As I see it, there are three phases to your involvement in the PASS Summit.
- Attend the Summit to learn from the great sessions offered.
- Attend the Summit to meet up with the people who are there, to develop those relationships and learn from them.
- Attend the Summit as a presenter, to share what you've learned with others.
Actually, I'll be at this year's Summit in a fourth phase - as a PASS Director. Let me speak to that one.
As I moved through the phases I listed above, I learned that sharing what I knew was as rewarding as most anything else I'd ever done. I got to meet many people, far more than I'd done before starting to present, and I learned more about my subject, because teaching forces you to know more about your subject. I also encouraged more people to present. (I wrote about that in my blog post here.)
After joining SQL Sentry last year, knowing I'd have the support of that great company, I decided (with a little nudge from friends on the board) to run for the PASS Board in 2016. Then James Rowland-Jones joined Microsoft, creating an opening on the board, and after conversations with Adam Jorgensen and Denise McInerney, I was selected to fill the vacant seat left by JRJ. I'd told Adam that I was most interested in the Program portfolio, and so that's what I got.
To say that this year has been interesting would be an understatement. Things we did with the best of intentions were misinterpreted in every conceivable way. I learned some hard lessons, and have learned to keep my thoughts to myself until I have the whole story, and can address the issues presented clearly and objectively.
That said, my focus was, and will continue to be, on presenting the best possible program for the Summit. As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, the first reason people come to the Summit is the content, and without that, without the best we have to give, PASS doesn't survive. I've learned a lot during this past year about the process, and gotten to know the wonderful people who lead the Program team, specifically Lance Harra, Angela Henry, and Mindy Curnutt. What an amazing commitment these three people make to the whole process. I can't thank them enough.
There are some changes I'd like to make to the process. People come to the Summit to learn from the best in the industry, and we need to make sure that those people are there. There are also some issues with the abstract review process that need to be addressed. As we move through this year's Summit, we'll be talking about those issues and how best to address them. We also need to continue to encourage and develop new speakers. I believe there's room for both areas of focus.
PASS itself also has some areas that need to be addressed. There is a perception that the Board doesn't listen. I know that not to be the case, having spent this year in those meetings, and having the discussions both in person and via email. What I've seen is that the people on the board try to solve the problems that are presented first, and then share the solution with the community. This approach may not be the best, but often times it seems like reaching out to the community for solutions is like reading the comments at the end of a political commentary. Just Don't Do It! I know that people generally have the best interest of the community at heart, and we need to find a way to open up to the community for solutions that doesn't turn into target practice for some people.
There are also issues around budget that need to be discussed. When Computer Associates pulled out as a founding member of PASS, we lost a significant source of revenue for the organization. Microsoft is still present as a founding member, but their financial contribution has shrunk in the last few years as well. There are other companies who used to be major sponsors who have merged into one, or even chosen not to pursue their sponsorship with PASS as they shift to other areas to focus their business. All of these things hurt the revenue that PASS relies on to provide the benefits it does. We need to have frank discussions on what's really important for PASS to provide, to keep the community growing. Whether or not there's a backpack at Summit is really pretty irrelevant in the real picture.
With respect to community, it's important to remember that, in my opinion, PASS is the business that provides the framework for the community to exist. PASS is not the community, but I believe the community wouldn't exist, at least at the level it does, without PASS. But PASS is a business, and it needs to focus on a positive business model that allows it to grow, which then allows the community to grow. Some of the things I'll discuss in response to questions to my Board candidacy are ideas that I have that will allow the business of PASS to succeed, even if that forces some of the activities we've all come to love to change.
Here's the link to my PASS Board candidacy page.
As I mentioned in my last blog post, I've been able to grow well beyond any expectations I might have had, because of PASS, and specifically because of the PASS Summit. I'm as big a fanboy as you'll ever find. I'm grateful for everything PASS has had to offer, and it's why I'm volunteering my time on the board, and why I'd like to continue in that role.