Recognizing Extraordinary SQL Server Folks: Wendy Pastrick and Lori Edwards

Do you give professionally? I don’t mean do you bring cookies and other treats for your coworkers during the holidays (although cookies are always greatly appreciated!), but rather do you volunteer your time or expertise in the SQL Server community? There are many DBAs and developers out there that devote a lot of their personal time to volunteering in the SQL Server community, and these people deserve to be acknowledged!

If you know of a SQL Server DBA or developer that generously volunteers his or her time to help others in the community or their job in particular, I’d love to hear about them (mkeller@sqlmag.com)! I want to highlight SQL Server community members that go the extra mile to answer questions, volunteer at events, or offer solutions to difficult SQL Server questions.

I’ll kick things off by highlighting two amazing women who were recognized by PASS for their efforts this year: Lori Edwards and Wendy Pastrick. They offered me great insight into what drove them to volunteer their time to PASS and other community events.

Lori Edwards

Lori Edwards (blog|twitter) was chosen as the PASS 2010 Outstanding Volunteer. Here’s what Rick Heiges, the PASS vice president of marketing, had to say about Lori during his keynote at PASS Summit 2010.

“Lori went above and beyond the call of a regular volunteer this year, she led a team of volunteers working to get several tasks completed. Highlights include developing a reporting system to house all previous speaker evaluations and a data entry screen for entering new speaker evaluations. This saves PASS money since as we did not have to contract the work or pay a 3rd party.  This project will allow attendees to enter online evaluations for all PASS events including local PASS Chapter meetings, PASS SQLSaturdays, PASS SQLRally, and PASS Summit.  In addition to this effort she managed many of the processes for the PASS Summit program committee, including all PASS Summit session PowerPoint reviews and abstract proofreading and editing.

Lori was the right-hand person to Program Committee Chairman Allen Kinsel, and did a fantastic job organizing the numerous projects that her team of volunteers was asked to take on.  Lori did a great job keeping the projects on-track and on-time, which is no easy task when you’re dealing strictly with volunteers.”

It’s great to hear that there are people out in the SQL Server community, like Lori, putting in a huge amount of time and effort to make PASS successful and helpful to everyone. I’m always impressed by those people who, despite having busy work and home lives, dedicate their time to helping the community, and I wanted to hear how Lori was able to devote so much of her time to PASS in the year, and what drove her to do so.

Megan Keller: How did you get started volunteering in the SQL Server community and with PASS in particular?

Lori Edwards: I've done quite a bit of volunteer work in the past (non-work related), so it made sense for me to participate in this community.  Being part of the Twitterverse, I had become more familiar with PASS and everything that went into bringing the PASS Summit together.  During the Summit in 2009, I had the chance to meet Allen Kinsel, and when he asked for help for the program committee, I volunteered.

Megan: What drove you to volunteer so many hours to PASS and PASS Summit 2010?

Lori: The short answer is that things needed to get done and I kept saying okay. Initially, my role was to work on some special projects that had been on the PASS to-do list, but didn't have anyone to head them up.  Since most of these projects had to do with the PASS Summit, I began attending the weekly Program Committee calls.  There was so much that needed to be done, it was hard not to volunteer to help.

Megan: How do you find time in your busy work and home life to volunteer so frequently?

Lori: I guess that you just make time.  I can definitely say that my reading decreased last year.  There were definitely times that the family lost me to PASS while we were trying to make deadlines.  For the most part, though, it was just making good use of time when other things weren't going on—while the kids were doing homework, during lunches, when I'd otherwise be staring at the TV, etc.

Megan: How has volunteering in the community helped you grow personally and professionally?

Lori: Professionally, it was a great opportunity to work on my project management skills.  The wonderful group of volunteers that I was able to work with made these projects much easier.  Personally, I had the chance to interface with a huge number of people in the SQL Server community that I may have never met.

Megan: What advice do you have for those folks who would like to volunteer in the SQL Server community but aren’t sure where to get started?

Lori: The main pieces of advice that I have would be to figure out what drives you, what you would like to get out of your volunteer experience and then, realistically, what amount of time you have to volunteer.  Whether it's speaking, taking part in a local user group, or working with one of the PASS committees, there are any number of opportunities to help out.  Jeremiah Peschka wrote a great blog post about volunteering here.  PASS continues because of all of the people that contribute their time and talents—every little bit helps it become even better.


