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What Is it like to be a UPA Board of Directors Member?

Robert Skrobe

Robert Skrobe is the Director of Professional Development on the UPA Board of Directors.

I am writing about my experience as the Director of Professional Development on the UPA Board of Directors for the past three years. In doing so, I hope to inspire some of our current UPA members to consider their candidacy during our next election cycle.

When I first joined the UPA Board in 2008, one of the first things that struck me was how little some of our membership knew about what goes on with the UPA Board. Not many knew who they were or how they represented their interests.

If one poses the question, "How does the UPA Board represent me as a member of the UPA?" you could potentially have a few answers to consider.

  • "They provide you with incredible opportunities for professional growth and networking by organizing an annual conference every year."
  • "They work on projects and objectives they feel will benefit you and your career, ranging from member discounts to publications on the field of usability."
  • "They make every attempt to respond and react to member inquiries, complaints, and problems. They work towards amicable resolutions when possible."

And then, you have to consider this one too: "They don't represent you at all."

The difference between all of those answers depends on how you interact with the UPA Board. If you've volunteered your time with them on any given project in the past, helped to support our Annual conference, or have emailed an inquiry to any of our Board Members, some of the answers above would probably resonate.

If you feel the Board doesn't represent you (and there are some who have personally communicated that sentiment to me over the years), I can understand that view, especially if your interaction, involvement, or knowledge of the UPA Board is limited or non-existent.

Defining UPA Board Representation

In my own effort to help build some awareness, here's a rundown of what the UPA Board does and the activities I've been involved with.

For starters, the UPA Board meets at the beginning of every month, holding a teleconference for everyone involved. Some of us have to get up in the middle of the night to attend these calls, since the Board is spread throughout the globe.

At our meeting, we go through an agenda, approve motions, consider funding and budgets for various projects, and work with others to plan and manage our annual conference, World Usability Day and the Body of Knowledge project. We publish our minutes a month later for our membership on the UPA website.

As the Director of Professional Development, I've had my hands in a number of projects. I've worked with Dan Szuc on the UPA Monthly, our monthly e-newsletter promoting chapter events and usability resources on the web. I did a bit of project management with the new redesign of the UPA website, and supported many development and support activities related to the UPA Conference website. Recently, I organized a UPA Volunteer Basecamp to centralize our communications for volunteer opportunities with our membership.

My efforts are only one facet of the work the Board does and how it attempts to represent member interests. One of our newest Board members, Ronnie Battista, has taken on the monstrous task of defining and developing an official UPA certification program. Silvia Zimmerman has been a tireless champion in her efforts to build an international organization representing the usability industry. Jakob Biesterfeldt has been actively working to optimize our marketing and communications for the coming year, while Chris Hass is putting the finishing touches on a three-year effort to launch our redesigned website.

Other UPA Board members take on roles that form the bedrock of the organization. Our Treasurer and Director of Education and Training Carol Smith has been invaluable in organizing and managing the associations' yearly budget and training activities. Rich Gunther's efforts with guiding and managing volunteer activities have been a critical component to our success as an organization. Susan Dray works tirelessly to maintain a quality standard with all of our publications, managing whole publication teams in their efforts. The list goes on and onů

How Our Members are Involved

It may seem like a lot of work, and it is. As you're probably well aware, volunteering involves a lot of time management. We all have families to care for, careers to maintain, and responsibilities outside the UPA to meet every day.

During my time on the UPA Board, I've always taken the approach that you have to put your skin in the game to gain some sort of credibility with the people you collaborate with. If you volunteer to get something done, put your best effort to it and attempt to see it through. I've done this with nearly everything I've gotten involved with as a Director, and have been successful with it.

In order to make sure our collective efforts as a Board succeeds, we always need our memberships' input. While membership surveys help as a passive substitute from year to year, I personally feel the Board is much more effective when we have direct interaction from those we're meant to serve.

Without this direct interaction, how can we truly represent your interests as a UPA member? If history is any indication, the UPA Board combines its collective instinct and opinion to set the organizations' direction. It considers whatever member data we have at hand to shape and influence our final decisions on organizational matters. If that member data is non-existent, we collectively try to decide the correct course of action.

We Can't Represent Without You

If you want your yearly membership fee to work for you, work with us. Send any one of the UPA Board members an email, or volunteer your time on an upcoming project.

Tell the UPA Board what you want, and tell us what you don't want. Praise us when we get something right, and criticize us when we don't. We especially love criticism when it comes with an invitation to start a dialog for understanding one another.

If all else fails, you can become a UPA Board member yourself, and become the change you want to see happen. Speaking from personal experience, it's the best way to make the most out of your UPA membership. I highly recommend it.


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