Thursday, June 26, 2014

It's not Business, It's Personal

Hello Dear Reader.  I find myself at this late hour unable to sleep.  Yesterday the slate of speakers for the PASS Summit was announced.  What should have been a happy moment was quickly darkened by the words of people that I know well within the SQL Server Community.

I would ask the MVP's and others in the SQL Server Community; Did you plan on intimidating new speakers yesterday?  

Because you did.  I have a few first time speaker that I've been working with. Not first time PASS Speakers, first time period.  Encouraging and mentoring them to get involved in SSUG's and SQL Saturday's.  At the beginning of the year I told one in particular that we should work on a plan so she would have the experience to submit to the PASS Summit this year.

Her first words to me when we spoke yesterday?  "Thank God I didn't submit, because the MVP's would be talking smack about me right now!"

Wonderful work growing the next generation of SQL Server Speakers.  Is this what community has become?

It seems every year with the speaker selection process the people I would normally count on as pillars in our community take the opportunity to bash the process.

If the process is broken so be it.  We should discuss that.  WE SHOULD NOT LEVEL PERSONAL ATTACKS.

That is ill befitting of the responsibility that we as speakers have in the community.

I remember what it was like to be a simple DBA that looked at speakers at conferences with awe and wonder.  Instead of being a community where we encourage new speakers, what.... we encourage new speakers as long as they all are from different companies?

By attacking Pragmatic Works and suggesting that the speakers did anything less than earn their spots, you demean the volunteers, my co-workers, anyone who works for my company, and you demean me.

There were a couple issues that occurred yesterday that compounded one another.  The presentation that occurred during the 24 Hours of PASS that I moderated, see Brent's blog.

Then Kendal a former board member who had knowledge of the process.  Who praised the volunteers and the way the process works, as noted by absentee presenters who didn't receive sessions this year how a speakers name did not guarantee a spot.  He instead implied that something improper had happened.  Here's his blog.  Until he accused me of having no integrity and not deserving my sessions it was a pretty interesting read, click here.

Here's the part to pay attention to: 
  • "3 Preconference sessions by Pragmatic Works employees are on the list, including one delivered by PASS Executive Vice President, Finance & Governance Adam Jorgensen who is also President and Managing Partner of Pragmatic Works. I know a lot of folks that work at Pragmatic and they're good at what they do, but having 3 precon sessions (where presenters usually make good money from the sales) selected for the same company as one of PASS's execs...smells. I'd like to give PASS the benefit of doubt on this one, but I'll it's very hard to ignore, even if Adam wasn't one of the presenters."


First I reacted in his comment sections.  I was mad and I called what he wrote Bullshit.  I stand by that.

I've reached out to Kendal.  I hope to talk to him soon.  This shouldn't be a conversation on Twitter or over the blog-o-sphere.  I know him, I consider him a friend, and this accusation is beneath him and regardless of the intention it is deeply personal to me.

I reached out to Brent.  Brent and I DM'ed very very ridiculously late at night.  Brent I can't thank you enough for taking the time to reply.  I hope to talk to you soon!

I completely understand Brent with the 24 HOP.  The reason I reached out to him was because of his comment on Kendal's blog.

In the comment's Brent had this reply:

We discussed 2 different issues over DM.  One is the transparency of the process the other was the selection.  Giving vendors preferential treatment, and that this wasn’t the case here.  Brent didn't have an issue with the Pragmatic Works folks having sessions and understood the level of community involvement that we have.

His issue was transparency.  I was really glad we could discuss this, in-digital-person.  Concerns like that should be communicated amongst friends so false insults do not fly.  I consider Brent a friend, it meant a lot that he made himself so readily available to chat.  It is what I would hope for in a friend.

This is how we should handle these things.  If you have a concern with something I'm doing, reach out to me.  

I remember well what it was like to be a simple DBA that looked at speakers at conferences with awe and wonder.  Seeing people like Brian Kelly and Andy Warren, both of whom I know, comment on this blog and not try to reign in the personal attacks is disheartening.  Andy’s were not inflammatory, but they also did nothing to suggest I or my other co-workers were above the board.

I understand I haven't been at this as long as you guys.  I'm not an MVP.  I've only been speaking the last couple years.  

As a somewhat new member to all of this, I would ask the people that are supposed to be respected Sr. members of the community to conduct themselves with a little more Integrity.

If you know me.  Yet you would say these type of things about me, how does that make new people feel looking at our community from the outside.  Do you believe it makes them want to volunteer and participate in it?


My father taught me as a child you only have your integrity once and you should not waste it.  This means something to me.  When I invest in something, I invest wholeheartedly.  I cannot love with half my heart.  I cannot commit to something while sitting on the fence. If I did not earn something then I do not want it.

