Natalia G 2022 Q&A: Communication

[Note: There will be 3 Q&A posts total, covering all the topics brought up during the user-submitted Q&A period. Candidates were limited to 300 words per answer.]

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

I have a tendency to devote a lot of energy to address the most immediate tasks and challenges ahead of me, which sometimes means long-term goals can get neglected. This is a flaw I’m extremely aware of, and fortunately my previous service in the Board and my work as a Translation chair have helped me develop some ways to counter this.

I always do my best to check in with others in my team regularly and create new short-term goals for myself that will serve the larger project; that way progress can continue to happen even as I work on day-to-day tasks. I also find it helpful to develop roadmaps and update them regularly as a way to keep myself grounded and not lose sight of long-term goals.

What aspect of your OTW experience so far have you found most frustrating?

As many people who have been in the OTW for a while, I have at points gotten frustrated with the fact that change takes a long time to happen in our organization. There are several reasons for this, most of which are rooted on the fact that we rely exclusively on the work of volunteers spread around the world — volunteers who have their own personal lives, their jobs and studies, their families, and other priorities to juggle as they also try and keep up with sometimes overwhelming amounts of OTW work just to keep their committees afloat.

Implementing necessary changes to workflows, policy, or internal structure while dealing with these struggles can become overwhelming tasks in themselves. It can sometimes take months or years to discuss and implement meaningful changes, and projects of this size often get pushed aside entirely before completion when other priorities emerge, we lose personnel which was working on the project, or the amount of work becomes untenable for the team responsible.

Like many people who wish to see the OTW grow and improve, I too can find it demoralizing to have to wait for important projects that take a long time to be completed, particularly when there isn’t always a clear timeline. However, I know how much hard work our volunteers put into these tasks, and I believe it is essential to persevere working and supporting the people who dedicate themselves to improve the OTW.

Share the story of a negative experience you’ve had in the OTW as a volunteer and what you’ve learned from it.

I don’t think I could name any negative experience I’ve gone through with the OTW that was more impactful than the recent attacks targeting our volunteers with child sexual abuse material. I feel immense responsibility towards all the people who selflessly dedicate their own time and energy to keep our organization running, and witnessing these attacks while having limited power to stop them was both infuriating and terrifying. I have dealt with negative situations that affected me more directly in the past, but seeing this affect my volunteers was much harder and felt much more personal than anything I’ve gone through before.

I believe this situation has taught me I should never take our safety for granted, and should be more diligent in looking for potential vulnerabilities and ways our volunteers can be targeted. Much work has already been done to address our vulnerabilities, and I will continue to discuss and analyze ways to improve volunteer safety going forward.
How are the works on these platforms important to you, and how do you plan to monitor what content they contain?

Whenever I think about all the content created by fans that the OTW has the privilege to support and protect, including fanworks on AO3, articles on Fanlore, papers on TWC, and so on, I am overwhelmed by the creative and giving nature of Fandom. The work and dedication of fans, whether they’re volunteers, content-creators, or donors, is the reason why we exist, and the reason our mission is needed.

I have always strongly believed in the OTW’s mission and values, which state that transformative works are legitimate, and I believe all fan creations are worthy of being protected and celebrated in ourplatforms, as long as they are in accordance with the relevant Tems of Service.

Board work often entails drafting emotionally fraught or tense e-mails, posts and messages — sometimes under pressure from a write-in campaign or a flood of heavy criticism. Do you have experience in communicating under pressure? What challenges do you foresee for yourself in a scenario like this?

I have experienced such situations several times during my first Board term. I cannot emphasize enough how important it is to find support when addressing complicated and tense situations. It is easy, when you’re overwhelmed and under stress, to lose sight of what’s most important and make mistakes. The Board should always work as a group, discussing issues, drafting messages, and making decisions together. When dealing with communication in situations of stress, it’s important to be as clear, transparent, and empathetic as possible.

One difficulty that tends to arise on such cases in my experience is that criticism makes people feel defensive, which in turn leads to resistance to new ideas that could help the situation. Whenever I found myself leaning towards that type of trap, I sought to distance myself for a few moments, to consider the situation from a new point of view, and whenever possible, to seek advice from other people who may have experiences and insights relevant to the situation. I believe these strategies will prove valuable in dealing with the future challenges the Board will undoubtfully face in the coming years.

[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.]