A letter to prospective NVDACon co-chairs: position details and expectations


 

Dear NVDACon organizers:

 

With the permission of the current co-chair, I’d like to formally welcome prospective applicants to the co-chair election process. The below letter is intended to spell out what co-chair position means, who should apply, and expectations.

 

When I started NVDACon in 2014, the organizer was just one person: me. But I wasn’t alone in organizing that first meeting in March 2014: I received advice and help from many, including users, translators, developers, and the community as a whole. Some of you may remember emails I sent around that time, asking around for venues, time zone differences, topics, and a dialogue with NV Access people in bringing that community talk concept to life through keynote.

 

Fast forward to 2019, and the NVDACon community has grown. We had folks willing to help out in many ways, we had people organizing regional NVDACon meetings, and companies have begun showing interest in speaking at our meetings. Because of the fact that we are now a committee of volunteers, it has become essential to have folks who know what they are doing lead the organizing effort, and thus serve as one of the visible faces of NVDA Users and Developers Conference.

 

As Derek Riemer, who succeeded me as chair (and now a co-chair) announced, some of you might be thinking about leading this effort for months and years to come. Before you send in your application, please go over what the chair/co-chair position entails:

 

  • A more visible face of NvDACon: as a leader, your job is to be a more visible face of this effort. This means proving to the committee and to the world that you are a capable decision-maker, a competent communicator, and an organizer willing to listen to different perspectives. When people look for folks who organized this event, they will talk to co-chairs (you) first, as your name will be prominent, which means you’ll be a more visible face of this community.
  • Always think about others more than yourself: a leader is a person who is willing to think about followers. This means showing willingness to yield your time to others, helping people in need, and willingness to compromise and take in minority opinions. What makes organization of NvDACon work is different opinions coming together as a whole (different time zones, languages, cultures, perspectives, etc.), and you must be able to say, “I am wrong” a lot.
  • Do not willfully block criticisms: as a leader, you’ll get both praises and criticisms, especially disagreements. If you say to yourself, “I don’t want to listen to criticisms”, then I advise not applying, because as a co-chair, you must be able to eat criticisms against not only yourself, but also the organization as well.
  • Willfully give up sleep for a few days: I’m not joking when I said that. When others are sleeping (or feeling rested from organizing), at least the leader must stay awake so you can be alert to latest happenings, and sometimes, kindly encourage committee members to not give up.
  • Not a career advancement tool: if you say to yourself, “I’m applying to become NvDACon co-chair in order to boost my own career”, then I advise not applying, because NVDACon leadership is not, and should not be used, as a career booster. Ultimately, leadership of NVDACon organizing committee and the community that you serve will teach you valuable life lessons, including understanding people, negotiating, having a solid vision, and advocacy skills.

 

I’m sure current NVDACon people wrote basic qualifications for being a co-chair. Here are some additional things you should think about (at least based on experience as an organizer):

 

  1. Must be considered an adult in the country you live in. For purposes of this, I am happy for upper-level college students to submit applications (preferably juniors and above; I was 24 when I began NVDACon).
  2. Must have at least one year of conference organization experience, including NVDACon.
  3. Must be a reputable and respected NVDA user (expert certification isn’t necessary).

 

I’m intentionally setting personal requirements really high due to reasons I outlined above (mostly the first group).

 

To whoever receives the co-chair positions through the upcoming election, I wish you best of luck as you organize NVDACon 2019 and beyond. To folks electing their next leader, consider the candidates carefully and choose the one you believe the community can rely on as their support, guide, listener, and a visible face of this community. As always, if you need assistance or advice, I’m just an email away.

 

Sincerely,

Joseph S. Lee (founder, NVDACon)