I am interviewing 2011 PASS Board Nominee Applicants. As listed on the PASS Board Elections site the applicants are:
- Rob Farley
- Geoff Hiten
- Adam Jorgensen
- Denise McInerney
- Sri Sridharan
- Kendal Van Dyke
I'm asking everyone the same questions and blogging the responses in the order received.
Adam Jorgensen is next up:
Interview With Adam Jorgensen
1. What's your day job?
I am currently the President of Pragmatic Works Consulting (http://www.pragmaticworks.com). I also participate with our non-profit foundation that provides free training and placement services for under and unemployed folks in the Jacksonville area. My role includes strategic and technical oversight of our specialized services division. I’m responsible for technical and managerial rollup for our team and their efforts. I also lead our internal core team of experts to make sure that we are constantly scaling to meet the demands of an increasingly complex SQL Server and SharePoint ecosystem for our clients and the community.
2. What motivated you to run for the PASS Board of Directors?
(Apologize in advance I know this is longer than the other candidates responses)
I believe that PASS is a business whose clients are the community members and the product is the community they create, offer and manage. One of the topics in my board interview was the concept of business vs. community and with a 5-6 million dollar budget; PASS is no doubt a business. Without full non-profit status it is even more important that the business part of the organization is managed efficiently. PASS needs folks who are accustomed to managing rapid change. I feel that I’m one of those individuals and can add more value in this critical time due to my unique background and experience.
That being said, since PASS is not in business to make huge profits, they have a unique opportunity to give back to those who need them the most. PASS has strategic alliances they are not leveraging well. One example is:
Pragmatic Works, with our limited reach, can drive over 600-1000 attendees to webinars every Tuesday and Thursday, but the virtual chapters drive very low attendance (often less than 20 people). We have made sure that our days don’t conflict with these events to the best of our ability. These are the same speakers and topics so why are they not coming? I co-chair the BI Virtual Chapter and cannot speak highly enough of Amy Lewis who ran the chapter by herself and has poured her heart into it, only to see lackluster attendance. Microsoft could lend great speakers to these events without much effort, so why isn’t this happening? I know they are willing to do it in my conversations with folks at MS who are engaged with PASS.
I also believe that PASS is growing very fast, and while this is exciting, being a volunteer run organization, this will be even more difficult to manage. I help lead a company that has gone from 3 to 80+ employees in 3 years and I can tell you growth is fun but scary and needs to be managed. There are many things that PASS wishes to do include international expansion, improving chapter participation, expanding Summit and rally offerings and more! These are all great goals but need to be carefully controlled both from a planning and fiscal perspective. Clear goals need to be set and if not accomplished then perhaps that goal needs to be set-aside for something more feasible. The recent gains in transparency will help us do this.
Much of the concern over international expansion is in paying for it and getting the right people engaged so they can really get something going in a new region for PASS. The real issue here is there already are many exciting things going on and folks may not want to be a part of PASS if we don’t have a good message for them. We need to take an approach that can be carefully controlled and where we can measure success. Initially I would recommend something like this.
1. Leverage the success of the competition for SQL Rally 2012 and have interested regions compete for a 2 year funding and mentoring package.
2. This accomplishes a fixed investment (controlled) and an experienced committee of folks who have great success in the US to help the leadership in that region drive success. (managed)
3. Their goal should be defining success as an event such as a regional summit that would drive revenue to help fund the local organization for the following year. Then PASS can step down funding and step up funding in another area.
For international expansion it’s critical to get those regions generating enough revenue and on a sustainable model through events to cover their needs in a set amount of time or PASS will not be successful in the expansion.
Get better at serving the community at large and thereby increase PASS membership and exposure
There is no doubt there are exciting opportunities for PASS abroad, but we have huge challenges and opportunities here in the US. While our market segments are growing, the economy continues to struggle and folks who have been out of work for any period of time find it incredibly difficult to get placed without references. One of the greatest ideas I have heard came from Julie Smith, and Atlanta based SQL consultant (@JulieChix) when she asked me why PASS could not expand on the concept of what we do with our foundation and provide real world projects that folks could work on, get a reference and perhaps offer some training guidance and tracks to get folks quickly ramped up on new technology. We could partner with national staffing firms and supply top candidates that they could now confidently promote with recent experience.
Those are the folks you will never see at the summit, they don’t have new laptops to run the fancy demos we push out for them to download and are often looked over in our hubris about how awesome we are as a community.
PASS is perfectly positioned to meet these people at their point of need and provide solutions to these challenges. Not all will take advantage but I have volunteers lined up to begin getting this together. This is incredibly exciting and a tremendous idea! Another great contribution example from an outstanding PASS member.
