Chat Transcript – July 31

[​​Note: All questions from members and candidate responses appear in the form they were submitted and represent only the views of the individual who wrote them. Questions and responses are not endorsed by the Organization for Transformative Works.]

Marion McG

Hi everyone, and welcome to our third candidate chat for 2022!

Today you’ll have the opportunity to observe 3 candidates: Heather, Natalia, and Noémie.

My name is Marion, and I’ll be hosting the candidate side today. On the audience/open_chat side, your host will be my fellow Elections Committee member cinnamonandtea.

cinnamonandtea, can you wave so everyone can see you?

cinnamonandtea

👋

Marion McG

Thanks, cinnamonandtea!

A transcript of the candidate side of the chat will be posted publicly on our website. The open chat transcript will not be posted there, but its transcripts will remain visible until after the election. During the chat, you may see candidates fix their typos; this is to make Elections Volunteers’ job easier later.

 

As the candidates discuss each question, audience members can notify cinnamonandtea that you have questions for the candidates – either follow-ups or new questions – by raising your hand like this:

o/ (for new questions), or

o// (for follow-ups to the current question)

 

cinnamonandtea will pass me the questions, and I will ask them during appropriate pauses in the conversation between the candidates.

cinnamonandtea and I welcome all questions, subject to the following restrictions:

– Specify who your question is for, or if it’s for all candidates.

– Refer to everyone in the room by their username in this conversation. Don’t use other names you may know them by.

– Please keep questions reasonable and polite, as well as under 50 words (these are our expectations: https://elections.transformativeworks.org/electionsprocess-behavior-expectations/).

– Make sure your question is not a repeat of one already answered in the platforms (https://elections.transformativeworks.org/category/2021-en/2021-bios-and-platforms/) or the Q&A (https://elections.transformativeworks.org/category/2021-en/2021-qa/). If it’s a follow-up to one of those, please say so.

Now, I’d like to welcome our candidates and invite them to say hello

Heather M

hi!

Natalia Gruber

Hello everyone! 👋

Noémie B

Hello 🙂

Marion McG

Thanks so much for joining us today! We’ll jump right into our first question:  Can you say something nice about each of your fellow candidates?

Natalia Gruber

Hahaha, that’s an easy one! 😄

Heather M

easily 😄 I’ll start with the two in this chat! Noemie seems to have really good emotional intelligence. When I read through their answers to the Q&A that really came out to me. Natalia’s answers have shown me just how well-versed she is in the OTW and what a good grasp she has of the issues facing the org. Tiffany, my chat partner yesterday, has a strong background in IT security which is always a benefit to any organization, and Michelle is near and dear to my heart as someone who also loves documentation and everything related to it!

Noémie B

Sure 🙂

Natalia has been very impressive, it has been very interesting reading through her answers to q&a and here. I can definitely see her experience as Board through the way she communicates and it is a great learning experience!

As for Heather, I like how she encourages us behind the scenes and makes sure that we all feel welcome. She also has a lot of good ideas that I would like to see taken into account.

Heather M

aww thanks ❤️

Noémie B

Michelle is a strong candidate and seems to be good at analyzing and explaining information. Her experience in the OTW is also impressive. I think I know Tiffany the less, but I like her enthusiasm and perspective. Overall, I am grateful for the very benevolent environment created by all the other candidates for this election. It makes it all less stressful!

Noémie B

🙂

Heather M

oh, I definitely agree! everyone has been so lovely

Natalia Gruber

Ever since Heather joined the OTW a few years ago, she was super present in our work spaces and was always excited to learn more about the organization and help everywhere she could, which is really awesome and would be a great attitude on the Board.

 

I have loved reading Noémie’s Q&A during the Election season, I think she is a very observant person and good at grasping the context and evaluating the difficulties behind the OTW’s challenges and issues. She is also a very sweet and enthusiastic person, and I think we need that ❤️

 

I have just met Tiffany during the Election season, but I can say she brings a very fresh perspective and I look forward to hearing more of her ideas!

