Kathi: Denise, how long have you been involved with PASS and what roles have you held?

Denise: I attended my first PASS event in the summer of 2002. That year PASS organized regional seminars and I attended a 2-day seminar in Las Vegas that featured Kimberly Tripp and Mike Hotek. I was so impressed with the quality of the technical content at that event I decided to attend my first Summit that same year. That was so good I came back the next year. It was during the 2003 Summit Bill Graziano said to me "we should volunteer for the Program Committee next year." So we did. That was my first voluneer role with PASS. I served on the Program Committee for four years, including one year as committee manager.

In 2005 I started helping organize the Women in Technology Luncheon and Panel Discussion. Back then there was no WIT virtual chapter so we organized the luncheon under the umbrella of the Program Committee with a lot of help from HQ. As more women in PASS became interested I approached Kevin Kline (PASS President at the time) about forming a group for women within PASS. He suggested we use the Special Interest Group (SIG) structure. At the 2006 Summit we announced the launch of the WIT SIG. I chaired the SIG (now known as the WIT Virtual Chapter) for the first couple of years. I currently co-chair the group with Wendy Pastrick.

Kathi: Tell me about your work background. Did you start out in technology or in some other area and then switch?

Denise: I did not start out in technology at all. I barely used a computer in school. My degree is in Political Science. After I graduated college I worked various jobs and in the early 1990's I started working for a company that does public opinion research, mostly for political candidates. The company was small and the owner did most of the computer-related work. She needed help and even though I knew very little about computers I was interested so she gave me a chance. Pretty soon I was doing whatever she needed from managing the network to doing installs to running the payroll program. One day she bought "Access 2.0" and told me we were going to learn it--and we did. That's how I got started with databases.

Of all the computer-related work I did there I liked the database work the best. After a few years I left that job because I moved back to California. I got another Access job, but I wanted to do more enterprise-level work. I was living in Silicon Valley in the middle of the dot com boom and I was able to land a job as a junior SQL Server DBA at a start-up. Things were so wild then--when I interviewed for that job I had never even touched SQL Server, and the people interviewing me knew it. That job turned out to be a great opportunity. My managers there taught me so much about databases and how to be a good DBA. They really mentored me. I still draw on things they taught me today.

Kathi: When did the Women in Technology (WIT) Luncheon begin and how have you seen it grow over the years?

Denise: The first luncheon took place in 2003. Stephanie Higgins was on the PASS Board of Directors at the time and she initiated it along with Rebecca Laszlo. They are the people who really got the idea off the ground. That first year there were about 65 people in attendance. Since then it has grown to almost 250 attendees in 2009. We have gotten great support over the years from the Board of Directors, HQ and the PASS membership. This year will be the 8th consecutive year of the WIT Luncheon. The topic is "Recruiting, Retaining & Advancing Women in Technology: Why does it matter?"

Kathi: What other ways has WIT reached out to the women of PASS besides the luncheon?

Denise: Our stated mission is "to provide a forum for discussion of issues pertinent to women working in technology and opportunities for women within PASS to meet and network.to provide a forum for discussion of issues pertinent to women working in technology and opportunities for women within PASS to meet and network." Each year at the Summit we have a table at the welcome reception to provide a place for women attending the Summit to meet up and network. Last year in addition to the luncheon the WIT VC presented a session on work-life balance as part of the Professional Development track.

We also maintain a web site at wit.sqlpass.org. On the site we provide links to WIT resources and groups as well as news articles and commentary on issues relevant to women in tech.

Kathi: How can PASS members become more involved with WIT?

Denise: Anyone interested in participating is welcome to join the Virtual Chapter. Just send an email to wit@sqlpass.org. VC members organize the luncheon and WIT participation at the Summit. Since we are volunteer-driven we engage in the activities that are of interest to our members. Several of our members are involved in their local PASS chapters and in SQL Saturday events.

We also encourage contributions to the web site. Anyone interested in creating web content for the WIT site can contact me at denise.mcinerney@sqlpass.org.

Kathi: Recently, I participated in a WIT discussion at the IndyTechFest. Have you been hearing about similar panels and discussions at many events such as SQLSaturdays?

Denise: Yes! There were WIT sessions at the SQL Saturday events in Atlanta and Portland. Hopefully there will be more in the future.

Kathi: Do you see more men getting involved in the luncheon and attending the WIT session at PASS? Why are they interested in the discussion?

Denise: We've definitely seen the number of men attending the WIT events increase in the last couple of years. And more men are participating in the discussions on women in tech that happen in the blogosphere. I think there are a variety of reasons men particpate. Some have a direct interest--they want to see their wives, sisters or daughters have the same opportunities in tech as they have had. Some see it from a more macro perspective: they recognize that diversity in the hi-tech workforce is important for innovation and success. And some participate so they can be more aware of the issues that their female co-workers face.

Kathi: What are your future plans with PASS? Are there any new roles that you would like to be involved with?

Denise: This year I'm focused on my role in WIT. I'm so proud of how it has grown and how many other women have stepped up to participate. Nothing would make me happier than to be out of a job next year because others are ready and willing to take over. I have a lot of passion for my work with the WIT group and see myself staying involved for a long time.

As part of that I'd like to find more ways for women to be visible as leaders in PASS--as speakers, as chapter leaders, in volunteer roles as well as elected positions. I hope that the work we do in the Virtual Chapter helps inspire more women of PASS to speak up and step forward.

Kathi: Anything else you would like to tell our readers?

Denise: There are many ways, large and small, to support women in technology. From encouraging girls in math and science to supporting your female co-workers to getting more women to speak at your local chapter or SQL Saturday there are many ways we can make a difference.