Making a difference, safely



When I got invited to take part in the .NET Foundation just over two years ago I was hesitant. I’m not changing the world with Open Source. I’m not someone who is trying to change the world with code. I’m not the smartest person in any room. I work in multiple languages. Why should I dedicate my time to the .NET Foundation, and why would they want me to?

Though I’ve worked in a number of languages and environments, I really enjoy the .NET community and C# is a language I enjoy working in. I have done quite a lot of public speaking in my career, but what really makes me happy is teaching people and building communities. Through running events, mentoring and coaching, I enjoy encouraging people’s passions in technology and doing what I can to lower some of the barriers of entry.

It turns out by taking part in the right committees for me, I can help guide the .NET Foundation and have an input. The Foundation is not purely for OSS maintainers and contributors. There is a lot of work to try to build a network and community that supports each other. There is work to improve access to NET through different educational routes. If there is anything you think can be done to improve .NET, not just technically.

The committees are my favourite bit about being a member of the .NET Foundation. Having input and impact on the direction of the Foundations aims is the biggest benefit I think there is available currently.

Committees and what it involves?

I am part of the membership committee and the educational committee. Admittedly my time more recently has been focused on the membership committee due to time constraints.

Being part of the membership committee, I attend a meeting once every two weeks. We have an agenda focused around what actions we can take to improve the experience and offering for the members of the foundation and to voice any concerns we’ve seen raised and what we can do about them. This group is a friendly and open community, where I feel enabled to voice ways to make change and shape the .NET Foundation.

Why I didn’t run for the board

I’m not going to avoid the awkward conversation on this one. Those going forward for the board all identify as male this time around. This was not down to the Nomination Committee. They reached out to a number of brilliantly qualified diverse members of the .NET Foundation, but for varied reasons all of which were valid, they chose not to go ahead.

My reasons are as follows:

I can enact change without exposure

Due to the format of the election meaning I would have to poll for support, I feared the negative attention I would receive on social media. As I run events and speak, I don’t shy away from social media all that much, but I also know how vile it can be.

I did not want to have the extra stress of the minority who would question my eligibility to run, say that the only reasons I would be selected would be because I was a “diversity vote” due to my gender or the colour of my skin. I work hard for the Foundation and am a very active member, and I can currently do this while surrounded by supportive people who treat me as an equal (which though I have my differences, I am their equal).

Those who chose to run will have had some element of challenge. Being part of the board does mean you will have your impact or the direction of the foundation questioned. That kind of challenge I could understand and deal with. This time I decided to avoid any personal attacks by not running for the board, and making impact instead through working on the committees.

I doubt I’d get selected and if I did, I wouldn’t know it was for the right reasons

The current format is a popularity contest, no matter how much marketing we do around each applicant those who are most well known are most likely to get selected. I am not well known in .NET and don’t plan on putting myself more into the limelight. I’m happy doing what I do because it makes me happy.

If I then got selected knowing this, I would always have a question at the back of my head: what would I have been voted for? For being the only woman on the slate? Would it be for my diversity attributes rather than my skill to do the role? It would not affect my ability to do well in the role, and work to the best of my ability, but when questioned about it (which I would be) I would find it hard to defend that it hadn’t contributed to being selected.

Overview

The .NET Foundation is still young and has a lot of pressure on it to be making huge differences and satisfy an ever increasing membership base at a rate it can’t keep up with. I enjoy working on the committees to help their ambitions and aims, and truly believe we can change lives through increasing the support for education and building on the community that exists in .NET.

I have not gone forward for the board, but I will be voting and there are some brilliant people who have put their names forward. I encourage all of you to look at the committees and see which you want to get involved in.

Vote wisely and take part!

Jess


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