A Conversation with an Associate Executive Director

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This podcast originally appeared on iaug.org.

International Avaya Users Group (IAUG) is one of the world’s largest international organizations for communications technology professionals. As the forum for the global Avaya customer community, IAUG provides a voice and resource for Avaya customers everywhere.

In her role as Associate Executive Director, Colleen Jamieson oversees the day-to-day needs of the community. From board management to member growth and development to conference planning, Colleen has helped mold IAUG at every turn for the last 12 years. In this episode of the IAUG Insider podcast, Colleen sits down with Matthew Nanes to discuss the history of IAUG, the hurdles the group has been able to overcome, and how it’s been able to maintain its sense of community through it all.

Keep reading to learn how Colleen has seen the IAUG community grow and change over the years and click here to listen to the full episode!

MATTHEW: As far as I understand, you’ve been involved with IAUG for a while. How long have you been involved?

COLLEEN: I started working with IAUG in 2007 as a member of a team that was supporting the Nortel User Group at the time. So I’ve had the opportunity to see it then and work closely with members and chapter leaders globally on making that group grow over that time. Then in 2010 when Avaya acquired Nortel and the groups came together, I had the good fortune of being part of that merger and development of what IAUG is today. So now, here we are many years later, and it’s fun to be able to look back and think about all of those different milestones and see how the organization has grown not only in sheer size but I think in terms of focus and benefits for members and leaders that are part of the organization. It’s fun to have that history and perspective of the group.

Right, you’ve seen the evolution of everything. I met people at ENGAGE who were like “oh, I’ve been involved for 15 years” or way longer. So it seems like there are a lot of people involved who have stayed involved one way or another. They’re “lifers,” so that’s really cool.

It’s always fun to see the number of people who have been with IAUG for over 10 years, using Avaya products for over 10 years, as well as seeing those newcomers start to grow. I think it’s definitely a community that gets its hooks in people and keeps them around for a long time. You hear that when you talk to individuals at ENGAGE and even one-off programs that we do throughout the year that it’s really the community that keeps people coming back for more, which is great to hear.

Speaking of that evolution, when you came to Nortel at the beginning, what were your first impressions of it? Have there been a lot of changes of the people from then until now? Obviously the technology… what have you seen?

Well obviously my role at the time was answering phones, helping people know what chapter to join, helping chapters grow and host their different meetings. I think not having been that familiar with the world of associations and organizations like this prior to me starting there, I think it’s always compelling to see how committed people are to professional development and how committed they are to the Avaya product set so you know that they’re investing personal time and often case personal dollars or company dollars to know that they know and understand the technology at hand. I think what’s interesting is while the technology has changed–and the industry is clearly changing–I think that requires IAUG as an organization to be nimble in terms of how we service these members that have been with us in some cases 20-plus years but also stay appealing to those that are brand new to the industry and maybe have a different set of priorities or products that they’re responsible for.

So while the flavors change–if you will, in terms of the types of products and technologies that we’re talking about–the mission remains the same and that’s really to keep members informed, be advocates for customers everywhere in terms of bringing their information, feedback, concerns, ideas into Avaya and bringing that back out to the base. So, at the time when I started, I was like, “Oh, these people just love what they do and they’re joining this and they’re really just trying to do their jobs better” and as you grow with the organization and get to spend more time with it over the years, you see it’s much more than that. So while those ways in which people are trying to consume information has changed, what they want to learn about has changed, but I think the spirit of the group has stayed the same despite the years that I’ve seen some of the fundamental things change all in a good way.

So for some of the fundamental things changing, from then until now, what’s the biggest fundamental change that you’ve seen?

Certainly when the groups came together–anyone who was part of that experience got to witness two great organizations bringing together two great communities of users that historically had used very different products in their space–products which did similar things but obviously had worked with different companies. I think that with that comes different types of opportunities and cultures and challenges, etc. I think the most fundamental shift was the ability of those organizations to align and really work effectively together to lay a foundation for what IAUG is today. I think members today benefit from that collaboration and from that shared vision that those groups had.

Fundamentally, a shift in the organization as well was the alignment that the Board of Directors of the International Avaya Users Group has today with Avaya and the shared interest in how they make life easier for the customers, how they bring new value to the customers, I think is truly unique in the work they do. I think it’s very evident in the evolution of ENGAGE over the last several years. You’ve seen that event grow not only in size but I think experience and hopefully members and attendees are really feeling that. It’s a direct result of the close strategic alignment that the Board of Directors and Avaya has been able to establish over the years.

On a personal note, I’ve been to a lot of different conferences and sometimes it feels very segregated from the people who are putting it on versus the people who are attending. I must say as a newbie to IAUG, just being completely honest, it was really great to see that at ENGAGE, where everyone seemed to want to have that communication back and forth. There weren’t any walls and I think that was really cool to see.

Stealing from Lori Wodrich, who’s on the IAUG Board of Directors and was the fantastic conference chair for this year’s ENGAGE in Austin, she was reflecting on the last day and she said, “I realized one of the things that makes this event so unique compared to other industry events is truly the community feel that we have.” I think that’s probably what you probably felt and saw, Matt, when you were on site, is this idea of people building connections. They’re doing that through the badges that we have, sure, and the smart badge technology, and creating meaningful connections with people. But it really goes beyond that, I think, to the fact that it’s just a good group of people. They’re in it and they like seeing one another, they like seeing the subject matter experts that Avaya and our partners are able to bring every year. They like hearing one another’s case studies and stories of what they’ve been able to do in the past year. I agree that that’s actually very palpable on site. I just think Lori captured it well when she was saying really what makes this event unique from all the other industry ones that are out there it’s that you feel the sense of community while you’re on site.

Listen to the full podcast episode here!

This is just one example of how Innovatis Group has been able to approach an organization’s unique challenges with customized solutions. If you’re looking for new ways to keep your members engaged, consider contacting our team so we can work with you to find the best solution.

Kaiti Norton

Kaiti Norton

Kaiti is a Marketing Associate and Blog Editor at Innovatis Group. Her primary goal is to curate content and create a cohesive online brand for Innovatis and many of its clients. (Fun fact: she has 2 twin Siamese cats and has an extensive eyewear collection!)