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PASS Board of Directors Debate - Transparency and Vision

There is an amazing debate occurring on Brent Ozar's blog where he interviewed Matt Morollo. Being a little out of touch this week, it's incredible to me there is so much passion about the election, but not so much on most other issues. Even the East Coast v West Coast location doesn't generate this many comments, though maybe that's because we don't vote on it?

On one hand I feel somewhat hypocritical weighing in on this topic because I'm not running for the Board of Directors. I feel guilty for not doing so, but it's not my time. Maybe in a year or two, but no promises.

But it has alternately annoyed, irritated, and concerned me, so I needed to weigh in.

On Matt Morollo

I'll post this comments in the debate, but here's what I see.

Matt isn't a DBA, he has a different perspective, and he brings a fresh look at things to PASS. He actually reminds me of a past board member that viewed the world in a different way. I'm not sure if that's good or bad, because, as Brian Kelley pointed out, a fresh view can help, or cripple a board.

I agree with Andrew Kelly that we don't need to just elect SQL professionals, and in fact, I'd like to see one non-SQL person on the board to stimulate debate. In fact, on many corporate, and other boards, the people are not necessarily engaged in that business. They might have a tie, but they work in other areas, typically non-competitive.

That being said, I worry about Matt's personality. I have not met him, but the responses I have seen to the interview concern me. A number of them seem to be taken as personal attacks, and the responses seem to shift arguments.

I can't tell if Matt's answers in the interview and comments that mention his company are going to be a problem, or a conflict. They're part of his experience, and they might be analogies to make a point. Or they might be plugs to push in the future. I can't tell, but they raise a (small) flag for me.

Did I vote for Matt? I can't say as I don't want to influence people. I'll disclose my votes after the results are in.

The Board of Directors

This is probably worth a separate post, but here's what I've seen over the years with PASS.

The board has to work and manage.

PASS is relatively poor. They seem to have struggled to survive at times, by their own admission, and board members have had to manage projects, and even participate (note Rick Heiges' participation and work recently on 24 hours of PASS), at times. This isn't a board that meets a couple times of year, talks about direction, and then lets management do all the work.

I like the direction of the current management company, and the group seems to get things done, but the board has to work as well. Otherwise where is that 5-10 hours of work I week I've seen bandied around during the "should I run" process? Board members have to manage projects, manage areas of work in PASS (marketing, finance, content, speakers, etc.).

In my mind we need a variety of companies (no more than 2 from any entity), experiences, and backgrounds. I like the idea of someone from media/marketing. I like the idea of a developer. In my mind, maybe we should seek out well-respected people from INETA, or other areas that would be willing to serve on the board and bring ideas.

I also think that we might need to have a group of other volunteers, that we elect or they agree, to handle some work for a year. They commit to run things and let someone on the board actually to less work, and more thinking.

The Nomination Process

I think I'm going to upset a few people here, especially as I know some of the nomination committee. And again, I feel like a heel for not participating in this process. I should commit to it next year since I'm going to open my big mouth.

The nominating committee is making mistakes.

First, we have too few candidates. I know that you looked for qualified people, and interviewed them, but I think you

a) set the bar too high

b) aren't necessarily qualified to set the bar

You're DBAs. You're not professional managers and directors for the most part. Some of you run small companies, but you're not hiring people here. You don't have the final decision.

But you can stack the deck. And that's what I feel has been done in the past. I'm not sure about 2009, but honestly, I cannot believe that Tim Ford, a passionate person that volunteers, that is committed to PASS, is somehow not qualified for the slate. If he didn't interview well in your mind, so what? He displays the ability to want to work, he's open and engaging with the community, something that a number of board members haven't done.

That's what we need in the PASS Board.

The committee doesn't choose the board members, so why set much of a bar? Maybe I'm missing something, and you don't want to disparage anyone that applied, or prevent people from considering it in the future, but I think that's a mistake. Some good, honest feedback about all the applicants and why someone was chosen would be refreshing.

As Andrew Kelly said, this isn't rocket science. None of the current board is a group I would consider much more qualified than any of the candidates or even people I know that submitted their names. They just aren't. They make decisions that most of this community could make.

Get more information out about candidates, more interviews like Brent Ozar did, or let the candidates post the information Brian Kelley mentions, but don't take the nominating committee too seriously.

The Voice of the DBA

Steve Jones is the editor of SQLServerCentral.com and visits a wide variety of data related topics in his daily editorial. Steve has spent years working as a DBA and general purpose Windows administrator, primarily working with SQL Server since it was ported from Sybase in 1990. You can follow Steve on Twitter at twitter.com/way0utwest


Posted by Todd McDermid on 16 October 2009

I largely agree with your sentiments about Matt and the work the current Board does.  That's said with virtually no background in PASS - I've only been aware of it for a year, and don't truly understand how it works yet.