 

But I need to be honest here, when Michelle told me they were going to run for Board again this year, I was just so, so happy. I have known Michelle for many years now – we ran together in 2018, and as chairs of AO3 Documentation and OTW Translation, we tend to work together quite a bit. Michelle is a very competent, passionate person, who is always happy to help you no matter what you need. They know a lot about our organization, are a great team player, and they’re definitely my favourite this season! ❤️

Marion McG

Great to know you think so highly of one another! Our next question is about OTW meeting practices: Different OTW teams have really different meeting types depending on their team’s needs. Can you talk about a meeting practice you’ve experienced in the org that you find useful/interesting and why that is?

Heather M

thank you so much for your kind words Natalia! ❤️

Natalia Gruber

😉

Noémie B

Thank you! 🙂

Heather M

The OTW has been my first experience with asynchronous meetings. Because we’re all in different time zones, it can be difficult to find a time when we can all talk together. One of the committees I’m on defaults to asynchronous mode where the Chair will type out each agenda topic as its own post and then everyone can thread the discussions when they’re available to. So maybe the “meeting” is posted at 2am my time, I can wake up and add my thoughts or ask questions 7 hours later and still be involved in the decision process.

 

This is a practice that I’ve actually taken back to the team I work with IRL. We’re across 3 time zones currently but we still do most of our meetings as live video chats. We’re now experimenting doing it through asynchronous chats and there’s been a definite improvement! Who doesn’t love fewer meeting blocks in their day, plus we can have a robust discussion and make decisions faster than we can book a call sometimes!

Natalia Gruber

I’ve been in quite a few teams over the years, so I got to experience several different meeting styles! While I definitely love Translation’s live meetings and how fun/chaotic they can get, I think  asynchronous meetings can be quite useful at times too, specially when you are working on something that will have an impact on many people who won’t all be able to be around at the same time!

 

Asynch meetings, as Heather mentioned, can be ‘posted’ in the chat, separated into threads by theme, and then people can come and discuss at a time that works for them – that way everyone has the opportunity to participate and share their thoughts.

Noémie B

We have different types of meetings; some are more based on text and comments stretched over several hours or days, and others are ‘live’, using direct messaging for example.

For group meetings, the first one (asynchronous meetings like Heather said) makes the most sense given differences in time zones and practical difficulties. But other one-on-one meetings can be organized too. For example, Tag Wrangling chairs have regular meetings via chats with each supervisor, to catch up and make sure that everyone is fine, to talk about goals, difficulties, wants and needs. I think that these meetings, while very time consuming for chairs, are a very good way to stay close as a team. I do not know if Boards and chairs of different committees have a similar system in place, but I think it could be beneficial for internal communication.

Heather M

yeah, I’ve had some 1:1s in my committee work too and I always value those conversations

Marion McG

Thank you for your answers! It’s great to hear about how other committees organise their work.

Here’s our next question: What is your least favourite thing about working for the OTW? How do you think this can be improved upon?

Natalia Gruber

Not being able to meet my coworkers :/

Ahem xD

Heather M

That’s a tougher one. I think the thing I’d most like to see improved is our internal training and documentation. I know it’s been a bit of a theme for me throughout my election run, but that’s my day job and I feel really passionately about that.

 

A lot of the time, people will procrastinate or even ghost entirely if they’re not sure how to do the job. We may want them to ask questions, but there’s so much shame people feel when they don’t already know that it can be hard to ask. Especially for someone new to an organization or team who wants to make a good impression.

