Natalia Gruber 2018 Q&A: Group 2

[Note: Candidates were limited to 300 words for each answer.]

5. What are a couple of major issues that you know the OTW board struggles or has struggled with, and how would you personally act to avoid them if elected?

The board has faced some issues in the past when directors became extremely out of touch with the OTW committees, which I will address in the next question. Another problem was that not only volunteers but also members of the organisation used to have no means to reach out to the Board to address concerns and dissatisfactions about how the OTW was run. I believe current members of the Board have made a lot of progress to improve this situation by communicating with committee chairs and the membership as a whole more openly and transparently. I intend to continue these efforts, and one measure I would like to take if possible is establishing a way in which Board members who are not fulfilling their duties appropriately can be removed from the Board by committee chairs.

Inactivity has also been historically a problem not just for the Board but also for many committees. This is particularly problematic for Board, though, because it consists of such a small group of people, and in times when the workload gets heavier, it can be quite overwhelming for the more active Board members. Beyond ensuring my own commitment, I hope to be able to support fellow directors in achieving their goals and projects, so the work can be spread more evenly.

6. There’s a common issue in non-profits, including OTW in the past, where board members can become disconnected from the wider org and individual committees. What strategies do you have to help avoid this kind of situation?

I think it is very important for Board members to continue to actively work on their committee(s), in order to stay in touch with the daily work and necessities of the organization. While people’s time availability may vary, and not all directors might be able to keep up with both their previous responsibilities and Board duty, it is my opinion that this is an important step to stay engaged with the OTW as a whole.

Having frequent check ins with committee chairs and as many open meetings with the whole organization as their commitments allow is also important to ensure that the Board stays in touch with the committees, and that chairs and volunteers at large have opportunities to communicate their needs and thoughts about the Board and it’s work.

7. Can you name a skill that you consider relevant for a board member, but that you consider a personal weakness?

I have realized over time that I have a tendency of demanding a lot from both myself and from others, which can be a source of anxiety and stress for everyone involved, and not an ideal quality when working with large groups of people. Learning this has made me be extra attentive and look out for situations where I’m likely to encounter this problem, and to work harder to be patient and ensure I’m not making people uncomfortable or having unreasonable expectations, and also minimizing my own frustration.

I also occasionally find it hard to find the exact words to express what I need without being excessive blunt or feeling anxious. Text communication has proven helpful with this concern because it allows me more time to think about what I need to say, and to prepare myself better for live communication situations.

8. Do you think the OTW should have paid staff? If not, why not? If so, which positions should be prioritized?

I think we have reached a point for the Archive of Our Own in which not having paid staff for some of our technical positions is making it increasingly harder to keep up with our needs. The drawback of being staffed entirely by volunteers is that we all need to tend to our day jobs and families and cannot commit as much time to the organization as some of our projects now require.

Employing paid staff might make it easier to meet the demands of our ever-growing site, as a lot of AO3 maintenance relies on everyday tasks that we now struggle to do. It’s clear to me that the areas that need this the most are our technical positions, and that the people involved with our Systems and Accessibility, Design, & Technology committees are the ones best prepared to assess where we should begin on this, once we have the necessary resources to make it happen.

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