Getting Started as a Board Director

A few months ago I ran for, and won, a seat on the Drupal Association (DA) Board as an At-Large Director. I'd like to share my journey with everyone, both to provide another look into the work that the board does, and to understand what it's like to be a new board member. I've now attended two board meetings (April and May) and taken part in my first board retreat, the weekend before DrupalCon LA. There's a lot going on, so I'll break this up into several posts.

On-boarding

Once I was elected, and the board confirmed the election results, Holly contacted me to let me know just before announcing it to the entire community. Shortly after that we scheduled a time to get on the phone, and I started getting access to a bunch of documents. I mean a whole bunch!

That first call with Holly was great for getting me oriented. She walked me through logistical things like board meetings, communication, necessary paperwork, and pointing me in the right direction with the documents to look at for various topics and back story. She also asked if I'd ever served on a board before, which I had not, and took time to explain what that means in terms of expectations for board members (things like publicly representing the board and identifying conflicts of interest). She also gave me a summary of the major topics from the last board retreat, which had occurred in January. She continued from there to summarize the big issues that the board was in the middle of discussing and working on, with an idea of what topics we were looking to tackle during the LA retreat in May. This was incredibly useful to prepare me for my first board meeting. I caught up on details by reading the minutes from the January retreat and this year's monthly board meetings. I didn't have many questions after my on-boarding and I felt prepared to dive into the conversations that were already ongoing.

One thing that I did right after that call was to set up times to chat one-on-one with the DA staff leadership team. I wanted to hear from each of them what they were working on, and understand what they needed to get from the board (and therefore me) to do their jobs better. It was a great introduction to the work that the staff takes on every day, and helped me clarify what I need to keep focused on to help them. It was also just awesome to get to know them a little more as people, which can be hard to do in our crazy, busy schedules.

Board Email

In addition to documents and phone calls, I was also added to the board email list. It is a pretty low traffic list, but I got to see a few conversations run through there prior to my first meeting. We had a thread to help clarify what info we needed to have for the meeting, and that board members should read reports ahead of time so we could get straight to things in the meeting itself. In addition to internal process things like that, this is also a place where members can raise issues they think we need to discuss or vote on in a meeting.

First Board Meeting

I was elected just a few weeks before the April board meeting, and I wasn't required to attend that meeting since I was still getting up and running, but I wanted to dive in. Board members are expected to make all monthly board meetings, with at least 10 a year being the minimum to attend. The time is a set time, and so one thing I knew before I even nominated myself was that I would need to make space for this 2-hour call every month on a Wednesday night from 9pm–11pm (since I live in Denmark).

A few days before each board meeting we all receive a meeting packet which has the agenda, phone connection info, links to any presentations or documents we should review, and a list of the DA key performance indicators (KPIs). This board packet is publicly available as well, and you can check them out yourself and even listen in on the board meeting. I spent some time to read everything over and think about what I might want to bring up in the conversation during the meeting.

I didn't have a whole lot to say as I was just trying to absorb as much as I could. We did however discuss releasing the election results, which I obviously had some thoughts about, having just come through the election process. This issue was a good example of how the DA works with community feedback. We have never released election data in the past, and we hadn't made that an expectation for candidates, so when people asked for the data, we couldn't just hand it out with considering a few things. I think we came up with a good solution to be able to release the data for this election, and we now have a plan in place to incorporate this in future elections. You can read more about this decision in Holly's post 2015 At-Large Election Data Released.

The first part of every board meeting is public (as mentioned above). After the public section, we drop off the phone and meet on another phone line with just the board, Holly, and needed staff. This is a place for us to discuss things that are still in progress, or to handle internal board matters. On this particular call we discussed things like reviewing the Q1 financials and and giving updates on board members' efforts to help raise funds for D8 Accelerate.

In my next post I'll give a rundown of the board retreat and my board experience at DrupalCon LA. A lot of people have asked me how I feel about being on the board after the retreat, and I have to say that I'm very happy. I felt the level and direction of conversation was great. I'll talk more about what that was, and why I'm so pleased, especially compared to my previous DA experience from many years ago.

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