The greatest things that we get in life are the things we struggle to achieve.  It is only through the labor of the struggle that the fruits of success are realized.

This year I have presented 26 times.  From New Hampshire, to Boston, to Puerto Rico, to Orange County CA, to Denver, to Phoenix, to Atlanta, to Portland, Tampa, Orlando, and more.  I have done deep dives, pre-con's, 1 day sessions, 2 day sessions, 5 day sessions, and this doesn't even include customer presentations.  This is all community.

I have evangelized to user groups and individuals about how they should get involved, present, participate.  I discuss with them how it will help them and help their career.

I would once again point to my co-worker who has not yet delivered their first SQL Community presentation said to me "And you wonder why new people feel intimidated.  I would hate it if they were talking about me".


We've all heard the phrase before "it's not personal its business".  It is typically used as the justification for doing some pretty crappy stuff.

There are some people out there that believe participating in the SQL Community is all about marketing.  That it's business.  Being out there and participating gets them business.  If it is business to them, fine.  It's not to me.  To me the SQL Community is personal.

Right now I am away from home.  I'm away from my kids.  I presented at a user group in AZ last night.  I didn't get paid for it, I didn't get "new" business leads.  As a matter of fact I spent 15 minutes of my 1 hour presentation encouraging people to volunteer.

Why?  Because I love this community.  I have received a lot in my life from the SQL Community.  I have a job I love, I've made new friends, and I’ve traveled to new places, volunteered in ways I never imagined possible.

I truly believe that within every person there is a story waiting to be told that we all want to hear.  It could be brought to life during a presentation on Professional Development, a passionate Deep Dive, or a harrowing tale of lessons learned in the trenches.  When I present I tell people there is a story in each of them that I would love to hear.  They just need to have the faith in themselves to present and the possibilities of what they can do from there are endless.

This isn't business to me.  I would never invest this much time into something I didn't love.  It's personal.

Suggesting that I submitted to the same process as anyone else and received preferential treatment isn't business.  It's personal.  And it's wrong.

I hope from here we can clear the air.  If anyone would like to talk to me about this I’m happy to.  From here on out though please separate criticism of the processes from those that are here for all the right reasons.

As always Dear Reader, Thanks for stopping by.




  1. Brad -- As one of the people who attended the AZ SQL Pass session, thanks for speaking. I learned quite a bit from your talk and appreciated the fact that you were willing to do it.

  2. Thank you very much for having me! I had a great time and you all were a terrific crowd, it was my honor to present!

  3. Great post Brad. I doubt my comment will do much to sway the negative people you are speaking of, but I can agree wholeheartedly with the reservations of new speakers, as I am one. I have been speaking on the "PASS Circuit" for a couple of years now, myself. I have been met with shock and awe in conversations when I have been asked "What sessions did you submit for the Summit?" and I respond "None". My main reason for never submitting is this exact week of time. The week following the announcement of who has been accepted and who was denied. I don't know how it has gone in the past before I became involved with PASS, but this one of the most disappointing times of the year to be involved. Every year it seems that there are so many sour grapes and ill will from people who have been passed on for a speaking spot at Summit. Why, as someone who has not yet spoke at Summit, would I want to submit myself to that level of negativity? I can tell you as long as the process scrutiny stays as personal as it is now, less first time speakers will want to step up to submit for Summit, which in my opinion, will lead to Summit getting more bland and less fresh.

    1. Thanks Josh, that is my concern as well. If there is a problem with the process, we should figure out how we can fix it. The important thing is to keep it civil. I've been incredibly fortunate to speak at the Summit. A day will come when I do not get accepted. I hope when that happens I can congratulate those that made it, feel thankful/grateful for the times I have been able to speak, and continue contributing in a positive way.

  4. Bradley,

    I tried to post once, I don't know if it's just sitting in moderation. In any case, the reason you didn't see me call out Kendall is because I didn't see it as a personal attack on the speakers selected. I see that there is a perception problem. Even if everything is above board, there still leaves the impression that impropriety might have happened. That's not a good situation for a community organization to be in. And I can understand why Kendall wrote what he did. We had this same brouhaha over SolidQ having so many board members a few years back.

    1. Something else I thought about after this post. The reason you probably didn't see Andy W. react with, "Hey, that's a personal attack!" is because he probably got the same types of briefings I did in the military. That saying, "If there's the perception of a problem, there's a problem," originated with respect to fraternization between enlisted and officer ranks. So perhaps he saw it the same way I did, not as a personal attack, but as the identification of a perception issue.

