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A Conversation with PASS President Thomas LaRock

The Professional Association for SQL Server (PASS) is an independent, not-for-profit organization run by and for the SQL Server community. With a growing membership of more than 100,000, PASS supports data professionals throughout the world who use the Microsoft SQL Server data platform. PASS membership is free and you can join online.

The all-volunteer PASS Board of Directors is comprised of a four-member Executive Committee, elected Directors-at- Large, Founding Partner representatives, and appointed advisors. Thomas LaRock, a PASS member for 10 years, is serving as PASS President for 2014.

Recently, I was fortunate to have a brief conversation with the very busy LaRock. We discussed his role as PASS President and he shared his thoughts on a few trends in the database industry. LaRock also shared some insightful personal tips for success.

Thomas LaRock
Thomas LaRock, PASS President for 2014

As the Professional Association for SQL Server (PASS) President for 2014, can you tell us about your responsibilities and any goals you have for 2014?

LaRock: As PASS President I am responsible to help guide the organization to live up to our mission of empowering data professionals who leverage Microsoft technologies to connect, share, and learn through networking, knowledge sharing, and peer-based learning.

We recently published our PASS goals for the upcoming year with a continued focus on establishing PASS as the community leader for Microsoft data technologies. Each PASS Board Director is also in the midst of publishing individual portfolio goals with a common theme of global growth, as we continue to take steps to being a truly worldwide organization.

We're looking forward to the PASS Business Analytics Conference May 7-9, 2014 in San Jose, Calif., in addition to PASS Summit 2014 Nov. 2-7 in Seattle, Washington. Any insider tidbits you can share?

LaRock: We’re very excited about this year’s Business Analytics conference. We recently announced our main keynote speaker, David McCandless—acclaimed data visualization expert, author and TedTalk speaker. His keynote will focus on the world of visualizing facts, data, ideas, statistics and questions. Also, Amir Netz and Kamal Hathi from Microsoft are returning with what is sure to be another entertaining and interesting keynote. Our overall speaker lineup is impressive—including some fantastic analytics experts from Intuit, Survey Monkey, Wells Fargo, and Yahoo. We’ve also got 20 hours of networking opportunities available.

As for PASS Summit 2014, we’re looking forward to returning to Seattle! Our call for speakers is now open and I encourage any and all SQL Server professionals to throw their hat into the ring and submit a session for consideration.

What would you say is the biggest challenges currently facing data/database professionals?

LaRock: Technology seems to be changing faster than people are able (or willing) to adapt. Even those who try to keep pace find it difficult to allocate the time necessary to keep their skills current. It’s not a new challenge, but rather a challenge that has existed for many years. The successful data professionals are the ones that are always striving to improve themselves and learn new things. The ones who fail to adapt are left behind.

How is the cloud changing our industry?

LaRock: The cloud is having a significant and positive impact on our industry. For one, it makes hardware tuning a lost art. You don’t get to touch hardware in the cloud. This brings about a greater emphasis on writing good code as well as tuning code. On top of that, proper architecture is becoming more important since just throwing hardware at the problem is no longer an option. I also view the cloud as an empowering businesses by making data easily accessible to everyone, allowing for greater insights and analysis. Bottom line, the cloud provides a crucial opportunity for all data professionals.

You're a busy guy. What's the story behind your rise to becoming a SQLRockstar? Any tips for rising stars?

LaRock: Never stop learning. Be honest and humble. Listen before speaking. Put your friends and family ahead of business or money. Give without expecting anything in return. Do all those things and everything will fall into place.

Any final words?

LaRock: Data lasts longer than code, treat it right.

Related: 6 SQL Server All Stars

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