 

I think we’d improve not just our efficiency but also our retention if we had more robust training at the outset and more supporting documentation to help our volunteers as they do their work.

lol that too, yes Natalia 😄

Natalia Gruber

I think I’ve talked about this so much during this election, but for me, it’s definitely waiting for a long time for a project you care a lot about to progress. I don’t think there is a simple way to improve that, but I have mentioned a few potential steps during my last Q&A: https://elections.transformativeworks.org/natalia-g-2022-qa-board-work/

OTW Elections

Natalia Gruber

Natalia G 2022 Q&A: Board Work

Noémie B

I think that my least favorite thing about working for the OTW comes from external situations. For example, I often have to sequence tasks, even when I would like to do everything all at once, because I also have to work and answer life obligations. I would love for it to be my job tbh, and I don’t think that there is anything that can be improved on the OTW side, since this is my day to day personal organization (working on it!)

Heather M

oh, I definitely feel the same way! sometimes I just want to do all the things! [insert Hyperbole and a Half meme image here]

Natalia Gruber

Hahaha same xD

Noémie B

Heather said something very interesting! As a supervisor, it is very sad and sometimes frustrating when you feel like a trainee is not reaching out when they don’t know how to do something. While we try to create a place where people are encouraged to ask, some don’t and it is someimes complicated to reach out to those people through a computer screen.

Heather M

yeah, we’ve recently hired a number of new team members at work and we’re realizing the same issues there. We all work remotely, so getting that encouragement across can be difficult sometimes

Marion McG

Thank you all! Our next question is a repeat from yesterday’s chat – so Heather, I think you might have answered this one already, but feel free to expand on your original answer, if you want to. Here’s the question: How do you think the board should balance letting committees and volunteers steer decisions and the board setting things in stone ?

Heather M

I think I’d like to add one thing: as a regular volunteer who isn’t a Chair or a supervisor of any kind, it can sometimes feel like I don’t actually know what Board is working on at any given time. I think I’d like to make that information more clearly available to people. I know it exists but I forget that I can just look it up and so perhaps just a reminders system or a recommended venue for everyone to join to get updates on things like that.

Noémie B

I think that balancing those decisions is inherent to the role of Board. Board has to make sure that the OTW’s goals are respected and kept in mind when decisions are taken, but committees are the ones with the expertise and knowledge when it comes to feasibility. I think that the key point is, as always, communication. Board has to be clear and explain goals and stakes, and committees should always be heard and understand the decisions before those are approved.

Natalia Gruber

The Board’s role is to help the organization move forward toward our big-picture goals and plans, but the everyday work to make these things happen largely falls to committees and their volunteers. The OTW’s committee chairs are truly the backbone of the org and the people who keep things running smoothly and progressing in the right direction.

Noémie B

I believe that finding a middle ground is the only way to keep improving in the same direction.

Natalia Gruber

I think it’s very important for the Board to be always in touch with committees, and to give them as much freedom to do their work as possible because committees know how to do their jobs — at the same time, the Board might need to discuss with committees if/when there is a concern about security or about a project causing potential difficulties for the org.

In those situations, I think the Board needs to try and reach an understanding with chairs and volunteers in any way possible, rather than simply ‘setting things in stone’.

Marion McG

Thank you for your answersl! Our next question is: If elected as a board member, what do you most look forward to being able to do that you haven’t been able to do in other positions at the OTW? What do you anticipate will be the biggest challenge?

Natalia Gruber

I think for me being in a position where I was available to help committees I’m not in with their various problems was very rewarding, and I’d like to do that again.

Heather M

I probably shouldn’t say that I’m looking forward to the hot gossip, right? 😆  Just kidding. I’m really interested in getting a broader view of the organization and working directly with Chairs. I’ve worked in three committees now and chatting with some Chairs from the others and they’ve all been really interesting and dedicated people. I can definitely foresee myself learning more about some group I haven’t volunteered with yet and drafting a list of committees to join next lol

 

I think one of the bigger challenges will be dealing with any emergencies that might arise. It can be hard to balance taking the time to fully consider a situation and needing to act. I was really impressed by the Board back in May, and I hope that I can meet the standard that they’ve set when and if I need to work on something similarly time-sensitive and critical.

