As you may have seen in my post yesterday “PASS Board of Directors Election: Candidates announced” I am running for the PASS Board of Directors.
As part of the process PASS has invited it’s members to write questions in the PASS Board of Directors forum. TJay Belt (Blog|Twitter) posted the following question:
With so much emphasis lately on the global reach and growth of PASS, how will you as a candidate balance the need to grow internationally and globally while still supporting the grass roots/smaller communities that struggle locally to gain and keep members energized and excited?
The following is my reply:
Thanks for your questions on the forums.
To answer this really we need to look at and understand the levels of reach and engagement we are trying to achieve and exactly how we measure growth.
There are some key areas I would focus on:
To me this element of the question is about marketing, I see it working in two ways. The first is to invest more time and effort into existing social media channels to grow followers as I mentioned in today’s first Town Hall meeting we have reached saturation point with our current marketing channels. From there new growth initiatives will reach a wider audience. Of course not everybody at work has access to social media and so tweets and updates on channels like LinkedIn and Facebook might be lost in all the other noise. This means that other ways must be found to reach these people.
There is a global IT skills shortage at the as a professional organization have an opportunity to combat this, so I would suggest that we should engage with Microsoft about creating new programs to engage with people who have either not chosen a career yet or are looking for a career change. This means contacting the departments that deal with education and unemployment and ask them to advertise our physical and virtual chapters through their unemployment offices, high schools, colleges and universities.
Once these people with our help have found employment they will tell others about the organization that enabled them to reach their goals. Thus adding the potential for further growth by infiltrating companies that might otherwise have not heard about PASS. This model could have a profound effect on local groups providing new members who are really keen to learn everything that they can. These new members would really benefit from networking that only physical events can provide.
Virtual Chapters are an essential way of reaching people who do not have chapters near them or are unable to commit to a night that their local chapter meets. VC’s are also a great way of expanding internationally. We are already starting to see VC’s in different languages (Chinese Portuguese, Russian and Spanish), and this is something that I would like to see more of to expand into other territories. Once people experience a taste of what PASS can offer virtually they will be keen to transition to physical events be that via new SQL Saturday’s or new local chapters.
In terms of keeping members energized and excited this really hits a number of core issues. Are all of these groups receiving enough support? In my application http://bit.ly/14CyXOo I suggested twinning chapters so that leaders can help to mentor each other. This can help to take the pressure off of Regional Mentors and provide more “from the trenches” advice about day to day running including attracting sponsors and speakers. I also talk about unifying backend systems to make finding quality content easier for our members.
Before we get to ahead of ourselves we need to take stock of where we are now. Like many people I have either changed jobs or have been acquired which has meant changes in my work email accounts. As a lot of companies do not allow access to webmail such as Hotmail and Gmail I had created new accounts at each of these companies. What is needed is some kind of regular deduplication of our membership information to eliminate duplicates and false positives on our growth analysis.
Finding speakers can be tricky. I am lucky in that there are a number of people in the UK who are willing to travel for the community and in fact both of the other EMEA applicants have both been kind enough to speak at my own chapter in the last few years. However, not everybody is that lucky. Because of this I believe that we need to work with PASS IT to build on the current systems that we have in order that when speakers submit sessions to and PASS event these are logged in a central database that any leader can access. The database should contain areas that the speaker would be willing to travel to and their areas of expertise. Thus providing the potential for a pool of experienced speakers to call on.
Of course the community should not and cannot afford to rely on experienced speakers alone. We need new blood and a way to encourage up and coming professionals a way to showcase their knowledge. Mentoring of these talented individuals is required, I see the Professional Development VC playing a pivotal role with it’s ability to reach out to a wide audience and physical events supplementing with a more personal touch.
You can read the full question with answers from the other nominees here.