Open Letter to the PASS Membership,

When I was appointed to serve as a Director at Large for the PASS Organization a year ago, it was with great passion, excitement and enthusiasm. I had some great ideas about how I could help globalize, diversify and improve our wonderful community that I’ve been a member of since 2013.

The PASS Community has provided me with friends and the opportunity to connect, share and learn.  I wanted to serve our community but have realised sadly that I cannot. 

It is with a heavy heart that I am delivering this message today. On Monday 7th December 2020 (Pacific Time) I resigned from the PASS Board. 

I had considered resigning from the board back in July this year, but wanted to continue and try and serve our community by continuing on the board. I wanted to bring change – I campaigned on it when running for the board this year. Ultimately I could not bring the change that I feel we needed and so this is the reason I am stepping down. To let others bring what they feel our community needs.

I want to thank the community for the support they have given me. This was a very hard decision to make, but I’m a give it a 100% person and I tried.

#KiaKaha PASS

What the future of PASS needs – and how I can help

At the recent PASS Virtual Summit I and the other candidates took part in a Ask Me Anything (AMA) session – where the community posed us questions.

It was a great experience for me – of the 3 days it ran I had time to participate in 2 of them. Current board activities and client requirements didn’t allow me to take part in the final session.

It was on reflection of the AMA session that I thought some key things need to be looked at.


— how the community can be engaged in the future of PASS

— how we can align as a global team

— what the event(s) on 2021 might look like

  1. Community Engagement
    The Board needs to look to the leaders within our community. We need their help – because to go forward we all need to be on the same page. We need to work cohesively to save the community platform that is PASS. This cannot be a top down approach. We need your help.
    I have worked in many situations where people have said “it can’t be done” or people are siloed in their approach. One of the reasons I got into DevOps was I realised early on that we needed a goal that could align disparate groups of people. It worked wonders in my corporate career and I’ve excelled in it whilst running a consultancy company.
    In short – we need to listen to our community, we need to work with that community and take the positive actions and measure the not-so positive actions. Measure them against the goal of PASS – a platform that helps the community learn, grow and connect.
  2. Alignment
    The alignment of a global team is related to the above action item. We need to work actively with our Regional Mentors – because they represent our regions. They should be actively working with their community leaders and actively telling us the board what works and doesn’t. We need this alignment, we need this communication and we need people who are passionate about making a difference for their community. I appreciate these are volunteer positions, that it can take a bit of personal time – however – time can be allocated if something is important enough and I found helping a community to be somewhere people felt safe, could learn and become a better person. I was recognised by the community in 2019 for being relentless when it came to helping others:

    In my life I have a pragmatic approach to disparity – one of the my early mantras was “make stuff go” and when placed in situations where groups of people wouldn’t agree on action items – I’d measure our opinions on whether it made stuff go or not. It is a very simple thing to do, the hard part is actually listening and distilling down to the fundamental problems at hand. Not up-talking or complicating things for our own ego…. That is what is needed for both items 1 & 2 above. I can help here, I have a proven corporate record in doing that.
  3. Basically this is about running out of $$…
    We need to take a pragmatic approach to the survival of PASS – and events may be smaller and more regional in 2021 – purely because of the covid situation we are experiencing right now. In saying that the Virtual Summit that we’ve just had was better than I personally thought it would be. I’m interested to see what the number/percentages look like for attendee experience. Certainly compared to other events I’ve been on it was better, yes there are improvements to be made/had. There were aspects that I didn’t like – but we have a voice and constructive feedback is far better than just saying something is bad.
    It will be interesting to see what the balance sheet looks like when all things are done – I feel that some hard decisions have to be made to ensure the longevity of the platform known as PASS. Some of those decisions will involve how we engage with the community, how we manage events as well as what strategic decisions we can make around content delivery. Not easy at all, but my passion for our community means I’m ready to stand up and fight for what PASS really needs to be,

PASS has changed my life – dramatically. I used to be a mediocre DBA. I thought locally rather than globally and the personal growth I have experienced by meeting passionate mentors has made me a far better person. It has resulted in my own mentoring of people and also having a wider sense of community – not just a data platform community – but helping others:

This is why I want PASS to continue – things have to change and I want to be a positive participant of that journey.

Please vote here:

My other blog post around why I am running is here:
Why I am running for the PASS Board in 2020


Why I am running for the PASS Board in 2020

This blog post is about why I am running for a 2 year term on the PASS Board. The PASS Community is one that I care deeply about, it is one that has helped me grow as a person and allowed me to contribute and help other people grow.