Natalia Gruber

Because I’ve already learned what Board work is like, the greatest challenge at this point would probably be making sure I’m devoting my time fairly to all my positions, but luckily I have been a chair and Board member at once before, so I have learned how to manage that comfortably.

Noémie B

What I look forward to the most would be being able to discover OTW projects and committees that I have never had the chance to interact with before. I wish to understand better how the OTW works as a whole and not just from the perspective of a volunteer in one committee. I have had opportunities to collaborate on some tasks with other committees and learn through internal documentation and our chat platforms (and also ask questions) but I would like to have a broader understanding of our goals and take more responsibility for the OTW.

I think that the biggest challenge will be the amount of information and learning that becoming a Board member requires. Improving the way I communicate will also (always) be very important to become a good Board member and be as efficient as possible in difficult situations.

Marion McG

Thank you! Our next question is all about time management: The OTW Board can be a very time-demanding task with a lot happening in a short period of time—sometimes planned for and sometimes unplanned for. What tools and/or mechanisms do you have (and/or do you intend to use) to balance these demands with the rest of your commitments?

Heather M

good point about the amount of learning, Noemie! that’s definitely also a challenge that’s a bit intimidating to think about

Noémie B

I feel like I have been a volunteer for long enough to be able to balance ‘real life’ commitments with my volunteer work. I know my limits and have also become better at pacing myself when needed. Thankfully, my job is stable and I will be working only four days per week with enough time during the day and evenings to be able to check messages regularly and be flexible in case of emergency.

Heather M

I’m very lucky in my day job because I work from home and because we have a culture of flexing our time. That means that if I need to step away from my paid work in order to do Board work, I can do that.

 

On the OTW side of things, I’ve learned to be more up front with my Chairs when I need extra time for a task.  I’ve also learned that my fellow volunteers can step in for me when something is due but outside forces are pulling me away from it. As a Fanlore graphic designer, that might mean asking another designer to take over making badges for an event or creating a banner for a social post. As a PAC volunteer, that might mean asking another volunteer to adopt some of the tickets I’m working on.

 

Board work will need to come first, since that impacts the entire OTW, but thankfully I have several levers I can pull to get more time to do that work when necessary. For the day-to-day needs of Board, I don’t foresee any difficulties with keeping up.

Natalia Gruber

When I know beforehand that I’ll need to devote a lot of time to a specific task, I can plan ahead and make sure I won’t have too many other tasks to work on during that period – For example, right now I’m working on testing a new tool with the Volunteers & Recruiting committee, and that’s something I need to focus on, so I haven’t claimed any time-consuming tasks in Translation.

Noémie B

As stated in q&a, I do not plan to hand over any of my current roles in the OTW but will always make sure that any Board related task gets priority. However, staying an active Tag Wrangler should not be a problem and I would not be afraid to ask for a hiatus from supervisor tasks if needed.

Natalia Gruber

However, we cannot always know when an emergency might arise and require a lot of our time and attention with no warning. That happened, for example, during the attacks we suffered in May.

 

At the time, I was in charge of managing everyday tasks for all Translation volunteers for a week (we work on a rotation xD) and then suddenly that just couldn’t be my priority anymore. I had to work with OTW leadership to try and protect our volunteers, to communicate with our people about what was happening, to get in touch with our Legal committee.

 

In this type of situation, you need to be ready to evaluate your commitments, and find out what you need to do first, and then if possible, delegate the rest. Other Translation volunteer managers were ready to step in and help with the non-urgent tasks, so I could focus on the attack’s aftermath.

Heather M

thank you so much for your work in May, and it sounds like Translation has some great structure and redundancy in it!

Natalia Gruber

I think that’s the kind of approach we need to take when we are faced with unexpected tasks and projects. Prioritize, seek help, and focus on what’s the most important.

Heather M

agreed!

Noémie B

Definitely!

Marion McG

Thanks everyone! Now onto our next question: As a Board member and a public face of AO3, what would be the most important things on your mind when you are serving?

