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An Interview with Allen Kinsel, PASS Board Candidate

By Steve Jones,

Allen Kinsel is running for the PASS Board of Directors. He spent a few minutes with Steve Jones to talk about the some topics that should interest SQL Server professionals.

Steve: What specifically have you done in the past two years to help and support the community?

Allen: In the last 2 years I’ve primarily spent my time leading the improvements PASS has made for chapter leaders and those chapter members.  Even after not returning to the Board last year, I have continued to work with PASS’s website developer to carry out my vision for chapter enhancements on the PASS website.  The improvements are most publicly visible on myPASS and the events page as well as many chapters individual pages.  I also have an entire section of my blog filled with more information about the things I’ve done over the last few years for the PASS community. http://www.allenkinsel.com/Topics/sqlpass/

Steve: As a board member, what would you hope to accomplish in your next two years as a part of PASS?

Allen: As a director I have several goals that I’d like to accomplish during my term, some of them are shorter term while others are a bit longer. 

  • Prioritizing and investing more dollars in PASS IT to bring our member used systems current. This is important to enable PASS’s Chapter leaders, Speakers, volunteers & members to get more from the organization
  • An additional IT investment will need to be made to bring PASS’s membership roster current. Bringing the roster current will allow PASS to have better knowledge of its worldwide membership and provide better benefits.
  • It’s time to transition from the current board structure of portfolios to a committee based approach. This will allow the board to maintain a more strategic role and grow more leaders as well as help keep projects moving better during election transitions.

Steve: There have been members of the board of directors for PASS that have worked hard in the past and some that have done little. How will you balance your work and family life with the commitment to PASS? In what way will you ensure that the community can transparently assess your performance?

Allen: I believe that I fall into the “worked hard” group and based on my history of getting things accomplished on the PASS board I think I have a system that’s proven to allow me to balance those commitments successfully.  The core of how I handle that balance is that I have a very understanding family, and a supportive employer.  In the past when I served on the board I sent regular updates through emails & scheduled meetings to Chapter leaders.  In addition I wrote regular blogs about what I was doing on the board.  If elected I plan to continue this tradition in order to keep the community informed.

Steve: For years, PASS has not been much more than a conference for most members of the SQL Server community. What more can PASS do in the future for its members?

Allen: In the past that was the case but in the last few years PASS has become more than a conference to many members.  PASS has developed the SQL Rally model internationally quite well and there were a couple in the US.  Not to mention the support and growth that PASS has seen in SQLSaturdays around the globe. In order to continue on this trend PASS should make additional investments in technology that directly impacts its members.  When I previously served as PASS director of chapters, I pushed for investments in the tools and support PASS gives user groups(chapters).  We made good progress on these tools in my final year and I am very interested in continuing that investment.  In this realm PASS is best suited to be a community enabler, enabling volunteer leaders to spend less energy managing their chapters and SQLSaturdays and more time growing and improving them.

Steve: The SQL Rally was abandoned in the US, but has continued in Europe. Do you think it should come back to the US or is it not a worthwhile use of PASS resources?

Allen: I do think the SQL Rally should come back to the US however I do not believe that it makes sense to manage it in the same way as previous US SQL Rallys.  The model should be refined for the US based off the model that is currently successful used in Europe.

Steve: What do you think about the future of SQL Saturdays and to what extent should PASS continue to support them with employees like Karla and Nico?  Do you have any goals for the future growth of SQL Saturdays? 

Allen: SQLSaturday’s are the source of much of PASS’s recent community success & growth and as such they need to continue to be supported in any way necessary including hiring additional community evangelists like Karla and Niko to support further growth in SQL Saturdays and chapters.  I would like to see PASS have a 3 year growth goal along the lines of holding a SQL Saturday in all of the top 100 largest cities in the world.  In addition to that, I would like to see smaller more incremental goals added for yearly achievements.  Personally, I’d like to see the organization strive for 20% annual growth in the number of new locations holding events and a goal of 100 events a year

Steve: A number of competitive events to the PASS Summit have grown over the last decade. SQL Saturdays, SQL Bits, SQL in the City, SQL Nordic, SQL Connections, SQL Intersection, and 360 Live among others. As competition increases, how should PASS compete, or should they partner and work with other event organizers?

Allen: Competition from other SQL “events” will always be present but as a not-for-profit PASS is in a unique situation to be able to partner with these events in order to bring a greater awareness to the resources PASS has for the overall SQL community.  There is no feasible way for PASS to be all things to all people particularly when you consider the global scale of the SQL Server community and the benefits these other events provide.

Steve: The PASS board of directors serve two year terms, with the vice presidents of marketing and finance chosen from existing board members. The President’s position has often been filled by someone that has held both Vice President roles previously, meaning that a President essentially has agreed to serve the community for 8 years at a minimum, a decade if they continue to serve in the past President role. While this ensures there is a wealth of experience, this essentially limits the choice for future leaders to those that can commit to a substantial portion of their career. Is there something you might do to ensure that a variety of candidates consider serving in executive positions?

Allen: Some things have already changed to help with this regard.  During my first term as a director the bylaws were amended to allow the president to come from either of the vice president offices instead of only the EVP of finance as it was previously.  This will potentially knock 2 years off the time required to reach the presidency.  Executive positions require a good deal of leadership experience and an elevated level of dedication from a volunteer and I don’t believe it would be in the organizations best interest to allow people into those important positions without having first proven that they have that dedication.  However, having said all of that I am not against asking the executive to stand for public election thereby forcing them to be held more accountable to the members they represent.

Steve: Microsoft has abandoned the MCM program and their lower level certifications often do not provide any trustworthy level of skill assessment for SQL Server professionals. Do you think that PASS should make some investment in developing their own certification program?

Allen: In the future it may make sense for PASS to attempt to fill this space but currently I do not believe PASS should.  While I understand the communities reaction to Microsoft cancelling the MCM program, at this point I don’t think investing in certification is the best use of PASS’s limited resources.  I believe PASS already tries to do too many things and marginally succeeds and should instead invest appropriately in doing “core” things better. 

Steve: Is there anything else you’d like to say to the community?

Allen: I suppose I should say something witty or profound, however I’m all out of witty and profound at the moment.

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