I served for one year on the board – it has been an insightful year in terms of how content and services are delivered, how decisions are made and what level of influence Directors have.

I am running to serve a 2 year term as we need to continue the great things that PASS does for the community but how it operates needs to change.

Speaking of change – 2020 has certainly been a year about change….

The past 8 months have upended so many things in society and this is evident with PASS as well. We’re about to go into our first ever Virtual Summit – and we’re currently running at a $1.6 million deficit in this fiscal financial year.

In the past the annual Summit has been the sole source of revenue for running the community – it was a flawed business model and this year has accentuated the flaws in that model.

Now is the time to have a positive change in terms of how PASS delivers content and services to the Community. We simply cannot continue on the path we have. This does not mean I want PASS to not exist, it does not mean I want to throw out the current management company.

What I want to do is introduce ways that we can work smarter – not harder…

The size and scale of what PASS is – requires management and operational oversight in how services and content is delivered. PASS requires professional interactions and liaisons with sponsors/vendors as well as our main partner Microsoft.

In terms of how we operate some of the IT systems – that definitely needs to change. We have a community of data professionals who know how to run events – can we build on that knowledge and perhaps use utilities like Sessionize and other platforms to perform some of the current costly operations more efficiently?

Over my career I have worked with companies to move towards more efficient operations, to remain sustainable and it has meant that some difficult but transparent/open conversations occur around reducing overheads. 

We need to have those same discussions around the future of PASS.

I do not want PASS to die – I want it to continue to serve the community, to be a vehicle that will help people grow. Therefore we need to engage more with that community around what change may look like. Collaboration is vital for the future of PASS.

The PASS Board and management company alike need to engage with the community, to listen to the community’s needs and collaborate on those needs in a positive constructive manner.

PASS needs openness and transparency in how it operates and needs to rebuild the connection with the community.

PASS has to change or it will not survive.

I want to serve our community by leading that change.
That is why I am running for the board.

You can find out about all the candidates in this years election here:

We are all passionate people, I’m really glad that we have people who will put themselves forward for the future of the community.  There is a scoring mechanism that can help you the voter decide who are the best candidates to help bring about positive change to ensure the future of PASS.

If you have any questions at all for me please reach out to me @theHybridDBA on twitter.

Update – I have written a follow post here:

We need change – but we need positive change for survival & growth.

Vote here:

Azure Platform Series: Creating an Azure Container Registry – ‘registry_name’ must conform to the following pattern

This is another blog post in the series of how to #MakeStuffGo in Azure.


I am working on a client project that requires containerised applications – so we will be using Azure Container Registry.

I am using bash scripts to create the resources in Azure – so am using variables for all the things.

How to #MakeStuffGo with Azure Container Registry

Initially I had a Resource Group called AKS-RG as the client wanted their resource groups to have the function of what would be in there (in this case Azure Kubernetes Services) and -RG so that it was obvious it was a resource group.

So initially the script for the Azure Container Registry was:

az acr create \
--resource-group $RESOURCE_GROUP \
--location $REGION_NAME \
--name $ACR_NAME \
--sku Standard

Where I had the variables $RESOURCE_GROUP, $REGION_NAME and $ACR_NAME already defined further up in the script.

The only problem was – we had defined

which then failed in Azure Cloud Shell with:
validation error: Parameter 'registry_name' must conform to the following pattern: '^[a-zA-Z0-9]*$'.

The fix was pretty simple – we just changed ACR_NAME variable to be:


Which to be honest was a better standard – as we already had the clientname defined as a variable.

It is also the same in the UI (sometimes it is good to try this out as sometimes there are inconsistencies in Azure……)

Screen Shot 2020-06-07 at 17.54.22

So there you go – in some places you can use dashes in Azure and in some places you cannot. But that’s why we have prototypes – to find out all this fun stuff that keeps us on our toes..



Azure Platform Series: Push to GitHub repo with 2FA from a Mac using Personal Access Token

This is another blog post in the series of how to #MakeStuffGo in Azure.


I have some code on my Mac. I need to put it into an empty GitHub repo for later deployment in Azure and I have to use a Personal Access Token (PAT). I was provided the URL of the repo and given the PAT so stored that in the keychain on my Mac.

