Convention Events and Programming => Elections => Elections Archives => Topic started by: kjayers on September 10, 2015, 09:55:35 pm

Title: Candidate Q&A - Director of Relations 2016
Post by: kjayers on September 10, 2015, 09:55:35 pm
This thread is for questions and answers for the candidates for the 2016 Director of Relations of Altonimbus Entertainment.

Please remember the following when participating in the Q&A threads. The normal forum code of conduct (https://www.kumoricon.org/forums/index.php?topic=11025.0) applies, except:

There is a partial exemption to the rule that forum discussion cannot be about a person. You may incorporate personal comments, including praise or criticism, into your election questions and answers, and ensuing discussion, but only regarding candidates who are running for a position, or about another person if it is directly entangled with an issue germane to the outcome of the election. In so doing, you must still exercise standard courtesy, and refrain from profanity, disruption of the discussion, excessive vitriol, and irrelevant comments. Please keep in mind that there will be an opportunity for spoken comments at the elections meeting.
Title: Re: Candidate Q&A - Director of Relations 2016
Post by: kjayers on September 12, 2015, 02:57:42 pm
In most departments, the director does not need to be a subject matter expert; instead, the department needs to be led by a people-manager who hires subject matter experts.

What resources have you used to develop your managerial style?  What should your direct reports expect from you as a supervisor?
Title: Re: Candidate Q&A - Director of Relations 2016
Post by: AllyKat on September 13, 2015, 08:40:19 pm
That is incredibly true Jo! A Director should first and foremost be a leader of an amazing team, available to find/administrate strong and knowledgeable people in their roles as they build the convention from the ground up, while still having the capability to answer questions from our business/industry contacts and remain up-to-date on what the con is doing when/where and why. That kind of balance of not being an "expert" in everything but "knowing" everything is what makes a strong Director. They have to trust the people they have placed in key positions to be making smart choices, but they also need to know what those choices are and how they affect the bigger picture for the convention. That way we never lose out on opportunities because we haven't kept everyone in the loop. What one sub-department is doing may be that crucial missing piece to another.

Regarding your question, I have used a few years as a manager of staff in the "real world" (hotel front desk manager, video game store manager, movie theater supervisor) to hone my skills at ensuring people are staffed/overstaffed to the point where breaks can be taken, and people who work under me have a chance to be engaged in what they are doing, not just tired and overworked. Relations is not really a department that suffers from heavily overworked staff, but that doesn't mean I can't encourage good scheduling and time management to provide them with the least grueling experience possible. These people are often the face of the con for our vendors, artists and guests or industry, which means having them look fresh faced and having fun is a key perception to these individuals that can reflect on the convention as a whole. Tired, grumpy and overworked staff can be the difference between a well handled resolution and a near nervous breakdown!

In the convention itself, I like to say that my previous years as a Director were very key learning experiences for me. In Facilities (now sort of a sub section of infrastructure) I never quite got the handle on having staff and what they could provide to the department, except for at con, where they ensured that, even when I was sleeping, there was a face the hotels could recognize with authority, that our Directors could rely on. Every year my assistants (which include current Director of Infrastructure, Di Hoffman) were given a basic guideline for what to do, and were told to be available to directors as a point of contact in ensuring that we kept good records of hotel conversation and what we received from them. I never felt like I had to hold their hands through the process, which is something I have always said I need in my staff.

I am not the director for you if you want someone who will hold your hand through your staffing experience. But if you want a creative, team driven Director who wants to build a vision with you and the rest of the Relations team, and encourages you to take initiative on projects (with help) that will grow our convention, you will have a place in my team. Direct reporters and even their subordinates can expect from me a vision that is well known by everyone in my department, with high levels of transparency at the manager level. I do not want to be the only person making choices, but I do want to be the one my staff go to when making choices. They should never feel alone or isolated in their sub-department, but should feel like every other manager, coordinator and staffer in Relations knows what they do, why they do it and how it affects their own piece of the pie.

Some might call that a "light handed" managerial style, and I'd agree. I don't want to tell you to do A, B, C, D. I want to tell you that we have A and we need to get to G and have your expertise tell me the way you think is best to get there, and once we have planned out a route for you and I to take, we both decide who has the drivers seat and when.
Title: Re: Candidate Q&A - Director of Relations 2016
Post by: Chryssaia on September 16, 2015, 06:48:35 pm
How connected do you think your department's duties align with other departments and how do you plan to facilitate communication in a way that allows for everyone to succeed in what needs to get done?
Title: Re: Candidate Q&A - Director of Relations 2016
Post by: AllyKat on September 17, 2015, 03:24:18 pm
How connected do you think your department's duties align with other departments and how do you plan to facilitate communication in a way that allows for everyone to succeed in what needs to get done?

I'm gonna use the "wheel" metaphor. I apologize to everyone who has had to sit through a business "cohesion" meeting or experienced use of this metaphor in the past.

