This year at CodeMash, I volunteered to take over the sign creation from Jeff Blankenburg. Shortly after, Darrell Hawley asked if I wanted to be a CodeMash volunteer also, and I said that I would. It turned out that Darrell wasn’t going to be able to make it to the conference and he asked if I would take over his volunteer coordinator duties this year as well. I said sure and he passed the torch and all of knowledge of the position on December 26th. The volunteers consist of students from local universities, speakers that are not speaking and spouses of speakers. Darrell had already put together the team of volunteers and I just had to lead them. The volunteer duties include room proctor, mealtime proctor, registration desk, information desk, and any other task that needs to be done for the conference. The central location that the volunteers hung out at was the registration booth.
What I learned
While talking to Darrell about the duties of the volunteer coordinator he mentioned that in all the years he had been the volunteer coordinator that he had only been to one session during the conference. I really didn’t think much about it at the time, but I figured that he was just working too hard.
So, the conference came and went, I thought it went pretty well and I learned a lot about the volunteer coordinator position and CodeMash in general (even with me attending every CodeMash since the beginning). I had a great time meeting all of the volunteers and all the people in front and behind the scenes. When it was all over, I didn’t make it to a single session. Just like Darrell. I really didn’t think about it until I was in my truck on the way home. I started thinking about why I didn’t make it to a single session. Was it because there wasn’t any sessions that interested me? No, that wasn’t it, there were lots of good sessions and many that I would have attended. Was it because there wasn’t time? No, that wasn’t it either, I was sitting around a number of times when I could have been at a session instead. Then what was it then?
It finally dawned on me. Although I had a great group of volunteers, I didn’t have a prior relationship to any of them. I think that subconsciously this made me stay in the registration booth just to keep an eye on things. I needed to make sure all the jobs got done. I needed to micromanage things to feel like I had a handle on everything. I realized that I sometimes take for granted the great team I work with on a daily basis. I can give them a task and trust that it will get done without having to follow up every day, hour, minute. Given that I could work with my volunteers for a longer period of time I believe that we would build up that type of trust, but since we only have a week this is not likely.
Don’t get me wrong, working with the volunteers was awesome, I got to know a great group of people with similar passions to mine. I also think there are ways to mitigate these trust issues. I have a few ideas for next year that include some checks and balances like a big visible chart that the volunteers will mark so with a quick glance I can take inventory of what’s been done and what still needs to be done.
I guess the real take away I had from this year from CodeMash is value that trust that you have with the people you work with on a daily basis and implement ways to mitigate those trust issues with people you have not built up that trust with.