A strong community creates a sense of belonging, opportunities for growth, a support network, resources, and mutual success. I joined the IBM Z® team in 2015 with a passion for building community and a focus on strengthening the IBM Z ecosystem. It was with this focus that I attended my first SHARE event in San Antonio in 2016, which was also my introduction to the SHARE Board of Directors as the new IBM liaison. At the time, I was new to IBM Z with a background primarily in analytics, services, sales enablement, and ecosystem outreach. My first SHARE event was a great opportunity to immerse myself in this new community, and being on the board provided a unique opportunity to quickly get to know members, feel welcomed, and gain that sense of belonging.
This community is one of the most passionate I know, with a long history. As a newbie, this can be intimidating to walk in to and difficult to maneuver, since everyone seems to already know each other. The conference is also structured unlike others, with program names that may not be familiar to new attendees. Having a fellow board member and colleagues help me to navigate through my first SHARE event was invaluable.
SHARE and the board continue to focus on first-time attendee experience, as a steady number of new attendees is crucial to the vitality of the community. We want to ensure we not only have new attendees: we also want them to become a part of the community and continue to participate. Anna McKee, two-time Master the Mainframe champion, recently stated that it was the amazing IBM Z community that made her want to become a mainframer. SHARE represents the heart of this community, as it not only provides the opportunity to connect and learn from your peers, but also helps retain and grow talent in this field through education and opportunities to speak and share skills. As Kyle Stofka from JPMC said during his keynote at SHARE Pittsburgh, he would have never thought a few years ago when he was still in university, that not only would he be working in mainframes, but also speaking on stage in a keynote. This community has the ability and influence to shape careers and inspire attendees.
During my tenure as the IBM liaison, I have worked with three SHARE presidents (James Vincent, Harry Williams, and Justin Bastin) and each has been very different. The president truly influences the tone and direction of the board. Each brings different strengths, perspectives, and experience. The one constant is their commitment to the community and the dedication of time to ensure the continued success of SHARE. Being a member of the board, I have learned a lot about managing associations from the finance side to the execution stage, with an all-volunteer organization, in an era when individuals do not have much extra time to spare beyond their day jobs.
The members of the board and the broader leadership team give a significant amount of their personal time to give back to this community. From what I have experienced, being able to see the direct results of your efforts — whether it is through the financial viability of the organization, the increase in registrations, survey feedback or watching attendees experience the conference — is very rewarding. It is all a direct result of the hard work of the board, leadership team, volunteers, and the SHARE staff.
I encourage each SHARE event attendee to become more than just an attendee. Consider how you might become involved, whether presenting, joining a project, helping to chair sessions, becoming a first-time attendee ambassador, or joining a committee — there are all levels of involvement. Find the right fit that matches how much you can give back.
SHARE has now become a part of my community, with friends, colleagues, and welcoming faces each time I join a call, attend a conference, or connect at another event. As the IBM liaison, I am responsible for bringing my business expertise, as well as sharing the direction and priorities from an IBM perspective. It has been a great honor to hold this role over the past few years and I look forward to continuing to be a part of SHARE as vice president of the IBM Z ecosystem. Moving forward, Annette Brooks will be taking on the role of IBM liaison and she and I will continue to work closely together to help keep SHARE a thriving community.