Natalia Gruber discovered her first fanfiction by accident while waiting for the last Harry Potter book to come out, and thought for the longest time that it was a wonderful, but isolated idea. Thankfully, she eventually found out that not only was this story not the only one, but that fandom was a lively, rich community full of amazing people and more fic than she could ever read. She lurked for several years reading mostly Harry Potter, until she joined the Tolkien fandom. There she finally started publishing her own works and making friends with other fans, and it’s where she still feels the most at home.
An English teacher during the day, Nat joined the OTW in 2016 as a Brazilian Portuguese translator. A few months later she became part of the Policy & Abuse and Tag Wrangling committees, where she has had a wonderful experience and learned a lot more about the OTW and its work. At the end of 2017, she decided to join Translation staff, working to support and assist translators in their work, and engaging in a lot more inter-committee and managerial tasks.
1. Why did you decide to run for election to the Board?
The Board of Directors has done an amazing job during the past couple of years to improve transparency both within the organization and before the public, and supporting our committees to ensure we had the means necessary to do our jobs and move our projects forward. I would like to give back to the organization by helping the pursuit of these goals as we move forward.
Though I’ve considered running for some time now, I wasn’t certain I would do it this year. However, I believe is for the best of the organization to have as many candidates as possible in order to hold a contested election, and I’m glad to step in and be a part of it.
2. What skills and/or experience would you bring to the Board?
I feel that my experience working with people in several different contexts is one of my most valuable skills. As a teacher, I need to find the best way to work with students from different backgrounds in order to make the information I’m teaching both accessible and enjoyable to them. Likewise, as a Translation staffer, it’s part of my work to interview, train and assist nearly 200 volunteers in different tasks, and do my best to be helpful and considerate of their needs. Volunteering with Policy & Abuse has taught me a lot about navigating conflict and mediating situations in the most efficient and impartial way possible.
I also thoroughly enjoy and feel confident to work in a collaborative environment, where listening to other people’s opinions and feedback and working as a group to achieve the OTW’s goals is not only important, but necessary. Empathy and patience are essential to this kind of work, and I had plenty of time develop these skills both in my personal life and in my work with the OTW.
3. Choose one or two goals for the OTW that are important to you and that you would be interested in working on during your term. Why do you value these goals? How would you work with others to achieve them?
As a translator, the idea of making the OTW’s projects as accessible as possible to non-English speakers is very dear to me. We are still at a point where a fully translated interface is not possible, but every little thing we do towards it is helpful, from responding to user queries in their native tongues to making sure there are FAQs they can read. As a member of the board, I’d like to continue to work on this goal in a more broad manner, to make the OTW and its projects ever more welcoming to our very diverse users.
I am also deeply invested in our mission of protecting all transformative fanworks. The fact that we embrace and enforce a policy of maximum inclusiveness, welcoming works that might not be accepted in other places of the internet due to commercial or morality concerns is one of the strongest reasons why I volunteer for the OTW, and something I will always be ready to defend. Recently there have been more and more complaints about works some people believe to be too controversial to be published on AO3, and I hope to help clarify our policies, while also remaining firm on the fact that we will never pass judgment of any kind of content.
4. What is your experience with the OTW’s projects and how would you collaborate with the relevant committees to support and strengthen them? Try to include a range of projects, though feel free to emphasize particular ones you have experience with.
As a Policy & Abuse staffer and a wrangler, I have a lot of first hand experience with the AO3. From enforcing our Terms of Service to helping users find the works they’d like to access via tag filtering, I’ve been focusing a lot on helping users navigate the Archive. Through my work with the Translation committee, I’ve had the chance to collaborate with several committees to make the OTW’s projects accessible to users who aren’t English speakers, by translating announcements about new Open Doors imports and informative pages regarding our Legal Advocacy, for example, which was also an opportunity for me to learn more about these projects and how they are useful to fandom.
From my work across different committees, I have learned that they all have their own unique processes that were developed in order to be as efficient as possible when conducting their tasks. My goal as a member of the Board would be to support committees in a way that ensures they have the resources they need to carry on their projects independently while respecting their workflow and procedures. One thing I believe I can help with would be working to elaborate strategies to increase volunteer retention, which has been a problem for a long time.
5. How would you balance your Board work with other roles in the OTW, or how do you plan to hand over your current roles to focus on Board work?
I’m at a moment in my life where I have enough time to spare and take on Board work, but if necessary, there are ways I could adjust the workload on my current positions. The committees I’m a part of are very flexible in terms of time, and most of the work is done asynchronously. I can easily reduce the amount of fandoms I wrangle and tasks I take on to accommodate my new responsibilities, should I be elected.