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PASS Summit and The Value Of Building A Community

November 13, 2012 1 comment

Photo courtesy of Sheryl’s Boys

I’m a community person. I’ve built my career around the value of communities. It all started when I was in high school and wanted to raise funds that will help the student community by improving our sports facility. We wanted to host a dance party within the school premises and invite students to participate. When the school didn’t approve of our proposal, I was disappointed. So disappointed that I gathered all of my close friends and proposed the idea of running the party outside of the school premises but within the jurisdiction of the local community for safety reasons. We had a noble goal (help the students in our school,) a business plan (host a dance party to raise funds,) and a handful of volunteers (my close friends.) I guess everyone was passionate about the idea that it started spreading throughout the different schools within our community. Soon, everybody was asking us how they can participate. We’ve expanded our fund raising efforts to include other schools in the project. It was a success and the rest was history. We won the hearts of the school administration staff that they let us do another fundraising project for the next year. I’ll never forget that experience.

Last week, the SQL Server community was all hyped up on Twitter and other social networking sites talking about the PASS Community Summit. This happens to be the world’s largest and most intensive technical training conference for SQL Server and BI professionals. There were some major announcements made last week which are considered highlights of the event. If you ask attendees, new and old, about why they made the investment in attending the event, you will get different responses. But there’s one constant theme that resonates among the different responses: PEOPLE. Communities are social units built by people for people. Seth Godin talks about building Tribes, Brian Allain talks about how community wins, social networking sites have become successful because of the idea of communities.  Successful businesses know how to build and leverage communities. In fact, many would agree with me on this that, Microsoft has leveraged the SQL Server community to build the product to what it is today. But setting aside the marketing and business aspects of building and/or being a part of a community, the real value comes from meeting some of our basic human needs – RCGC:

  1. Relationships. Along the corridors of the conference center, I see people giving hugs and high fives. Who would ever think that these are a bunch of geeks hammering on their keyboards solving the toughest SQL Server problems? But they connect on a personal level, telling stories about the travels they’ve made, the previous events that they have attended, the next one that they will go to, the parties that they need to attend, etc. I’ve given and received hugs myself throughout the week. One that really stood out for me was meeting up (and hugging) a good friend of mine – a former SQL Server MVP – who joined the Microsoft SQL Server Integration Services team back in 2008. It’s like a family reunion since I haven’t seen him for more than 4 years.
  2. Comfort. During a conversation I had with a database administrator in a large gaming company last week, he mentioned about feeling one with the community. Back at work, he felt like he was all alone and that no one understood nor appreciated what he was doing. Being around and talking to people who share the same passion as he has made him feel secure, knowing that there are others who feel the same pain that he feels, enjoying the same successes that he experiences and speaking the same language. He immediately blended in even though it was his first time attending the conference.
  3. Growth. We all came to the conference knowing that we will learn something new – whether by attending sessions or simply joining a conversation. I asked questions about the next version of SQL Server and the recently released Microsoft HDInsight. I’ve learned a thing or two about deploying SQL Server using PowerShell and a little bit of PowerView on Excel. We all desire growth in more than one aspect of our lives. The event provided an opportunity for growth for those of us who made the investment.
  4. Contribution. One speaker commented on the fact that he feels the satisfaction of seeing people’s face light up when he talks about a solution or feature that will help solve their problems. I got a kick out of the experience myself when people I don’t know approached and thanked me last week for the articles I’ve written on MSSQLTips.com. We are wired to have a desire to contribute and make the world a better place. Most of the community leaders I know have been doing this – volunteering and speaking at events – for decades and they still feel that they need to do more. My hats are off to the wonderful people in the SQL Server community that made the PASS Community Summit 2012 a successful one – from volunteers, speakers, chapter leaders, the members of the board, etc.

Being a part of a community meets our basic human needs. But it certainly goes beyond that. I’ve gotten contracts and  job offers in the past from people in the community. In fact, the community has definitely helped me grow my career in one way or another. But let’s leave the topic about the business value of building and/or being a part of a community for a future blog post.

Question: Fill in the blank. “The one thing I love the most about the SQL Server community is _______ ?” You can leave a comment by clicking here.

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UPDATE: I realized that the T-SQL Tuesday theme for this month is all about the SQL Server Community and is being hosted by Chris Yates (BlogTwitter) so I decided to join the conversation.

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Compassionate Capitalism as some may call it


In a world where capitalism focuses more on profits and revenues, others may think making a difference is totally out of the picture. I was reading about TOMS Shoes and how the company started out as Blake Mycoskie, Chief Shoe Giver, wanted to help children from developing countries by providing them shoes to wear. Their motto: “One for one.” His company would match every pair of shoes sold with a pair given to a child in need. Talk about real and authentic corporate social responsibility. I was reading more about TOMS Shoes and how it garnered a lot of media coverage, one being the AT&T ad featuring TOMS Shoes while they do their shoe drop activity.

What’s really amazing is the fact that the business model is built on the concept of compassionate capitalism where their vision is primarily what sustains the business. His explanation on the CGI U meeting with President Bill Clinton highlights that even during this time of economic crisis, they have sold three times as much in the same month as compared to last year.

TOMS story is a testimony of compassionate capitalism at work and how organizations should think about their impact in society. More than just the leader’s vision of growing the organization to greater heights, couple that with being socially responsible is how we can create a sustainable environment and make this world a better place to live in.

Include corporate social responsibility in your business model


It took me a few weeks to get back to blogging due to a lot of changes happening. But then, again, great ideas are always worth spreading.

A few weeks ago, I was privileged to assist Microsoft Singapore in providing software assistance to non-profit organizations. Normally, it only required reading thru some documentation and providing some analysis based on that but I’ve decided to go even further. Visiting the facility of the Movement for the Intellectually Disabled of Singapore (MINDS) was definitely an unforgettable experience. The SIA-MINDS is actually a joint-project with – guess who – Singapore Airlines. The head phones that you see and use on the Singapore Airlines flights are being prepared for by the trainees at MINDS. What’s really encouraging is the fact that not only do we see people who are intellectually disabled doing the work that nobody else would probably see but we see them doing a really good job. And what’s good about Singapore Airlines is that they have included corporate responsibility and welfare in their business model, recognizing the importance of contributing to the communities it serves. Corporate social responsibility has become a buzz word in today’s modern organizations. But every now and then, it gets challenged by stakeholders especially in times of recession (I still believe that recession is a state of mind). But whether we like it or not, the community is part of any organizations’ stakeholders. If the community flourishes, so does our businesses. It’s a win-win situation.

I think the best thing to do is to include corporate social responsibility in our business model. That way, we even have budgets allocated for any related projects. What’s more, apart from the fact that we feel good when we extend our hand to someone else, it’s nice to know that a warm smile is waiting for a hand somewhere where we could have extended ours.

So the next time you fly Singapore Airlines, ask for a head phone – those cute colorful ones. You’ll know that somebody went thru a lot of effort making sure that they are in good shape for your entire flight.