The guiding principle of SHARE has always been its motto: SHARE: It’s not an acronym, it’s what we do. With more than half a century of history, the organization has a wide range of technical expertise at its fingertips. Beyond white papers, online groups, the archives project, and twice annual events, SHARE also has the in-depth knowledge of its past presidents.
SHARE’s presidential term lasts two years, and many past presidents continue to be involved in the organization as presenters or volunteers. In this way, SHARE can draw upon the wealth of experience these individuals have. We caught up with a few of them to talk about their tenure in office and why they keep coming back to volunteer.
During the SHARE Presidency
Michael Armstrong (1986-1988) says his favorite aspects of SHARE are still the people, the quality of the work, and the relationships built with the vendors. During his time at SHARE, tensions between SHARE and GUIDE members existed, but both groups came to realize “they all had the same machines with the same problems. It became obvious that they could all gain from a joint effort.”
There were challenges in the early days, Armstrong recalls, with friction between managers and technicians as to what user groups stood for, how they related to IBM and its customers, and other issues. “My friends in GUIDE joked that we SHARE types couldn't manage our way out of a paper bag, and I responded that if they were technically competent, they wouldn't be in the bag in the first place. It was mostly a friendly competition,” Armstrong says.
Eventually, the "Object Code Only” (OCO) issue commanded the attention of all factions, and any internal tension was seen as counterproductive and a drag on morale, productivity, and effective work, he explains.
After being “drafted” to lead SHARE, Armstrong says he helped engineer compromises and supported all sides as best he could. On the SHARE board, he aimed to “encourage and support attendees in delivering the message that SHARE provided them with education, connections, and solutions that benefited their member organizations.” Armstrong adds, “I let the SHARE talents loose. Somehow it worked; I'm proud that SHARE is still prosperous and relevant.”
During Anne Caluori’s term as SHARE president (1994-1996), SHARE’s senior leadership team collaborated with a branding and image firm to help the group better reflect the three generations of IT professionals engaged in SHARE’s events. SHARE acknowledged it wasn’t “your grandfather’s world anymore,” and the board worked to change its image, improve information delivery to its members, and redesign a calendar of events.
These efforts led to the birth of the SHARE website. “We knew then that exploiting the web was going to be a long process, and it certainly has been,” Caluori says. “We also knew that what one leadership team labors to conceive, design, create, and roll out is much more likely to simply lay a foundation that subsequent teams will modify and enhance to meet changing needs and developments.”
One of the major challenges Caluori’s team addressed was the increasing amount of time that volunteers in the 1990s spent on working sessions. With twice yearly events in February and August, as well as interim working sessions in May and November, many volunteers felt personal and managerial pressure that they were away from their own business offices too much. By 1995, she says, “we decided to make focused task force meetings available when and where it made best sense for the volunteers and to redesign scheduling efforts into a shorter, smaller Scheduling Summit. The last interim session was held in May 1995.” Meanwhile, SHARE continues its twice-annual events today, allowing members to network and participate in education sessions.
Robert Rosen (2004-2006) helped SHARE regain a stable financial footing after several years of financial losses and waning event attendance. “The emphasis of my presidency,” he says, “was to address those [financial] challenges.” After the entire management team and SHARE’s volunteers worked together to cut costs without damaging the attendee experience, the board set its sights on reigniting interest in SHARE and increasing event attendance. “I’m happy to say we changed the curve to start climbing again. And of course, follow-on administrations continued and improved upon that work,” Rosen explains.
During Rosen’s tenure, zNextGen got off the ground, and the board steered resources to the group, which “succeeded beyond my wildest expectations.” He adds, “Those volunteers proved the point: Volunteers are the heart and future of SHARE.” Rosen says that his history with SHARE began in 1970, but one thing hasn’t changed since his first meeting: “recruiting volunteers to run the organization is critical to its success.”
During her presidency from 2010 to 2012, Janet Sun focused on driving year-round engagement in SHARE activities, maximizing participation and revenue at events. “We enhanced industry thought leadership, scheduled regular webinars, and created an on-demand library of recorded material.”
Additionally, Sun says the board helped improve SHARE’s relevance through thought leadership and industry influence. “Some of the things we did in this area included member surveys, dedicated spotlights on industry issues, outreach to new audiences, social media, and thought leadership through analyst written articles.”
In addition to his duties during his SHARE presidency from 2012 to 2014, Brian Peterson recalls his involvement with past SHARE events. He says his first time leading the General Session keynote was in San Francisco in February 2013, which was the (perhaps only) SHARE event that started on Super Bowl Sunday. “We all were wondering what would happen, but ended up gratified that ‘our’ Super Bowl party was very popular with our attendees.”
“During my two years as president,” Peterson adds, “we held SHARE events in the ‘usual’ cities like Anaheim and Boston. But we also started the trend to explore cities new to SHARE, such as Pittsburgh, which was a tremendous success and has turned out to be an awesome venue.”
