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The Scary DBA

I have twenty+ years experience in IT. That time was spent in technical support, development and database administration. I work forRed Gate Software as a Product Evangelist. I write articles for publication at SQL Server Central, Simple-Talk, PASS Book Reviews and SQL Server Standard. I have published two books, ”Understanding SQL Server Execution Plans” and “SQL Server 2008 Query Performance Tuning Distilled.” I’m one of the founding officers of the Southern New England SQL Server Users Group and its current president. I also work on part-time, short-term, off-site consulting contracts. In 2009 and 2010 I was awarded as a Microsoft SQL Server MVP. In the past I’ve been called rough, intimidating and scary. To which I usually reply, “Good.” You can contact me through grant -at- scarydba dot kom (unobfuscate as necessary).

What Should PASS Be?

pass_logoAndy Warren posted a question the other day (well, issued a challenge actually), “What Should PASS Be?” I’ll let you go and read that & wait here… Done? Cool. Moving on.

I have thoroughly enjoyed my associations with PASS over the years. I’ve been a first-time attendee, a volunteer and a presenter at the PASS Summit. I’ve volunteered with the PASS organization with the Special Interest Groups, the Editorial Committee, and as Editor of the SQL Standard. I’ve taken part in 24 Hours of PASS as a presenter, host and attendee. I have helped to put on SQL Saturday events, attended them and presented at them (and we have another one coming up on April 2nd in the Boston area, please register here.). I was one of the founding officers of the PASS Chapter in Rhode Island, Southern New England SQL Server Users Group, and I’m the current president. In short, I’ve been taking part in everything PASS has to offer. What’s more, I think that by getting involved in PASS, volunteering, speaking, trying to raise my head above the crowd, it helped me make MVP and I know it helped me get my excellent new job with Red Gate Software. I know that I’ve developed friendships that I treasure because of my association with PASS. In short, this organization has been very, very good to me.

And yet…

I’ve been able to make PASS work for me, and work well. But I think I’m the exception. I recently left a team of 10 DBAs and I’m not convinced that they would say that PASS has done much for them. Yes, some of them attended the Summit and learned a lot there, but couldn’t they have attended the same lectures at Tech-Ed or Connections? Some of them have received good information from our user group, but without the PASS association, our user group could do what it’s done so far (and for what it’s worth, I don’t count my user group as being all that successful and put the fault down to its president). None of them have networked through PASS the way I have, none of them attend 24 Hours of PASS or the local SQL Saturdays. With the exception of the Summit & the User Group (and me) none of these people had any association with PASS. Talking to other people online, I don’t think this is the exception. I think it’s the rule.

So, the question is, what should PASS be? Since I’ve been involved with PASS, it has tried to compete against the magazine and publishing web sites, and failed. It has tried to compete with Linked-In and failed. It has attempted to set up vibrant discussion groups in competition with the umpteen other discussion groups out there and had a single success (Women In Technology is a model for other groups to emulate, in & out of technology) but largely failed. There have been discussions about certifications, more extended training, speakers bureau’s, and other good ideas, none of which got off the ground. At the same time there have been a couple of successes, WIT as already mentioned, 24 Hours of PASS, SQL Saturday, monthly SIG webinars, and the ongoing success of the Summit.

My last boss, who was mad as a hatter, but a great guy to work for, used to argue that you can work on your weaknesses or you can work on your strengths, but you can’t ever work on both. Further, he’d say, you’ll generally only be able to mitigate your weaknesses. Mad though he was, I found his advice extremely helpful. I think it might work well for PASS. They’ve been trying to work on their perceived or actual weak points for years. Time to switch. Start working on the strengths. Even though it’s largely volunteer run, there’s more training coming out of the PASS organization than anywhere else. Focus there. Work the strengths of the organization.

SQL Rally is coming up. It always felt a bit like a red-headed step child to the Summit. Eliminate that attitude. Pull out all the stops. Make SQL Rally a success. Start expanding the reach on the webinars. Focus on the quality and the quantity of the training opportunities already at work within the organization. Clean up the horrific SQL Saturday web site so that it gets easier to put these things on. Encourage more smaller SQL Saturday events so that the reach grows (putting on large ones requires huge commitment from the volunteers and cash from vendors, which is not going to be there forever). Build and finish the speaker bureau.  Focus on training, training and more training, even if you have to start charging for it or paying the speakers (and yeah, that might be a good idea). Advertise… everywhere. Get the word out that if you want training this is the place to be. If you want to be a trainer, this is the place to start, if you are a trainer, this is where you grow you brand. Have free sessions, but charge for access to the recordings and give a share of the proceeds to the presenters. This is where the strength of the organization lies, and we should focus on building that strength for the next few years. Then, three years in, you can start worrying about weaknesses, real or perceived, and focus on networking opportunities or certifications or something else.

Anyway, that’s my 2 cents. As I said, I feel like I’ve received more from PASS than I put into it, although I have tried hard to give back to the community. I’m appreciative of what I’ve received. I know I’ve been considered one of the noisy whiners by many on the board, so I don’t mind taking this opportunity to tell them that they’ve done good work and that it’s appreciated, even by the noisy whiners. Challenge answered Andy.

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