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PASS Update #17

I’ve been wanting to write this for a while, but have been waiting for the board elections to close. Lots of stuff happening in the community related to elections, so I’ll share some thoughts, and answer questions that relate to the extent I know the answers!

First, I thought we didn’t serve the community well throughout the election process, with the most obvious part of that being that we presented four candidates for three positions, when we had eleven candidates to start with. I believe that Kevin and the nominating team applied their standards fairly and based on what good for PASS, but I think that happened in a vacuum. But rather than complain about that, I’d rather talk about where we should go on elections. My thoughts:

  • All applications for board seats should be published, perhaps omitting home address/phone type data
  • The nominating committee needs more direction:
    • The sitting board should vote or at least be involved in those selected (have to watch conflict of interests here)
    • The board should be notified of the criteria and scoring system to make sure they are vetting candidates appropriately
  • Results of scoring the applications should be published, as should the scores from interviews – full disclosure
  • We should amend the by-laws to require the committee to return a slate comprised of at least the number of vacancies plus two, provided candidates are available, and return that based on the scores
  • I don’t think SQL Server experience is required to serve on the board, but it shouldn’t be discounted either. There are cases where it would make sense. In most cases though I would rather appoint them as advisors (supported already in the by-laws) with access to board meetings, but no vote. But…I’d be open to making it a rule if the members felt strongly (not sure how to measure that, and they do get to vote on the slate)
  • We do need a discussion about who we might disqualify. I think there are a few cases where it might make sense, but in general I support letting the members decide

Nothing that went wrong was done out of ill intent, for the most part the election was the same as it has been for the past few years. Something to keep in mind!

The next part is about community involvement and criticism. You don’t have to volunteer to run for the board to be critical, or even volunteer. I hope you’ll try to make it constructive criticism. Like most people I like praise a lot better than criticism, but I’ll do my best to listen and not get defensive, and I think the same is true of all the board members. If we do get defensive (and we will at some point), I can offer a couple tips for all:

  • Remember that they are volunteers and people – yes, hold them accountable, but remember that we all get defensive at times
  • Focus on issues and not people to the extent we can
  • Try to see it from the other side. Doesn’t mean you can’t criticize, but good to ask if there are complexities not easily seen/previously disclosed

The other part it to remember that just like politics here in the US, we won’t always agree. That’s ok, but we are all on the same side I think. I don’t think I know better than any of you, but on any given day I vote based on my own experience, ethics, information available. Maybe you would vote differently – that’s ok. Email me that we don’t agree, show me a good argument, I might change direction, or learn for the next time. But…remember, that you don’t necessarily know better than I do either. That’s not a stalemate, it means the more you show me a calm, clear argument, the more likely I’ll listen – and vice versa, though I think the onus is on members to communicate their ideas – just like you should communicate to our elected leaders for those living in the US.

We need ideas, we need big goals, we need to figure out what PASS can really be. Is it just a conference? Conference plus chapters? Education beyond that? Can we expand our focus before getting good at our base goals? In a previous update I posted my idea of what PASS would look like in five years – how about commenting on that, or better yet, posting your own vision? If you could change PASS in three ways, what would they be? Would most members agree?

I like that the community engaged this year. It took a mistake (or poor execution if you will) to make that happen. We need Steve Jones and Brent Ozar and others filling the role of the press, we need people debating if we should require board members to be SQL professionals. This is my 17th update about PASS, go read the other 16. Am I doing enough? Like what I’m doing? Want to know more? I’ve been broadcasting, have you been listening? That’s not meant as a complaint, just that I’d enjoy more feedback. If you’re a blogger you’ll know exactly what I mean!


I'm Andy Warren, currently a SQL Server trainer with End to End Training. Over the past few years I've been a developer, DBA, and IT Director. I was one of the original founders of SQLServerCentral.com and helped grow that community from zero to about 300k members before deciding to move on to other ventures.


Posted by Steve Jones on 22 October 2009

Excellent comments. I think you are doing a good job at some things, but I cannot speak to the rest of the board because I don't know what they are doing. I need to go read your oter updates again, but that takes time. Can we get a post next week on your goals for 2009 and what has been done?

