Monday, August 23, 2010

Last Place? Doesn’t Matter.

As the debate rages on about the PASS election I want to share my thoughts about being a candidate that was eliminated and the fact that scores were released to the public.

First I want to thank everyone who has supported me both publicly and privately throughout the election process.  I had support and advice from many members of the community and it is appreciated and I hope to continue working with you.

This year’s election process is the first where the applicants’ scores and applications have been released to the public which I believe is the right thing to do.  Here are the links to the scores:

Honestly, it stinks to see my scores at or near the bottom.  Obviously being one of two interviewees to not be recommended, I knew I didn’t have high scores or a bunch of votes, but it would have been nice to have had a yes vote.  In the not too distant past, I would have been crushed by these results, but today I can say that I see this as an opportunity for professional growth.  These scores are guidance by seven intelligent and experienced professionals about areas where I can become a better leader.  How many people can say that they have that opportunity?

I’m a Bible believing Christian and try to live by the wisdom in the Bible.  Here are a couple of verses I read BEFORE the results were known:

“If you listen to constructive criticism, you will be at home among the wise.”  Proverbs 15:31 NLT

“Valid criticism is as treasured by the one who heeds it as jewelry made from finest gold”  Proverbs 25:12 NLT

I think the scoring can be used constructively and is valid and I’d like to “at home among the wise” so I’m listening and trying to heed it.

So, in accordance with this attitude, I have reached out to members of the NomCom for advice about what I can do to improve my scores and make it through the next time (if there is one).  If you are a member of the NomCom and I did not contact you, feel free to contact me if you have anything you’d like to tell me.

When I consider who the other applicants were, I feel a bit like an Olympic athlete who trains hard and wants to win, but also realizes that it is an honor to be a part of the Olympics.  Two years ago, no one knew who I was and I had no desire to be a leader.  Now I’m disappointed because I didn’t make the cut to have a chance to be in a formal leadership position.  Fortunately as Seth Godin said in Tribes, (paraphrased by me) leadership isn’t about position, it’s about passion.  I didn’t get the position this year, but I still have the passion.  So I won’t be retreating, I’ll be advancing. 

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Didn’t Make the Cut

So the slate has been announced, so now I feel like I can talk about not making the cut.  Based on the interview scores, bottom of this page, I clearly blew the interview.  I also want to clarify that I knew I hadn't made the cut when I posted, Reaction to Steve Jones Missing the Cut. I wanted to wait until PASS had made the announcement before commenting on my missing the cut, but I couldn't wait to make comments on Steve's situation.

I received my notification email this morning that the Nominating Committee did not recommend me to the PASS Board for inclusion on the slate of candidates presented to voting members.  Unlike my friend Steve Jones (his reaction), I was not really surprised by the decision.  Not because I don’t think I’m capable, but because the expectations about what makes an “ideal board member”.  I’ve always been a technologist and not a manager so I do lack some of the experience that you’d get in a management position.  Having said that, here’s the relevant part of the letter:
While your history as a volunteer within the organization has been relatively short, you have been in it "all they way."  Your commitment, enthusiasm and efforts are recognized within the organization.
Do not be disheartened, it is not unusual for someone to work through this process several times, before success. Let me re-assure you that you are definitely going down the right path, and seem to be doing all the right things to take increasingly responsible roles within this organization. Continue to volunteer, learn and work within PASS to develop your leadership skills. I look forward to speaking with you next year.
On behalf of the Nominations Committee, we thank you for your service to the organization, truly appreciate your volunteer spirit, and look forward to your continued involvement with the PASS organization over the next year.
At first glance I read the letter as saying you need more experience, but as I thought more about it, I was left wondering why I didn’t get recommended, instead of knowing what I need to do to get recommended next time.  I’m probably right that more experience is what’s needed, but how much is enough?  What areas was I weakest?  That’s what a rejected candidate needs to know.

I think the 5 that made the cut are strong candidates.  Mark Ginnebaugh is the only one I don’t know much about so he’s who I’ll spend most of my time learning about before I vote. 

I want to thank everyone who supported my candidacy and encouraged me to make the attempt.  It has been a great learning experience. 

Will I do it again?  I can’t say, but nothing that happened to me in the process has turned me off from doing it again.