#MakeStuffGo with PAT, GitHub and a Mac

  1. Add the PAT into Keychain:
    Screen Shot 2020-06-07 at 17.25.40
  2. Create the Project Folder on the Mac:
    heymish$ mkdir devops-aks-middleware-api
  3. Initialise the local git repo
    heymish$ cd devops-aks-middleware-api
    heymish$ git init
  4. Add the remote git repository – I have called mine origin – it could be anything
    heymish$ git remote add origin<clientrepo>/devops-aks-middleware-api.git
  5. Create a local branch
    heymish$ git checkout -b master
  6. Do some stuff
    For me I was just copying in code that we had worked on so far – so copied that into the directory and did:

    git status
    <list of files that I've added>
    "nothing added to commit but untracked files present (use "git add" to track)"
  7. Now we want to add those files to be added to our initial commit:
    heymish$ git add .
    heymish$ git commit -m "initial code commit"
  8. Now comes the hard part – getting the 2FA stuff going with GitHub.
    a) we need to setup the GitHub email address we’ll use
    b) we need to setup the GitHub username we’ll use

    heymish$ git config --global ""
    heymish$ git config --global "TheHamishWatson"
  9. Now we will push our local changes to the remote branch.
    The -u flag indicates that we are pushing local changes upstream to origin

    git push -u origin master
  10. This will now ask me for credentials – which is the PAT I stored in the keychain before:
    Screen Shot 2020-06-07 at 17.19.36
    I type in the password for my keychain and I only click Allow – I’m ok to type in the password every time I need to auth to GitHub – I could click Always Allow – it’s just a personal thing.
  11. Git will now push my local changes up to the repository and I can now start to edit code and collaborate with my clients developers.

So there you go – not too hard and things are nice and secure. There are other ways to use GitHub – ssh vs https which I’ve done here. But for https the above method using a Personal Access Token is pretty straightforward.



Azure Platform Series: How to setup Azure Cloud Shell

This blog post will be a series on the Azure Platform and some things we can use it for.


I run a consultancy company – and sometimes I have to build stuff for clients using their Azure subscriptions. Which means I get to help them setup their Azure platform.

I’ll write about the first thing you need to do when working with Azure – setup Azure Cloud Shell. I love the Azure Cloud Shell as it means I can stuff from anywhere, no matter what O/S, machine or location I’m in – I’ve been known to build data centres in Azure using my mobile phone whilst watching rugby on a field in Akaroa (seriously – Akaroa is a wonderful part of New Zealand).

But yeah – the best part of Azure Cloud Shell is that I have zero software to install or maintain – and I like that…

I can also load scripts up to Azure storage and reference them in Azure Cloud Shell.

#MakeStuffGo with Azure Cloud Shell

First up we need to go to and login.
We now click the Azure Cloud Shell icon:

Screen Shot 2020-06-06 at 14.47.15

We can choose Bash or PowerShell – that doesn’t matter too much right now – we can always change it later.

And if this is the first time we’ve used it we fill out the form below – but be careful with your naming as you can get this:

Screen Shot 2020-06-06 at 14.45.26

The reason is has failed is:

Screen Shot 2020-06-06 at 14.59.32

So fir the Storage Account – just uses numbers and lower case letters only. No special characters.

But you also have to have a unique name for your storage account – not just your storage account but ALL storage accounts:

Screen Shot 2020-06-06 at 15.01.47

So make it something unique.

Oh and that File share name isn’t great either:

Screen Shot 2020-06-06 at 15.03.42

We settled on this:

Screen Shot 2020-06-06 at 15.05.15

And now we have:

Screen Shot 2020-06-06 at 15.05.52If after creating our Azure Cloud Shell session we want to change to PowerShell from bash or vice versa – it’s really easy:Screen Shot 2020-06-06 at 15.08.23

And there we have it – we have Azure Cloud Shell configured.
Now let’s go build some stuff in Azure!!


T-SQL Tuesday #125 – Unit testing databases – we need to do this!!

Welcome to the first April edition of T-SQL Tuesday. I’m honoured to be hosting it and have picked a topic that is near and dear to me.
If you are new to T-SQL Tuesday this is the blog party started by Adam Machanic (b|t) and now hosted by Steve Jones (b|t). tsql2sday150x150-1[1]

It’s an awesome way of encouraging blog posts from the community and helping to share that knowledge out.

My topic is about unit testing databases – something that I don’t see enough of when I am working with clients. The good news is that over the years I’ve noticed that more people are speaking and writing about unit testing databases and folding that testing into DevOps processes like Continuous Integration & Continuous Delivery processes (CI/CD).

