There has been some great discussion about the upcoming PASS Board of Directors election over on Brent Ozar’s blog. If you haven’t been following along, you should go check it out. Great big kudos to Brent for putting together the Meet the PASS Candidates series of blog postings!
Having served on the PASS Board for six years, culminating my tenure as the EVP of Finance, I have great PASSion for the organization. In my mind, “PASS” and “the SQL Community” are synonyms; they describe one and the same thing. So, it is with great interest that I am following this election.
To that end, let me share some thoughts about the election. At the end of the post, I’ll even share with you how you should vote. So, read on.
How does one run for the PASS Board?
There are lots of people who are interested in running for the PASS Board of Directors. And why not? From the outside, it appears like a great volunteer role. You get to represent and lead the community. You get to make decisions about where the conference will be held, how the money will be spent, and what kind of programs will be offered. Heck, you even get to rub elbows with SQLGal.
Obviously there’s much more to being on the PASS Board than that. It’s a lot of hard work. A lot of hard work. But that’s for another post.
Each year, PASS puts out a Call for Nominations to the SQL Community. Anyone can through their hat into the ring. Yes, that’s right anyone. No prior experience is required.
What’s the role of the Nominating Committee?
It’s the job of the Nominating Committee to narrow down the list of potential candidates to a manageable and realistic number. The committee members work incredibly hard and put in lots of hours to thoroughly vet each candidate. They strive to ensure that every candidate that makes the final slate is well qualified. To make it to the final list is a great accomplishment in itself. Congratulations to all of this year’s candidates!
Although I didn’t serve on this year’s Nominating Committee, I have served on several in the past. I’ve even served as Committee Chair. So, I have every confidence that the candidates that appear this year are there for a reason.
What are some things I should consider before voting?
As you look enter the voting station and prepare to cast your ballot, how can you be sure that you’re voting for the right people? What should you consider as you reach to pull the lever?
The candidate should have a proven track record
I mentioned earlier that no prior experience is required to run for the PASS Board. That’s true. However the Nominating Committee considers a person’s past track record as a volunteer as it makes its decisions. And you should too.
- Has the person served as a volunteer with PASS?
- Has he demonstrated a love for the SQL Community?
- Has he proven reliable in his follow through on commitments?
- Can he get along with others?
How do you know the answers to these questions? Ask them. Email them and ask. Or ask someone who has worked with them as a volunteer.
The candidate should complement the existing board
PASS represents the entire SQL Community. And as such, the elected board should be representative of the SQL Community, the whole SQL Community.
The Board should have people from all walks of business life – Fortune 1000 companies, governmental agencies, non-profits, independent consultants, educational institutions, etc. If the board is too heavily weighted toward one market, toward one segment, toward one group, it cannot effectively represent the entire SQL Community.
- Does the candidate complement the other existing Board Members by his industry or employer?
- Does the candidate represent an industry that is similar to mine?
- Will the candidate tip the balance of the PASS Board composition too much in one direction?
- If elected will the Board have too many consultants? Too many big businesses? Too many vendors?
The election is not a popularity contest
PASS is a great volunteer organization and PASS does a lot of great work for SQL Professionals around the world. It is altruistic; it seeks to serve the community.
But PASS is also a business. There are budgets to balance. There are tough decisions to make that have great impact on the long-term and even short-term viability of the organization.
There’s a balance that must be preserved. PASS can be too altruistic and go out of business due to mismanagement. PASS can be too business minded and loose sight of the fact that it is “by users, for users” and alienate the very people it seeks to serve.
Running a multi-million dollar organization like PASS is not a trivial matter. Just because someone has written some books on SQL Server that doesn’t mean that person will make a good board member. And conversely just because someone doesn’t make a living working hands on with SQL Server doesn’t preclude him from making a good board member.
What does make a good board member is a love for the SQL Community, a good sense of purpose for serving the community, and a business mind to know how to balance the service with staying afloat as an organization. As a prior Executive Director for PASS once put it to me, “You can serve steak and caviar for lunch every day at the conference and the attendees will love you for it. But you won’t be in business to serve those very same attendees six months from now.” Members of the PASS Board must be able to balance those things.
- Does the candidate have a heart for the SQL Community?
- Can the candidate manage a budget?
- Does the candidate have enough business acumen to run the organization?
The PASS Board is very “hands on”
Serving on the PASS Board of Directors takes quite a bit of time. During my last year on the Board we underwent a tremendous amount of change, all of it for the better. We changed the fiscal year; we changed management companies; we changed event management companies; we recreated our chart of accounts; we recreated most every process and procedure that we had before.
During that time I was routinely spending 15 to 20 hours per week on PASS related activities. I was using my knowledge from my MBA to help straighten out our finances. I was using my negotiating skills and contract-reading skills that learned as an independent consultant to help change management companies.
The PASS Board is very “hands on”. So, the skills that each PASS Board member brings to the table is important. Those skills may be directly applicable to some area of PASS.
- Does the candidate’s day job lend itself to a need that the PASS organization has?
- Does the candidate have skills that the PASS Board is needs?
Okay, for whom should you vote
Okay, I’m not going to give you names. No, that would be too easy.
But I will tell you that you should give careful consideration and follow up on the questions I’ve outlined in this post. Email the candidates. Ask them questions until you’re satisfied with your knowledge and you can confidently make your decision.
Then reach, tentatively at first, and pull the lever with authority and conviction. Just don’t forget to make sure there are no chads hanging down.