Natalia Gruber 2018 Q&A: Group 1

[Note: Candidates were limited to 300 words for each answer.]

1. What do you hope to learn in your time on Board?

I would like to learn more about the administrative and legal aspects of running a non-profit, what day-to-day activities Board members do to keep us in shape, and what possibilities and limitations we have for the future, especially regarding our advocacy projects.

I’m also interested in learning more about how each committee’s work comes together to support and develop our different projects. Through my work in Policy & Abuse and Tag Wrangling, I’ve had the opportunity to see two of the many aspects of AO3 related work – I would like to expand on this knowledge, to have a more comprehensive view of the OTW as a whole.

2. [Platform follow-up] Where would you like to see the OTW in five to ten years? What are three steps that you’d like to take in your three-year term towards that future?

I would like us to grow more stable over time. We have become a large organization, but there are still many positions that very few people are qualified to occupy, which is not ideal as it put a lot pressure on these individuals, making it hard for them to take breaks or leave when needed, which leaves the OTW in a difficult position when that’s inevitable.

I would try to create conditions for this situation to improve, by listening to committee chairs regarding their needs; trying to provide resources to increase general volunteer retention, which should also reduce the day-to-day pressure on volunteers; and educating myself in non-profit best practices in order to better understand why this situation happens in the first place.

3. Can you share some ways that you’ve dealt with stressful communication situations (e.g. handling difficult emails, fraught phone calls, complex meetings)?

When I have an important email to draft, I try to take into consideration all the sides of the issue, and to remove my feelings from the situation. This isn’t always possible, of course, but I find that aiming to being as objective as I can helps me to see the situation from other people’s perspectives. Especially in stressful situations, seeking to remain calm and patient can help a lot in diffusing an issue, instead of making it bigger.

I also like to ask for opinions and guidance of uninvolved parties when possible, and to wait a little for tempers to cool off if I feel that I or others are becoming too stressed out.

There are many kinds of stressful communication situations, and we can’t be prepared for all of them, but I’ve gotten much better with time and experience. As a translator, a stressful situation I deal with is communicating with my teammates about a disagreement on our work. In Policy & Abuse, I sometimes need to handle complicated reports and questions from users. Both those things were harder at first than they are now, as I have developed my own communication skills. I hope to continue to improve in the future.

4. What do you think is the most urgent structural change that the OTW needs to make in order to be a better and more sustainable organization? Why?

Currently, many of our teams have a hard time retaining volunteers for a long stretch of time, which means a lot of effort goes into recruiting as often as possible just to keep our numbers steady, while the workload tends to increase, particularly for AO3 committees. Too much work can make current and new volunteers overwhelmed, which makes the retention problem worse. Not enough time to keep up with the day-to-day work also means it’s harder for committees to review their documentation and processes, so we also have a hard time rethinking and optimizing our workflows.

I also believe it is necessary to increase awareness about the OTW as a whole within the organization. I feel like many volunteers work in isolation and have little knowledge about the projects they are not directly involved with, or even about anything not directly related to their own work. This makes communication harder both between committees and between individual volunteers, and may cause people to feel demotivated by not being able to see how their work is connected to the larger organization.