Questionable administrative decisions (I’m looking at you, PASS)

It’s not often that I will call out by name a specific organization for what I deem to be questionable decision-making.  But today, I am making an exception.

Recently, the Professional Association of SQL Server (PASS — the organization that administers SQL Saturday) made a very questionable administrative decision.  In order to submit presentations to SQL Saturday events, all submitters must first register for the event.  Previously, if a speaker’s presentation is accepted for a conference, he or she was automatically registered for the event.

This decision has resulted in an outcry from people affiliated with PASS and SQL Saturday.

I’ll start with an open letter written by my friend, Steve Jones.  (Steve, by the way, is one of the people who first organized SQL Saturday several years ago.)

Tamera Clark, who administers the SQL Saturday Facebook group, also posted the following.

If you haven’t seen the “news” Pass made a huge change to the SQLSaturday sites that impacts both organizers and speakers. There has been no general announcement only to “current” event organizers.

If an event is open and their schedule is not published yet and you have submitted, speakers must REGISTER FOR THE EVENT as an attendee. Organizers can’t approve sessions until you are registered as an attendee.

As a speaker in order to submit to an event, you must register first and are prompted to do so.

*Yes this means organizers will need to contact speakers to get them to register.

*Yes this means you must register for an event and if you are considerate go back and unregister if you don’t get selected or can no longer attend.

*I’ve been told this does not register you 2x for the event.

Things I don’t know:

*What happens to the lunch status if a speaker is selected. Does it update to “compt by event”?

*As a speaker if I change my mind before the event(prior to the schedule being made) and just cancel my registration what happens?

*As a speaker if I change my mind during the process of a schedule being made (ie. session approved but not on schedule) and I cancel my registration what happens?

*As a speaker if I change my mind and the schedule is published what happens when I cancel my registration.

For organizers it looks like we might have gone back in time, now you don’t know if speakers are still attending when not selected. Inflating numbers and causing wait list issues for some.

Finally, I wrote an email to PASS, and I wanted to share it here.

To whom it may concern:

I am writing to strongly object to and to voice my extreme displeasure at PASS’s new policy about requiring speakers to register to an event in order to submit presentations.

This is an extra step that is wholly unnecessary, inconvenient, and detrimental.  All SQL Saturday speakers are volunteers.  The process for allowing speakers to submit should be made easier, not harder.  I have written ‘blog articles, and I have a SQL Saturday presentation, that encourages potential speakers to volunteer to this otherwise-noble event.  Requiring speakers to first register complicates the submission process, and may actually DISCOURAGE, not encourage, new speakers to sign up.

Additionally, if I register, and I am not selected to speak at an event, I will need to take the extra step of canceling my registration.  Number one, that adds to the inconvenience and complication.  Number two, if I should not remember to cancel (as is human nature), that is one more spot that I am denying a potential attendee who is on the waiting list.

I heard that this new policy is to enforce the terms and agreements for SQL Saturday.  This is not an acceptable solution.  If this is about terms and agreements, a more sensible solution would be to include the text along with the speaker’s registration — something along the lines of “if you are accepted to speak, understand that you accept the terms and conditions…” etc.

I strongly urge you to reconsider this policy.  Any policy that makes things difficult is more likely to discourage, not encourage, further participation.

Regards,
Raymond J. Kim
PASS Member
SQL Saturday presenter

I’ve written articles encouraging people to become speakers, as well as put together a presentation that encourages people to present.  In one fell swoop, PASS is threatening to throw that away.

If you are involved with SQL Saturday, and you are as outraged about this policy change as I (and many others) are, I encourage you to contact PASS to voice your displeasure.  By applying pressure to the organization, perhaps they will reverse course.

Advertisements

SQL Saturday #716, NYC Schedule

The schedule for SQL Saturday #716 is out, and it turns out that I’m on it not once, but twice!

I will be doing the following two presentations:

Hope to see you in the Big Apple on May 19!

Suppose you gave a presentation, and nobody came?

“When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.”
— unknown

“S**t happens.”
— unknown (or Forrest Gump — take your pick)

An article by my friend, Greg Moore, reminded me of a SQL Saturday presentation that I was supposed to do in Philadelphia last year.  It was one of the first sessions that afternoon, right after the lunch break.

My total attendance for my presentation: zero.

