This afternoon I read a thought-provoking article by Andy Warren (@SQLAndy), on the place of the PASS BA Conference within the greater PASS organization. In it, Mr. Warren questions whether the conference is a good idea for PASS, whom it intends to serve, and how it will be judged for success. Tough questions, but fair, and thoughtful.
NB: though I have benefited greatly from his contributions to SQLServerCentral.com, and feel as though I ‘know’ him in that sense, I don’t feel comfortable calling him Andy.
Among his many good points, Mr. Warren articulates the conundrum that the PASS board faces: the responsibility to grow in order to remain relevant in the support of its members, without alienating them by tacking in the wrong direction. Though I agree with Mr. Warren in his call for more transparency from PASS, their challenge seems to be less about transparency and more about prescience: how to illuminate a path they’ve never been down.
The emerging technologies behind BI/BA are new to us all, and it would seem that PASS as an organization faces the same opportunities and challenges that database professionals do – an industry opportunity/demand for a new technology, and a natural curiosity feeding the urge to grow in that direction, but no lamp to light the way.
Reading the article got me thinking about my own career path. My introduction to database technology came via a CRM software called GoldMine that used Microsoft SQL Server at the back-end (SQL Server 7, at the time). I started as a sales consultant, and then trainer, then in-house tech support, and finally on-site technical implementation specialist. After an extended hiatus to teach and travel in Asia, I cut out the middle-man and dove headlong into SQL Server. I have been working exclusively with SQL Server for the past 7 years, picking up an MCTS certification, and some departmental management responsibilities along the way. Each transition in my career has been in response to a combination of opportunities from outside forces (the job market, namely), and natural curiosity on my part. Each of those transitions has demanded time spent bushwhacking a new path.
My most recent bit of bushwhacking involved diving into SQL Server Analysis Services, which I did in response to that familiar combination of influences: curiosity and opportunity. A major project at work seemed to be screaming for an OLAP solution, and yet I lacked any real experience in that domain. So at the 2012 PASS Summit- I completely immersed myself in it. The experience was a mixed bag similar to other times where I’ve stretched to learn: frustrating, exhilarating, and exhausting, but ultimately: nourishing (read about it here). I’ve realized that those are the stimulants that I thrive of off, and I think many other IT professionals do as well.
After my OLAP Sprint at the PASS Summit last November, I registered for the PASS BA Conference, not because I knew that it was the right move, or that it would deliver exactly what I needed to continue along my path, but because I was curious, and BI/BA seems to have great opportunities and momentum right now.
If PASS is meant to represent us database professionals – as a sort of macrocosm or amalgam of each of us – maybe I shouldn’t be surprised that their growth feels similar to mine: imperfect, for sure, but nourishing, and filled with curiosity and opportunity. Happy Bushwhacking!