A Year on the Board of the .NET Foundation

Lessons learned and info to share.

The .NET Foundation nomination period has opened!

What does that mean? Well, those who have been elected to the Board of Directors have a limited term, and also have the option to end their term early. This means that, annually there are seats on the board that need filling.

Any member of the .NET Foundation can nominate themselves for a board position. A committee refines the nominations down to a select slate for the members of the foundation to vote on, to determine who will be joining the board. The nomination committee assesses nominations based on their experience. They check to see if the person has experience running a large organisation (such as a conference, company or multiple meetups), if they have board experience, what their involvement is in .NET, and their motivation for joining the board. Not all of these criteria need to be met, but they are checking that a person is qualified and has the experience necessary to be an active and successful board member.

I had the honour of being selected to join the board last election season. Some of my perceptions of what this voluntary role involved were more accurate than others. Here, I would like to share some of what I’ve learnt in the last year being on the Board of Directors of the .NET Foundation.

Time commitment - you get out what you put in.

Before joining I was worried about the time commitment. I have the habit of overloading myself, taking too much on, and being a ruinous people pleaser, if I’m being very honest with myself.

There are mandatory meetings: the monthly board meeting which is an hour and a half and the committee meetings for whichever committee you chair (an hour every two weeks for the membership committee). The rest is really up to you how much you take on.

At the membership committee we share the work. We divide the membership applications for review each session, and divide any actions from the meeting to improve the membership proposition.

I pick up some other bits such as website updates, helping with DNF summits and conf’s where I can, doing admin bits for the board; but that’s all through my own choice.

Microsoft aren’t as big a presence as some people might think.

Yes, they have a seat at the table and you can read the .NET Foundation Bylaws to get more information on what this looks like; but they aren’t the primary voice.

The .NET Foundation Board are volunteers who are trying to help build a community and make it thrive. The community includes projects and maintainers, but also a lot of other profiles including educators, organisers and developers (read more about the member profiles here).

This is a challenging task, but by no means are we told how to achieve this by Microsoft or compensated by them in any way.

It’s worth knowing a thing or two about finances and contracts.

These conversations come up a lot and I am lucky enough to have experience both through my day job and running the DDD East Midlands Conference and its associated company.

If you aren’t familiar with budgets, reviewing and negotiating contracts, forecasts and are thinking about nominating yourself for the Board, it’s worth doing a bit of homework.

Change takes time.

I knew this before I signed up, but it’s a point worth reiterating.

When we do our campaign statements, we state what we want to achieve or what we would like to support or see change in the .NET Foundation. Honestly, those campaign statements are really hard to achieve in a limited period of time.

You are not only working with a large organisation, but cultural impacts are slow and take a lot of investment. Talking of investment, financially the organisation does not have a limitless source of funds, and you have to work to defined budgets.

Sadly, because a lot of this isn’t very visible, you sometimes feel the frustrations of a community that have been waiting a long time for changes. This can be tiring, especially when you are trying hard, so be prepared for the impacts of that to you personally if you are aiming to join the .NET Foundation Board of Directors.

Those are some of my observations from the last 12 months.

The .NET Foundation Board of Directors are a really fun and supportive group. They are passionate, smart, experienced and I’m better for knowing them and for the experience of being part of the group.

The team of people who do the hard work to make sure the .NET Foundation functions, including Nicole and Madison, are amazing. They work really hard to ensure the .NET Foundation is a success, and are a big support. The other people to mention are the members who volunteer for the committees, who guide and give back to the .NET Foundation.

I’m really looking forward to meeting who joins us both on the .NET Foundation Board of Directors and in the committees, and for all the other things I’m going to learn in the coming year.