Jess White 2020 Q&A: Communication, Conflict, and Others

[Note: In total, there will be 6 Q&A posts to cover all of the topics brought up during the user-submitted Q&A period. The candidates were limited to 300 words to answer each question, but they were allowed to rearrange and combine questions within a single post to more clearly express their thoughts. Candidate answers represent only the views of the individual candidate and are not endorsed by the OTW.

Due to a high volume of similar questions this year, many questions were merged and duplicate questions were left out. Other than this, questions appear in the form they were submitted. Questions represent only the views of the individual questioner and are not endorsed by the OTW.]


In terms of person to person communication, what would you say is your best quality?

Person to person, my best quality is that I’m very approachable. I’m not sure if that’s the “mom” part or the “teacher” part, but over the years I had to work at it so that either my children or my students don’t run screaming from the room when I walk in. I think a good bit of that is that I have a rather oddball sense of humor, to which people generally respond well.

Can you talk about a time that something about your work style or communication style caused problems in your professional life? What did you do to handle those problems or prevent them from recurring in the future?

Oh most definitely. I am blunt. In my professional life, I’ve had situations where when a parent asks why their kid’s grade isn’t perfect… and I tell them. Fortunately, I learned very quickly to have someone look over my emails before I send them, but the first few I cringe to think about now. If I’ve learned nothing else in almost 20 years of teaching, I’ve learned to step away from the keyboard while I’m irked.

On the backside of that, I’ve had parents challenge what curriculum I teach, and have taken me to the School Board before to get it removed. Having to defend what I want to teach- defend my job– has forced me to learn to express myself passionately and honestly; to connect with people in a way that is less adversarial.

Can you describe a time when you made a decision you regretted (removing identifying info, of course) and how you sought to make it right afterwards?

Recently, with the switch from face-to-face learning to digital learning there was a time where a parent and I were not connecting at all, and I feel like I could have handled it much better. I think we were both trying to say the same thing, but we were both expressing ourselves poorly. No matter what I said (and how professionally), they still got upset. I ended up asking another teacher for some advice, and they came up with some better ways to handle issues like this in the future.

How do you approach conflicts involving you in the OTW or other professional settings? Can you talk about a time that you resolved a conflict that you had with a fellow OTW volunteer or a colleague? What happened, and what you learned from them? [merged question]

I try to approach conflicts as calmly as I can. If I’m the mediator, (for example, in my classroom) I have gotten good at helping both sides talk it out. There is usually a resolution, and while it takes a little give and take from both sides, having those uncomfortable and honest conversations is vital to resolving conflict. If I’m involved in it, I’ve learned to take a few steps back and look at what started the conflict, and own up to my part in it. I haven’t really had any conflicts with other volunteers. We manage to talk things out before they get to a level that would make people uncomfortable.

How would you describe your current relationship with your committee chairs, and OTW leadership at large? Have you encountered any issues in the past, and how have you handled these? Do you imagine your interactions would change should you be elected to the Board?

Currently, I tend to lurk in OTW spaces, so I’m not sure that many people ‘know’ me.  My Fanlore and Policy & Abuse chairs all know I will ask 126,001 questions until I understand something- but I don’t think I’ve crossed over into actual annoyance. If I did, none of them would have an issue about telling me. If elected, I would imagine it would be like wearing another hat. I don’t think the two would matter- it’s not like they’d do anything different just because I was on Board, and I wouldn’t expect them to. Since the Board acts as a group, if there was some kind of conflict of interest, I would recuse myself.

With the outside world increasingly bananas, how will you balance your Board duties with your other commitments/jobs?

I am obsessively organized. I know what times I need to be doing which things, and for how long. I know the trickiest thing for me if elected will be time zones of all the Board members, so coordinating meetings and the like might take some getting used to. I’ve asked some Board members exactly how much work goes into the position on the whole, so I have a decent idea of how my time will best be managed. Everyone seems super supportive, so I don’t think there will be any issues.

Can the candidates share the LEAST popular fandom that they like? Feel free to rate or explain the popularity in one’s own way.

I tried to pick between the two and in the end I think they tie for me, so there are two fandoms I adore that are the ‘least popular.’

The first one I like is called We’re Alive. It’s based on a podcast that is… ugh. I love it to a possibly unhealthy extent. It’s got a bajillion episodes and I have listened to them all multiple times. I tend to talk about it like everyone knows and loves it as much as I do. It spawned another fandom called We’re Alive- Frontier, which is a Critical Role-style RPG based on elements of the podcast, which I also adore. Both of those are popular in their own spaces, but on AO3 there are only a handful of fanworks- so technically, they are ‘least popular’… just not to me and anyone I drag into them.

The other is more of a rare-pair in a fandom that isn’t as popular anymore that unfortunately I can’t name because out of the fewer than 30 fics posted with that pairing, I’ve written most of them. I will say that the two characters have never met, spoken, or even existed in the same ‘verse. So, rare is one word. ‘Non-existent’ is another. Most of my fandom conversation in this consists of someone going ‘Hey I love ____ (popular pairing!).’ and me rather plaintively going ‘But… what about this?’ Ah well. One day it will gain the popularity it deserves.

Now that you’re running together, what would you say are the nicest things you learned about each of your fellow candidates?

Having Alex run again makes me very appreciative of their experience from their previous Board service, and I’ve no doubt that it will benefit the OTW as a whole. They are able to look at issues in a ‘bigger-picture’ sort of way that I am still working on. There is more than one instance where their sense of humor and bluntness has had me snort laughing, and with everything going on in the world, that’s a good thing.

Although I just recently “met” Zoë as we started commiserating over the Elections process, I know that she’s volunteered as a Tag Wrangler and as Support while balancing her studies as a doctoral student. Usually I tend to be intimidated by people with more degrees than I have, but she is immensely approachable. I find her quite hilarious and frankly, her cats are ridiculously adorable. She has a generally positive outlook, and I look forward to getting to know her better.

Nicole and I also worked together on Policy and Abuse, and I can say without a doubt that she is friendly, funny, level headed, and great at making sure stuff gets done. The committees she works on are very detail oriented, and given her experience there I think that will translate over to the Board very well. She cares deeply about the OTW and is someone you can always count on.

I am lucky to count Kati as one of my good friends. She is genuinely a lovely person, who has wide and varied interests that are fascinating to discuss. She also lets me drag her into fandoms all the time! (I’m not even going to pretend to be sorry about that, heh.) She is quite kindhearted, and isn’t shy about speaking up when necessary. Recently she’s had a personal project that was immensely time consuming, and still went out of her way to check in. She will be an amazing addition to the Board!