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Perspectives
Kevin Kline Unplugged
by Brian Moran, bmoran@solidq.com
I recently had the privilege to spend some quality time with Kevin Kline as PASS Summit Unite 2009 was wrapping up. I served with Kevin on the inaugural PASS Board of Directors 10 years ago, and I’ve considered Kevin a good friend for the past decade. I knew that many of you would enjoy hearing Kevin candidly discuss his journey with PASS, so I asked Kevin if I could interview him, and he was gracious enough to say yes. The interview was a bit hectic because we did it at the PASS booth during PASS. We tried to hide away in the corner, but Kevin’s fans couldn’t help but say hi from time to time.

Brian Moran: How has being on the PASS board for 10 years changed you?

Kevin Kline: It's been very humbling for me, actually. There are certainly things to be proud of when you're at the helm of a big organization, but for me I still see so many things that need to be done, so I feel like in a sense, "Gosh, it would be really good if I had gotten those other things done." And also I really recognize the fact that for me, having been on the board at PASS is an aspect of what I call servant leadership, in which the leader is not there to be served or treated especially well, but is there to serve others and act in such a way that their needs are to be met. So, for me, it was the kind of thing that I thought about every day I was working on PASS stuff, which was most days at least for a little bit. I was definitely thinking about how was it that I could bring value to the membership and provide something that is not being provided elsewhere, or build a relationship that is being broken down somewhere else, or reconcile with someone who was irreconcilable before. Where can we make these things better, rather than leave them as they are or let them get worse.

Moran: Where does PASS need to be in five years, and then 10 years? You've been around for 10 years—where should it be the next 10 years?

Kline: I've kind of beat this drum before in the past. PASS right now is great about touching on the technology side of being an IT professional/SQL Server professional. I think it needs to develop much more in terms of the first letter in its acronym, on the professional side of things. Much more needs to happen in terms of helping people progress through their careers. Many people don't stay a technologist their whole life—maybe they start as a developer or support person and become a DBA, then they become a BI analyst, and BI has business in its name, so maybe they then move into the business and become an owner of a major component of the business. So we need to help people move through those different stages of their career, not just this one, seven-year period of your career. We need to help you become a much better professional across the board, and help you raise your game in a number of ways.

So that's one big thing I see changing. Another—and again, going back to your earlier question—is I really see Web 2.0 becoming a much bigger element of PASS. Much more content streamed, much more availability for comment and discussion, for people giving something three stars or five stars or no stars. A lot more collaboration. One of the things that I think has already been great about PASS is the way the community really pulls together, and I think we're going to see that become even more dynamic and even more, as Amir Nazim says, more "alluring" and attractive and pulls in even more people. We know that there's this group of people that everyone's invited to come and discuss. I think we'll see more of that in the future.

Moran: I know there are some achievements at PASS that you're proud of and some things that you wish could have gone better. Over your whole tenure, is there anything you wish you could go back in your time machine and do a different way?

Kline: Well, there’s a very long list of things I wish we could've done differently or done better. Here's a simple example: The board has had a great number of people who have served for varying lengths of time—one year, two years, maybe even two terms or more. Once those sterling individuals have left the board, in most cases, that's the last we hear from them. They don’t come back as speakers; they don't lead a local user group. For some reason, many of them have disengaged. And in some cases, these folks were promoted into better jobs, and they don't care about SQL Server anymore, which is understandable. But in some cases, those people are still engaged in SQL Server, and I wish there was something we had done to help them stay in the fold, and to stay active and interested, and to at least comment every now and then and say, "Hey, here's my thoughts on this particular issue."

I really should actually broaden that, because there's a lot that happens to people who we have made contact with, but we somehow lost that contact. So we've had great speakers, chapter leaders, committee members, and in any kind of volunteer organization—boy and Girl Scout troops, PTO—volunteers do it for the love of that organization. I fear that if we had just expressed a little more care and appreciation, some of these people might still be with us today. And that's a fault I take personally—you know, I could've done a better job telling these people how much it meant to me. So that's just one example—there are quite a few where we could've done a better job as a team trying to lead this organization.


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