, encourage them to contact me.

Above all, remember this is a community first effort, and we’re looking for people that feel the same way.


About way0utwest

Editor, SQLServerCentral
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18 Responses to Rebuilding SQL Saturday–Picking a Board of Directors

  1. Greg Moore says:

    I’d be interested in talking further. I don’t have the name recognition some in the community do, but I’m a strong promoter of the concept of the community and have the time to work towards rebuilding it. SQL Saturday has been a large part of my life over the past several years and I’d love to see it get rebuilt.

    Like

  2. way0utwest says:

    Thanks, Greg, I’ll add you to the list

    Like

  3. GeorgeC says:

    Hi Steve, I think you need to “hire” someone/group to generate money or find sponsors. Trying to run this on $10k is unrealistic.

    I think you should build this in phases. Create an event account in Marriott.com and find rooms in every area. Divide the costs between the attendees. Do a half day event to keep the groups connected and see enthusiasm. I think each event can be run for $5K per day.
    But you need to get some regional captains to build this base model to see if feasible.

    But this goes back to what I said in another post. If you make this a data platform event not focused solely on SQL Server then you’ll have sponsors from all those other platforms (AWS, IBM, Microsoft, HPE, Oracle). This is the audience they all want access to because they are the expects that do the CQC (Close Quarter Combat) to move/engineer/sell data platforms.

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  4. way0utwest says:

    Happy to have you tell me why. We’ve been running events for 14 years, most run on less than $5k, and most don’t require any hotel rooms or central management. Most events run themselves. This org has nothing to do with the execution of any individual event. This is only about facilitating and helping them with some sponsorship and some knowledge.

    I bet I can run this on $10k a year.

    Like

    • Ted Stathakis says:

      I know you can run it on that and while I spent twice $5K on our events I agree it can be done of less than $5K.

      Like

    • GeorgeC says:

      Hi WayoutWest,

      My comments were a suggestion for brainstorming.

      In my area (washdc), the SQLSaturday Group ran out of a Microsoft Office and used 4-5 rooms in their offices. We had food catered. We had swag. We did have volunteers (5-10?)
      It was one day but I know if without Microsoft it would have cost way more.

      Like

    • GeorgeC says:

      OKAY…in person events were 10-12k per saturday. Verified today.

      Like

  5. I would 100% be interested in joining PASS and volunteering at the board level, even if only temporarily to help rebuild PASS.

    This has been an organization that has helped me for years, and one I have spent massive hours working with over the years. Between SQL Saturday, user group, speaking, writing, and other related work, I’d love to continue to share this experience with the SQL Server community in whatever way I can.

    While I have much in the way of praise, criticism, and ideas for PASS, that discussion is not best had here, but should definitely be had in the future.

    Like

  6. way0utwest says:

    Edward, thank you. Send me an email so I can drop you a note. Just FYI, we are not rebuilding PASS. This is for SQL Saturday only.

    Like

    • Edward N Pollack says:

      Hi Steve – I realize I don’t have your email. Can you msg me on Twitter (or wherever is convenient) with a good place to send my info?

      Like

  7. way0utwest says:

    George, some events certainly cost > $10k, others ran on $1k.

    That has nothing to do with this foundation. It will not run events, but just assist other groups in running their own local event.

    Like

  8. way0utwest says:

    sjones @ the domain of the site I founded and run 😉

    Like

  9. Sarita says:

    Hi Steve: Thank you for taking the lead to carry on SQL Saturday. I had been involved with PASS and SQL Saturday for many years and very passionate about moving forward the vision and mission of the new organization. I am very interested to serve on the board. I have lot of experience serving on boards in different roles President, Vice President, Chair, Treasurer, Communications, Secretary etc. which can be an asset to SQL Saturday Foundation. Please let me know the link or email where I can send the bio.

    Like

    • way0utwest says:

      Thank you for the interest. Can you ping me with an email? sjones at sqlservercentral

      Like

    • Sarita Garg says:

      Hi Steve: Thank you for getting back to me. My email is usxg049@gmail.com. It’s an honor to connect with you who have contributed so much to the SQL community.

      Regards, Sarita

      On Tue, Mar 16, 2021 at 5:44 PM Voice of the DBA wrote:

      > way0utwest commented: “Thank you for the interest. Can you ping me with an > email? sjones at sqlservercentral” >

      Like

  10. Pingback: Finding a SQL Saturday Board of Directors | Voice of the DBA

  11. Pingback: The Future of SQLSaturday - The SERO Group

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