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Volunteering @UPA - Seven Benefits that Might Pay Off

Silvia Zimmermann

Silvia Zimmermann is the UPA International President.

Ever thought about volunteering @UPA? If yes, I would encourage you to do so.

My UPA volunteer time is almost over after nine intense and sometimes very challenging years. I started in 2002 when I first was involved with the UPA. The story of how I got involved is simple and quickly told.

UPA was looking for volunteers on their website and I applied. That's how my UPA adventure started.

In 2003, I attended my first UPA conference in Phoenix, Arizona, USA. I was working as a volunteer at the "UPA Friends of Usability" booth and enjoyed every single moment of it. It was back then in Arizona when I actually, for the first time, really realized how strong the UPA brand is. It was an eye-opening experience for me that changed my entire attitude towards volunteering and staying engaged in a global network. When I think about UPA, I think about Sharing, Engaging, Empowering, Inclusiveness and Friendship. These are for me the core values defining the UPA culture.

Inspired by the conference, in 2003 I founded the Swiss UPA chapter and worked as President of this local chapter until 2005. I continued to stay engaged on the local chapter Board level until 2010. At the same time, I was invited to run for the UPA International board. I thought, "Why not? No one will ever vote for someone from a small European country anyway, given that the majority of the UPA members at that time were US-based. But I was wrong. I joined the international board at the beginning of 2006 and in 2007, I was elected to the UPA Executive community. In 2008, I was Vice President and since 2009, I have been the President of UPA International. Is this a typical volunteer career path at UPA? Maybe, maybe not.

Seven benefits of volunteering @ UPA

I already mentioned that volunteering @UPA could sometimes be challenging, sometimes exhausting but overall very rewarding. There is an almost endless list of benefits from volunteering @UPA but if I'd have to pick my top seven, I would choose the following ones:

Benefit 1: Expand and try out your leadership skills in a truly international, volunteer-based environment. This will provide you with a deep and profound understanding of culture. This is something you can't learn anywhere else.

Benefit 2: Learn to understand, accept, and live with boundaries, frustration, and failure. This will lead you to new realms. Not everything is always done the way you would have liked or expected it. But during your UPA engagement, over time you will learn to accept that there are things you can't change. This experience can help make you a stronger and better person overall.

Benefit 3: Broaden your network and enhance your worldwide career development opportunities. Learning about your skills and interests while exploring different opportunities @ UPA is free!

Benefit 4: Learn to be an effective and productive team member, across all time zones and within that exciting melting pot of cultural diversity. Volunteering @ UPA is a give and take. You will learn to make decisions as to when you put more effort into an activity and when it is more sensible to withdraw your energies for awhile.

Benefit 5: Learn everything about the broad field of UX and Usability by exchanging your thoughts and ideas with other members of the UPA community. UPA is a door opener - you will be able to speak and exchange with leaders of our industry in a way you probably wouldn't be able to if you weren't a member of our network.

Benefit 6: Meet like-minded people. Don't be surprised if you get invitations from all over the world. It is not something unusual.

Benefit 7: And last but not least: Have and enjoy an incredibly rewarding experience in one of the most inclusive UX networks worldwide.

 

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