I don’t remember how long I waited for people — anyone, really — to show up; it might have been about ten or fifteen minutes before I packed up my laptop and left the room.  I was disappointed and even a little hurt.  How is it that I drive four hours to give a presentation, and nobody shows up?  At the same time, I also tried not to take it personally.  I posted my experience to my Facebook page to get it out of my system, I pretty much said “stuff happens,” and I shrugged it off.

I found out later that a large number of attendees — I don’t know how many, but I’ll guess about half — left the conference right after lunch.

(For what it’s worth, I actually gave two presentations that day.  My morning presentation was well-attended, and went very well.)

I also did a presentation at my hometown SQL Saturday last year.  Unlike Philadelphia, people did show up — there were five people, not including myself, in the room.  But for all intents and purposes, the room might as well have been empty.

Those of you who know me or who’ve seen my presentations know that I do my best to get my audience engaged.  I’ll ask questions, I’ll ask for volunteers, and I’ll ask for feedback.  I don’t like to lecture — that is, talk at an audience.  My preferred modus operandi for teaching is to have a discussion where I act as a facilitator.  I want to make sure that I’m making my audience’s time worthwhile.

However, this was problematic at this particular presentation.  These people were the five most introverted people I’ve ever had for an audience.  They barely responded at all.  During my presentation, the only acknowledgement I saw were a few barely discernible nods.  I had to force someone to volunteer for my demo (and she did not even come to the front of the room).  Trying to get these people to respond in any way, shape, or form was like pulling teeth.  Despite asking if anyone had questions, the only questions I got was from the event photographer — who was a friend of mine — going from room to room taking pictures.  (He saw my dilemma and decided to speak up.  After my presentation, I flagged him down and said to him, where the hell were you earlier?!?)

I won’t lie.  I was very disappointed with my audience in that presentation.  There might have been five people in the audience, but for what it’s worth, I might as well have been talking to an empty room.

Greg cites an article by Catherine Wilhelmsen where she talks about a similar experience.  (Her article is a great read; go check it out!)  As it’s often been said, s**t happens.  Failures happen.  Sometimes, all you can do is take your lumps, shake it off, and move on.

(Speaking of which, check out my previous article where I talk about screwing up not necessarily being a bad thing.)

I used to teach part-time at a local business school (roughly at the community college level).  Every now and then, my students would show up late.  (That’s where I learned that the ten minute rule applied to teachers, too.)  More often than not, however, my students did eventually show up.

I often joke that if I hold a class, a presentation, or a lecture where nobody shows up, I’ll start talking to the empty room — and see if anyone notices.  Some people have told me in reply that it’s an opportunity to practice your presentation.

Sometimes, things happen that are beyond your control.  Often, your first instinct is to be disappointed and take it personally (at least I know mine is).  Whenever such an event occurs, ask yourself if you could’ve done anything differently to avert the situation.  If the answer is yes, then learn from it and remember it for the next time.  But if the answer is no, then there’s nothing you can really do.  In either case, just shrug it off, move on, and try again next time.

My SQL Saturday schedule, 2018 (so far!)

Well, I can now call it official!  I am speaking in New York City on May 19!  So, my 2018 SQL Saturday schedule is starting to shape up.

As of right now, I am confirmed to be speaking at the following SQL Saturday events.

I submitted presentations to these events, but am not yet confirmed (and there’s no guarantee that I will be speaking at any of these).

Of course, this schedule is subject to change, depending on whether or not I’m picked to speak, and as more events are added to the schedule, so stay tuned.  I might be coming to a SQL Saturday near you.  If so, come out and say hi to me!

SQL Saturday #716, New York City

I’ll often go out to the SQL Saturday website to check the status of presentations I’ve submitted, check to see if my profile needs updating, and to see if any new conferences are on the docket (I generally apply to conferences within reasonable driving distance from my home in Troy, NY).

This morning, I looked at my own profile for SQL Saturday #716 in NYC.  Among other things, it lists my presentation submissions for that conference.  I saw that one of my presentations was listed under “Regular Session,” not “Submitted Regular Session” — which is a telltale indication that my presentation was selected!

