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    Copyright © Nancy Hidy Wilson, 2010-2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Nancy Hidy Wilson and nancyhidywilson.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Reflections on PASS Summit 2011

The annual PASS Summit was held in Seattle the week of Oct 10th. Originally, this event was called the PASS Community Summit. To rephrase a popular saying, “they can take Community out of the official event name, but they can’t take Community out of the event”. In other words, the state of the SQL Server community is so strong that to include the word “community” in the event title is somewhat redundant at this point.

This year’s Summit had another record attendance with approximately 3500 registrations for the 3-day conference and another 1500 registrants combined over two days of pre-conference sessions. Why? Reason #1, in my opinion, is that it is due to 13+ years of tremendous volunteer effort.  Many people may not realize that while PASS does have a “management company” to handle logistics, the majority of the work in providing PASS events is done by volunteers. Everything from Board of Directors to Program Committee to Quiz Bowl is done by volunteers. As volunteers get more involved, the deeper their roots are developed within the community; and the stronger the community grows.  When you volunteer your time to the community, you get so much back in return. (Although you may not get much rest!)

So, what else influences the success of the PASS Summit?  My second and third reasons (I can’t decide which is which) are the content (combination of sessions & speakers) and the support of the Microsoft SQL Server Product Group – from the CSS team members who sit in the SQL Clinic all day to the SQLCAT team members presenting case studies to SQL Server Dev team members presenting details of the portion of the product for which they are responsible.

The value derived from Summit is sometimes difficult to nail down immediately, as sometimes it may be months after the event when you realize that something you learned at Summit just enabled you to solve a pressing issue.  On the other hand, sometimes you learn something that you can immediately use. Along those lines, however, one of the most important aspects of Summit is the networking and making contacts and sharing of expertise, so that you develop colleagues within the community to turn to as resources.  Wow, there is that word again – community.

I’ve attended every PASS Summit US-based event since the very first one held in Chicago in 1999. The PASS organization has come a long way since then – incorporating local user groups as PASS chapters providing them with a brand, creating virtual chapters which provide online training, supporting SQLSaturday for local training, and starting SQL Rally and 24 Hours of PASS for additional training opportunities throughout the year. For all of those activities to be successful, it comes back to content. If the content wasn’t there and people were not finding value in the educational opportunities provided by PASS, then Summit would cease to exist not continue to set record attendance in a down economy.

It is something of a paradox that I’m totally worn out at the end of Summit week, but at the same time come back to work re-energized after spending so much time learning as much as I can about the current features and future features of the SQL Server product and database world in general. Thanks PASS (that means all you volunteers out there) for making this happen every year!

Oh, and as a final thought – I vote for Dr. David DeWitt to be the keynote speaker forever! I confess to skipping keynotes back in the early years, but wouldn’t dream of missing a DeWitt keynote! Who’s with me?

See you in Seattle at PASS Summit 2012!

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24 Hours of PASS – Review

Two 12-hour days of FREE SQL Server Training sponsored by PASS and Dell were held last week on March 15-16, 2011.  The theme was “Celebrating Women in Technology” and all 24 speakers were women from the SQL Server global community. Kudos to Lynn Langit (twitter | blog) for suggesting the women of PASS were more than capable of tackling this endeavor and to Thomas LaRock (twitter | blog) and the rest of the PASS board for supporting this initiative.

Since I have recently organized a local SQLSaturday to which only 3 women (in addition to me) even submitted sessions to speak, I was very keen to see how this event would turn out.  And, I have to say from my perspective as a moderator for one session and as an attendee for at least 10 of the 24 sessions, it was a great success.  I knew it was a success in the community when late in the first day, I saw that a male attendee tweeted after listening to 11 sessions he just then realized all the speakers had been women!

Sure, some of the presenters for 24HOP have spoken at PASS before, but for quite a few it was their first time presenting to a global audience. And, to make it difficult – they couldn’t see the audience as this was a webcast event.

All of the sessions which I attended were very well done and were exactly what I expected based on the abstracts. Sure there were a few technical glitches here and there, but those would happen regardless of the gender of the presenter. Bottom line is that the content delivered was very, very good…. and did I mention it was FREE! 

I have to confess that every year when the PASS Summit speakers are announced, one of the first things I do is go count the number of women speakers selected.  Why? I suspect because back in 2000 when I was first selected as a speaker, it just jumped out at me that I was in a minority at PASS (especially among the speakers) although in the DBA team where I worked women were the majority at the time.  The number of women speakers has been increasing, but is it where it should be? I’m not saying a woman should be chosen over a man. I honestly think the main reason that women are under-represented is because, in general, they don’t submit to speak and don’t promote themselves.  The 24HOP featuring Women in Technology provided positive exposure for this segment of our community. I suspect the job of the program committees just got harder if these women (and more) will continue to pursue presentation opportunities as the total pool of very good speakers will increase; and just by having more women submit to speak, more will be chosen to speak.

If you missed 24HOP live, the presentations will be made available to PASS members in the next week or so at: http://www.sqlpass.org/24hours/Spring2011/. PASS membership is free – just sign up here.