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Andy Leonard

Andy Leonard is CSO of Linchpin People and SQLPeople, an SSIS Trainer, Consultant, and developer; a Business Intelligence Markup Language (Biml) developer; SQL Server database and data warehouse developer, community mentor, engineer, and farmer. He is a co-author of SQL Server 2012 Integration Services Design Patterns. His background includes web application architecture and development, VB, and ASP. Andy loves the SQL Server Community!
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PASS Board Candidates

Introduction

You may have missed the conversation online last week about a PASS Board candidate. It has been interesting (to say the least).

The Professional Association for SQL Server (PASS) is different things to different people. To me, it's an organization by and for SQL Server professionals. Now that's a really broad definition. So broad as to be impractical. So let me break that down to my personal interpretation: PASS is about the people who use SQL Server: DBAs first, database developers and business intelligence folks after that. Why? Because the DBAs were here first.

"That's a Simple Way to Look at PASS, Andy."

Maybe, but it works for me.

I apply simple logic to many things. For example, I believe the admissions policy for Schools of Business should include a physical examination - of the hands. The examiner should check for calluses, in my opinion, to determine if the applicant has done enough physical work in her or his life to develop calluses. That way, we'll know that they understand those they will one day manage.

There's no better way to understand another person than to walk in their shoes.

What does this have to do with the PASS Board Election?

I'm glad you asked. Since PASS is of and by SQL Server professionals, members of the board should know how to write a stored procedure (or restore a database from backup, or alter a table). The nature of the litmus test isn't as important as the principle for which it stands: PASS Board members should understand those they will one day lead.

There's no better way to understand another person than to walk in their shoes.

Last Year

This year's election process is an improvement over last year - much more democratic; much less hurried.

Last year we elected the PASS Board at the Summit. After the election, a candidate shook my hand and asked "Did you vote for me?" I said "No, I voted for the DBAs." It's not because I didn't think this person had something to offer the board. I did, in fact, think they could add something. I didn't think this person was unqualified for the PASS Board; only less qualified than other candidates.

For me, being a SQL Server DBA is the highest qualification. Why? Read on...

The Importance and Impact of Ethics

It's that I - like thousands of companies around the globe - trust DBAs to do the right thing.

DBAs are faced daily with important and ethical decisions. They usually make these decisions alone and with little or no oversight. They could make a less ethical choice, and probably get away with it in many cases. But they don't. In my experience, the field demands - and attracts - ethical people. Our profession simply doesn't allow the ethical "wiggle room" of other occupations. It's binary, black and white, true or false, ethical or unethical.

Other business functions and careers take a different view of ethics.

Someone in another field once told me it was "their job to define ethics." Mentioning this person's occupation by name in the context of this discussion would be biasing, but think about that for a minute. I remember thinking after I heard this statement: The Person who defined ethics did so, and then afterwards defined time and space (and then created them).

<Lecture>

There are exceptions in our field. Some database professionals attempt to push the unbending edges of ethics. Some in the name of business, some for power or other personal gain, some for greed. They stand out when they behave in this manner. And the community, being mostly made up of ethical people, takes a dim view of those who do not practice integrity and for good reason: It demonstrates that unethical behavior is something this person is willing to consider if they deem it necessary. The relatively small size of our community, coupled with its ever-growing-connectedness, increases the consequences of such behavior. Throw one person under the bus, you may get away with it. Add a body to the pile every now and again and your bus will stop moving. Database professionals recognize patterns for a living.

Ethical people are so defined by their unwillingness to engage in unethical behavior; even if it costs them a business, causes personal loss, or costs them money.

</Lecture>

So We're Stuck with "Just DBAs"?

That would be fine by me, but no. I have a question, though: Are we saying there are no DBAs (or database professionals) out there who possess the necessary other-than-SQL-Server skills? I happen to know that's not so. In fact - using marketing as an example - at least one current board member has lots of experience in marketing and promotion.

Are we saying:

  1. We need more?
  2. We cannot find anyone else with both skills?

If not, what are we saying?

Conclusion

At the time of this writing, I've voted but voting continues. If I've timed this correctly, this article will publish soon after the polls close.

