PASS Summit: Day 4

Happy Thursday! Bill Graziano, EVP of Finance starts off the morning rocking the kilt. Awesome.

So much of what happens within the SQL Server Community is due to the effort from volunteers. Bill asked all volunteers from outside the US to stand, then everyone from the US as well. I recognize a lot of faces. Tim Radney and Jack Corbett honored as outstanding volunteers.

This year’s PASSion award winner is Lori Edwards (who also won last year). I have no idea how Lori does it. One of her responsibilities is to manage the Program Committee, and I cannot even imagine how much time that consumes.

Next up: financials for PASS. PASS is a non-profit but the organization does its best to be transparent to the community where it can. Today there is an open meeting with the board if people are interested, it’s at the same time as lunch. Bill remarked that we are running out time in the day to get things done. It is true. I could use an extra day just for sleeping.

Bill’s said enough, he’s turning the keynote over to Quentin Clark, Corporate Vice President from Microsoft. Quentin is going to talk about SQL Server 2012 and what’s coming in the release. Data, information and knowledge. At data layer, provide a system to manage data in its originating form, which is how Hadoop fits in. At the top of the stack there is knowledge, and between data and knowledge is information. SQL 2012 fits in two ways: it provides new capabilities across all three of those layers, and it straddles those three worlds and create bridges between them. SQL 2012 will be the biggest release Microsoft has ever done. Some functionality is already being released via Azure.

Quentin went through and discussed 12 of the biggest area of value in SQL 2012 including High Availabilty, Blazing-Fast Performance, Rapid Data Exploration, maintaining Credible, Consistent Data
(Lara talked about column store indexes and how they can provide blazing fast performance in data warehouses in SQL 2012. She did a great job demonstrating improved performance and data quality.)
ODBC drivers for Linux (customers converting from other platforms over to Microsoft (from *something*) have been requesting this), Semantic Search (goes beyond full text search) and Scale on Demand.

Ok, there was a lot of information in that keynote and I admit I didn’t get it all in blog format the way I was hoping. I blame internet issues.

Women in Technology Lunch

Moving on to the Women in Technology, which is sponsored by SQLSentry and happening right now. I will continue to update this post throughout the lunch…

The panel for today’s WIT lunch includes Yanni Robel, Karen Lopez, Sharon Dooley and Dale Clark.

Geoff Hiten kicked off the lunch and welcomed everyone and acknowledged SQLSentry for their sponsorship. Geoff introduced Jes Borland who is leading the discussion today. The WIT site is and you can follow PASS WIT on Twitter at @PASS_WIT.

Yanni begins the discussion talking about training, and how to ask (and get) technical training. Yanni had a manager who came to her team and said they had a budget for training, who wanted to attend SQL Connections? She had a female co-worker who did not volunteer (Yanni did), and when Yanni asked her why, her colleague stated that she didn’t think she should attend.

Dale has the next opportunity to speak, he states that you need to communicate your needs to your team and management. Through the normal course of discussion with the decision makers, you will get to the results that you are after. When it comes to making significant changes (a change in the way you go about doing your job), you need to make sure that not only do you know what you want (and why you want it), but that you have an understanding of what the impact is if you’re allowed to do that. From a management perspective, they look at things differently than you (e.g. how does one person working from home influence the rest of the team?). A manager or boss is not someone who goes and queries – do you want a raise? Do you want to work from home? You need to ask. Top performers get top consideration. You need to put in a successful plan for yourself.

Karen up next, never one to hold back her opinion 🙂 Karen acknowledges differences between men and women and how they are raised. Karen notices that women do not ask for what they want. They expect that if they work hard, they will be recognized and rewarded. And we will. But there are other people who think the same in, but who then walk in to management and say, “I want this.” Only 7% of women If we don’t ask for what we want, we’re leaving money on the table, training on the table. The first thing: go speak up! If a woman is in a meeting and doesn’t speak up, how is she heard? A woman should be her own chief marketing officer. Karen asks that when someone recognizes that you did good work, you should take that comment and reflect back to that person, “Yes, I did do a good job,” and then mention that it was a team effort. Karen strives for an analytical, non-emotional approach to asking for what she wants – whether it is a business or professional discussion. Speak up, ask for what you want, and have a good rationale for why you should get that.

And finally, we get to hear from Sharon (who has been working with SQL Server since it’s initial release). Sharon still has to remind herself that speaking up is not a bad thing. It’s not just about money. It’s about training. If you ask for training and are told they don’t have the budget for it, ask if it can be in the budget next year. Use the word, “I.” Women tend to think they aren’t supposed to say “I”, they are supposed to sit quietly. It is hard to break through. But remember that it’s about asking, not demanding. It is hard to ask without being worried that people will think that you are being demanding. We are conditioned to that. We just need to ask. If you ask for training, explain why it will benefit you. Give your management team business reasons.

