What Does the Work of a DVS Board Member Look Like?

We’re excited to be accepting candidates for six open roles on the DVS Board for the 2022-2023 term. You can learn all about the nomination process on our website, where you’ll also find links to job descriptions and applications for all six open roles. Applications are due this Sunday, December 12, 2021.

If you’ve been mulling the idea of applying for a role, perhaps you’re also curious what work on the DVS Board looks like. We’d like to demystify the experience a bit! 

I’m going to share insights on a few key, functional questions about the work of a DVS Board member, and gathered reflections from a few of our board members on what they love about being on the board, which feeds into why someone would dedicate some of their nights and weekends to this growing organization. If you have additional questions, feel free to reach out on email or Slack.

How we work

The DVS Board currently includes 12 people distributed from San Francisco to Singapore geographically. Much of our work happens through asynchronous communication on Slack, email, and shared documents.

Board meetings are hosted monthly via 60-to-90 minute sessions, alternating between weekday and weekend times since different schedules suit different board members. We also host our own individual committee meetings on varying timelines depending on the department, collaborate across the board on occasional cross-functional initiatives (like the launch of our new members levels), and have one-on-one meetings about progress and strategy.

We recognize that life happens, and these are volunteer positions. Sometimes a board member needs to be out for a week (or a month) for personal or work reasons — and that’s okay. We can work together to make sure we have a plan in place to cover any in-progress work and support folks.

We expect much of the work to remain asynchronous and flexible as we move into 2022, and will continue to evolve how we work as our new leaders join the team.

Our responsibilities as Directors

Each Director is responsible for setting the vision and strategy within their department, from Events to Operations. Each role is connected to the broader mission goals of DVS, but often Directors work independently on their own tasks or in collaboration with their committees.

Everything that happens within DVS falls under the leadership of a DVS department, from Slack to Nightingale to our financial systems. We are a working board, not just a governing body, and with that comes big opportunities to shape the future of the organization. But, it also requires a bit more labor and mental load as we work together to build new programs, resources, systems, and structures that help us engage our members and build towards sustainability and scalability.

We have slowly evolved to include more part-time paid support team members who assist with day-to-day activities. We aim to continue to enable similar contracted support across the team as needed, recognizing that there are limits to the volunteer hours someone can devote on a daily basis.

Balancing big ideas and practical realities

One of the biggest challenges running a young, entrepreneurial, growing organization like DVS is that there are so many opportunities and activities we could choose to pursue. 

Part of the role of a board member is to prioritize what will have the greatest benefit for the organization (and particularly the members) and to dissect big ideas and initiatives into more actionable, smaller tasks so we can make forward progress. Every time we say ‘yes’ to a new activity or program, we’re voting with our time and effort to say ‘no’ to something else. We can work together to help with those challenging choices and in making decisions on where to invest our resources (which includes our time).

Demystifying the application process

In our Slack AMA, one of our members asked a great question about the impostor syndrome that can easily set in when you look at the structure of the process for applying and interviewing for a board role and the big opportunity inherent in being on the board.

While we understand why the process may seem intimidating on paper, the purpose of the slating process (with the applications and interviews) is to create a structure where any eligible candidate has the opportunity to put their name forward for consideration. The structure in the process, including evaluation criteria for applications and structured interview guides used by the Nominations Committee to assess candidates, continues to support a more equitable, inclusive process. As our DEIB Director, Kaumodi Goda, reflected on in our nominations kickoff, systemic design and structure can enable diversity and inclusion.

If you choose to apply, remember that interviews go two ways: we want to learn about your and your qualifications, but we also welcome your questions about the role! We want board members to join because the role is a great fit both ways — for the organization and for the individual candidate.

We are proud to have a range of board members at various stages of their professional careers, from those just starting out who were still in degree programs when they began to established dataviz practitioners who work for firms or as freelancers. Every single board member brought a valuable perspective and ideas into the organization, and was also welcome to challenge ideas or direction when they see fit — and we’d welcome our new board members to do the same!

Why join the DVS Board

When asked about what the best part of being on the board is, it’s easy to see a pattern: connecting with people. Whether it’s with other board or committee members, the broader DVS membership, or external groups, being on the board creates an enormous opportunity to expand your professional network, meet new people, and collaborate to build awesome things for the dataviz community.

For me, the big three reasons I’ve stayed involved with DVS and served on the board include:

  1. The people: getting to know so many more people across the board, but also within the organization because being a board member helps you be more involved across program areas.
  2. The behind-the-scenes experiences: last year’s Outlier Conference and the sense of a shared vision and experience that Mollie and the events committee created. There was SO MUCH behind-the-scenes work that made that even possible and it was inspiring to see.
  3. Seeing us mature as an organization — we have a lot of work to do still as we grow, but I’m really proud of getting structures in place to become a 501c3, launching paid membership and creating other revenue streams, and talking to leaders from other organizations and membership associations who have learning they’re willing to share with us as we grow.

Here are some of the highlights and reflections from other current board members:

Amelia Ayoob (Operations Director)

One of my favorite things about being on the board is working with such a conscientious, creative, and engaged group of people. It’s just a different dynamic than I’ve experienced elsewhere. I suppose that makes sense when you have a group who spends a lot of their time thinking about how to effectively communicate information! I think it’s also a really valuable experience to work with a young organization. And the same goes for working on a volunteer basis — I think both challenge you to focus on what is essential. It is humbling in a good way!

Jason Forrest (Publications Director)

Every time I’ve made a request on behalf of Nightingale, it has been amazing to see the massive response and outpouring of support from our DVS community as well as the wider dataviz world.  Building a part of the DVS to have that kind of scale and the opportunities it gives all our writers and members is truly a rare gift. TLDR: it’s the people.

Erica Gunn (Education Director)

  1. The ability to connect with and serve our community. I think that dataviz is in an important stage of its development as a discipline, and I’m happy to be part of that.
  2. We have the space to dream big. If we also have the focus and discipline to deliver, we have the opportunity to do big things (Nightingale, Outlier, State of the Industry Survey…).
  3. I prefer to create the experience rather than consuming it. I almost always prefer to be in the kitchen getting things done instead of sitting at the table; I enjoy working in that creative space.

There are so many opportunities to influence the direction of DVS as we grow and expand, given that we haven’t even hit our third birthday! I am excited by the opportunity to welcome new leaders in our organization who will help us continue to evolve and bring great ideas to the table, and hope you’ll consider submitting your name if finding ways to engage our community and influence the data visualization profession is as exciting to you as it is to those of us on the team.

If you have any questions about serving on the board, one of the open roles, or more generally about getting involved in DVS, please don’t hesitate to reach out — I love connecting with our members at any opportunity I have.

Amanda Makulec is a health data visualization designer, teachers, and speaker based in Washington D.C. who volunteers as the Executive Director for the Data Visualization Society. She holds a Masters of Public Health from the Boston University School of Public Health, and worked in more than a dozen countries leading teams and developing user-centered data visualization products for federal, non-profit, and private sector clients.