Where Do We Draw The Line?

53094918With everything going on in the US these days with discrimination still running wild, with hate crimes and violent crimes happening at alarming rates, with leaders that increasingly seem to care only about themselves and filling the coffers of the 1%, with bigotry and hate-speech becoming commonplace, and with what feels like an ever-increasing sense of selfishness and ever decreasing sense of selflessness, I suppose it’s only natural that there’s some bleed-over of those things into other areas of life…like our #SQLFamily and our #SQLCommunity.

If you’re plugged into our community through Twitter, Facebook, the blogosphere, etc., then you’re probably quite familiar with the repeating cycle we seem to go through as we jump from one dramatic social crisis or hot-button issue to the next, blazing a trail of fire, accusations, slurs and offensive language, and disrespect along the way. I guess that’s to be expected, but that doesn’t make it right. It concerns me…a lot, and it has me asking some tough questions of myself and of our community, and taking a hard look at my involvement and affiliation with it all.

Have we lost our focus as a community? Have we forgotten that this community was founded on principles or helping, supporting, and uplifting each other? Have we become too accustomed to and perhaps jaded or spoiled by our successes? Have we forgotten to treat each other like human beings, with dignity, kindness, and respect… like real people, with real problems (both personal and professional), and perhaps most importantly, with real feelings that can be hurt.

Where do we draw the line between having constructive discussions about hard-hitting issues and being just plain mean, rude, hateful, attacking, inflammatory, slanderous, or offensive? Can we find a balance that lets us be considerate and respectful about what we say and how we say it without being afraid to talk about important things and to stand up for what we feel passionately about? How do we stay true to ourselves, our brands, our voices, our beliefs, and our feelings without trampling on those of others?

Like I said, these are tough questions, and I don’t have answers to most of them. I don’t expect things to get better overnight or even to improve because of this blog post. Part of my reason for writing this is to vent some of my worries and frustrations with what our community is becoming and how we (all of us…myself included at times) are behaving. The other reason I write this is in hopes that at least one person out there will read it and will ask themselves these same questions. I don’t know that I even care what their answers are, really. I just care that they spend some time thinking about these things and evaluating whether they’re moving in the direction they want to be, behaving the way they want others to behave, and coming into this with the right motivations, whatever those may be.

After all, we’re all adults here. We’re better than this, and we know it. We’ve achieved some great things together, and I know we can achieve even greater things together in the future, but we need to stay focused to do it. We need to focus on our community and its goals and mission and on what each of us can bring to the table to help us all grow and learn and improve. We need to reevaluate what is important to us. We need to reevaluate our behaviours and our interactions with others. We need to redefine our core purpose and our core beliefs as a community (even if that just means restating them as they are already), and then we need to focus on living by that purpose and those beliefs. Let’s try not to get distracted by the drama, by the pettiness, by the personalities, by the politics, by all of the things that take us away from helping each other. You see, it’s by helping each other grow that we grow the most ourselves.

I love you, #SQLFamily, really, I do. I think of many of you as close friends and even as part of my extended family. For me, SQL Saturdays and the PASS Summit are like a vacation, a family reunion, and a chance to geek out all rolled into one. Many of you have been mentors to me throughout the years, and I’ve had the privilege of being a mentor to several others as well. That is what makes this community great. That is what drew me in originally, and it’s what keeps me coming back. That is what we need to stay focused on and passionate about. Let’s draw the line here. Let’s make a stand, and let’s make a difference. Let’s start treating others with respect again. Let’s focus back on helping others. Let’s focus on building up our community instead of tearing it down.

And the results are in…

First of all, I’d like to take a moment to thank Allen White (b | t) for his dedication to and leadership of the Ohio North SQL Server User Group over the years, and for personally mentoring me and many others in the User Group, both as speakers and as IT Professionals. Simply put: If it weren’t for Allen, I wouldn’t have started speaking and wouldn’t have half the opportunities (and friendships\connections) that I have today. It’s because of this that Allen’s Open Letter to the Ohio North SQL Server User Group and his decision not to run for the office of Chapter Leader and President of the group is a bit bittersweet for me. While Allen will continue to attend and be involved in the User Group, and I’m sure he will continue to mentor many of us as well, I know I’m going to miss his smiling face, show tunes, and other antics as the face of our meetings and the leader of our group. I can certainly understand where he’s coming from though, and his need to take a step back from the group, as well as his various reasons for doing so (which he outlines quite nicely in his open letter).

With all of that said, I’m extremely proud, honored, and humbled to announce that I have been elected to be the next Chapter Leader and President of the Ohio North SQL Server User Group. Allen left some pretty big shoes to fill, and while I can’t replace him, I’ll certainly do my best to carry the group forward, to continue Allen’s work in mentoring and fostering new speakers and members of our community, and to look for new and creative ways to get others involved in our group and our events and to foster a real sense of ownership in our group. It’s these things specifically that make our User Group one of the best out there. I get asked all the time how we manage to have such an engaged team that follows-through on tasks and routinely puts on such outstanding events, and my reply is always the same: it’s the sense of ownership in the group and in the events and the mentorship and friendship that exists within the group that allow us to be so successful. We’ve got an amazing group of people with an awesome breadth  and depth of skills and insights, and as Chapter Leader, I promise to keep fostering that, and to find ways to engage it to the best of my ability.

Finally, I’d just like to close with a brief listing of the things I’d like to work on this year and into the years that follow in an attempt to keep our group moving forward, growing, and evolving:

  • Finalize\restart the process to get 501(c)(3) non-profit status for the group
    • Help move the group bank account over to the non-profit organization, and not have it tied to any one person
  • Continue Allen’s work to foster new local speakers
    • Look at how we can adjust the meeting\agenda to better support this (lightning talks, multiple sessions, etc.)
    • Have an open invitation to personally help new speakers with session\abstract reviews and ideas
  • Hold board\officer meetings to review the current officer positions and their responsibilities and adjust them as needed
  • Use my professional network to attract speakers from other areas to speak at our user group (please let me know if you’re interested; we’d love to have you)
  • Work with the other officers to improve the user group website, communications, etc.
  • Lead the SQL Saturday planning efforts, or work closely with someone else if they would like to lead the planning efforts
  • Create additional roles within the group (like the Sponsorship Coordinator position that I held previously) to allow others to contribute to the user group, if desired
  • Represent the user group at the PASS Summit, various SQL Saturday events, other user groups, etc. to exchange knowledge and ideas for running a successful User Group or SQL Saturday event

Thank you to everyone who voted for me tonight, and for letting me lead this awesome group of professionals. I’m looking forward to the year ahead and to some new and interesting challenges.

Adam Belebczuk
Chapter Leader and President
Ohio North SQL Server User Group