SQL Saturday in New York City is an important one for me.  It was the first SQL Saturday I ever attended, back in 2010.  Until we hosted our own conference here in Albany, it was the only SQL Saturday I’d attended.  I’ve tried (unsuccessfully) to get selected for the NYC conference for a couple of years.  As one of the higher-profile SQL Saturday conferences, it’s one that I’ve wanted to get into for some time.  And although I haven’t yet gotten the official confirmation, it appears that I will speak there this year!

I suppose it’s another example of perseverance paying off!

I’ll post again once it becomes official, but as of now, it looks pretty good.  Stay tuned!

Coming soon: SQL Saturday #723, Rochester, NY

This afternoon, I received the following email:

There are only a few days remaining before your presentation at SQLSaturday #723 on Saturday, March 24, 2018 and we want to make a last push to bring in new attendees and remind those that have already signed up. Just a quick blog post, update on LinkedIn, or a tweet on Twitter is all we need.

Okay.  I will oblige!

Come out and check out SQL Saturday #723 in Rochester, NY on March 24 (as I write this, it’s a week from this Saturday)!

I will be doing the following two presentations:

  • I lost my job! Now what?!? A survival guide for the unemployed 

    You’ve just been told by HR that you are no longer a part of their organization. You’ve been kicked to the curb. You are now living in the no-man’s land called unemployment.

    Unemployment is a scary situation. You’re dealing with emotions and uncertainty. You don’t know if you’ll be out of work for days, weeks, or months.

    Fortunately, unemployment is survivable. In this session, I’ll share my own experiences (and perhaps we’ll talk about some of yours) with unemployment, and how I managed to get through the tough times. We’ll discuss emotional impact, the job hunt, and things you can do to get yourself through this tough time. Hopefully, you’ll land on your feet once again before long!

  • Disaster Documents: The role of documentation in disaster recovery
    I was an employee of a company that had an office in the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001. Prior to that infamous date, I had written several departmental documents that ended up being critical to our recovery. In this presentation, I provide a narrative of what happened in the weeks following 9/11, and how documentation played a role in getting the organization back on its feet.

    While other disaster recovery presentations talk about strategies, plans, and techniques, this presentation focuses on the documentation itself. We will discuss the documents we had and how they were used in our recovery. We will also discuss what documents we didn’t have, and how they could have made the process better.

SQL Saturday is always a good time!  Come out and check it out.  And if you come to my presentations, feel free to say hi!

Reaping what you sow

I originally started my ‘blog to supplement my SQL Saturday presentations (among other things).  I’ll admit that I wasn’t entirely sure what I was getting into with this endeavor, but one thing that was in the back of my mind what that my efforts might lead to bigger and better things.  It’s still too early to know whether or not I’m near that goal (I’m not there yet), but I’m seeing signs that I might at least be heading in the right direction.

I previously mentioned that I was invited to record a podcast for SQL Data Partners.  That podcast is scheduled to air tomorrow — when it does, I’ll post a link to it!  (Update: my podcast is now online!)  I was excited to do that podcast; recording it was a lot of fun (although there were a couple of things that I wish I’d said differently — that’s another article for another time), and it made me feel pretty good that I was being recognized for a skill that’s right in my wheelhouse.

I’m also seeing subtle indications that my skills are being recognized.  In my current job, people are increasingly referring to me and asking me questions about documentation, writing, and communication-related issues.  On the SQL Saturday circuit, I feel as though I’m treated as an equal among other speakers, despite the fact that I’m not necessarily an expert in SQL.  I’ll admit that I’m somewhat humbled when I think about the fact that I’m sharing space with SQL MVPs.  My presentations may focus on soft professional development (rather than hardcore technical) topics, but these people make me feel like a fellow professional and one of their peers — and that makes me feel pretty good!

There are many resources you can tap to get yourself going.  I highly recommend an article by James Serra where he discusses how to advance your career by ‘blogging.  I also suggest a SQL Saturday presentation by Mike Hays where he talks about creating a technical ‘blog.  They are both excellent presenters, and I recommend attending their presentations if you have such an opportunity!

There are a number of ways to refine and practice your skill sets.  Activities such as writing ‘blog articles, taking part in a user group, speaking about topics in your field, answering questions in an online forum, taking courses, and so on, provides a solid foundation for the skills you want to establish.  It’ll take time, but if you make the time and effort to develop and enrich your skills, your efforts will eventually bear fruit.