It has been an incredible run. I hope it is just “see you soon” rather than “goodbye.” With this column, DAMA International’s streak of quarterly columns since mid-2001 is coming to an end.
The columns have featured the activities and incredible work of DAMA International over the past two decades. Thank you, DAMA, and I hope the column will return at some point in the future.
We close this series with a list of links available through the DAMA website and a recent independent LinkedIn post from Senior Project Manager and Architect at InfoAdvisors and DAMA Lifetime Advisor Karen Lopez.
The present DAMA International website provides the following links:
DAMA Board Nominations are Open – Are You Ready?
Independent contribution from Karen Lopez – DAMA Lifetime Advisor
It’s that time of year when DAMA International (DAMA-I) opens nominations for the Board of Directors. In DAMA-I, nominations are made via Chapters. That means each nomination is submitted on behalf of the Chapter Boards, not by individuals. While I do not serve as a Board member, I am a Lifetime Advisor to the Board, which is a separate body of DAMA-I. I’ve served as an acting Board member in the past, and I’ve volunteered on committees and workgroups over the last 25 years or so. So, I’ve seen a lot of successful board members.
DAMA’s bylaws list out the requirements for being a board member, but I want this article to go beyond those minimal requirements to my personal tips for becoming a successful director.
DAMA-I has always been a fully remote working environment — even before the recent need for everyone to work from home. We don’t have a headquarters nor office space. This was true even before the internet existed. This means the Board collaborates via online meetings, e-mail, office software, etc. So, a successful Board member will have access to a personally owned, secured computer or tablet that can run modern tools for collaboration.
Employer-provided hardware often is locked down to prevent the use of non-employer tools and software, so it’s important that a Board member can collaborate with DAMA-I tools, namely Microsoft 365 and Office products in a personally administered environment. It also means that the ideal board member will be computer literate on collaboration tools and techniques. Yes, that even means SharePoint. We can help new Board members who have no experience using these things, but it will slow down success. Finally, reliable access to the internet is obviously required to work with DAMA-I.
Now that DAMA-I has many volunteers and Central members, it’s important that a Board member understand global security and privacy rules around personally identifiable information. Not only could DAMA-I suffer fines for breaching data, but we would also look bad as a data management organization if we didn’t treat our data with care.
DAMA-I requires all new Board members to undergo Security and Privacy training about our systems and data. A candidate that does not treat data well will not be a successful Board member.
We used to say that Board members needed to have at least 4 hours a month to devote to Board activities. That was when we were a small professional association with no direct members, no certification program, and Chapters mostly located in the United States. Now we have a handful of staff, thousands of direct Central members, Chapters located around the globe, and a successful certification program, that time estimate is off.
While volunteer time requirements do depend on which role on the Board one has, I’d say that the minimum time commitment is closer to 15 hours a month. For some roles, it can be higher. This is still a volunteer position, but it’s bigger than it used to be.
As a global organization, this also means that meetings and calls often take place at extra early or late times to “share the pain” across the organization. Or to meet the needs of a volunteer with family obligations. A global organization must work on a global time zone basis.
The time commitment also means a successful Board member needs to be able to access and respond to communications and requests on a regular basis, even during working hours. It would be difficult for a Board to operate on a “once or twice a week” communication schedule.
I feel like a hypocrite while writing this since I do not hold the DAMA-I CDMP®credential. But I believe that Board Members should hold the certification that the professional association offers. The reasons I don’t are complex, but I hope to get this done next year.
One of the requirements in the bylaws is to have served a full term on the Board of a DAMA-I Chapter to run for a Board position. This is so that international-level Board members have a good background on the organization, an understanding of how Boards are different from that meetup organizers, as well as to ensure candidates understand how volunteering involves collaboration and professionalism.
In the most recent bylaws change, we also added a path for Board candidates coming from other non/not-for-profit professional associations. This is so that chapters could nominate people who might not have completed a full term on their local board. However, candidates still must be a member of that chapter to be nominated.
One Board position has an additional requirement and that is the president’s role. While this year’s election does not include that position, when the election for that office does open, candidates will have to have served a full term on the DAMA-I Board. It’s important that the president of the organization have direct experience with DAMA-I governance.
While we do most of our work remotely, the Board typically meets two times a year in person, and that means travel is required. Of course, this year and next there will probably be workarounds for this, but as DAMA-I Board positions are three-year terms, I think it’s important I list it here.
The programs DAMA-I runs require teamwork, mostly with other volunteers. That means in addition to collaboration tools, we need to have a spirit of collaboration on projects. Gone are the days of assigning a program to a single person and letting them run with it. DAMA-I is working hard at having groups of people work on changes to policies and programs to best meet the needs of our data management community. We do this mostly via the Chapter Presidents’ Council so that we can ensure we have a broad representation of global requirements.
A few years ago, DAMA-I experienced some horrible governance issues at the Board level. This meant that the organization nearly folded due to not following state law (DAMA-I is incorporated in Washington state), not filing federally mandated forms, and generally not being a professional organization. Thankfully, a group of dedicated members came together to rescue the organization from illegal practices and statements.
The DAMA-I bylaws were re-developed to address several of the holes in the previous bylaws that led to this level of concern. But that also means the ideal candidate for office will understand the importance of following legal and bylaws requirements, especially those of Washington state and the United States. This can be frustrating at times, but these policies and laws ensure that DAMA-I can survive any additional attempts to “go rogue” or work via “secret bylaws” and “confidential minutes.”
In the past, DAMA-I asked candidates if they had the support of their employer or client to serve in a volunteer role. We did that so that Board members could volunteer publicly without an employer questioning their loyalty to their jobs.
We ask the same question now, but do it also so that the candidate understands that while this is a volunteer role, there are still some professional-level obligations that may need to happen during working hours. We work to minimize impacts to volunteer employment, but calls and meetings do happen during someone’s working hours. If your boss tightly controls your time for 12 hours a day, 5 days a week, or if you are forbidden from participating in volunteer work during your working hours, it will be quite difficult for you to meet your obligations. If you also expect to hide your volunteer role on the Board, that will be impossible. Minutes of meetings must be posted, news items need to be shared, and Board membership must be filed with the state. There is no way for us to hide your participation in the Board.
It’s important that a Board member be able to comply with the Code of Ethics and professional practices. That means not using their Board role to advertise or sell their own or employer products and service. In my experience, Board members who join a board just to advance their own profits usually fail to be good Board members. The ideal Board member places community over profits.
I didn’t write this to discourage you from having your local Chapter nominate you to run for the DAMA-I Board. I wrote it to ensure that you understand the 2021 obligations for governing a professional association. Service on a global board is exciting and can be fun at times. But things have changed quite a bit at DAMA-I even over the last 5 years. We have grown so much, so fast. We need Board members who are committed to continue the successes of the Boards that came before them. That means building a collaborative team of dedicated volunteers who want to serve their profession.
If you agree with these requirements and are interested in supporting the data management profession as a Board member, contact your local chapter leaders to be nominated.
Thank you, Karen Lopez, for all you do for the data management industry and allowing TDAN.com to repurpose your LinkedIn post.
To learn more about DAMA International, please click here.