I hope that this topic drives some conversation both for it (because it protects your code and data…) and against it (it takes too long to write these pesky unit tests…!!).

We’re now delivering Bugs to Production faster than ever!!

This clickbait type heading actually describes what will happen if you embrace DevOps processes without doing any form of testing. Because DevOps is all about accelerating the delivery of software – we want to do more deployments and do them quicker…

..which is why testing is core to DevOps practises.  Specifically testing right throughout the deployment pipeline – that is starting at your laptop and finishing in Production (yes I advocate for testing in production but that’s a whole other blog post..).

What is Unit Testing?

Unit testing is a software testing method by which individual units of source code are tested to determine whether they are fit for use. A unit is the smallest possible testable software component.  A unit is small, so it is easier to design, execute, record, and analyse test results for than larger chunks of code are. Defects revealed by a unit test are easy to locate and relatively easy to repair.

This is opposed to finding the defect in Production – which is harder to triage and is now affecting users – whereas if you find that bug on your laptop via a unit test – it is way easier to remediate and only affects – you.

The ideal qualities of unit tests:

Decisive – the unit test has all info to determine success/failure

Valid – it produces a result that matches the intention of the code written

Complete – it contains all information it needs to run correctly within the test harness

Repeatable – always gives the same results if the test harness and code are same

Isolated – is not affected by other tests run before nor affects the tests run after it

Automated – requires only a start signal in order to run to completion

Benefits of Unit Testing

Below are the benefits of unit tests – this relates to application and databases alike.

Code Quality goes up:

Unit testing improves the quality of the code. It identifies every defect that may have come up before code is sent further for integration testing. Writing tests before actual coding makes you think harder about the problem. It exposes the edge cases and makes you write better code.

Find Issues early:

Issues are found at an early stage. Since unit testing is carried out by testing individual code before integration, issues can be found very early and can be resolved then and there without impacting the other pieces of the code.

Simplifies Integration

Unit testing allows us to refactor code or upgrade things at a later date and make sure everything still works correctly. Unit tests detect changes that may break things and help with maintaining and changing the code base.

The best part about unit testing is that it verifies the accuracy of the each unit of code. Afterward, when we integrate the code units together and run some form of integration testing during the build process we can then verify the individual units of code.

So what about databases?

So now that I have introduced unit testing – is it valuable for implementing with databases? Rather than write my own opinion – I’m going to hand it over to the community to answer this…


(BTW I think it is valuable – I speak on it regularly and I implement it with clients to safeguard their production databases…)


The Rules

  1. Your post must be published on Tuesday 14th April. This counts as long as it’s still Tuesday anywhere in the world.
  2. Include the T-SQL Tuesday Logo and make it link to this invitation post.
  3. Ping backs should work, but to be sure, add a comment to this post with a link to your own so I know where to find it.
  4. Tweet about your post using the #tsql2sday hashtag


Lastly – we’re currently in a lockdown in New Zealand – because of the COVID-19 pandemic sweeping the world.

I want to say to all who are reading this:

Be Safe

Be Strong

and please:

Be Kind

If you’re struggling with things – please reach out to your support network (we care about you), I wrote some things that have been helping keep myself:

Take care – we’re in this together and you’re not alone



Being awarded the PASS PASSion Award – you can too

The annual PASSion Award is the highest accolade given to a PASS volunteer.

Presented during the annual PASS Summit conference, this award recognizes an individual’s exemplary service and commitment to the PASS organization, by inspiring our community of data professionals to connect, share, and learn.


I was lucky enough to be nominated for this award – people nominated me back in September 2019 – although I didn’t know that they had…

Long story short I was awarded the PASSion Award at PASS Summit 2019:

This is a photo of a humbled and nervous Hamish…

The actual award – it’s heavy – it has pride of place next to my daughter’s dance awards 😊

During the recent weeks in COVID lockdown it got me thinking that I should celebrate this award – I had not publicised it – as to be honest I’m still very humbled by it…

So I would rather turn this around – you too can be awarded this – now is a great time to reach out to your networks, to help setup virtual conferences and volunteer for things that might not have existed or were possible before.

Give it a go – or on the flip side – when nominations open in September 2020 – nominate someone you know that makes a huge difference in our PASS Community.