Reaction to Steve Jones Missing the Cut

If you read this blog I’m sure you read Steve Jones’ blog as well, so you know that the PASS Nominating Committee did not recommend that he be included on the slate for consideration by eligible voters.  You also know that this has caused a bit of a stir in the community, both in comments to his post, and on twitter.  I mean, Steve not making the cut to a community vote seems as unlikely as Tiger Woods missing the cut in a major championship.

Honestly, I’m shocked Steve didn’t make it as I think he has clearly shown that he is one of the forward thinkers and thought leaders in the SQL Server Community.  In my opinion, this is exactly what PASS needs.  In his career he has been involved in starting SQLServerCentral, probably the largest community of SQL Server professionals; the SQL Server Standard magazine which was given to PASS, scrapped, restarted, & scrapped again; and SQLSaturday which has also been given to PASS.  Of those three things, to my knowledge only SQLServerCentral has ever made him any money.  SQLSaturday, started by Steve with his partners Andy Warren and Brian Knight, actually probably cost him money.  Each of these things has had an impact on the community, and I’d argue that SQLServerCentral and SQLSaturday have had a greater impact than PASS.  As a matter of fact I’ve been a member of SQLServerCentral much longer than I’ve been a member of PASS and have gotten more value from it than PASS.  Actually this is one of the reasons I chose to run for the board, to try to be a part of making it more relevant to every day SQL Server Professionals.

Steve has not only shown vision, but the willingness to take risks to see his vision become reality.  This is what we need on the PASS board, people with vision and the fortitude to take calculated risks to see the vision happen.

This is not a post to criticize the Nominating Committee for not recommending Steve, more of an indictment of a process that removes someone who has shown a passion, vision, and commitment to the community that few can rival.  The Nominating Committee was provided with guidelines and voted based on those guidelines.  I applaud them for making a decision that they knew would be unpopular (see Stuart Ainsworth’s post), I call that leadership.  The easy way out would have been to push Steve through, but they chose to take the criticism that they knew they would receive.

What would I like to see?  First, even as I write this the official announcement hasn’t been made, so let’s get that our right after notifying the candidates and post the interview scores and the reason why candidates where not recommended.  As a candidate I don’t have a problem with that.  Second, I think we need to re-evaluate the process and requirements.  I understand that there need to be some minimum standards, but if your application is good enough, you should really have blow the interview to not make the slate.  It’s not like there are hundreds of people running, there were 9 applications for 3 spots, I’d like to think that professionals will be able to sort through and pick the best candidates.

Now the question is, how are we, as a community going to react?  Do you withdraw from interaction with PASS?  Jump off the bandwagon, or do you use your vote in the election to elect people who want to change the process?  Do you make that a litmus test for the one who made the slate?  Along with transparency and the location of the Summit.  I know that these are issues I care about and that I will vote on.  I encourage you to communicate with the folks on the slate and ask them these questions and others.  If you want to criticize the process do what YOU can do to change it.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Growing PASS Step Two: Value

In Growing PASS Step One: Communication I talked about how I think that PASS could grow by communicating the vision and goals of the organization clearly and in a place that is easy to find.  This post continues on the theme of communication by adding value. 

As a local chapter leader I do everything I can to “sell” PASS to my members, but what am I really selling?  Here is what PASS offers right now:

  1. The PASS Summit – this is, in my opinion, THE best SQL Server conference in the world.  Yet, out of the membership in my local chapter three of us went to the 2009 Summit.  One of the three is a member of the PASS Board of Directors so he had to go, the other was a speaker, and I was the third, a chapter leader, and this was my first Summit.  I loved the Summit, I’m going back and, if I ever change jobs, negotiating the Summit as part of my employment contract.  Yet, even with all the love Andy Warren, Kendal Van Dyke, and I show for the Summit, we can’t get our group excited about it.
  2. Local Chapters – I’ve had this discussion a few times, but really, wouldn’t there still be local user groups without PASS?  PASS does offer some minimal sponsorship and some resources, but I OPASS would continue if PASS didn’t exist.
  3. Virtual Chapters – I think these are GREAT, but there are other options for online training (see my post, No Training Budget, No Excuse, for just a few).
  4. SQLSaturday – PASS acquired this asset recently and that means it was started by someone else which means another similar option could come up at any time.
  5. SQLRally – a new, less-expensive, regional PASS sponsored event, the first one will be held May 11-13 in Orlando, FL, that is being planned to bridge the gap between SQLSaturday and the Summit and provide another link the “farm system” of PASS.  I’m a bit biased as one of the SQLRally planners, but I think this event is a great idea for PASS, in its current form.
  6. PASS web site – there is some good content in the form of top 10 lists and articles, but, in all honesty, SQLServerCentral and MSSQLTIPS do it better.