Wendy Pastrick

Wendy Pastrick (blog|twitter) is very well-known in the SQL Server community for her work on the PASS Women in Technology Virtual Chapter, SQLSaturdays, and more, so it’s no surprise that she was chosen for the 2010 PASSion Award. “This person goes above and beyond to connect with others in the community—and helps them to connect with their peers—shares a wealth of knowledge through speaking, founding and organizing events, virtual chapters, user groups, and helps others to learn from her experience, including as a PASS Regional,” said Heiges.

It seems like Wendy’s name just keeps popping up when talking about the Women in Technology Virtual Chapter or successful SQLSaturday implementations. So I couldn’t wait to find out how Wendy finds time to dedicate herself to several SQL Server community causes a year.

Megan Keller: Congrats on being selected for the 2010 PASSion Award! What drives you to volunteer so many hours to PASS and the SQL Server community? How do you fit volunteering into your busy work and home life?

Wendy Pastrick: Honestly, it's the people I get to work and interact with. They are all such intelligent and fun people, it's easy to do things that bring us together. When I discovered the PASS organization roughly 7 years ago, it was a breath of fresh air to find a community dedicated to SQL Server. I decided immediately that anything I could do to help out and become part of the group would be worthwhile. Finding time for anything you want to do is tricky at times. There is always a give and take, and I find that after the kids are in bed, I'm working for PASS a few nights per week. As with most things, if you truly want to do it, you will make the time. I'm very fortunate to have a supportive family and employer. At the SQLSaturday even in Chicago last April, the smiles and thank yous alone were worth every hour the team put in to make the event a success. Bringing people together and sharing the excitement of a technology is reward enough.

Megan: The Women in Technology (WIT) Chapter has really grown in the past couple of years. What’s your goal for the future of this virtual chapter?

Wendy: Looking to the future of WIT, I see us moving in a direction of Community Outreach. We have been taking our show “on the road” bringing the WIT message to SQLSaturdays and other Tech events (i.e., Indy TechFest) and hope to be present at SQLRally in May. Each of our events ends up a unique experience, with different people contributing to the panel of speakers and different questions posed from the attendees. Also, some of our members are taking up the challenge issued at the PASS Summit 2010 Luncheon and will be reaching out to local schools and other organizations to help organize Tech Projects to help encourage young people to take an interest in technology.

Megan: How has helping out in the community helped you grow personally and professionally?

Wendy: This is such a great question! Personally, I have been forced to become more organized. I'm still not as good at it as I would like, but I get better with each project. I've learned new things about building relationships and managing not just projects but people, too. These skills certainly transfer to my professional life and make me a better employee and team member. The friendships and network I have been able to build are, in a word, priceless. I owe having a job I truly enjoy to making connections through PASS activities. In turn, I have been able to help other people connect professionally, allowing them to grow and enjoy their work as well.

Megan: What advice do you have for those folks who would like to volunteer in the SQL Server community but aren’t sure where to get started?

Wendy: There are numerous ways to become involved—so many that it can be unclear where to begin and whom to contact. My suggestion would be to check out your Local PASS Chapter and see what they have to offer. You may find they have a need for volunteers. They may be hosting a SQLSaturday, and volunteers are in demand for those (you can offer to volunteer when you register or send an email to the address listed).  If your local group isn't hosting a SQLSaturday, maybe you might want to take that on. See what SQLSaturdays are happening near you by going to www.sqlsaturday.com

Also, there are several Virtual Chapters listed on the PASS website. Find a topic which interests you and join up! You should receive an email from the group with contact information. Many have monthly planning meetings and it's a great way to get involved.

Finally, there is the PASS flagship event—the annual PASS Summit. Actually, there are two: one in the USA and the other in Europe. The number of volunteers needed to make these events successful is huge. From the program committee to the Ambassador programs, there is so much to do. All of the information is here—www.sqlpass.org/Community/Volunteers.aspx. Hope to see you around!


Whose generous volunteering in the SQL Server community impresses you or drives you to want to help out as well? Let me know at mkeller@sqlmag.com.

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