PASS Update #46 (What Should PASS Be?)

I’ve been wanting to write this for a while, and I haven’t because I felt that I just didn’t quite have all the pieces. I still don’t, but I think I have enough to start, and from there maybe we’ll all figure out the stuff that is missing.

I think for too long we’ve been the team without a good elevator pitch, the ability to explain in 30 seconds what we do and who we are. I think a lot of the problems we experience as we grow are a result of many different ideas about what PASS should be. I don’t have all the answers, or maybe any of them, but I know we need to find that shared vision.

Things I think PASS should do:

  • North American Summit
  • Summits in other countries (including getting national organizations formed)
  • SQLRally (in collaboration with a local chapter)
  • Speaker certification and training
  • Speaker bureau
  • Chapter tools, coaching, and assistance managing money
  • SQLSaturday tools, coaching, and assistance managing money
  • PASS branded shirts and misc
  • Publish the Connector (bi-weekly newsletter)
  • ‘Glue’ the community together by facilitating events (including Chapers and SQLSaturday) that help our members learn and our senior members grow (speakers, mentors)

Things I think PASS should not do:

  • Provide speakers to chapters (other than maybe some first year assistance)
  • Raise funds for chapters or SQLSaturday
  • Try to compete with existing sites when it comes to written content or discussion forms or job search
  • Provide direct benefits to members such as insurance, travel discounts, etc

Things that PASS might do:

  • Certification (a real bear to implement)
  • Code of Ethics
  • Mentoring match up

I think PASS is an organization much like The United Way.  We’re simply trying to do good, and a lot of that good is done by local organizations. When someone gets help from a local charity they don’t thank the people up in the big office, they thank the person that helped them. That’s the same (stretching a point maybe) as when someone attends a chapter meeting or a SQLSaturday. PASS doesn’t “get credit” for that work, and that’s ok, because we didn’t do the work. What we did was to provide the tools and coaching that might account for 5% of the total effort, but it’s the 5% that often is the difference between it happening and not happening.

So, if you read that last paragraph and my list, maybe you start to see where I’m going. There are some things that will just be best done by someone with an entrepreneurial spirit, someone that wants to do something and just burns to do it. Things that just wouldn’t scale any other way.

I think about chapter meetings, and I like to ask the question “why does the DBA in the back row join PASS?”. Too often we seem tongue tied because PASS doesn’t give out free shirts or insurance discounts or books or pay for all the speakers. I think it’s time to realize that PASS shouldn’t be expected to do that, and to say that PASS assists local events with tools, knowledge, and some back office support, and that in turn local events provide a lot of free training and networking. The DBA in the back row joins a chapter or attends a SQLSaturday and finds out that behind the scenes in a helping but not looking for credit kind of way is PASS.

Not a flashy answer is it? Maybe there should be more. Maybe not.

Are we doing as much as we should be, or doing it as well as we should be? No. Not yet. But we’re making progress. As a Board member and a long time PASS member I can tell you that we’ve improved a lot in the last few years. As a Board member and a long time PASS member I can tell you that we still have a lot to do, and a lot of thing we can do better. I see no paradox in that. I see our flaws, but I see progress too. Not all of it is visible, sometimes it’s a change in mindset that leads to changes that are visible.

Here’s my try at the elevator pitch:

The Professional Association of SQL Server helps it’s members to connect, learn, and share with fellow members of their profession by providing and facilitating learning and networking events throughout the world. We do that by providing tools, coaching, and lessons learned to local organizations that in turn reach out to our members. PASS is part of a community of communities that collectively seeks to enhance the skills and careers of those who work with SQL Server.

I hope you’ll think about what PASS should be. Comment here, or catch up with me or any of the Board members at the Summit or at a SQLSaturday, or drop them an email.

One thought on “PASS Update #46 (What Should PASS Be?)

  1. I know we’ve had this discussion after many OPASS meetings, but this is definitely something that needs to be defined and marketed.

    I don’t know how you can grow an organization without telling people what you are about and what your goals are. This is a problem I see not only at PASS, but at my office as well. You can’t get people excited and on board unless they know where you are taking them.


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