Sometime soon we’ll start the process of the 2010 PASS election, with three seats on the Board of Directors being on the ballot. Before we get to the details of the election, I thought I’d look back at my 16 months on the Board so far and share some thoughts on what I’ve learned from the experience, good and bad. If you’re thinking about running please remember that I’m looking at this from my perspective with all the biases that includes.
- Time is the biggest issue. In person meetings (2-3/year) take 3-4 days depending on location. We do a one hour call once a month during the day. Plus, there are emails to read and reply to that are general business, plus additional time on whatever projects you work on. You can’t just stick to your own projects, other board members need your feedback on their stuff too. Assume that you will need to average five hours per week to keep up and get anything done.
- Getting stuff done is hard. Volunteers (in general) do best on short term, do it and done projects. HQ has limited time and resources that must be used wisely. Lots of good ideas out there, not all merit doing.
- Challenging the status quo is tiring. I’ve been fighting for transparency for a long time, and it hasn’t been an easy process. You can’t fight all the fights. Pick the ones that matter (to you).
- Transparency is a win. It’s hard sometimes, but it’s absolutely worth it. It’s a sanity check, a way to involve the community, and a way to show that you’re doing something. Go in committed to sharing anything you work on that isn’t classified!
- Governance matters. As a board member you have a real responsibility to see that the organization lives by it’s rules, and to help those rules evolve as needed. This is often hard, unpleasant stuff – but it matters a lot.
- You get to work with a lot of smart people. What’s more, they have a lot of different approaches to work and life. Some of the best payback you’ll get for your time is sitting with a few board members to just work on an idea or two.
- The Role of the Board is evolving. Right now we’re still highly involved in daily stuff, but that is starting to shift, and I hope (!) that in another 2 years we have a board that focuses on governance and strategy, and takes on a few special projects each year. Don’t count on that, just understand that there is real change in progress with the outcome as yet unknown.
- Business experience matters, as does community experience. It doesn’t matter how great you are as a DBA, that won’t help you succeed on the Board. You’re going to be voting on a $2 million + budget, and in a lot of cases – just as in a real business – you aren’t going to have all the answers up front.
Should you run? Ask yourself:
- Can I commit to the time for the full two years?
- Am I ready to jump in on Day 1 and run with the big dogs?
- Can I take public criticism in a good natured way and move on?
- Have I built up credibility with the SQL community? Do they know who I am and why I’m running?
- What do I want to get out of it?
- Do I have experience with budgets, managing, delegating?
If you’re serious about being a candidate I’d suggest talking to a few board members, present or past. Let them share their experience, and put you to the test – do they see you as credible? It’s absolutely time to start the process if you want to run this year.