Posted by Jeremiah Peschka on 22 October 2009

You have some interesting ideas about the nomination process. The one thing I have to caution PASS about is that people may not apply if they know that their application will be out there for the world to see. Remember the embarrassment when you asked that pretty girl to a dance and she said no? Think of how red your face would be if she told everyone about it. I'm not saying we should or shouldn't do it, but we need to be very cautious about how we approach transparency. Transparency is a good thing, but we need to make sure we're doing it right.

Posted by Andy Warren on 22 October 2009

Steve, I will do that if time permits, if not for the following week.

Posted by John J on 22 October 2009

Excellent post and some great ideas. I think, though, that it wasn't an opaque nomination process that got the community engaged but rather that the community has been becoming more engaged and is now being more watchful and involved. People *are* listening and speaking up for more!

Posted by Andy Warren on 22 October 2009

Jeremiah, it's tough love. Without disclosure it's hard to assess how good the nominating committee is doing, and why we did/didn't select a candidate. Also, we can't talk transparency, we have to live it. If a candidate isn't willing to post their application and their answers, are they likely to be transparent if elected?

I get your point, some people may not run because of it. That sucks of course, and maybe it won't be that many.

And who said she said no!

Posted by edwisdahl on 22 October 2009

I'd be very interested to see an answer for each of the following questions from each of the board members (or at least something to this effect).  Heck, I'd just be interested to see yours in writing Andy.  Perhaps that would influence some of the other members to engage with the community a little more actively.


What do you think of the current state of PASS and in what light do you see PASS as it relates to community functions, events and involvement beyond the PASS Summit Conference?

What do you think about PASS's current relationships with other 3rd party vendors, community organizations, or events?  

Where you do hope PASS will be in one year?  What is your actual expectations for PASS in one year?  What about in three years?

Is there at least one key area that you see PASS being able to move into in order to make it a relevant organization for professionals on a frequently recurring basis (Daily or Weekly)?  If so, what area?  If not, how often do you see members of your community interacting with the organization and for what purposes?

Posted by Jack Corbett on 22 October 2009

I made on comment on Update #16 and I think it bears repeating here.  PASS needs to develop a leadership growth path.  From chapter member to chapter leader to some sort of regional leadership to the board level.  This means that, and this is not to say he shouldn't have run, a Matt Morollo would have to grow with PASS instead of stepping in from the outside.  If you want an outside, non-SQL person then appoint them in an advisory capacity.

Posted by Andy Warren on 22 October 2009

Jack - in the past the path to leadership has been to volunteer for a couple years, then try for the board, then on from there. Can easily be 10+ years. I'm one of the first, if not the first, director since the early years to come in without strong internal volunteer experience.

The danger in that path is you groom people using the system, makes it hard for them to see flaws. What I'd rather do is publish a profile of what we (us) expect from a board member, and give them a few paths to that. To me a blogger is a plus, but maybe others don't care. Experience as a manager or business owner is huge.

Take Steve Jones as example - would it really benefit the organization to have him spend 2 years or more as a volunteer, or do you think he has the experience to sit on the board and contribute meaningfully on day one.

Posted by Andy Warren on 22 October 2009

Eric, I'll blog separately on your questions

Posted by Anonymous on 22 October 2009

This post was mentioned on Twitter by sqlandy: Just posted some comments on PASS, governance, criticism: http://bit.ly/1uSH6q

Posted by Arie Jones "AJ on 25 October 2009


Good posts all around. I will be posting my much longer thoughts on the process later this week...but wanted to speak specifically to the comments about board members having to be groomed through PASS volunteerism....From reading a large number of blog posts I get the feeling that people are under a very small definition of what a volunteer is... For example, over the current year, I believe I have done about 50+ presentations for different PASS and other user group events. Doesn't that count as volunteerism as well. Sure I do not run for my local PASS org but I believe that my 'reach'

Posted by Andy Warren on 26 October 2009

Arie, I'm not sure of the PASS wide definition of a volunteer as far as elections, but I think speaking is a ....maybe. It's absolutely valuable to have our members speaking and helping build events, but it's only one leg of the skills we look for. Think about this way - does being a great DBA qualify you to be a DBA manager? Clearly a manager needs a range of skills, and technical ones are only a part of it - same for running for the Board.

I don't want to downplay or discourage those who contribute by speaking, writing, or answering questions - we need you! Looking forward to your detailed post.

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