It is my absolute privilege to announce that today YNPN will be bringing on its second-ever staff member, Jamie Smith, to serve as our national Communications Manager.
Many of you have already had the chance to get to know Jamie via social media over the past few months in her role as our YNPN National LaunchPad Fellow for Communications. When we established the Fellows program two years ago, we saw it as a way to cultivate and channel top talent from our network into the wider sector. And we cannot be more proud that some of the best of that talent has been channeled right back into our own organization.
Reflecting on the significance of this moment for YNPN and about Jamie in particular got me thinking about a conversation I had a few months while I was flying across the country. I was working on the slide deck for some presentation and the guy flying next to me leaned over to ask what I did. We got to talking and at some point in the conversation he mentioned that he worked for a REALLY well-known online marketplace that shall remain nameless. (Although I kind of want to give them a shout-out for having their people fly economy.) Anyway, he also casually but pointedly mentioned that he’d been employee #2 at said company and handed me his card. Which actually listed that he was employee #2.
Then he paused and waited for me to react. I didn’t. Because at the time I had no idea that I was supposed to be impressed with this fact.
Later as I relayed this story to friends, especially those who’ve worked in startups, and I’ve been able to gain a little more perspective on the weight of being “employee #2.”
As a friend of mine who was around during the early days of YouTube put it, “Everyone on the outside knows the name of the founder. But if you’re on the inside, every single person there knows that the company would’ve just remained a cool idea without employee #2. Everyone.”
YNPN has been around as a network for 15 years, incorporated as a national org 10 years ago, but only became a staffed organization in 2011. So in many ways, especially in terms of our day to day functioning, it feels like we’re in startup mode. During our national board retreat in February, we called this out. As we were laying out our strategic priorities for the year, most of them were extremely concrete: 1) Build out a robust data system; 2) Clarify our messaging, 3) Strengthen chapter knowledge sharing platforms…
But our final priority–create space for visionary leadership–was more of a vague recognition that we are in a dynamic, evolving time as an organization, working within an environment that is even more dynamic and evolving. We knew that in order to have the most realistic chance for significant impact, we needed to be intentional about making space to not only be responsive to obvious opportunities but to consistently scan the horizon for what might be coming down the road.
Creating that space for visionary leadership has meant that we prioritize learning and reflection and brainstorming during our meetings. It also meant that we had to increase our staff capacity so the day to day functions did not continue to be all we had space for. But we knew we didn’t just need another employee, we needed employee #2.
Jamie Smith is that employee #2.
While her official title will be Communications Manager and her focus will be on the critical work of helping to strengthen and streamline our internal and national voice, her value is that she will add to our capacity for visionary leadership. Jamie is learner, a tester, a strategic thinker, a problem-solver, and someone who is as deeply passionate about the work, the members, and the potential of YNPN as I am, our board is, and our chapter leaders are. She is absolutely the sort of person that is necessary at this stage of growth to make sure our dreams become reality.
It’s an exciting time for all of us here at YNPN and what we hope will lead to a stronger, more engaged network and stronger communities propelled this network.