Be Safe, Be Strong and Be Kind…. surviving COVID Lockdown in New Zealand

Currently we have have the COVID-19 pandemic sweeping the world. Here in New Zealand we are currently in lockdown – what this means is that we Kiwis are required to stay at home.

Not go out – except to get groceries or go to the pharmacy.

What this actually means is that we are now at home with our families – but only our families.  I am an extrovert… I love interacting with people. My lockdown is a bit different than most:

I recently travelled to Canada and returned to NZ on Friday 20th March and went into “self isolation” – as the NZ Government decreed any international travellers had to self isolate for 14 days.  I had a friend who had an empty apartment so was planning to stay there for the 14 days – so as not to accidentally infect my kids – who then might infect their grandparents (who are over 70..).

So I stayed by myself 30 kilometres (20 miles) from my family. However NZ went into lockdown 6 days into my self isolation so I made the decision to go home and self quarantine myself in 2 rooms (one of which had a ensuite bathroom). Luckily my main client has allowed me to work remotely which has helped my sanity greatly and means I’m not unemployed….

I am now 12 days into my 14 days and I thought I would share how I, as an extrovert, have coped and managed my isolation – from people.

These were my things that I came up with – yours will be different so these are only suggestions. Like the pyjamas suggestion – for me I need to have a state change to get into work mode

  1. Stick to a routine
    Go to sleep and wake up at a reasonable time, write a schedule that is varied and includes time for work as well as self-care.
  2. Still dress well
    Get showered and dressed in comfortable clothes, do the normal things you did. Don’t wear pyjamas all day (but you know what – if that works for you – do it.)
  3. Go outside for some fresh air
    Get out at least once a day, for at least thirty minutes. If you are concerned of contact, try first thing in the morning, or later in the evening.  Remember you only need to keep 2 metres or 6 feet away from people.
    Even just opening a window and letting in fresh air helps.
  4. Talk to people
    This was a huge one for me and I had some wonderful friends who WhatsApp video chatted, Teams “meetings” and even employees at my client site who regularly contacted me to talk. It was a massive difference to my wellbeing.
    For you – you might not like video chats – but please keep in contact with people via text messages at least – it will let them know you’re ok. Or if you’re not OK then you have a way of interacting with your support network.
  5. Be silly
    I have a friend who sends me a picture of a beer every day – a different beer and his description of that beer.  It has made me laugh and kept me slightly sane – because I’ve had to think of witty replies back. Gold.
  6. Eat well
    Stay hydrated and eat good food.  This one may seem obvious, but stress and eating often don’t mix well, and we find ourselves over-indulging, forgetting to eat, and avoiding food. Drink plenty of water, eat some good and nutritious foods, and challenge yourself to learn how to cook something new!
  7. Spend time being a kid
    If you have them – spend time with your kids – being a kid.
    Spend extra time playing with your kids, or if you don’t have any – go play some games, do things that you normally wouldn’t that might bring some playtime to your life. Play is cathartic – for kids and adults too.
  8. Respect each other
    Have a space – it’s yours to retreat to.
    It is important that people create their own separate space for work and for relaxation. For children, help them identify a place where they can go to retreat when stressed. My house currently has 3 “forts” built that the kids use to “get away from it all”.
  9. Kids will be kids
    And adults will be grumpy.
    Kids thrive on routine and that routine has likely been upended – same deal for adults. So expect behavioural issues with kids and adults too – expect increased anxiety, worries and fears, nightmares, difficulty separating or sleeping, testing limits, and meltdowns. Focus on emotional connections with your close ones. They need you as much as you need them.
  10. Self-acceptance is key
    We can too easily be hard on ourselves.. a bit easier on yourself, accept that you might fail at some things. These are huge unprecedented times and accept everything about yourself, your current situation, and your life without question, blame, or pushback. You cannot fail at this.
  11. Exercise – if its your thing..
    I setup a small gym (weight bench and 4 dumbbells of various weights) in one of the rooms I am quarantined to. I have to say that doing weights has helped my state of mind GREATLY. For you it might just be a 30 minute walk out in the fresh air to get away from things. Exercise is good – you don’t have to run a marathon – just that physical state change.
  12. That thing you keep putting off..
    You probably have a project that you’ve been meaning to do but haven’t (I know I do – there are a heap of things on my rural property I could be doing that don’t require me to leave it!!).  Find something that will keep you busy, distracted, and engaged to take breaks from what is going on in the outside world.
  13. Reach out for help
    We’re here for you, we care.
    Keep up your medications and if you do them –  therapy sessions the best you can. If you are having difficulty coping, seek out help for the first time.
  14. Chunk it out
    Take each day as moment by moment. Break your day or tasks up into manageable chunks. It’s like the analogy of eating an elephant – you do it bite by bite (BTW please don’t eat elephants – they’re awesome creatures!!)
  15. This is temporary…
    It might seem like this will never end – and uncertainty is worrying. Although this is scary and we’re in difficult times it will pass in time.
  16. Most of all – be you
    …and remember to converse with others – however works best for you
    We’re in this together.
  17. Let’s chat
    Do you know me? Reach out and say hi.
    Don’t know me? Reach out and say hi – I like to talk, listen and make people laugh.