Kumoricon is an event where the tasks are divided up as evenly as possible into sections that make sense and utilize specific skill types, ultimately though all the different points need each other and strong communication to function well. The "spokes" of the "wheel" require one another to build a strong structure that can carry a ton of weight, losing spokes can be dangerous, but the idea of a wheel is that, even if we lose one or two spokes, the others can carry the weight because they are all connected in the center. Its difficult, but the reason we constantly talk about working together is because that can be the only thing that saves us when the convention, a department, or a specific staffer is in trouble and desperately needs help.

Relations like every other department, has to align its vision and game plan to compliment what the other departments are doing. While I am an e-mail and facebook chat sort of girl, it may be more important to meet physically with a director to get the communication rolling, and that is a big part of being a director and recognizing (and implementing) communication methods you may not prefer in order to keep moving forward.

But you wanted to know how Relations will communicate, under me, with other departments in order to make sure they get what they need (and that we get what we need!).

A lot of it has to do with pre-planning. Some things we can anticipate, others are more complicated, and often end up being last minute data, pushing other departments further behind their schedules. Its a vicious cycle, it even happened to me this year. Even when I performed by job in the schedule I had for myself, delays that were out of my control (and a few delays within my control) Programming in a sticky situation regarding getting the schedule for viewing rooms out at a reasonable time. Sometimes we can avoid these struggles by working in advance, other times, it just comes with the territory of a con.

Each department works with Relations in a unique way and needs specific things. Some of them are easy:

Treasurer: Get them receipts, stay under budget, ask for funds needed in advance.

Secretary: Make sure staff are assigned, vetted and trained before con.

Infrastructure: Get them the guest hotel room requirements/staff room requirements and Green Room BEO early.

Registration/Membership: Get them the names of guests/plus ones and other badge information early.

These require a good schedule. If you'd like, I can post my planned schedule here so you can see how things "should" work. I say should because while the best laid plans are what we aim for, they often go awry. I DO plan in some soft space to make sure that if something DOES go wrong, there is time to fix it. These schedules are pretty clear cut and require one basic idea; that we get guest data a smidgen earlier than we have previously. Other departments are more closely connected and are... more complicated.

Programming: Needs guest panel schedules, blurbs and viewing permissions (subject to discussion with future Programming Director, this has sometimes been the sole responsibility of Programming, so whether or not that remains in Relations' hands is a discussion those two directors will have in the future). Providing these things early and completely will ensure Programming can complete the schedule on time and provide it to Publicity in time for a safe print date. Another key element at play here that is often overlooked is equipment needs, who is providing what. If a guest needs a special cable for their laptop, needs to use their personal microphone or any other number of requests, these need to be not only conveyed, but also assigned. We do not want issues with double purchases or NO purchases so both parties need to ensure they are communicating WHAT is needed, WHEN it is needed and WHO is providing it, be it the guest, the convention, a third party or otherwise.

Publicity: Needs guest information and other "promote-able" data early and often from Relations as well as constant communication on the overlap of outreach and convention communication and industry relations. Both departments go to con to discuss the convention, but they do so in different ways and to different people. That doesn't mean they can't team up for meetings or events, but understanding jurisdictional differences, and working within them is a key to the positive relationship between Relations and Publicity. Planning all this out at the beginning of the year, and sticking to that plan can mean the difference between a happy Pub Director and a very stressed out one!

Operations: You might think that Operations and Relations spend little time together, but you'd be surprised how often IT came to the Relations Office this year! (well, okay maybe that was to visit one of our staffers... I digress!) Guests and their Liaisons often need access to rooms early, areas that are not commonly accessed, and have to have problems solved quickly and efficiently. When we need bodies thrown at a problem, who do we call? Ops! Having clear game plans, personnel and procedures in place so that when X happens, attack plan R is initiated are some of the main ways we can make a smooth con from sticky situations. That means meeting with not just the Director of Operations, but sub-department heads within Operations who will be directly communicated with at-con. Explaining to IT why you need to increase your internet requirements AT CON or explaining to the head of the "detail" for guest why you need more bodies AT CON is not a methodology that works - you have to make these plans prior, so no one feels shortchanged, understaffed or miscommunicated with.

Long story incredibly long: I have a schedule of task start dates, due dates, turn-over dates and most important, HELP NEEDED dates. This is my key to success; if I or my staff are NOT on track with a task by a certain date, we will alert those involved in the task by a specific date to let them know we are behind so they can anticipate the delay and prepare for it. Too often do we focus on the due date and allow ourselves to blindly think we can "make it" and even if we can't, being a few days late wont cause problems. This line of thinking puts no respect on other departments and their time. I want to change that by encouraging my staff to let me know if they are in over their heads, and to update my fellow department directors on our progress so they can adjust their schedules as needed, even if only by ONE DAY, it shows respect for their time, and encourages stronger communication on my end.