PASS Is Hiring Another Evangelist–Could It Be You?

Just about a year ago PASS hired Karla Landrum to fill the vacancy of the Community Evangelist and that marked in my view a sea change for the organization – it was the first time we had someone in that role that was passionate about community and was part of the community. Combining those two things can and does lead to magic. Whether you’re trying to get a chapter off the ground or a first time SQLSaturday, both benefit from a lot of coaching from someone who has walked the walk.

It’s been amazing to see what might seem like a small difference can make in PASS and how PASS is perceived, especially internationally. That success lead to a problem though, a good one – there is more to do than Karla has time to do. All that coaching, question answering, relationship building, and traveling takes time, a lot of it. I thought a year ago we would need a second one and we do – so now we need to hire another great person. I can’t think of a better investment PASS could make (and I’ll say now that in a year we’ll need a third person to do more internationally).

Are you the right person? I’m hoping as you read this that you won’t automatically say no, that you’ll stop and think about it. Do you burn with passion about our particular community? Do you bring some interesting skills and attributes with you that would help PASS grow the community further, faster, deeper? Certainly look at Karla as the model for the position and the type of work, but there is only one Karla – how would you do it? Don’t make the mistake of thinking someone else is better than you are. If you’re interested,apply!

Maybe it’s not your thing,or you’re not ready to move. If so, that’s ok. There is still a way you can help. Go right now and browse your contacts in LinkedIn. Think about those people, is there one there that has the talent, the potential? If so, drop them a note with the link, tell them to consider applying. Let’s get the best person we can find, one that will double what PASS can do at the grassroots level, maybe even someone that will challenge Karla to step up her game!

Why You Should Speak at SQLSaturday (Or Any Other Free Event)

I talk to people about career planning and professional development quite a bit. It’s common to find them wanting to grow, but unsure of how, and more unsure of what is worthwhile. One of the things I recommend most often is to give a presentation at one of the community events. It grows a whole array of skills, it’s approachable, and it’s something you can do once and decide if you like it (nice compared to blogging for example) and you get instant feedback (audience interaction plus evaluations).

I’ve found myself explaining that “array of skills” more than once (and probably missing some each time), so I’m writing it down so I can point to it:

  • Finding a topic you know something about and learning to share that with others effectively (and finding out that doing that isn’t always easy)
  • Practice at public speaking
  • A chance to network and build your networking skills
  • Learning to build a PowerPoint (or whatever) deck
  • You get to become “one of them”, the speakers that is, a whole new set of peers
  • It’s a very nice bullet for the resume or interview discussion, or for the annual review! (Think any of your peers are doing this?)
  • It will probably have you ordering business cards (for the networking)
  • It will make you think about your social media presence – maybe LinkedIn isn’t enough (and that is current, right?)
  • You’ll be a volunteer to help others grow. Giving back is good karma.
  • You will, maybe for the first time, be helping to grow the craft you’ve chosen

Will it be hard and stressful? Sure. How much matters on who you are and how hard you’re willing to work,but it will be stressful. Is that bad? You want to grow,right? Growth takes sweat and a bit of risk.

You’ll be proud of doing this. You’ll be telling everyone at work that you’re doing it, you’ll be twisting arms to get them to go, and you’ll be telling them afterward all the stuff you learned that they missed out on. I think you might be surprised by how big a step forward this can be for you.

I truly think everyone can do this, but to be fair not everyone is ready today, and some will need coaching. Not being ready is ok.  Figuring out how to get ready – that’s part of the growing.

Tampa IT Pro Camp Coming on September 22,2012

The Tampa IT Pro Camp will be held September 22 at New Horizons in Tampa (different location than last time). It’s the weekend before SQLSaturday Orlando, so I’m just going down for the day (and breaking my no back to back weekend rule for the first time this year). I submitted two presentations, one about SQL Security that targets the non-DBA crowd, and this one, which will be it’s first run:

Career Development – What Should You Learn Next?

