One of the most positive experiences I can have, as a former leader of the PASS organization, is when I see a neophyte become a passionate support and champion for the community. On my first day in Seattle, before the event had even begun, I was stopped several by people who'd attended their first PASS Summit last year. But this year, they were excited to tell me that they'd started user groups in their own community, spoken for the first time at a PASS event, or even helped launch a SQL Saturday event.
Wow! To go from a complete newcomer in the PASS community to an active and engaged community chapter is a major achievement!
Many years ago, the founding board of directors wrestled with the major issues of how to attract new members at the same time while lacking major funds to create services and offerings attractive to SQL Server professions. Compared to other major professional IT associations, we simply lacked the money to do the cool things that we saw happening elsewhere.
But one of the things that we settled on is that, while we didn't have the money to put on a big dazzle-dazzle conference or to publish hard-bound conference proceedings, we could simple be a more giving, supportive community. Being more friendly, more encouraging, more supportive. Those were things that we could excel at which would cost us nothing.
In those days, I have to admit, it wasn't really a difficult calling to be the 'more' friendly professional association. With board members like Kurt Windisch, Joe Webb, Stefanie Higgins, and Wayne Snyder, being friendly came naturally. As new board members, like Rushabh Mehta and Bill Graziano and Tom Larock and Andy Warren, joined the leadership the idea of openness and friendliness became an institution ideal.
By 2006, the concept of 'sqlfamily' wasn't simply something we aspired to, it was an integral part of our culture. I can recall plenty of decisions being settled with the question of "Does this decision make our community more inclusive or not?" If it didn't, then we didn't do it. At other times, in the face of conflict, we asked ourselves "What's the high road? What's the right thing to do?" Our intent wasn't to do what was most advantageous, the most expedient, or the least costly, especially if we had to compromise on our ethics. Do what's right. Do what is helpful to our people. And then don't look back.
That certainly doesn't mean that we made all of the right decisions or that there weren't any situations where we wouldn't do it differently if we could do it again. But it did ensure that, when we made a mistake, we didn't have too many regrets.
So here we are in 2012. How has that early initial decision to focus on building a community of care panned out? The association now has 126,000 members, with more than 300 chapters around the world, and more than 60 yearly SQL Saturday events per year. The annual Summit is more than 300% bigger than our first event, with about 100 more sessions over the course of three days.
And, in my opinion more importantly, I'm being stopped on the street by people to tell me how excited they are to have started a new user group, spoken at an event, or attended a conference. It's in these moments that all of those hard years of work on the PASS board are crystallized as a valuable and worthwhile. Those decisions are still paying dividends today. The spirit of SQLfamily is stronger than ever!
P.S. I'll be speaking on Thursday and Friday at the event. Come see me!