Thanks AIIM—This Isn’t Goodbye
Some of you may know that, when I was a kid, my dad was my high school principal and my mom was our high school drama teacher. Basically, it meant that NO ONE asked me out on a date. But it also meant that I had a unique front row seat for observing my parents in their ‘natural environments’. I knew they taught, I knew they loved what they did, and I knew they were really, really good at what they did because all the kids and teachers loved them.
Naturally, I wanted to teach as well. But, unlike them, I had no idea what I wanted to teach. So, as my siblings became a teacher, a pharmacist, and an entrepreneur respectively, I became what they struggle to understand -- “Now what exactly is it that you do?”
I came to AIIM in 2006. I had just turned 29 -- one of those years when you reflect on what you’ve learned and where you want to go in your next decade. My daughter was four, drowning in her Pre-K school uniform. My son was one and still being pushed around in a stroller. And my first role at AIIM was as chapter coordinator with @Theresa Resek as my boss in the membership department.
For anyone seeking life in associations, I can certainly recommend starting with working in chapters and volunteers as that’s where you meet an association’s life blood. They are the 1%ers who believe with passion and action in the mission of an association. Thanks to Theresa, my first task was to call a list of dedicated leaders. And that’s when I first met people like @Ed LoTurco, @Bob Zagami @Bud Porter Roth @Paul Fisher @Mark Mandel @Peter Ransome @Craig Laue @Al Linden @TK Train @Joyce Osborne @Alan Weintraub @Baron Gemmer @Al Ramsay @Tom Motzel @Monica Crocker @Carol Keuch @Craig Shogren @Gennifer Grahm @John Breedan @Winnie Tsang @Carl Anderson @Scott Allbert @Baird Brueseke @Jesse Wilkins (he was actually a chapter leader before joining the AIIM staff) and so many others who, despite my knowing nothing about ECM, took me under their wing to teach me.
One of my saddest memories at AIIM was when we lost one of those leaders, Tracy Smith from Eastman Kodak. She passed away in 2012, before we were doing member spotlights but I remember Tracy so fondly. I got to know her in 2008 when she won AIIM’s Distinguished Service Awards due to her work in the New England Chapter. As she was battling cancer, she told me, “Jess--I thought as I started to lose my hair that the plus side would be no more shaving and plucking. Don’t believe the hype; I’m still shaving and plucking while sporting a shiny bald head!” I can’t pick up a razor without thinking of her. Tracy taught me that if you can make yourself vulnerable, you’ll form bonds that are unforgettable.
Since I’m now tearing up, let me switch things up with a lighter memory. It was 2009 and the recession was killing membership dues revenue at every association. I had just moved into the role of leading membership and @John Mancini asked if I had any Hail Mary pass ideas. So I told him that REM had recently played a show and sold tickets at a ‘Pay What You Can’ price and I thought that we should try the same. Although he likely thought that was more like throwing the ball out of bounds, he gave me the green light in the end.
As our systems couldn’t support the payment plan automatically, it meant that members had to call in with their pledge. For two days, @Michelle Clark and I locked ourselves to our desks to answer these endless membership renewal calls. It was sort of like the iconic ‘I Love Lucy’ episode when Lucy and Ethel work the assembly line at a candy factory and mayhem ensues. But what was shared in those calls touched us -- some called to say that they had lost their jobs and were grateful for the opportunity to reconnect to member resources to help in their job searches. Others called to pay more than the price of membership; to help balance out those who were being hit hard by the recession. In the end, the average price paid was $97 (and that’s when membership sold at $135). Those conversations showed me that AIIM was more than a membership organization; we were a community dedicated to the betterment of anyone who wanted to belong.
About 2 ½ years ago, AIIM let me play in the online community. For me, it was an opportunity to create a larger space for more members to surface and connect. I remember my first post -- ‘What are you working on today?’ It was @Connie Prendergrast who immediately jumped in and shared not only what she was working on, but templates she was developing. From there, others began answering member questions, volunteering to share on webinars, forming new communities to focus on challenging issues from GDPR and Privacy issues to Women In Information Management. It was this coming together that really transformed us from our individual roles into a true community of information professionals.
Now after almost 13 years with AIIM, my daughter will be a high school senior next year and has not only grown into her clothes, but into her wonderful, strong self. My son now stands taller than me and will complete middle school this June. His kind, gentle way makes me incredibly proud. I even got married this past September. These have been 13 years of learning, growing, connecting, and bonding. AIIM has taught me so much but most of all, AIIM has taught me the power of community. And so, as I prepare for new challenges and leave my role at AIIM -- I know this is not goodbye -- these bonds don’t break.
I’m looking forward to further growth as I take on the role of VP of Membership and Volunteer Engagement at ASIS (a community of security management professionals -- anyone from military police to CISOs). I’m also Iooking forward to being on the ‘other side’ of AIIM as a CIP, watching the A-team, especially the incredible @Boshia Smith, take AIIM’s membership vision to the next level.
I thought that I wanted to teach because I saw how my parents impacted people. But what I learned from AIIM is that it wasn’t that they taught in schools that made them so impactful, it was how they treated those they taught -- with gratitude, openness, empathy, and sincere passion -- that made those lasting imprints.
Thank you for how you’ve treated me, AIIM. You’ve taught me so much through your kindness; I promise to pass it forward.
Jessica ‘Jess’ Lombardo, CIP
P.S. I’m here until Friday, May 3rd, so if you have any questions for Boshia or me, we’re happy to help.