When you look at this list, you think (well, at least I do), “PASS offers a lot of stuff!”, but why isn’t affecting the day to day lives of the average SQL Server professional?  Here’s what I think?  Everything on that list, can be gotten elsewhere as well and I mentioned some other options.  What CAN PASS offer that professionals can’t get elsewhere?

  1. Professional Development Standards – many professions require continuing education to maintain a certification or to show professional growth for example, health professionals and teachers.  While PASS is not a regulatory body, I think it should offer some type of recommended standards that a person can point to a say, “Here’s what my professional association says I need to do stay current and here’s what I’ve done”.
  2. Certification – something between the Microsoft MCTS and MCITP certifications (in my opinion these are best used as study guides) and the MCM (not realistic for most professionals).  This really goes along with #1 and adds to it.  PASS also needs to marker this certification to businesses so that hiring managers can see the value of this certification.  For the current MCITP certifications I hear as much bad said about them as good.
  3. Support for chapters.  I’d love to see more focus on providing support for chapters in handling funds, better tools, and guidance in getting setup and recruiting volunteers.  I think PASS has really done some work here in the last year, since Douglas McDowell has had the chapter portfolio, but there is a lot left to be done.  It may be that I have not used the resources available, but I know other chapter leaders have said the same thing.
  4. Focused Training for non-Techinical topics – I’d love to see an effort to put together some curriculum’s for specific non-technical topics.  For example, Kevin Kline’s series of articles on Leadership would be a great place to start.  We get lots of technical training, but soft skills are becoming more and more important for technologists to have.  Almost every job posting I see talks about communication skill, both written and verbal.

These are some areas where I think PASS could and should lead the way.  I have seen progress in some of these areas, but there could be more done.

What are your thoughts?  What could PASS do that you would find value in?

Thursday, August 12, 2010

PASS Nominating Committee Interview

As my regular readers know I applied to be part of the PASS Board of Directors.  The process starts with a written application which is evaluated by the Nominating Committee, you can see this years average scores here.  I was fortunate enough to make it through this first step to the interview process.

The interview takes place over the phone with as many of the Nominating Committee members who can make it.  In my case there were 2 members of the committee who couldn’t make it.  I thought the actual process for the interview was well-done.  One member of the committee went through the standard questions and, then, after I had answered the floor was opened up for follow-up questions.  I was prepared for questions about my vision for PASS and what I wanted to accomplish as part of the board, and while some of those questions were asked, there were more questions about how I handled situations in the past, like:  Tell us about a time when you persuaded someone to come to your point of view.  I was not as well-prepared for those types of questions. 

The hardest part of the interview was that is was on the phone.  I have no idea how I did.  I thrive on interaction and reading body language and you can’t do that on the phone.  It’s not that I would have changed my answers, but I might have extended some or shortened some based on those visual cues that are missing on the phone.  It was very much like presenting remotely, there isn’t much feedback to see how you are being received.

I’m hopeful that I will make the final cut so that the community can have the opportunity to vote for (or against) me.

The announcement is scheduled for August 18th.  It feels like a long way to wait. 

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

August OPASS Meeting Tonight

August 10, 6:00pm - 8:30pm

Come on out and join us as our own Tim McAliley presents.  For directions visit the OPASS web site.

Live Meeting:

Topic: VS2010 Team Foundation Server for the DBA

Description:  The session will cover an overview of VS2010 TFS features along with specific tools and techiquees to manage database servers and databases.


