Community Action Plan

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By Riley Major, 2018-05-09.

This month I asked the #tsql2sday crowd to make a plan to give back to the Microsoft data platform community. For those who already give so much, I suggested describing how they got started in hopes they would inspire others. I hereby submit my plan.

Volunteer at a Conference

The Norwegian Developer Conference group (NDC) is bringing their show to Minnesota for the first time this week. They typically host in much bigger cities (London, Sydney, Oslo), so I’m grateful that Todd Gardner helped convince them to try out the Twin Cities tech scene.

Their bigger 2500-person conferences have $400k food bills, so they’ve described their 350-person debut here to be more “intimate”. (That’s not how I would have called our similarly-sized SQLSaturday.) They believe in the future of this market as they’ve already booked for next year and are counting on growth. At $1000 for two days, they recognize that they’re more expensive than most conferences in our region. But they bring in national and international speakers, and they believe the market will recognize the value they bring.

I went to their introductory NDC Minnesota Micro event last month. I appreciated that it was free and I recognized the diversity of the speakers they chose to highlight. More conferences and technical community growth is a good thing for our state, so I’m pleased to be volunteering to help make their inaugural event here a success.

While there, I plan to meet new people and think about ways I could help them. For example, during the volunteer meeting last night, I spoke with several junior developers. I shared information about our local junior developer group (which many already knew about, having recently graduated from Prime Digital Academy). I also talked about CoderDojo Twin Cities and That Conference. You never know when you will help somebody make a connection which can influence their career development.

Improve Diversity in Tech

I’ve blogged several times and spoken about the challenges we face with improving diversity in our technical community. Big companies like blaming problems on the “pipeline” because spending money on encouraging kids in STEM makes for good PR. But the real problem is the flight from the persistent toxicity in tech toward underrepresented groups. There’s also a negative feedback loop, where more departures lead to more feelings of isolation, which drives more talented people away.

To help combat this, I’m going to continue to work on checking my privilege as a white male in tech. And, because representation matters, I’m going to encourage women and people of color in tech however I can. Specifically, I will work to get at least one new speaker from an underrepresented group to present this year at our user group or SQLSaturday, providing whatever support they might need. (If you’re interested, please contact me!) Furthermore, I will work with our user group board to host a panel on diversity in technology– featuring diverse members, who also are encouraged to give technical talks– at our SQLSaturday on October 6th.

Serve on a User Group Board

This is the final year of my second, two-year term on the PASSMN board. I love being involved and I would happily run for another term, but I also want to make sure that we hear new voices in our leadership circle. So toward the end of the year I will be lobbying our group for a member to step up to serve for the first time. If there’s still room for me, I’ll gladly return. If not, I’ll look into reinvigorating the Rochester PASS chapter.


I really love speaking– once I’m actually up there and in the groove. It comes through to the audience, who describe my “energy” and “passion”. But honestly I still hate the lead up– the looming deadline to finish slides and preparation. The other problem with speaking is that (except for the great work Brent Ozar is doing with, it’s so transient. A few dozen people benefit once, but it’s a flash in the pan. A blog or video, though, can have some real legs; years later people can still learn from it.

Most of my writing (like this post) involves community-related topics. They’re important, and in my opinion more interesting to read, but I’d also like to contribute more actual tech. So I’m making a commitment to write at least two instructional blog posts before the end of the year.

You can, too!

That’s all there is to this, folks. Think of a way you want to be more involved, write down a concrete step in that direction, and put a date on it. Eat the elephant one bite at a time.

And then ask someone else to do the same.

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