I think our profession was the better for having a professional association, even if it never quite did as much as I wanted it to. I put a lot of time into PASS over the years and don’t regret a bit of it. PASS helped me grow and maybe I helped PASS grow some too. I’ll miss going to the Summit, a trip I’ve made almost every year going back to 2002. I’m glad that the end of PASS doesn’t mean the end of our community and it may even grow stronger from the change. The wait and see question is the future of SQLSaturday, but I’m feeling confident that we can find a way for that to continue.
So why did PASS fail? The easy answer is Covid. From the time Covid started PASS was in a very high risk position due to a combination of only having one major revenue stream (which isn’t necessarily a mistake on it’s own), insufficient reserves, and high operating costs. I thought moving to a virtual Summit was the best of a small set of options, the only other likely one being to hunker down and hope to survive until Summit 2021 (realistically, Summit 2022). In hindsight, the only chance of survival would have been to tap their line of credit and immediately let go most of the staff (a really, really tough decision to make, both in terms of the people involved and the impact to getting back to normal at some point). If there is a lesson in this, it’s that reserves matter a lot. The net is that Covid happened and a lot of good businesses failed. PASS was one of them.
As I’ve thought about it and read a lot of comments about PASS closing, the part that struck me the most was that PASS had gradually spent a lot of the good will that it had, or should have had. It’s hard to point to any one thing, but PASS was perceived more and more as not being aligned with the goals of the community. There were plenty of voices speaking out over the years and it wouldn’t be fair to say they were never heard, but the misalignment and discontent remained, fair or not. Not only does that matter to the people PASS was serving, I suspect it was a deciding factor in not being able to obtain bridge funding from any of our sponsor partners.
We don’t yet know what will grow to replace PASS, if anything. It’s going to be a tougher sell to build anything that seems to replace it, for a lot of reasons (insert your list here). To me, that is a good thing – it should have a clear value to those it aims to serve. If they don’t see the value, it probably won’t work. If people can band together and provide real value, then the other piece to get right is transparency. Governance matters, but transparency is how you earn and maintain trust.