What is PASS?
I have watched current PASS BOD and committee members struggle to articulate the PASS mission and what we do as an organization in a concise way. This is especially important when someone says “What does PASS do for me?” This tells me the focus is not clear. When asked to describe what your organization does, if it takes longer than 15 -20 seconds It’s not a clear message. This is indicative of a lack of consensus on tactical vision.
Where’s Waldo (Waldo=PASS) PASS <> Relevance
I have felt passionate about the above things for a while now but what put me over the edge to run was an experience I had recently at the SQL Saturday in Orlando. I was fortunate enough to run the PASS table with Bonnie Allard (Chapter Leader for Space Coast User Group) and I was dumbfounded that most of the folks passing through the main area where we were positioned had no idea who PASS was, that their user group was PASS affiliated or that PASS was involved with SQL Saturday. There are two user groups in Orlando (MagicPASS and OPASS) That tells me that PASS is lacking relevance in today’s data professional’s life.
I asked around and many folks agreed. As I’m writing this I am sitting in a training session in Redmond for National Partners on Denali content with a room full of the best and brightest from major SQL and SharePoint integrators. When asked how many had heard the announcements from PASS Summit or attended the Summit I was the only one out of 60 that raised my hand. This is very telling. None of these major contributors are invested in PASS. We’re missing the boat by not adding and showing existing relevance to the day-to-day lives as a community service.
The advent of Twitter, and hundreds of awesome niche social media apps require us to rethink the way we view community. The SQL community now has it’s own 24 hour news cycle and we’re still a little too much like Ron Burgundy (Please tell me you’ve see Anchorman, the movie). This needs more direct focus and not just hashtags. PASS should have a clear and ever growing social media strategy. How do we handle social media at events, how do we recommend/provide solutions to smaller events to leverage social media. How do we keep in touch with the community over social media?
All of these items, while they do cross over these interview questions, are critical to why I feel it’s time to have my voice heard on the board. I want to cut through delays and help the board become more tactical, focusing on what’s most important.
3. What is PASS's largest challenge right now?
The largest challenge is managing growth, message and the community. Choosing investments and not overcommitting is critical. I mentioned more about this above, but there is tremendous opportunity for a great expansion and tremendous potential to get 75% of everything instead of several key wins if it is not executed correctly.
4. What is PASS's greatest opportunity right now?
The greatest asset PASS has is the people at its disposal. Volunteers, Microsoft folks, community experts, user group leaders, and corporate sponsors are all invested in PASS. This strength is not being leveraged to help those who are not in this group or outside of PASS. The only way to grow the summit and other revenue generating events is to get more people in the cycle who would love to get interaction at this level. This includes adding folks internationally, but also focusing on those in the US who would love to participate if they could only get a job first. We need to help those who are willing to work to get ahead!
1. Grow community through investments in helping others
2. Those folks add value to events
3. Events value can be applied to more of #1 J.
4. Additional value can be applied to international relationships.
5. Complete this sentence: "If I only get one new thing accomplished while serving on the PASS Board of Directors, I want to..."
… put structures and tactical approaches in place to make sure PASS’ message is clear, our approach is consistent and we are reaching others outside our normal scope of influence. That includes new folks that we work to bring into the PASS community and international expansion for adding value to already exciting SQL communities around the world.
6. Complete this sentence: "If I only get to change one existing thing about PASS while serving on the PASS Board of Directors, I want to..."
.. put more focus on setting clear goals, communicating them clearly and reporting on progress. I want to set goals that will make PASS more relevant since it’s obvious to me that many folks in our industry are not engaged because they don’t see the value. We can offer that value and improve the quality of the offerings we have now. It takes prioritization and focus.
7. Share something interesting about yourself!
I am a VERY avid watersport guy. I’m a big scuba diver(technically I’m a big anything J.. ) I have travelled all over the world to work, dive and sightsee and enjoy aspects of many cultures. SQL has been a passion of mine for over a decade, but the real excitement is in seeing it add so much value to firms with even minor investments.
I am blessed to have a wonderful fiancé (wedding is August 2012 so everyone keep your eye out for the invites). I am blessed to have good friends and a wonderful family including my two kids (ladybird and Mac, my 3 year old chocolate lab and my new 14 week old golden retriever). Please DM me (@Adam_Jorgensen) for questions about my candidacy and check out the election forums on the PASS election website at SQLPASS.org
Special thanks to Andy Leonard for doing thisinterview process. It helps all of us articulate our goals and vision.