Natalia Gruber

That you have signed up for a big commitment and that many people are relying on you to continue defending the interests of fans and the OTW’s mission during your term, and that when you serve as a member of the Board, it’s not your personal feelings and wants that should steer your decisions, but that which is best for our organization.

Noémie B

I think that the most important thing on my mind would be to make sure that I always convey the true values and goals of the OTW while making sure to always stay accessible, clear, and as respectful as possible. I would definitely be very careful in the way I express myself and always check with others before making something public.

I would also not take criticism personally, but always strive to listen to it, understand where it is coming from, and take it into consideration.

Heather M

I think in our internal spaces, I’ll be more aware and careful with how I present myself. I try to be considerate already but I’ll probably censor myself a bit more when I’m in a bad mood. You know, save that for a private DM instead of in a chat room, that kind of thing.

 

In terms of interactions with the public, I think I want to be as clear as possible in any communications. I want to keep the need for translation in mind when drafting statements, and I want to keep newcomers to fandom in mind as well. We might need to provide some background or context sometimes that all of us already know, and a large portion of our community already knows, but that someone who has only joined fandom recently might not be aware of.

 

When it comes to decision-making, the most important thing always needs to be the continuation of the Org and its goals. That’s the ultimate goal no matter what. How we accomplish it might change, but our decisions always need to have that at the centre of them.

oh, that’s such a great point around not taking things personally. Criticism is for the Org or the decision, not for me as an individual person

Natalia Gruber

Also that even though you might feel like you’re still the very same person you always were, other people might be seeing you differently, and it is your job to be always kind, to be helpful, and to be clear. Your friends will know when you’re joking, but a careless comment around a newbie volunteer could be considered intimidating, or unpleasant, and it is never fair to be treated like that by a person in a leadership position.

Sometimes people will criticise you personally xD

Heather M

100% agreed Natalia ❤️

Noémie B

That’s a good point as well: not letting your own emotions hinder communication and decisions.

Heather M

lol oh I expect that too 😆  but most of the time it’s for the board as a whole? right? beuller??

Natalia Gruber

Like, I have totally been directly criticized by something I had just said as then Board president. But you can’t let that get to you, because you’re not just speaking for yourself, and because people criticising the Board is fair and valid xD

Noémie B

They can criticize us personally but they do not really know us so I always remind myself that often they really want to criticize a behavior or an outcome more than a person 🙂

Heather M

exactly. they’re criticizing you in your role as representative

Noemie said it better 😄

Natalia Gruber

Hahaha usually, yes 👍

Marion McG

Thanks for your thoughtful answers! Communication inside and outside the Org is so important.

Our next question is a very tough one, in my opinion: if you could have one thing be your “legacy” as a Board member three years from now, what would it be?

Noémie B

Oh wow, this is tough

Natalia Gruber

That when I left no one missed me cause they were all so confident in the role 😄

Heather M

I think I’ve been pretty obvious about what my driving goal is: robust internal training and documentation. I’d love if, three years from now, we have either an actual Internal Training Committee or that each of the existing Committees feels well-set-up with both onboarding for new members and with support for existing ones. I’d also love to see a feedback channel for new committee members to review the training they received and make suggestions for improvements. We do that at my day job and it provides great insights.

 

I will say, three years might or might not be enough time to get to the point where everyone is fully satisfied but in my day job I’ve learned that training and documentation are never actually done. They’re just done-for-now.

 

(if I can add a second thing: an updated TOS is high on my list too)

Noémie B

I would love to be remembered as having served the OTW well to reach all our current goals, and as having been proactive and kind in the process. But Natalia’s idea about not being missed because the Board system in place is efficient and sustainable in the long term is an important goal too!

Heather M

so true

Natalia Gruber

Those are very good points! There’s just a lot of work to be done, and a lot of angles we can improve on, both as Board and inside committees!