And please – remember:
Be Safe
Be Strong
and most importantly:

Be Kind




Diversity & Inclusivity – a personal journey

This article is about my own experiences in making my user group and community events more inclusive for people from diverse backgrounds.  I am going to use growing my user group as an example as this one was an example where making small changes had a dramatic effect on my community.  I’m hoping it can help you look at how we can grow our community and be more inclusive.


Beer and Pizza – stalwart of any tech event, right?

My user group was lucky enough to have some funding for drinks and food. This is typically beer and pizza. When I took over the user group in late 2015 I noticed there was a number of people who were not eating or drinking. They were also just sitting in groups by themselves whilst the rest of us were standing around eating pizza and drinking beer.

I didn’t like that, so I thought: what can I change?

I made a small change – I didn’t buy as much beer and instead bought an assortment of non-alcoholic beverages (e.g various soft drinks and water) as well as changing up the pizza flavors to include vegetarian options as well. This had a dramatic effect in that people were more engaged since the people who used to just sit by themselves in the corner now were all also standing around enjoying pizza and communing with the rest of the user group.

Start small – you can’t change the whole world

My initial steps were to start with my own user group – to see what effect I could have at a small scale.  I was interested to see if by opening up my user group, would that have a flow-on effect both to my local SQL Saturday event and more importantly – within the greater Christchurch community?

As above, I made a small change – I started small by making food and beverage (F&B) options more inclusive.  This resulted in more and more people from diverse backgrounds who previously would not have come along finally showing up. The user group grew almost 3X from 300 members in 2015 to over 830 in 2019.  Word began to spread that there was an event dedicated to helping people learn, but also provided food that was inclusive to people from different cultures. Also, special dietary requirements are something that I try my best to accommodate as well.

Get some help from like-minded people

When I first took over the user group it was run by three men, so when I started in a leadership capacity I asked one of my friends who was female to join us.  Sarah had been involved in helping out with SQL Saturday so it was a no brainer for me. What occurred was that because Sarah was involved in other community activities, and specifically Women in IT groups – it meant that she helped bring more women to the user group.  It also meant that more women came along because Sarah was there at the beginning of the night during the social part, and so people were more engaged (of course, it helps that Sarah has a warm bubbly personality makes people feel welcome too!).

It isn’t just about you.

In order to grow my user group further, I started attending other user groups as well, often speaking at several of these events too. When I spoke at other user groups I invited people to come along and learn about data.  However I didn’t just go to technical user groups; I also visited other community social group and events (for example, I had friends in the Indian and Iranian communities and spoke at their events about career development). I talked about a culture of true community and how we all had a part to play in looking out for each other.

I mentored young students who wanted to know what they should do to get their first job. Sometimes, I even introduced them to their first boss! Often, I would also look out for tech conferences or university events to attend either as a speaker or as a volunteer in order to further build community.

My aim was to instill a culture of community collaboration.  Now, we were all part of a broader technical community – it wasn’t just “the data people”, or the “the .NET team” but rather an inclusive and diverse group of technologists learning, connecting and helping each other out. When the horrific Christchurch attack happened on March 15 – it was this very communal connection between disparate groups that brought our community closer, and helped us in healing.

Being extroverted isn’t always a good thing

If you’ve met me – I’m, ahem, loud. Or a nicer way of putting it is that I’m passionate about everything I do. Which means I get excited about “making stuff go” – whatever stuff is.

It is easy for others to say, “Well you’re an extrovert; this is second nature to you.

However, being extroverted can have both positive and negative effects. Positively, it can inspire people to make changes, to embrace new things and this worked very well in my career when I had to get a room full of people energized to create, fix or manage solutions. This has flowed on into my community activities in getting people to help grow the community.

