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!