Overview of VS2010 Features

Compatibility Tips- TFS 2010 and SQL 2008 Projects

TFS Source Control

TFS Database Server Management

TFS Database Management

Schema Compare

Data Compare


Code Analysis

Best Practices

Sources for More Information

Q&A /Closing

Speaker: Tim McAliley

Tim is a Database Administrator on a Business Intelligence Team at Symantec (, (SYMC)). His particular interests are IT operations, information security, project management, and database/application tier high availability solutions. Timothy is a PMP, a CISA, a CISM, a CISSP, and is ITIL V3 Foundations certified. Timothy also holds MCTS, MCITP certifications on Windows Server 2008 and SQL Server 2005/2008.

Contact URL:

Twitter: @sysframeworks



Thursday, August 5, 2010

SQLSaturday #49 – Orlando Update

Planning is going forward for SQLSaturday #49 – Orlando and the event is coming together well.  My main task is sponsors and I have to admit this is not an easy task.  I’m still trying to figure out what is the right frequency of contact.  I don’t want to contact too often and become an annoyance, but I want to contact potential sponsors enough to keep the event on their mind.  We do have several sponsors signed up, but as most of you know, we can always use more to make the event bigger and better.

The schedule is up and is another GREAT schedule.  I believe we have 10 MVP’s on the schedule and several speakers who will be speaking at the 2010 PASS SUMMIT schedule including some who have received spotlight sessions.

We’ve cracked 100 registrations but in order to get to our goal of 300 attendees we need 400+ registrations.  This means it is time to start the marketing push.  I’m going to try a few new things this year, like getting on newspaper event calendars, but I’m not sure what the right method is.  I’m open to suggestions.

Our August OPASS meeting is next week and we’ll spend some time talking about SQLSaturday, get input from the attendees, and solicit help getting the word out.

Monday, August 2, 2010

SQLSaturday #40 – South Florida Recap

I had the great privilege to be able to attend and speak at SQLSaturday #40 – South Florida this past weekend (July 31, 2010).  Kudos to Scott Klein and crew for another GREAT SQLSaturday event.  They had close to 600 people register, and based on past experience that means that there should have been 400+ attendees.  There was a great lineup of speakers and everyone I spoke with at the event had a great time.

The speaker dinner was at Longhorn Steakhouse and there was a great turnout as almost all the speakers made it to the party.  I spent most of my time talking with Tim Ford, Adam Jorgensen, Troy Gallant, and Don Gabor, as they were the folks sitting closest to me.  It was a little tough to move around, but overall a good experience.  My one comment to future SQLSaturday planners is to try to get a private room, if you can afford it.  It can be tough on the wait staff, attendees, and other customers if you aren’t in a private area.

I arrived at the event just after 8 am and check-in was running very smoothly, in fact one of the smoother check-ins I’ve been through.  The only problem was that I didn’t know where to go after check-in, no one told me and there were no signs.  They had Brent Ozar and Tim Ford do a keynote to start the day, which I missed, but heard it was good.  The space for the keynote was a little tight, and apparently the AC wasn’t scheduled to kick on until 9.  In South Florida in July, AC is not a luxury, it is a necessity.

I spent the first session in the sponsor area, talking with sponsors.  Sure, I had a ulterior motive, I want them all to sponsor SQLSaturday #49 – Orlando, but it is still good to thank them for their support and learn about their products/services.  I did have an interesting discussion with one sponsor who told me that they only go to events where they can get the electronic attendee list, something we normally don’t offer in Orlando.  I understand where the sponsor is coming from because in addition to the sponsorship cost they also pay to have people attend the event.  With privacy laws being what they are, it can be hard for events to share that information, and, as part of the registration process now, attendees MUST opt-in to allow direct contact from the sponsors.  I haven’t seen the numbers on how many attendees opt-in (I’d guess very few), so I’d hate to offer the list to a sponsor and only have 10 names on it.  I don’t think that would be good for the sponsor relationship.

The second session, I attended Brent Ozar’s Blitz: 60 Minute SQL Server Takeover session.  This was a good session, totally using code examples, no PowerPoint, where Brent shares what he does when taking over administration of a SQL Server.  Some highlights for me were:

  1. Checking for stored procedures marked as startup.  He even mentioned that some monitoring products (unnamed) create startup procedures and the uninstall does not remove them.
  2. Checking recovery models and making sure that DB’s in FULL have log backups happening.
  3. Cleaning up msdb, especially the backup history.  I’ve been burned by this one.