That said, I almost completely disagree with your thoughts on the Nomination process.  Let me see if I can state some counter-arguments without sounding like an ass.  (Cause I don't mean to be.)

First, I have to say that I do agree that there should have been more candidates.  2x the number of open positions "feels right" to me.

That said, I completely disagree with your opinion that the nominating committee isn't necessarily qualified to set the bar.  You don't say it, but you're implying that the committee shouldn't exist, and all those who apply should get on the ballot.  (You may not believe so, and I may be putting words in your mouth from other comments on Brent's blog.)

To directly address the "qualifications" point... if the nominating committee isn't qualified, who is?  As I understand it, the committee is made up of BoD members, and people chosen by the BoD.  (If not, you may have a point.)  If that's the case - then you either directly or indirectly elected the nominating committee, and I therefore don't understand how you could consider them unqualified.  By your logic, you (the PASS electorate) made a mistake in whom you elected to the board last year.

To address the indirect "qualifications" points... I don't agree with a wide-open slate.  As someone who doesn't have a lot of time on his hands (and is yet writing all this down... hypocrite) - I appreciate the fact that some people intimately involved in PASS management are vetting candidates for me.  I like that bar set so I don't have to research ten or fifteen people.  And since the committee is indirectly chosen by me (the PASS electorate), I trust their judgment.  I also don't like that wide-open slates tend to crowd out the "unusual" candidates.  In this particular instance, if there were significantly more candidates, Matt may not even be on the radar because he could have been prematurely (and unfairly IMO) dismissed by a large portion of the electorate because "he's not a DBA".  I'm going to say this plainly - the nominations committee knows better than you.  (On average.)  That may sound insulting, but it's not intended to be.  I say that because you made them that way, intentionally.  The committee makes time to soberly and objectively evaluate candidates.  I value that.  I value your opinion too - as you're well-informed, just as I value Brent's opinion.  But I think it's naive to assume the general PASS electorate has the time/knowledge/objectivity to evaluate as well as you or the committee.  I come back to your reasoning, and will turn it back on you:  You say the committee "are DBAs, not professional managers... you're not hiring people".  Doesn't that describe the vast majority of the PASS electorate?  It may not describe you in particular, which is why you may disagree with their choices - and even the power they have.  But don't naively replace a small group of non-professional-manager-DBAs with a very large group of the same people.  I fear you'll get results you dislike even more strongly...

Posted by Steve Jones on 16 October 2009

Good comments, and thanks for taking the time to write so many. Let me clarify slightly.

First, the committee isn't "more" qualified than anyone else. That are my point, and I probably haven't made that clear. Everyone else is just as qualified to make a judgment about who the people are that could do a good job.

What if feels like to me is that the committee said they had 11 or 12 nominees (can't remember), but that 7 or 8 of these couldn't do the job. I can't speak for everyone that applied, but I know that more than 4 people could do the job. That's the decision I don't think they're qualified to make.

Should everyone run? No, I agree with you, it's too much to research. 2x positions feels good to me as well. Right now what I think we have is the committee has essentially picked the board, with only one of their choices not getting there. It's like a corporate board where the current board in essence picks the themselves, or the next board, without a choice being given.

The electorate has made mistakes, because there have been "stacked" decks every year. There was a year where 4 candidates ran for 3 positions, and 3 of the candidates were board members. The mistake is that more people don't care, and it's compounded by a committee that is not choosing a variety of candidates.

Board terms are staggered. I agree there are good reasons to keep people on the board over time to learn things. There are good reasons to require some volunteer work so that the candidates understand some of what is involved with PASS. However, there ought to be more of a choice, and more people that are passionate, like Brent, like Tim, like a few others that are willing to run for the board, put out there for the electorate to choose from.

Posted by Anonymous on 16 October 2009

Pingback from  My Weekly Bookmarks for October 16th | Brent Ozar - SQL Server DBA

Posted by Andy Warren on 19 October 2009

Steve, I'll have more to say post election as well, but there's point I'd like to respond to - there's nothing wrong with you or anyone else making suggestions, commenting, or criticizing PASS. You don't have to be run for office to be eligible to care! Not everyone has the time, passion, skills to run, but PASS is ultimately about people. We can use all the feedback we can get, especially constructive criticism.

Posted by Anonymous on 22 October 2009

There has been quite a discussion today on the direction of PASS (the Professional Association for SQL

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