    2. Hey Brian, Thanks for reading and replying! It's funny the whole SolidQ thing was before me. I didn't know about it until Andy Warren called and spoke with me.

      Based on the past I can see why people would be concerned. Andy brought up hiring Wendy. I gave Wendy a really tough technical interview (which she could attest to :) ). If she didn't pass the interview then I would have never recommended we hire her. Being on the board didn't matter to me. When I interview i'm looking for people that can do the job. I've rejected MVP's that couldn't handle the interview I give.

      The only thing I can do is try to do the right thing, and head off any misconception people have. I'd much rather have these types of conversations, than leave people wondering.

      I think the big question is how do we have a volunteer organization and not penalize people that still have to work in the SQL industry and/or were primarily involved because they were speakers.

      Tom LaRock, Tim Ford, and Adam all fantastic speakers whose sessions I have attended in the past. There should be a fair way they could participate to make our community better through speaking. A board term shouldn't be a sentence to never participate.

      If it helps, stuff like this makes it to where I would never want to serve on the board. I'll be a planner, a speaker, or a volunteer. But being on the board seems like an invitation for assumptions and character assassination. You cannot make everyone happy, and you are everyone's whipping boy.

    3. I would have to agree with you. But if you want to be on the board, you have to consider what the perception will be. And you have to ask how many are likely going to have those perceptions. Then you make a call - for the organization - on how to proceed. Sometimes that means you take one for the team, meaning giving up an opportunity or taking the heat for going ahead. I know it has gotten Tom beat to shreds. It's just one of the reasons I think very highly of Tom, for instance.

  5. Hey Brian I agree. Tom, Denise, Bill, Adam, Amy, JRJ, Jen, Sri, Tim, and Amy are all fantastic community members.

    I've been fortunate enough to either know them personally, work with/for them, interview them for the Nom-com, or just converse with them on community ideas. We have great representation and I do not envy any of them :)

  6. Hey Brad, I read your post with interest and whilst I understand why you might have been a little riled at Kendal's post, quite frankly I didn't read it as a personal attack on you, Pragmatic Works or anyone else for that matter. Yes I agree some of it may have come across to some as insinuation (or at best an open ended question), and you are right to provide a counter argument. I may myself have felt the same if it was me, however I would also have felt uneasy about the preconference representation from my company under the circumstances.

    There is no doubting that each of you are (in your own right) fantastic presenters, SQL evangelists and offer fantastic preconference sessions, but I do think that Kendal was right to raise his concerns publicly even if those concerns are unfounded. That's the best way for these concerns to be discussed GLOBALLY and arrive at a conclusion of what the PASS membership wants (and gets). Should there be a cap on a companys representation in the precons? It is something I have wondered about for a long time.... My answer so far is (of course) ....It depends.

    1. Hi Mark! First off thank you for reading and responding!

      I do not believe Kendal meant to be malicious. Since this blog has been posted Kendal and I spoke on the phone. I love Kendal, he’s a great friend. Without Kendal, Andy, and Jack (Corbett) I would not be involved in the community. The fact that the accusation or implication was made is not my problem.

      Who decides who the fact checkers are for the SQL Community? We, community bloggers, are supposed to “inform” the community. Great, should we not be expected to do our do diligence?

      Before I wrote the blog I sent a text message to Kendal asking to talk. I also sent messages to Brent asking to talk. And before I would accuse or implicate someone in a public way, when I am supposed to represent the community trust I should do my due diligence. That was not done here.

      Kendal has my phone number and could have called me, so could other members of the community. The ball, for lack of a better word, was dropped.

      There were legitimate concerns that Brent, Andy, and Kendal all expressed to me. I was happy to give them answers. I would have hoped that in the future instead of the route we’ve taken if someone has concerns they call me and we discuss how we can communicate best to the community. If I’m not doing a good job then I want to know.

      I’d still like to know, what exactally did Pragmatic Works or any of the employees at Pragmatic’s do wrong? We submitted to the same system that everybody else did.

      Kendal posed the question to me, “If Paul Randal and Kimberly Tripp were on the board and Erin, Jonathan, and Glenn all got pre-con’s wouldn’t you think that would smell funny as well?”

      I told him no. Emphatically NO. Erin is brilliant, Glenn is brilliant, and Jonathan is brilliant. They all have had pre-con’s in the past. I expect them to in the future. And *IF* I did smell foul play, I would expect that I would contact Paul and/or Kimberly and relay my concerns. (Sorry to pull the SQL Skills folks into this, but I wanted to quote my conversation exactally).

      If I still felt the need to write a blog, then when I did it I would have the whole story. THEN and only THEN am I truly representing the community. Otherwise I’m just slinging mud. THAT is a community disservice.