Before you can write a professional development plan you have to decide where you”re going. Do you want to be 10% better at what you do now? Make 10% more money? Both! Or prepare for the next job, and what should that job be? These are HARD things to figure out and until you do, your development plan isn”t going to be focused. Come to this presentation to hear ideas on the questions you should be asking, where to look for role models and mentors, some thoughts on whether (and when) you should consider going into management, and how to take an entrepreneurial approach to your own career.

I’m really writing that one for me – I need that road map as much as anyone, maybe more!

Fortune Cookie Marketing

I took a break from work today to look in on an informal event a friend was hosting at his office. It was designed to get his team closer to his customers within the business, do some on site immediate assistance, and in general try to make sure they knew the team was there when needed. A pretty good idea all in all. I went as a show of support, but also to observe, never know when you’ll see an idea worth borrowing, and that was definitely true today.

One of the many small items they had to hand out were fortune cookies. I took one without thinking about it, opened it up while he went on to spend time with “real” customers, and I was surprised and pleased to see that the fortune was a message from his team! Turns out that fortune cookies with a custom message aren’t all that expensive. I did a quick search, can get 500 of them for $62 at MyLuckyFortune (and there are similar sites).

I’ll find a use for this idea soon!

Should We Customize the SQLSaturday Hashtag on Twitter?

The question was posed on Twitter recently (or perhaps more along the lines of “why can’t we”), suggesting that our current/default hashtags of something like #sqlsat151 might be more useful and more marketing friendly as #sqlsatorl or #sqlsatorlando. I thought I’d share some thoughts in longer form than Twitter allows, keeping in mind that Kendal Van Dyke is the decider these days as the owner of the SQLSaturday portfolio for PASS.

Back in the early days of SQLSaturday I tried to set repeatable and useful patterns, and of those one of the best ideas (not mine) was to include the event number in the event title to show velocity. Incredibly effective in my view, and so it was soon incorporated into all things SQLSaturday, including the Twitter hashtag. I’m sharing that so you can see the mindset, which was data driven and velocity focused, not necessarily usefulness driven. In my own defense I think I did put the tag in a column so it could be modified if needed!

The pattern is important, but is it always important? I think numbering on the site is important, using the SQLSaturday site is important, but when I get to the hashtag, I think it’s less important and one of those places where an initial default doesn’t mean it was or is a good pattern. My thought is that as long as we stick to the #sqlsat prefix,adding text instead of the number is an easy win. Maybe some events will go with the number suffix,maybe some will use the city or airport code, and I can definitely see where it would make sense to use the state or country name for locales that only have one SQLSaturday each year.  Potentially we could even do multiple tags; “#sqlsatflorida #sqlsatorlando”.

Things could go wrong. Maybe cities with the same name. Or multiple events in a state and one wants to use #sqlsatstatename. I think we can figure those out if or when they happen, not sure we need any rules, just commonsense. Not sure this is a good idea? Try it for a few events and see. Think about how to measure success so you can come to a final decision.

At the risk of aggravating all involved, I’ve got a couple thoughts on the Twitter discussion:

  • Twitter isn’t the easiest place to communicate, sometimes email or a call will get things to a conclusion faster and better
  • It’s hard to know what things are ok and what aren’t – when do you break with tradition?
  • Usually not everyone agrees, so the key is to make sure both (all) sides are heard and understood

In the end I come down on the side of being in favor of experimenting and taking measured risks, combined with as few rules as possible. Lots of gray in there, and hard to know, so try things and see.

Presentations That Exceed The Allotted Time

Back in February I did a presentation for MagicPASS that ran long, maybe 30 minutes over the time allotted. It annoyed me to be so far off, but overall the group seemed ok with continuing and so we did. I thought about it some then, but it wasn’t until I saw someone else do it recently that I came back to close the loop.

