For the past 3 years, I’ve been a board member of Minnesota’s User Experience Professional’s Association chapter (UXPA-MN). I spent two years as the community manager, and this final year as the programming director. Tonight is our final board meeting, so it feels like a good time for a little reflection.
When I originally decided to run for the board, I was relatively new to the organization. I had originally heard about it through a former coworker (who I later coerced into becoming a board member as well, tee hee), and I actually presented in February of that year as well. I saw that community manager was open, though “Hey, I like tweeting and stuff,” and submitted my bio to run.
I honestly didn’t think I would win. I didn’t think I knew enough people in the community, my opponent seemed way more qualified (how? I don’t remember now), and I immediately regretted sending it as soon as the Gmail button to ‘undo’ disappeared.
But I did win, and the experience of being on the board has become one of the most valuable of my professional life. Here’s how–and also why I would encourage everyone to volunteer for nonprofit positions:
This is the most commonly-cited reason you’ll hear from folks, but it’s way true. I connected with people from organizations and industries completely alien to higher ed. As an INTJ, it’s hard for me sometimes to come out of my shell and engage with people with whom I don’t think I have anything in common, but having UXPA MN behind me gave me a little more courage to reach out to people as well as a reason besides “Hey, you seem interesting and I want to learn from you.” Which is essentially how many of my intro emails went.
- Build the greater good
Being on the board gave me a certain level of freedom. Particularly in the realm of programming director, but I’m very pleased to have been a founding half of UXPA MN’s first UX mentorship program. I also helped to define new processes and affect future boards for the better. I feel like I contributed to a community I believe in, and feel that my contributions have been good ones. Not all nonprofits are structured like this, but I guarantee: if you get on the UXPA MN board and have a good idea for which you’re willing to work, you’ll have the support of the group.
- Make new friends
That sounds lame, right? But it’s the truth. Studies show that it’s increasingly harder for adults to make friends as they age. Prior to joining UXPA MN, my circle consisted primarily of three main groups of people: my friends from college/high school, my husband’s friends from the same era, and work colleagues. Getting out to more UXPA MN events and working alongside board members gave me a fourth circle of people with whom I can not only talk about work problems/issues, but also Hamilton references and our favorite wines.
- Become a better web worker
Learning new things from new people makes us better people. To paraphrase Paul Wellstone, we all do better when we all do better. Getting out and helping to create this kind of community is beneficial for everyone. Sharing ideas is beneficial for everyone. Working and living in a vacuum is not.
I’m a little sad about saying goodbye to the board, but I know I’m leaving it in good hands. I can’t wait to see what 2017 will bring.