SQLPass Board of Elections: ‘Doing’ the Mission Statement

Tom LaRock asked an excellent question on the SQLPass Board of Directors election campaign discussion boards:

I’d like to hear thoughts about the new PASS Mission statement and how each candidate expects to be able to contribute to the PASS mission during the next two years.

Here is my answer:

Hi Tom, 
Great question and thank you for asking. 

PASS’s updated mission is to “empower data professionals who leverage Microsoft technologies to connect, share, and learn through networking, knowledge sharing, and peer-based learning.” Ultimately, PASS seeks to support data professionals throughout the world who use some, or all, of the Microsoft Data Platform. This breadth goes outside SQL Server to other technologies, particularly in the Business Intelligence and Business Analytics spheres. I would also argue that this breadth reaches out to emphasise the importance of diversity; more on this below. 

A mission statement is a combination of an organisation’s foundation, and its goal for the future. I’d like to see more emphasis of the ‘Professional’ in PASS. People often come to PASS events to grow their career, whether it is in networking, depth of technical expertise, or professional development. The word ‘Education’ comes from the Latin ‘ducere’, which means to lead: prefixing with an ‘e’ means that it literally means ‘to lead out’. PASS can help people to be ‘led out’ to meet their personal goals, particularly where these include professional development. I occasionally attend non-PASS conferences, and it seems to me that companies do not always know what PASS is or does, and neither do potential community members. I think we need to go ‘back to basics’ a bit, and make sure that we evangelize, and keep evangelizing, about the Professional aspects of PASS. There are a number of areas that could be tackled, but one important one is social media and deploying its benefits to meet the mission statement and ‘lead out’. Achievable ideas include: 

– Empowering volunteers – I believe in empowering our volunteers so that they have better assets in order to achieve their ambitions for their User Group, SQLSaturday or other event. For example, there is no route for new volunteers to ‘bed in’ to becoming a PASS volunteer. MyPASS can be difficult to use, for example, unless you know the ‘tips and tricks’. I’d like to see us empower and support volunteers in the same way that we do for the wider SQL community; through webinars, events, and a feeling of a ‘volunteer community’. For example, if we had a Volunteer VC, we could have webinars with titles such as ‘Thinking of planning a SQLSaturday? Here is how!’ and this would allow more experienced PASS members to help the new volunteers to grow. 

– Empowering ‘data professionals’ – I would like to see more to ’empower’ data professionals. I would work to see the BA Conference to become more established, and look to promote SQLSaturday events with a BA slant. BASaturday, anyone? I would look to work with Microsoft to ensure that the needs of the data professional are met. I’d like to see the ability for data professionals to sit exams at BAC, for example, so that the Conference has a feel of training as well as networking and sessions. This breadth could also include other technologies such as Hadoop, which sit beside the Microsoft ecosystem of data solutions. 

– Empowering members, wherever they are in the world – I would like to see more ‘lead out’ by offering more local language Virtual Chapters: Denise McInerny has already done great work in this area. It would be good to work closely with Microsoft in the local areas, in order to produce local-language material. I would also like to see the production of a report that is transparent, and shows clearly the geography of the SQLSaturday events throughout the world. I would like to do ‘Business Intelligence’ on this data, for example: are there Microsoft offices that do not have a SQL user group nearby? What conferences and non-PASS events take place that could use support? 

– Empowering those who would like to step into professional development and management – As someone who has organised Women in Technology events across Europe, I’m aware of the organisational difficulties that can take place when trying to organise an event remotely. I would like to see a process put in place whereby it is easier to work with Microsoft, for example, to make sure that the logistics are in place for Women in Technology events. This could be something as simple as helping with room booking, for example. Often the logistics mean that the Women in Technology events are put aside because of the logistics – no other reason, even if there is an appetite for the event itself, and it is a pity to miss it out. I believe that the ‘Professional’ part of PASS should have an element of professional development and learning, and the best managers will be aware of the importance of having diverse team members to build stronger, more profitable groups for the enterprise. To facilitate this, managers, and managers-in-training, need to have opportunities to learn about diversity and its importance in the success of organisations, problem solving and teamwork. In The Future of Diversity and the Work Ahead of Us, Harris Sussman says, “Diversity is about our relatedness, our connectedness, our interactions, where the lines cross. Diversity is many things – a bridge between organizational life and the reality of people’s lives, building corporate capability, the framework for interrelationships between people, a learning exchange, a strategic lens on the world.” It is so much more complex than it initially seems, and I believe that Women in Technology is a key aspect of the ‘Professional’ aspect of PASS since the shrewest organisations place an emphasis on it; omitting Women in Technology from events purely due to logistics is a missed opportunity to allow PASS members to learn about the complexities, and I would like to see a more well-defined process put in place to Women in Technology event support and logistics in order to help make it happen. 
– ’empower’ the readers in the data community – I am interested in asking PASS community members to write downloadable free e-books in the same way that they produce webinars, like we see free books offered by Packt and RedGate. The books themselves would not have to be very long; chapter sized, even. I think that this could be an important tool we are missing when thinking about evangelising to the BA community for example, who might stumble across PASS ebooks on topics such as Excel and SSAS cubes, for example, or data visualisation. This would allow us opportunities to work with other disciplines, and would be an excellent ‘take away’ for promoting the Professional aspect of PASS. I do think that organisations would see books as a way of educating teams, and this may speak to companies and management too. Further, e-Books are translatable into local languages, and it is possible that there are volunteers who would enjoy the challenge of translating, for example. 

It’s late here in the UK so that’s all for now! I hope that putting down some thoughts has helped. 

Kind Regards, 


Here is more about me: 
Candidate Page: http://www.sqlpass.org/Elections/Ca…irrup.aspx 
My Election Summary site: http://jenstirrupforsqlfamily.wordpress.com/ 
Blog: http://www.jenstirrup.com

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