This was a very good session and be sure to check Brent’s website ( for the scripts.

The third session and last one I attended was by Dave Levy and was titled, Getting Out from Behind the Curtain - The New DBA.  In this session Dave covered what the perceptions are of a DBA and how to change them.  He did a great job covering areas where DBA’s can stop just being a person that “keeps the lights on”, but can demonstrate their value to the company.  A big part of the session was staying on top of the industry by continuously learning and then working on your soft skills (leadership, communication, and documentation).  Sessions like this should be required for DBA’s, especially in today’s economic climate.  If you aren’t communicating the value you provide, then why shouldn’t your work be outsourced, if it is only “keeping the lights on”?

Lunch went fairly well, with boxed lunches from Firehouse Subs.  IT seemed like lunch went pretty smoothly with seating in the Commons area (where the sponsors were setup) and outside.  I saw lots of talking going on during lunch and didn’t really notice anyone eating alone.

After lunch I relaxed and mentally prepared for my session.  Some of that preparation was just talking with other speakers and event organizers about how the day was going and experiences with sponsors.  I like to be sure I’m relaxed and I don’t really like to go over my presentation that day, I like to think I’ve prepared well enough ahead of time for the presentation to go well.  My session was in the 3:20 block, the last block of the day.  For some reason that seems to be the default for me, and I’m not sure if it is a compliment (you can keep tired attendees awake) or not.  Either way it is always fun to present no matter what slot you are in or the number of attendees in the session.  My session was titled, Don’t Be Trigger Happy: Safe Use of Triggers.  Not a great name, and after this event and being on the PASS Summit 2010 Program Committee, I’ve decided to no longer try to be creative with my names.  I’m going to stick with simple, descriptive names and try to have a really good abstract.  I had about 15 attendees in the session and I thought it went really well, especially for a first-time presentation.  I was able to cover all my material and answer all the questions in the time allotted (about 2 minutes over).  All my demos worked, excepted for the blank SQL script, but, fortunately, I could handle that one live.  I was able to cover basic DDL triggers with a couple of basic examples and the basics of DML triggers with examples as well.  I also covered the basic do’s and don’ts of DML triggers.  Things like:

  1. Do be set-based.  Triggers work on sets, not individual rows.
  2. Don’t rely on outside resources in a trigger, liked linked servers or xp_cmdshell.
  3. Do remember that triggers are part of a transaction and an error or rollback in the trigger rolls back the entire transaction.

I also covered some other options you have in SQL Server other than triggers.  I didn’t go into detail, but just covered technologies you should look into.

I felt like the attendees were engaged in the session and had specific things that they could take back to the office and implement.

The raffle at the end of the day seemed crazy!  There was a ton of SWAG to give away and it seemed like almost everyone took something home.  In reality, I really like the way Atlanta gave away the books and smaller SWAG, by giving each presenter a few books to give away in their session to people who turned in session evaluations.  This meant that the end of the day raffle was focused on the “Big” items like the XBOX, iPod, iPad, and software licenses.  The raffle is always exciting though.

I chose to make the long drive home immediately after the event, which is always a tough decision for me to make because I love going to the After Party to continue to meet people and to get to know people I’ve already met better.  At this event I met several “new” people from Twitter, like Dave Levy (@dave_levy), Karen Lopez (@datachick), Noel McKinney (@NoelMcKinney), and others I didn’t follow on twitter, like Sam Abraham (@wildturtle21) and Elliot Lipson (@BigE54).

As I said, overall it was a great event.  Here are some thing I learned from it:

  1. You can’t have too many signs.  This was one area I thought the event fell short.  I didn’t see any signs.  I had to ask where the sessions were because they were on the second floor, but there were no signs to tell me that.
  2. Make sure you have the event rooms on the schedule along with the track names.  There was a schedule with track names and a map with the room numbers and track names, but the rooms being used for the event didn’t stand out.  Again, I had to ask where the rooms were.
  3. Offer value to sponsors.  They were able to get some Platinum sponsors by offering a table in the sponsor area AND a table in one event room with one minute at the start of each session to introduce themselves.  This was a very creative way to offer more value to the sponsors AND get some more sponsor dollars to make the event better.

Again, kudos to Scott Klein and crew for a great event and I hope I can make it down for next year’s event as well.