I've also spoken to some members of the PASS Board and NomCom (Nomination Committee), and volunteered to participate next year if they'll have me. I'm not just going to complain about the matter. I'm going to (try to) help.

:{> Andy

Published Tuesday, October 20, 2009 3:00 PM by andyleonard

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Comments

 

mjswart said:

So, to use another analogy, you might say women necessarily make better obstetricians/gynecologists.

I wouldn't, but you might. And following the same logic that you use (albeit carried to an absurdity) you would have doctors that want to specialize in the OB-GYN field be subjected to a bizarre physical examination.

Your litmus test has merits, but I wouldn't rely on it.

(I also don't think DBAs have a monopoly on ethics. No profession does.)

October 20, 2009 2:49 PM
 

Stuart Ainsworth said:

"I've also spoken to some members of the PASS Board and NomCom (Nomination Committee), and volunteered to participate next year if they'll have me. I'm not just going to complain about the matter. I'm going to (try to) help."

That's the part that hopefully we (as a community) won't forget next time; I know that I didn't contribute much to the process, but I won't let the opportunity slip by me next time.

October 20, 2009 2:50 PM
 

K. Brian Kelley said:

mjswart,

 there is a difference between providing services (in general) and providing leadership (a very specific service) and it is in that context that your analogy fails. One of the complaints that you often here in the military, and even in civilian life, is that those in leadership who have not done the job don't have a true understanding of what the job requires. It's what newly commissioned second lieutenants (of which I was once one) are called "Butter Bars."

My father, a retired Marine GySgt, advised me before I pinned on (this is a paraphrase, because his actual words were much more colorful), "You better take the time to understand the folks that you lead. You better respect them. You better take every opportunity to work alongside of them so you can understand how to support them. And you better protect them. Because if I ever hear that my officer son of mine did not do any of these things, I'll do what any other Marine Staff NCO would do. I'll come kick your #@$ myself right in front of them."

Since the board leads the organization, Andy is expecting those who serve on it the same sort of understanding and experience towards those who they provide leadership for. While anyone can say they understand, the question is, "How do they know?" The truth is, they can't. Not unless they've walked in the shoes of those they serve. And that's Andy's point.

October 20, 2009 3:13 PM
 

Jack Corbett said:

Good post Andy.  I agree with what you have said.  I' more comfortable with database professionals leading PASS than other professionals.

October 20, 2009 3:15 PM
 

Jorge Segarra said:

@mjswart: "I also don't think DBAs have a monopoly on ethics. No profession does."

At what point did Andy say DBAs have a monopoloy on ethics? He simply stated that "In my experience, the field demands - and attracts - ethical people."

<rant>

That just means that this line of work tends to attract a certain personality/ethic type. Someone else mentioned something similar in a recent blog post (excuse me I can't recall whom) but I think this tends to be true. As database professionals we're asked to hold the keys to kingdom, essentially. To borrow a line from Marvel "with great power comes great responsibility" and this job tends to highlight that fact more so than other positions.

Andy, great post and I love that you're actually going to take action on this rather than be an armchair quarterback. If anything this election should show us how important it is to stay involved in order to protect and grow that which we all hold dear (in this case PASS). </rantmode>

October 20, 2009 3:26 PM
 

Steve Jones said:

I like the post, and I think you have merits in what you propose, but I'm not sure I agree that a BoD member should be able to write a stored procedure. I see where you are going, we have untapped resources, but many of them don't want to serve.

Instead I'm open to taking people in other areas, such as some of the leaders of INETA or the Windows area. Let them bring in ideas to the BoD. What I do want, however, is someone that has engaged, and as Brian mentioned, understands the community.

October 20, 2009 4:03 PM
 

peschkaj said:

I agree with a lot of what you said. But, in the end, a lot of what is needed in a good leader is honesty, integrity, an understanding of being a community member, and a willingness to listen to the community. As Steve said, it doesn't necessarily matter where that person comes from as long as they are trustworthy and understand what it takes to sustain and grow a community. They could be accountants or doctors or lawyers or bricklayers for all I care, just as long as they understand community and are solid leaders.

October 20, 2009 4:20 PM
 

Chuck Boyce said:

Good post, Andy.