Kalen Delaney steps up to the microphone. She has been successful and has lots of accolades, and still feels like she needs to be nice. Kalen tells the story about how she had a less than friendly email exchange with someone, and she felt bad about it, and Geoff Hiten reminded her, “I can’t imagine someone who’s gotten to your level of success without ruffling some feathers.” It is high on Kalen’s list that she has to be nice before anything else. It’s something she has been thinking about quite a bit lately.

Question from audience member: In order to ask for what you want, what are some things that each person has learned to help empower themselves to get the confidence needed to ask? Yanni answers first – she has created her own personal “Board of Directors” who she asks for an objective opinion. Yanni has other data professionals within the community who provide encouragement or feedback on topics/issues/ideas she needs help with. Karen chimes in, there are other people on your team who don’t feel confident before they go and act confident.

Question from another female audience member: how do you keep your cool when you are having discussions that maybe don’ go in the direction you’re hoping? Karen jumps in first…she states that’s not a skill she’s known for. As a female and a Canadian (ha!), the last thing you want to do is get upset or cry. In those moments, she stops and says, “I’m going to go look at some data and come back.” Dale hops into the conversation: if you are treating these requests as isolated incidents, that’s a problem. If you’re communicating with decision makers, you should be comfortable gaining more clarification. Yanni adds that it’s important to follow up (she’s used the “I”m going to look at my data” tactic as well).

Question from Kendra Little to the panel, before you go in and ask for a raise, what can you do *before* you go in and ask for a raise? Sharon starts by taking time by herself in a quiet room and thinking about all the things she has accomplished since her last pay raise. Then she makes an appointment with her manager for a time to discuss it, and go in prepared. Yanni states that you should research your value. Check the average salary ranges for your position in your area of the country. If you don’t do your homework and find your value, you can end up making a lateral move. Make sure you list what you’ve accomplished. Dale likes Karen’s suggestion about Chief Marketing Officer here. If you’re in a large organization with a HR group, go to the HR team and find out the average range for people in your position. What would it cost the company to replace you? Companies are at risk if they don’t continually evaluate the market value for existing employees. Yanni agrees, she has seen this before.

Another female member of the audience is an outspoken individual, how does she encourage other women to speak up, and not be intimidating. Sharon and Karen both comment that you should ask that individual questions. Often women don’t provide their opinion until they are asked for it. Therefore, draw women in and ask for their opinion.

Sean McCown steps up to the microphone. In terms of getting companies to pay for your training… The biggest issue we have is that the upper echelon of management doesn’t understand what the data professional does, they don’t understand the value of that position. Question to the panel, what do you do to educate upper management and explain that the data professional is worth keeping? Yanni keeps a list of her accomplishments – this is what she does to keep the solution/system/application working without issue. Yanni makes herself and her team visible regarding not only what they do, but also the importance of what they do. If we go to training, this is what we will bring back and we will then train the other members of the team.

Nicole Phillips from the audience she’s been in IT for over 10 years. After getting on the team, she has to become a walking resume for other people on the team. Feels that her work speaks for itself, does the panel have suggestions for how to handle it? Sharon states, “I don’t think you ever get out of having to prove yourself over and over again.” Every time you have a new group (new team, new client, etc.), they trusted me enough to get in the door, but I have to keep proving that I’m worth what they pay me. Karen states that you do have to tell people how much you have done. You have to say it out loud. Karen states that you don’t have to specifically ask for raise, but fight for every word on a performance review, because when you go to do a salary negotiation, it’s harder to say no when you have a great performance review. Karen also points out that when you’re presenting, take time to talk about yourself, who you are, what you have done and why you’re discussing that topic.

[ok, missed a little bit, had to find power for the laptop]

Another audience member asks, how do you get people to believe you? Yanni answers: document what you’ve done. Yanni had a manager that forced her to do this: document what you did, what you didn’t do…over time you accumulate those accomplishments. When you start to have those conversations, you can point out what you’ve done and have facts to support that. Sharon adds, make sure that you’re making a statement. Women have a tendency to use intonation of asking a question, rather than making a statement. That is learned – practice it!

Mark from the audience, his philosophy is “People is peoples.” What can he do to help women without making them feel like they’re being saved or condescending in any way. Sharon responds quickly: Listen to me. Dale encourages a better understanding of the team you’re working with. He defines himself as a recovering introvert. if you pay attention, you will see the people who are having a bit of challenge making their voice heard. Those individuals need a bit more trust to believe that they are being heard. People may not be willing to risk putting an idea out there because they are afraid to seem “dumb.” Only through a team and getting to know people, and eventually feeling comfortable enough to speak up did other people start to tell him that he had good ideas. Having a support system at work can be of great benefit for those who are more reserved.