There is however a side effect to this, and it is that passion sometimes can put people off. It can be overwhelming for introverted people and also people whose culture is more quiet and measured.  It has taken me some time in my life to know when to tone it down. This happened in my career in 2003 when I had one of the best technical people working for me, but they were very quiet and my team had a very vocal culture. Also, I was the leader of the team and I’m – well – loud.  I could tell this person did not feel included, so instead of walking over and talking face to face which I knew made this person felt uncomfortable, I would instead email/text instead. Also, rather than having team activities at the pub after work, we did a range of other inclusive team activities instead.

The amazing thing that happened was that this person met me halfway – I learnt to become a better listener, and they became a more proactive communicator, and would even walk over to my desk and initiate conversations!

I then decided to try this same approach with people from other cultures that tended to be more reserved. I practiced speaking in a quieter voice, improved my active listening skills and learnt to ask a heap more questions that I normally would – this had a great effect because it engaged them in conversation and allowed them to actively participate.

This approach takes time, effort and requires constant focus of the end goal – to make people feel included no matter what their diversity is. It is certainly not an easy skill to develop, but it’s possible!

It can WILL feel a bit uncomfortable for you

This process is not meant to be easy or comfortable. There will be times when there are misunderstandings because of language barriers, cultural differences and social nuances.  You will need to be socially aware, and ensure that you address any miscommunications in an appropriate manner. Be careful of your personal biases as well. My technique is to reframe the question from another perspective, share context or describe what I’m talking about another way that might help people understand better and connect.

There have been times where I have gone to an event to support a community, and yet felt like I didn’t belong, didn’t know what was going on and afraid to offend others. However, even though I felt uncomfortable in those situations, I stayed anyway because my goal was to be there and help others. That said, I often think to myself how great it would’ve been if the event organizers had cared enough to ask what they could’ve done to make the event more inclusive.

If you don’t know or are not sure, ASK! 

After the March 15 Christchurch shooting, I wanted to donate gifts to children who had lost their parents in the tragedy and show support however I could. This involved attending the local Eid al-Fitr celebrations to mark the end of Ramadan. I’d never been to Eid before, I’m not a Muslim and I was not sure what to do. I looked it up online and spoke to some of my friends who are Muslim to get an idea of what I needed to do or expect. Whilst attending it I did feel overwhelmed at times, but luckily for myself I had a purpose to bring some small gifts to kids to show that the greater community cared for them. That helped me during those times. I wouldn’t say I felt uncomfortable, but I was outside of my comfort zone and it was during this time that I internalised:

“…now I know how it feels for others who feel that they don’t belong.

Since then, it has been an important reminder for me to be more inclusive and continue to help others more as I don’t want people to feel like that at my events, or at any other events. I make a point of saying hi to anyone and everyone who is willing to engage, and always remind myself to be respectful to all dimensions of diversity – be it race, gender identity, religion etc.

The one step that makes a difference

I hope this article helps you in some way to look at how you can boost diversity and inclusion within your own community, wherever you are in the world. I used my user group as an example of how small changes can have a big effect on diverse membership and also helping people feel included. Yet, this is a continuous, ongoing effort because just making one change is not enough – we have to do more. We need to do more.

Often what I thought was fairly straightforward was not for others – so my small step resulted in a big change for others. Often we overlook things that we assume “everyone gets it” ; however, as an example from a technical stand point, my most popular blog posts are the ones that I wrote thinking, “This is so simple that no one will read this.” But I realize that what I might assume to be simple might be a hurdle for someone else.  This is true for people who are diverse – what might seem easy for me as a European Maori male who has been in the IT industry for 20 years – those things can be quite difficult for others because I, too, am privileged.

Perhaps you might feel that all this requires too much change and effort. There is a fear of change that is natural to humans – we are wired to react with distrust when the status quo is challenged.  What happens is that we narrow our perspective and “circle the wagons” which is the opposite desired effect of creating a more inclusive community.

I ask you to look at these changes from a positive perspective,  which is why I wrote about my own experiences to show you that it isn’t always easy but by remaining focused on the goal of helping include people and to embrace diversity – it creates potential for positive change.  Celebrate any and all small successes you have and then use that to drive more improvements to have even bigger success. This will give you a good foundation to work from and more importantly will make others think about their own actions and maybe change how they embrace diversity and inclusivity in their own lives/workplace.

Let’s work together to make our community a better, kinder and more inclusive place, and become better people too.


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We are one.