Noémie B

I guess I would say that being remembered as having tried and improved as much as possible would be a good enough legacy on my part 🙂

Natalia Gruber

I do believe training and documentation are an important step towards making so Board (and other roles) rely less on specific individuals, thus reducing our linchpins. But that’s very complex work.

Heather M

incredibly complex! but the more you can rely on a process instead of a person, the better. people need to be able to take breaks or vacations or even retire. processes can continue with new people actioning them

Noémie B

Yes, overall we are tools in a mechanism bigger than us. We are still humans of course (and that’s the best part of volunteer work, as said yesterday) but also tools and I would not like someone to become vital for the OTW (vital meaning more power, meaning imbalance and biais)

Heather M

agreed!

Marion McG

Thanks for tackling that question! And onto our very last question of the chat: We learned yesterday that the people are often your favourite thing about working in the OTW. What is your second favourite thing?

Noémie B

I would say users creativity. After years, I am still surprised and delighted by fandom, fanworks, tags (the tags!)… the fun is never ending and that is because of the users.

I realize that this is another ‘because of the people’ answer but fandom is why I am a volunteer, and fandom is nothing without the fans and the works created and shared across our platforms.

Natalia Gruber

The feeling you get when you make progress on a project that is important to you, and that positively impacts our people and organization.

 

It is just very rewarding when after you have put work and time and love into a task, you can see it improve our projects or make people’s lives easier, and you can say it was all worth it xD

Heather M

So many things I can think of are people-related 😆  like, I have so many great fic recommenders now! and I know way more about different fandoms than I ever would have known just from tumblr or tiktok browsing because everyone talks about their fandoms and events.

 

But for something less oriented around my fellow volunteers, I’ve really gotten to know the ins and outs of things a lot better. I’m much better at searching and filtering on AO3 and creating site skins and things like that. I’m also much more aware of tags and tagging and how all of that works, even though I’ve never been a wrangler, because wranglers talk about things and I’m encouraged to read up on the Guidelines.

 

I’ve also gotten a real appreciation for the existing TOS through enforcing it. It’s not perfect (so few things ever are), but it’s actually really well written and understandable to a layperson, and I’m impressed by the thought and effort that went into drafting and updating it.

Noémie B

Yes! The learning opportunities associated with volunteering are countless so I am adding this to the list ^^

Heather M

and I want to add your comment around the creativity in fandom 😄 it’s so true! I’ve seen so many more interesting creations and tags and metas than I ever would have if I wasn’t a volunteer!

Natalia Gruber

Very true!

Heather M

in fact, volunteer discussions around omegaverse worldbuilding are what got me into the trope at all 😄

Marion McG

That’s all the questions we have for today! Thank you to our audience for being so supportive and for submitting questions!

Thank you also to our lovely candidates. Thanks to cinnamonandtea  for modding the open chat. We’ll have the transcript of this room up on the website within a few days. Have a great day, everyone!

Heather M

thanks so much everyone! I really enjoyed having the opportunity to talk with you all ❤️

Natalia Gruber

Likewise!

Good luck to all my fellow candidates ❤️

Heather M

yes, best of luck to you all! 🎉

Noémie B

Thank you all very much, it was a great experience! Good luck 🙂

cinnamonandtea

Thank you everyone, it was a pleasure! Have a lovely rest of the day!

2 thoughts to “Chat Transcript – July 31”

  1. An interesting read. It’s nice that all the candidates see the value of clear communication, flexibility, and valuing different skillsets. Thank you for sharing these chat transcripts

  2. I really appreciate Heather’s focus on structure and process. With a huge volunteer organization, as with huge professional organizations, individuals burn out or just move on for good reasons, however when they leave behind a knowledge gap through no real fault of their own, that can be devastating. Effective knowledge management and documentation of processes is essential to continuity and in the long run makes for a more consistent and potentially fair experience, because important problems can be more readily identified and dealt with when people aren’t scrambling to reinvent the basics. Teamwork makes the dream work.

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