Another speaker from the audience – get involved! Volunteer within the community. What does the panel recommend for children? Karen: teach them how to talk about themselves without boastful. We do speak to girls and boys differently. Think about how to teach children to be assertive and confident. Sharon thinks that what she has been able to accomplish is due to how she was raised. Her father expected her to help fix the bike. He expected her brother to wash the dishes.

Another female audience member…she doesn’t negotiate at home with the kids, how does that translate at work when she feels like she’s being bullied? Yanni responds that if someone tells you something is stupid, ask them why? Challenge them on it, nicely. She follows up on the issues and with the individual. If it really is stupid, she wants to know! But you need an explanation. Dale follows up with a phrase, “Which part of this don’t you like?” It’s a very effective question. Get the person to explain exactly what they’re hung up with.

Another female audience member has changes she wants to make at work. What process can she use to keep it front of people and get it moving? Yanni – if you have a specific issue, be proactive. Go talk to other managers as needed, on an individual basis. Invite them to meetings and sit in the same room. Karen, if there is a cost to waiting on something, make sure that is clear.

A gentleman stands up and talks about his wife, who isn’t paid very much by choice, but if she has ideas at work, no one listens because people seem to equate smart ideas with those who get paid more money. If you don’t value your time (which is why you’re paid to come to work), the less they will pay you and respect you. When someone says they are making enough money, they are afraid to ask.

Question from a female audience member: How do you get a good balance between work and family? Yanni: set boundaries. The company will have expectations if you’re working long hours continually. If you have to handle a production issue late at night, ask to take the next day off. You have to ask.

A question from a gentleman in the audience…he works with a business analyst who is female, and she is good with TSQL. He told her that she should come to the PASS Summit, and she told him it wasn’t related to finance. He encouraged her to go to become even more successful (she is known as a strong individual in the company) and she emailed management to ask, and was turned down. How do you ask for what you want without being pushy? Yanni – sometimes there is a budget limit so ask about next year. Keep asking – you don’t have to be pushy, but keep asking. Dale – share materials that you’ve brought back from the experience to light that fire for his co-worker.

How do you get self confidence? Practice. Go ask more. Don’t just pretend you have it, practice it.

Wendy has some questions from the Twitter stream. First one for Sharon: one of the best tips you have learned to show future value in your position? Sharon states that it’s important to have good references…someone that perspective clients can call on. Second question for the panel: What should you do when faced with sexism and discrimination? Karen has been told several times, “but you have a husband who makes a good salary, and we don’t have a lot…” Karen felt that what that person was trying to say is that there is a limited budget for the team, and he wants to keep the entire team, and he hadn’t calculated on Karen asking for a raise, and there’s not enough money in the pool. Value to the company is not based on anything external to the company. Karen knows that she has an option: convince her manager that she is worth the raise, or find another position. As females we tend to undervalue what our expectations should be for our salaries, because we do not get the data for what our jobs actually pay. Karen recommends keeping the discussion about what is should be. Yanni states that she’s run into an issue when asking for training – she was asked if she had kids (not relevant to training). Just because Yanni is a mother, management thought she wouldn’t be able to make arrangements for her children so they didn’t consider the opportunity for her.

Prize giveaways today: HP Touchpad from Microsoft and American Express gift card from SQLSentry. Thank you to our sponsors for hosting today’s lunch!

3 Responses to PASS Summit: Day 4
  1. Andreas Wolter
    October 13, 2011 | 4:50 pm

    Thank you very Erin, much for this (long) wrap-up especially on the Woman in Technology Discussion.
    Many interesting stories and thoughts, that everyone can read here now even if not having been at the Luncheon. I’d recommend any woman that struggles in bussiness to read your blog.


  2. Erin Stellato
    October 13, 2011 | 5:25 pm


    I’m happy you attended the lunch and am glad that you found my post useful! It is long 🙂 I was trying to document it (rather than provide commentary) and hope that it will get people to think about what was said and spark some good discussions.


  3. Kendra Little
    October 13, 2011 | 8:18 pm

    Thanks for writing this up, Erin!

    I really enjoyed the WIT lunch today, and only wish I’d had the chance to attend it ten years ago– when I was still salaried. 🙂 But I have found that negotiation is one of the most useful skills in life, and that I only use it more and more as I progress in my technical career. It was a great discussion, and thanks for sharing it with everyone.

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