Behind the wheel

Keep walking past or stop and help?

Dear 25 year old me,

There are some things in the world that you look at and think, “Gee, that could be done so much better”, but generally, it’s easier to just complain a little about it and then ignore it. After all, it’s someone else’s problem, right?

Well, if everyone thought like that then these kinds of things would always stay the same. Nothing would change and we’d all just continue to complain about how much things suck, but hey, that’s just “the way things are”… should they be, though?

I’ve ummed and ahhed about writing this post for quite some time, as it’s likely not going to be a popular one. I’ve had a lot of people ask me why I’m doing this, though; why I’ve decided to put my time into AWIA, the national body representing the web industry.

I made a decision last year that I wanted to do something to help get things to a better place for the industry and the web community.

I thought, if not me, then who?

There were so many ways that this could happen and I found some like-minded peers to discuss these thoughts with. At this point in time, I believed it would just be easier to start a new initiative rather than try and encourage changes through the established, but also from the outside, a seemingly out-dated web industry association; a body that had suffered so much criticism about being irrelevant and out-of-touch over the recent years.

Upon getting more thoughts from many others in the industry and after much convincing by Sam Cross and Helen Burgess, two women who I have an immense level of respect for, I took the leap and hopped onto the national committee for AWIA in August 2015. After all, starting something from the ground up was always going to be challenging.

Eight months later, I’ve gained a better understanding and more insights into the inner workings, the hurdles and the struggles that the committee would need to face to get any action underway.

Every committee member that I’ve met, albeit mostly only virtually over conference calls, has been lovely. A great group of professionals with good intentions, big ideas, and interesting perspectives. Unfortunately, as is the nature of most volunteer work, it’s added on top of existing 9-5 responsibilities and a big undertaking for a group of (mostly) business owners. I seemed to also come into the team at a time when everyone seemed quite fatigued and perhaps a little disenchanted with it all.

I’ve witnessed reluctance to embrace technologies designed specifically to make communication easier and platforms that would connect more with communities; purely from the perspective of not having time. I don’t write this as a criticism, though, as I completely understand and relate to this. I would be the first to put my hand up as someone who is very protective of my time and treat it as my rarest commodity.

With that said, not using these tools, which are literally designed to save time, means that I have to spend more of my time doing things the manual way and using channels like email as a primary mode of communication. Not ideal, of course.

While everyone’s intentions seemed aligned, I also discovered that everyone seemed to have very different priorities on the direction and activities that the industry body should undertake as part of the vision. Of course, this was inevitable with the diverse backgrounds and experience that everyone brought to the table.

The obstacles for change aren’t that high actually. With that said, there are many hurdles along the track and in an industry that moves at a 100m sprint kind of pace, it does seem like we’re running on the only track containing the hurdles to jump over every ten metres. While I don’t mind a challenge, it feels somewhat unnecessary.

It’s been an eye-opening journey and frankly, pretty frustrating as well. On the positive side, it’s given me more direction on what my focus should be going forward and how I can offer my skills and strengths to help. There are definitely plenty of chefs in the kitchen, so I’m really not needed there, and perhaps would be better served at the ‘front of house’ and making sure that the diners are content (Masterchef-style analogies this time from me!).

I’m much more concerned about the community and inspiring more interest in the industry. I want to see motivated people becoming champions for our industry; elevating it, supporting and learning from each other. That, alongside sparking more interest and strength, starting right from STEM during secondary education onwards; perhaps even sooner.

Hosting the latest Perth meetup has thankfully provided a great platform to embark on this mission, from the ground up rather than the top down, so to speak. I’ve had to think very long and hard about taking this on, as it’s definitely a risk, but I hope to turn it into an opportunity for change.

I’m determined to give it a good crack, though. I made a promise to myself; I either do it and put in 100% effort, or I don’t do it at all. It’d obviously be easier to just sit back, coast, and watch things fail or fade away, but that’s not the type of person that I am, nor is it who I’d ever choose to be.

AWIA has the potential to really do great things for the industry and the ideas and intentions are certainly there. I believe it just simply needs some more hands on deck to support all these big ideas and help bring them to fruition.

For now, I’ll do what I can and help wherever needed.

It’d also be prudent of me to tip my hat to Bret Treasure, the current chairperson, organiser of the Perth meetup and the web awards for so many years. The amount of heart, patience, energy and effort that he puts in day after day is simply not acknowledged near enough.

Thank you, Bret! Your ongoing determination and perseverance in the face of obstacles has been most inspiring.

More on this soon.

Patima x