After the SHARE Presidency
Caluori explains, “Perhaps my favorite aspect of SHARE is one that is frequently overlooked. Based on its definition as a volunteer organization, SHARE provides the opportunity for IT professionals to try their hands at project and organizational management and leadership in an environment that provides strong support, developmental training and experience, and a connected like-minded population who share a vested interest in the organization's and the volunteers' success.” She adds, “It's like a boot camp (or perhaps a summer camp) in learning how to operate a moderate-sized organization, from personnel and finance to operations and strategies.”
Volunteering is the lifeblood of SHARE, but it has an impact on individuals, as well. “From a personal standpoint, there is a lot of self-satisfaction in accomplishing a goal, whether it’s putting on a session, giving a talk, or steering the organization,” Rosen says. “These things have never changed throughout the life of SHARE.” Caluori adds, “SHARE's long history and its culture are distinguishing characteristics of the organization and go a long way toward explaining why so many of our participants and volunteers keep coming back for more.”
Peterson explains that as he finished up his term as immediate past president in 2016, the SHARE board began to explore the idea of changing its corporate organizational structure (since the 1990s) from a taxable not-for-profit corporation to a nontaxable corporation under section 501(c)(6) of the Internal Revenue code.
“The project kicked into high gear at the start of Harry Williams’s term as president in the summer of 2016. I served as a deputy director on the board to [essentially] act as … the ‘project manager,’ to help focus … all stakeholders who were responsible for various aspects of the effort,” he says.
Once the transition was complete in January 2018, Peterson transitioned to the role of past president and continues to enjoy his role as a SHARE attendee and an installation representative of his company.
Sun agrees that one of the most notable accomplishments for SHARE in recent years was the move to a 501(c)(6) nonprofit association. She adds that since her term as president, SHARE has continued to increase its focus on improving the attendee experience.
Rosen says that SHARE continues to progress and evolve with each administration. “While the basic educational sessions continue, there have been some great additions. Onsite labs, greater acceptance of vendors and SHARE Technology Exchange speakers, less reliance on paper, being open to publicity about its activities, helping introduce new people to the mainframe world, and more,” he says. “SHARE’s adjustments reflect changes in our use of technology today — refuting the argument that mainframers are stodgy.”
Meanwhile, Caluori has taken her love of the organization and spun it into a worthwhile preservation of SHARE’s history through the archives project. “Perhaps one of the most challenging and truly enjoyable projects I've worked on … involved gathering and curating collections of SHARE historical materials for display at several of our major anniversaries, particularly the 50th anniversary,” Caluori says. “We were able to spotlight early equipment, publications, and photos from the 1950s forward that many of our participants had never seen. From a SHARE perspective, we gathered and displayed artifacts that explained many of the details of the stories that illustrate our organizational projects and culture.”
Past Presidents Love Volunteering, Sharing Knowledge
Armstrong’s career path has taken him away from the mainframe community, but like other past presidents he remembers the strong relationships built within SHARE. Rosen agrees, noting his favorite aspect of SHARE “above all else are the people.” He says, “Through SHARE, I’ve met people who have helped me in my career, people I’ve helped, and people who have become life-long friends. That personal connection makes SHARE unique to me and is one of the reasons I keep coming back.”
Peterson explains, “I return to SHARE events at every opportunity for exactly the reason I started to attend 30 years ago — because SHARE is the best place to go for a broad overview of the entire enterprise IT ecosystem.”
Rosen takes it a step further. “I’ve gotten so much from SHARE — I can actually trace many of my promotions to things I learned at SHARE — that paying back to help others is the right thing to do. Continuing to learn is always a good thing. Besides, it’s fun.” He adds, “I think SHARE helps move the mainframe industry forward, so anything I do to help SHARE gives me a little piece of that.”
Many volunteers and past presidents agree it’s the people and what they’ve learned through SHARE that keeps them returning. Sun says, “I remain active in SHARE because it is still relevant to my career, but I volunteer because I enjoy helping others and like to give back.”
Past presidents are an invaluable resource for board members, current administrations, and other volunteers, and they can assist with any project. Sun explains, “Past presidents frequently have a long and deep history with and understanding of SHARE and its members, and are excellent resources.” She adds that past presidents are often well known around SHARE, IBM, and other key partners, and can help influence the industry even after they are no longer on the SHARE board.
SHARE’s volunteers come from all levels of expertise and sectors of the community, and past presidents are just one aspect. Many continue in their emeritus state for years, remaining available as mentors, advisors, utility experts in specialty areas, and more, says Caluori. She adds, “It’s the hallmark of this leadership development design's success that serving at each of the volunteer levels in SHARE adds skills and experience, whether I'm a project officer, a program manager, or the president.” Rosen explains, “Volunteers enable SHARE to continue to provide the education members can’t get anywhere else — knowledge from the people on the front lines doing it. Becoming a project manager, for instance, can provide volunteers with the management skills they desire without the potential career damage that comes with mistakes.” SHARE’s network of volunteers, the past presidents say, enables members to get the help they need when they need it and to help others when they do.