Our theme in SLA New York this year has to do with using the chapter as your sandbox, eg. a safe environment in which to experiment in order to gain new skills and experiences. For the latest edition of the chapter ezine, B2E, the editorial team put a call out for articles which touched on this theme, and I thought I might contribute something. On reflection, it occurred to me that without really thinking about it in these terms I’ve been using SLA NY as my sandbox ever since I joined the chapter, so I took this as my theme for the piece. (I’ve reposted the full text below, but you can find the original piece on the B2E site at this link).
As a child, I never really liked playing with sand. Its lack of structure annoyed me, it irritated my skin, and of course you never knew what unpleasant surprises might be lurking below the surface. All that notwithstanding, thanks to SLA NY I’m currently adding the crenellations to the most commodious castle I’ve ever built, and I’m certainly not ready to give up my spot in the sand.
I arrived in New York in the summer of 2012, and joined SLA for the first time later that fall. January 2013 saw me attend my first SLA NY event, where, without having even the slightest idea that anything like this was possible, I took the first step towards the SLA NY Presidency. So the first moral of this tale is never to miss a happy hour – all kinds of interesting things happen at the bar.
On this occasion, I met our then President-Elect Nick Collison, who lost no time in recruiting me onto his Program Committee. A few meetings later, I found myself co-chairing the 2014 Conference Committee and working closely with other chapter members to create and coordinate this major new event. The second moral, then, is not to be afraid to step up to a challenge – I learned more in six months of conference organization than I would have in years of passive observation.
Somewhere in the midst of it all I was invited to become one of two inaugural Board mentees helping to launch a scheme to increase understanding of chapter Board operations and generate extra talent for the pool of potential candidates. This opportunity arose as I was considering a more established but less innovative role, but on this occasion I went against my usual nature and chose the riskier path. Which brings me to the third moral of my story – don’t let fear hold you back and be prepared to leap into the unknown.
So here I am today, SLA NY President-Elect for 2015. The last two years have been filled with innumerable challenges, obstacles to be overcome, opportunities for learning, and more networking than I could ever have imagined. I am looking forward to much more of this in the years to come. None of it would have been possible without the faith, generosity and talents of others, and I am grateful to so many people for their help and support. But equally none of this would ever have happened without my grabbing my pail and shovel and running into the sand.
Another title I considered for this article was “veni vidi vici”, and in many ways the analogies of conquering and building follow the same trajectory (and they can both involve castles). However, my experience with SLA NY so far has been much more about building than conquest, and I would certainly encourage you to consider how you can use the chapter to build up the skills and experiences you need to make a difference in your own professional life. Come on in, the sand is lovely.
(Nb. I feel compelled to apologise for the article’s lapses into American English – not only am I starting to do this without thinking about it but I was steered even further in that direction by the magazine’s editors. Which is entirely understandable, given the audience, but it still bothers me a little! Not to mention the translation of “bucket and spade” to “pail and shovel”.)
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