I started volunteering almost six years ago. At first, it was a purely selfish mission. I was looking for ways to grow my leadership skills, and serving on a nonprofit board seemed like an excellent way to do it. My first role was on the programming committee for WICT (Women in Cable Telecommunications), which turned into a position on the board of directors. That first experience was all it took, and I never looked back. The lessons I learned are some of the most important of my professional life. I haven't always been the most approachable person. I tend to come off strong. The board taught me how to soften my delivery and actively listen and acknowledge others' ideas and thoughts. The feedback I received the first couple of years was harsh, to put it nicely but looking back now. I'm grateful for the honesty and courage that it took to provide me with that feedback.
I had such a positive experience on that first board that I joined the board of Oklahoma Women in Technology, PMI Tulsa, and I joined the advisory council of the Tulsa Regional STEM Alliance. The people I met and the connections I made fundamentally changed my career trajectory. I reached my term limit on each board and handed things off to my successors except for WICT. I'm finishing up my final year with Women in Cable Telecommunications, and it is bitter-sweet. I got more out of that relationship than I'll ever be able to return, but I decided that it was time to move on. There is only so much time in a day, and I can't take on new initiatives without handing off the old ones.
Volunteering is an important endeavor. If you are looking for a way to give back or get involved in a mission you are passionate about, please take my advice and do it. You will get more out of it than you give, and you won't regret your commitment.