I had every intention of running for the Board this year as I discussed with the community via twitter and elsewhere

e.g. - http://chuckboyce.blogspot.com/2009/08/if-you-want-me-to-run-for-pass-board-i.html

Unfortunately, I commute daily btw two East Coast cities and the transportation provider dropped my route!  I am left commuting four hours a day and couldn't continue to run for the Board knowing that.

I don't really see the need for a Nomination Committee. We should set requirements that all candidates must meet and that the PASS community widely agree upon.  If you meet them, you are on the slate. If you don't, you will one day - keep at it.

I think PASS really benefited from the openness this year and I can't see how future elections will not benefit from what we learned and discussed this year.

Chuck

@chuckboycejr

October 20, 2009 4:28 PM
 

Karen Lopez said:

Hmmmm...write a stored proc?  I've worked with certain types of SQL Server DBAs who weren't really great SP developers, but were real pros with the rest of SQL Server.  I've also worked with people who can do magic with SPs and couldn't professional install, maintain, backup, or operate a database to save their lives.

Perhaps your test was more of a metaphor....

What if we said that a candidate should be able to competently explain the joys, pains, sorrows, and victories that all kinds of DBAs experiences?  Isn't that really what you are looking for?

October 20, 2009 5:41 PM
 

K. Brian Kelley said:

Yup, I do agree with Steve and Jorge and disagree with Andy (Leonard) here. I realize that I was trying to expound upon Andy's point, it may come across that I'm saying you can't be from another field. I'm not. I do think to serve the community, you must understand the community. Maybe you can't fully understand what I do as a DBA, but with enough time and communications and devoted effort, you can still help the community grow and prosper.

Just don't tell me that you do understand. To use a similar situation, one of the youth I minister to as a youth pastor is struggling because her father is looking at divorcing her mother. I know the youth is devastated. In a message to her I told her I knew she was hurting but I couldn't possibly imagine what that's like. I wouldn't pretend that I could. I've not walked in her shoes. But if my wife and I can get help, we'll be there.

October 20, 2009 8:57 PM
 

andyleonard said:

Thanks All - good comments and interesting perspectives.

I'll reiterate one statement I feel may have been overlooked (or under-looked) by some leaving comments: "The nature of the litmus test isn't as important as the principle for which it stands: PASS Board members should understand those they will one day lead." In short, I believe the way to be sure PASS Board members understand SQL Server database professionals is to only elect SQL Server database professionals. While I respect the opinions of my esteemed peers, I'm not backing off that opinion one iota.

In defense of the PASS Board NomCom, they cannot *make* people submit nomination applications. I imagine there was a relatively small number of applications submitted, and the Committee probably followed a game plan similar to that which has worked in the past (with pretty good results).

This begs more questions:

- Does the nomination process need to change? be more open? If so, how?

- What does the PASS Board do if they cannot locate enough people willing to fill upcoming vacancies?

I don't have the answers to these questions, but I'd like to participate in the discussion.

:{>

October 20, 2009 10:34 PM
 

RickHeiges said:

Great feedback!

October 20, 2009 11:30 PM
 

Stuart Ainsworth said:

I think one of the challenges we face as a community is defining what a "database professional" is.  As SQL Server has expanded as a platform, many of us have become specialized in various areas (broadly represented by the three basic tracks: BI, Administration, and development).  I think even those categories are going to change in the future.

What does this mean to me?  I think it supports Andy's general thesis that "the way to be sure PASS Board members understand SQL Server database professionals is to only elect SQL Server database professionals."  What is not implied is that those database professionals share the same basic history; as the platform expands, different industries are going to approach SQL Server from their own perspective.

For example, I have a background in Radio/TV/Film Production and Public Health.  I became a DBA because we needed to manage data for a research project that I was working on as an analyst.  I'm now a full-time database professional, but that doesn't mean I didn't learn something about communication, research, and managing a non-profit along the way.

October 20, 2009 11:37 PM
 

Adam Machanic said:

I just posted a comment over on Kevin's blog but I think it bears repeating here:

---

PASS, while calling itself a "community", is really a business. And it is absolutely not a technology business. A community of technologists has nothing to do with technology; it has everything to do with the members of the community: people. PASS is in the people business. And members of the PASS board do not lead the members of PASS; they lead the organization toward its goals. These arguments about needing to be a DBA to be on the board completely miss the point. The board needs people who understand business and who understand the business of people.

