What's Involved in Leading a Carpentries Community Committee?

Interested in leading the Instructor Development Committee? Learn more about the Committee and read some advice from a former Co-Chair.

As you may have read in Kari’s blogpost, The Carpentries is looking for new leaders of the Instructor Development Committee (IDC). As a former Co-Chair of the IDC, I’m writing this post to encourage anyone interested to take advantage of this rewarding opportunity and also to give some advice, perspective, and further information on what the new leader(s) can expect. Kari did a great job of describing in that previous post the work of the IDC and the benefits and responsibilities of leading the Committee, so I will not retread that ground. Instead, I’ll focus on my personal experience.

Working with the Instructor Development Committee (formerly the Mentoring Subcommittee) has been some of the most rewarding involvement that I’ve had with The Carpentries community. A Mentoring Subcommittee meeting was the first online call I ever joined with The Carpentries, around ten months after completing my instructor training, and it definitely inspired all of my contributions since. I joined that call to ask a single question about the mentoring programme, which back then was just being established, but left inspired to come back again the next month. I guess that what encouraged me to get more involved was the determination within the group to ensure that The Carpentries is a welcoming environment and provides instructors with an opportunity to develop and share their skills and experiences. If you care about the way that our community is supported, and especially if you have ideas about how we could be doing that better, I highly recommend getting involved with the Committee. It’s a great platform from which to make a real difference within The Carpentries and a great way to get some experience with community building, mentoring, teamwork, and leadership.

The main piece of advice that I would give to anyone thinking about taking on a leadership role within the IDC is to be realistic about the time commitment that’s required. My estimate is that I needed to devote at least three hours per month to the IDC in order to meet the bare minimum of my responsibilities as Co-Chair, with that contribution increasing to 10 hours or more if I was developing something new or getting actively involved in some of the projects associated with the Committee (mentoring, themed instructor discussions, etc). In retrospect, I really believe that responsibility for leading the Committee is best spread amongst multiple people. As well as reducing the pressure on any one member, having a Co-Chair was really useful for me to have someone to share and discuss ideas with, made it easier to lead two IDC meetings in a day, and dynamically handle the workload in response to pressures in my “real job”. I hope that multiple leaders will allow the IDC to pursue several mini-projects simultaneously and raise the instructor development opportunities in The Carpentries to the next level.

To finish, I’d like to echo some advice that I wish I’d paid more attention to when I was diving headfirst into Carpentries community activities: before you can take care of other people you first need to take care of yourself. In the short term we may be able to contribute to many side projects at the same time as handling the stresses and pressures of our work and home life. But eventually that overcommitment catches up with us. The Carpentries has brought a lot of joy to my life and definitely given me opportunities that I wouldn’t have found elsewhere. My experience throughout has been that the community is much more supportive and aware of the risk of burnout than most of the modern world. But remember that the only person who can really protect you from taking on too much is yourself.

I hope that, after reading this post and attending one of the Interest Meetings on 3 April, you’ll consider joining the IDC and perhaps even stepping up to lead the group.

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