Why do presentations run long? I think its one or more of these:

  • Lack of practice to get a good timing (and in turn trimming material as needed to get within the limit)
  • Being tired. Easy to spend too much time on a slide or too much time answering questions when you’re tired.
  • Demos gone bad
  • Being enthusiastic. Especially when you get a crowd that is engaged, it’s easy to add value and run long.
  • The option to run long. At all day events you can’t be more than about 5 minutes over or the next presentation is going to be delayed, so you stop whether done or not!
  • Too much material (which is really a variation of lack of practice)

Back in February I think I had all of those except the bad demo. I had done a practice run, but one wasn’t enough. Here’s the question that matters – is that a fail?

I’m not sure it is.

If you think about it an in-person presentation at a chapter meeting is just about the only place where you can run long. They have smaller audiences. It’s the ideal environment to test out new material with a real audience (because while using your spouse as an audience is good for practice, it’s not quite the same).  Chapters are where we should practice and perfect. I’m not saying we shouldn’t practice and try to get it right on the first try – we should. It’s just not always realistic.

Which brings me to the other side of the coin. What can we do to help a speaker that is off the timeline? Particularly in a chapter environment I think the leader/moderator can really add value:

  • Call out the 5 minute warning. That’s late if they still have 30 slides left, but it is a cue to the speaker to speed up or cut material. If they are alert but behind they may be able to say right then that they are way behind and will either run long or cut material.
  • At 5 minutes over interrupt as soon as you politely can. Engage the speaker and the group along the lines of “we’re running quite a bit long” and then:
    • Stop the presentation and go to the next item, note that the deck will be available online, maybe even invite the speaker back to do “part 2”
    • Take a 5 minute break, indicate those that need to leave can,then resume. If you vote,I still think you take a break – let the speaker assess how to continue.

If the leader sets those rules with the speaker up front, it’s a safety net for everyone, and the leader remains in control. I don’t know how often it happens, is it worth baking this approach into the culture?

Back to the speaker side, it’s not fun to run long for any reason, and especially on the first run you’re tired because you’re doing new material. Trying to go another 30 minutes is more tiring. Worth thinking that through ahead of time so that if (when!) you fall behind and the leader stops you to make a decision you can really assess if it makes sense to continue. Do you have the energy left? Is it really only another 5 minutes?

Chapters are where we build speakers and that means it won’t always go smoothly. Think about ways you can help them be successful, regardless of experience level.

Stacia Misner and Kevin Kline Doing All Day Sessions for SQLSaturday #151

If there is anything better than a SQLSaturday it’s a SQLSaturday with a choice of great pre-con speakers. This year we’re pleased to have Stacia Misner and Kevin Kline presenting all day sessions on Friday September 28th. Spend the day with either of them for $99. Ask the boss, even beg, and if they say no, spend your own money – you won’t get a better value in training.

Notes from the July 2012 MagicPASS Meeting

Quick notes from the MagicPASS meeting:

  • Kendal Van Dyke still the king when it comes to explaining what’s going on with community, SQL, and even Windows 8 (if only he still blogged!)
  • Dinner was macaroni and cheese with ham, salad, and chocolate cookies. No same old pizza here!
  • Jose Chincilla (@SQLJoe) presented PowerPivot + Power View = Self Service BI Revolution.
    • Thought he did a good job of talking about why self service is happening and needed, and can’t be avoided for the long term
    • Technology is definitely better and playing to business users
    • For all that, not sure it’s easy enough, yet. Powerful, sure, but is it approachable? Hard to be both.
    • Jose does great graphics, have to see the one in his deck about how problems flow downhill
  • Jose is also heading up SQLSaturday #168 in Tampa, #168, with pre-cons by Jose and Mark Tabladillo.
  • Closed out with a quick raffle and a free copy of the Windows 2012 book from MS for everyone.

Good stuff, good meeting, I think the only thing that might make it better is some directed networking. Good conversations during the dinner break, but it’s tables for four. Might be nice to do a round robin hand shake/introductions (though to be fair, it’s a small crowd).