---

To expand upon this: Talking about needing to be a DBA to lead DBAs makes no sense in this context. Members of the PASS board aren't managing DBAs. Database work is not central to the goal of the organization. We must not confuse the medium with the message (or the other way around, for that matter).

October 21, 2009 12:07 PM
 

andyleonard said:

Hi Adam,

  First, I understand your point, and Kevin's point as well.

  Second, I'm glad we're having a civilized discussion about this.

  Third: With all due respect to you and Kevin, I don't believe we can divorce our occupation from the organization. I understand the temptation to do so, but I believe the cure is worse than the disease in this case. I re-submit my conclusion: I believe PASS is best served by leadership who possess *both* skill sets; database professionals who can also lead.

  I humbly submit that you and Kevin are excellent examples of the kind of leadership I endorse.

:{> Andy

October 21, 2009 12:26 PM
 

Adam Machanic said:

Hi Andy,

I would like to better understand your point of view. I've just re-read your post and what I see is an argument that DBAs make good leaders for PASS, and an aside about ethics. I'm sorry, but I fail to see how these are connected. The ethics of a DBA are not related to the ethics of running a conference or supporting a users group. PASS has not, at least to date, attempted to become an industry association of the type that creates standards and guidelines, so there seems to me to be no connection.

Can you explain how you feel that a PASS board member would use his or her database knowledge on the board? This is all conjecture on my part--I've never been to a PASS board meeting--but I suspect that the discussions are around issues such as funding for the conference and whether PASS should create a section of its web site dedicated to articles. I don't understand how being able to write a complex stored procedure would help drive such a discussion to a meaningful conclusion.

October 21, 2009 12:54 PM
 

andyleonard said:

Hi Adam,

  I am really glad you asked!

  I think ethics are very important in any leadership position. I doubt anyone will argue that we prefer an ethical PASS Board over a less-than-ethical one.

  From my experience, DBAs are ethical people. Not all (hence the Lecture) but most. I believe this is so because the occupation demands a large amount of trust.

  That's the best I can do at connecting the two. This makes sense to me, but I could be missing or assuming something. I'm happy to discuss it further.

  I do not believe a PASS Board member will use their database skills on the PASS Board. I sincerely hope nothing I said conveyed that I thought that, and if it did I apologize for my poor communication skills.

  What I intended to convey is this: I believe it's important for leaders to understand those they lead. The best way I know to accomplish that is to promote leadership from within the ranks. In this case, the "ranks" are people who work with SQL Server.

  I see some counter-arguments to this:

> Knowledge of the occupations that utilize SQL Server is not desired in the leadership of the PASS Board.

> There is some better way - other than being a SQL Server database professional - to obtain knowledge of the occupations that utilize SQL Server.

  I am *not* saying you advocate either of the positions listed above.

  I'm *not* saying you or anyone else is wrong for voting for the people you think will best serve the PASS Board.

  I'm simply telling anyone who cares to listen how I voted. And why.

:{> Andy

October 21, 2009 1:31 PM
 

Tim Ford said:

I'm a DBA and a board member.  The skills required to serve on the board have nothing to do with the technical skills of a DBA.  It simply requires I have the qualities to serve in a leadership position at a board level AND that I understand the community I serve.  I could have those skills as a DBA, as a Developer, as a BI Maestro or as an Excel Pro.  But I don't think I'd have that without a history of serving as a volunteer in this community.  Sorry Andy, but I respectively disagree with your post's underlying message.

August 1, 2014 9:07 PM
 

andyleonard said:

Hi Tim,

 Thanks for reading my blog and caring enough to leave a comment.

 I agree that leadership skills and database skills are different (didn't I write that?). I respectfully maintain what I wrote here almost five years ago: Our community is large enough to contain people with *both* sets of skills - leadership and database skills.

  You, Tim, make my point by example. You are a leader who knows how to write a stored procedure. I believe our community contains enough individuals (like you) with both skills to provide for PASS's leadership needs. 

:{>

August 1, 2014 11:09 PM

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