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Knowing When To Step Down (TESTHEAD)

On June 15, 2015, in Syndicated, by Association for Software Testing
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For the past four years I have had the joys & frustrations of working with an organization, as well as serving on its Board of Directors. That organization is the Association for Software Testing (AST). The positions I’ve served in for those four years include three years as the organization’s treasurer, and this past year (so far) as its president. These years have been filled with successes and challenges, satisfying goals completed and frustrating loose ends still to be resolved.

In August, at the Conference for the Association for Software Testing (CAST), those candidates who wish to run, or who are up for re-election, will put their hats in the ring and make a case as to why they should be selected. Earlier this year, I anticipated I would be creating a post asking for your support. Instead, I am putting this post together to encourage others to run and get involved, as I will not be seeking a third term.

Why am I making this decision, and why am I talking about it now?

First, I want to give those who want to run for the board a chance to get their names out and be considered. Second, I want to discuss some of the things being involved with the board entails, and how you can be effective or hope to be effective. Third, I believe that becoming entrenched within an organization for too long can be a hindrance to moving forward, whether intentional or not.

Due to circumstances in both my work and personal life, and the time and attention needed in areas important to me (my family and my career), it is clear the time and attention I can provide to AST, in the role of a board member or executive officer, is no longer sufficient to be effective. To make the time to be effective, I will have to pull away from two critical areas. My kids are at a key point in transitioning from teenage years to adulthood. My work environment has changed due to the death of my director. I’ve stepped in to fill many of the roles he played. In short, the conditions that made it possible for me to be effective as a board member are not there now. To keep serving in this capacity would be a disservice to the organization. I want to make sure that the work I care about regarding AST can be accomplished. I still want to be part of that mission, but I have to be realistic as to what I can offer and do.

For the first three years of my involvement, I was the treasurer. That meant I had to make sure our financial house was in order. Making sure the money that came in and the money that went out was accounted for was my primary responsibility. Once you get a handle on it, you can do it reliably and have time to think about other things. During the years I was treasurer, we made great strides in breaking out where our money was going, and how to use that money effectively to help local and international initiatives. I still think the AST Grant Program is one of the best kept secrets of our organization. It’s there, but only a handful of people take advantage of it.

Three times a year, we gather together as an in-person group to discuss the business of AST. We have done our best to pick a central location to minimize traveling costs.  For the past four years, that has meant the U.S. midwest or east coast. One of those tri-annual board meetings also coincides with CAST. Anyone who runs will need to be cool with being able to travel for those meetings.

Getting seven people to agree to a decision can be daunting. While we can reach consensus on a number of areas, sometimes we just don’t have the bandwidth or the agreement to put those items into motion. We have been criticized for moving too slowly. The fact is, in some areas, we do move slowly. We are aware that we represent a large and diverse membership. No decision we make will please everyone. Still, we try our best to make choices and develop positions that will benefit the entire organization, rather than be of benefit to only a small number of members. Additionally, if we must make a choice, we will choose not do something if the alternative is to do something poorly.

Once a month, we get together for a monthly conference call to discuss business that needs to be moved forward, and making the time to have that call happen each month is important. Outside of these calls, and triannual in-person meetings, the work of the organization needs to get done and moved forward. Often, real life interferes with that happening.

If you are interpreting my words here as saying “those who wish to run need to have both vision and bandwidth to make sure things get done”, you have interpreted correctly. If you are reading this and thinking I am dissuading others from getting involved, that is the opposite of my intention. I encourage those who do want to run for the board to do so, and do it loudly! While there have been stressful moments, it’s also been fun, and I’ve been really excited about what we have been able to do. I think CAST is one of the best software testing conferences out there. The vision of AST and the members of the board and its various committees make it possible. I think that BBST is a very valuable series of classes. I’ve enjoyed being an instructor these past several years. Even though I will not be on the board after November, 2015, my involvement with BBST will continue. I intend to keep teaching, and aiming to help improve the process and delivery of that teaching.

My recommendation for those interested in running would be to look at something AST does, and demonstrate how you can help sustain and/or improve what we are doing. If AST is not doing something you think we should be doing, make a case as to why you feel you can make that possible, and how you can help make that happen. In the past, those who’ve been elected had a goal they wanted to see achieved, and they had the energy to see it through. If this fits you, I wholeheartedly encourage you to see our Election page, and make a bid to run for AST’s Board of Directors.

I want to thank the AST membership for four memorable years. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to serve in this capacity. I’m leaving the board, but I am not leaving AST, nor will I stop focusing on initiatives I feel are important. I must adjust to current realities, and serving on the board is a commitment of time, talent and energy. There’s a great group of people already there, and we will need great talent going forward. You could be one of those people.

 

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