Heather M (she/her) can still remember the first fanfic she ever read (and recommends it to everyone at the slightest opportunity). She has been volunteering as a graphics designer for Fanlore since August, 2019. She has also spent time on the AO3 Documentation Committee (Docs) and on the Policy & Abuse Committee (PAC). Heather is a former teacher and current training and curriculum developer, and she loves helping people better understand how to use AO3. In her day job, Heather tackles highly technical concepts. She works with experts to figure out the best way to share information with the people who need to understand it. The photoshop skills she developed in fandom regularly come in handy on the job. So does the knowledge of HTML and CSS she gained through creating personal fan websites and custom AO3 skins. As for which fandoms Heather loves most, the answer is simple: fandom itself.
1. Why did you decide to run for election to the Board?
Over the past three years, OTW has become an online home for me. The people I volunteer with have become my friends, and I have become a better person as a result of knowing them. I strongly believe in the OTW’s mission, and I want to do everything I can to support it. I think running for Board is one more way that I can give back to an organization that has given me, and so many others in fandom, so much.
I considered running last year, but I didn’t yet meet the requirements. When I realized that I qualified this year, I knew I had to give it my best shot.
2. What skills and/or experience would you bring to the Board?
I think my strongest asset is that I’m a good communicator. I worked as a language instructor for 14 years, both internationally and at home. That job taught me that clear communication is more difficult than most people believe. It’s also incredibly rewarding when you’re able to manage it.
At work, I’m often asked to create solutions – but I’ve learned that the first step is always to identify the problem. If I don’t know what my goal is, how am I supposed to get there? Taking the time to fully understand the situation at the start will save so much time later on in the project.
I am also often tasked with taking large amounts of disorganized information and turning it into a logical training course, reference document, or video. I have to work with diverse groups of people to accomplish these tasks, and online collaboration is foundational to my role.
In my time volunteering with OTW, I have worked with three committees (Fanlore, Docs, and PAC) and I have also learned a lot about both Support and Wrangling. I think my natural curiosity about what everyone else is working on will also help me in this role.
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?
One of my goals for the OTW is related to my day job in training and documentation. I would like to be able to support all of the various committees in their own process documentation and new volunteer training. Too often, organizations fall into the trap of “it works because the person doing it makes it work.” What I mean by that is, if the person who Does The Thing needs to leave the org or be absent for an extended period of time, everyone is kind of lost. No one else knows how to Do The Thing, and there isn’t any documentation explaining how to do it.
Onboarding new volunteers is also a labour of love. I know that the Committee Chairs and their tenured volunteers are happy to do the work to get new people up to speed, but I also know that taking the time to do that can be draining. It puts a strain on both on the Chairs’ and volunteers’ energy and on the resources available to do the regular work of the committee. I’d love to do a training needs analysis with each committee to see if they have any gaps in their training or documentation that need to be addressed or if there are any areas that I can help to improve.
In connection with this, I would love to see the creation of an internal committee dedicated to training and documentation. Right now, each Committee is largely responsible for their own. I feel that if we had a group of people who are armed with educational principles and project management guidelines, we could free the other Committees from that burden.
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.
I have volunteered with Fanlore for almost three years now and I also have about 4 months of experience each with Docs and PAC. In both the Docs and PAC roles (and in other areas of my fandom life), I have also worked closely with Support and with various tag wranglers. I have a passing knowledge of the other OTW projects, but it’s mostly through social conversations with volunteers or based on my own reading of the OTW website or the projects’ social media accounts.
I think my first step to collaborating with the various projects and committees would be to talk with each of them, individually. I’d like to learn about their concerns and opportunities. I want to hear from them how they would like to be supported. I want to learn the good, the bad, and the ugly about the OTW from each group’s perspective. Once I understand where everyone is coming from, I think it will be easier to see what next steps are easily achievable and which ones will require longer term planning and collaboration.
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 believe that I’ll be able to continue in my volunteer roles while serving on the Board, but I plan on speaking to my Chairs if I find that it’s getting to be too much. For the most part, the work that I do is fairly flexible so I don’t foresee any difficulties in managing my time. Worst-case scenario, I’ll take a hiatus from other volunteering duties while I’m serving on the Board, but I hope that won’t be necessary.
I also have the advantage of working from home, so the time that I used to lose in a commute is now free time that I can spend on OTW matters.