What A Leader Learns from SMCHI

This is my last blog post as SMCHI President. What an amazing ride its been.

Since becoming involved in SMCHI in 2009, I’ve become part of SMCHI and SMCHI has become part of me.

And as much as I’ve dedicated countless hours to SMCHI, its members, its events and sponsors, I’ve received much in return.

I’ve learned so much being part of SMCHI, particularly as President. Sure, I’ve learned countless tips and tricks from my colleagues, but anyone who has been part of an all-volunteer organization like SMCHI knows, its the people that make it all worth while.  During my terms I’ve learned the professional art of “cat-wrangling.” I’ve learned humility. I’ve learned strength. I’ve learned when to ask for help and I’ve learned when to give it.  I’ve gotten even better at saying “thank you” and “please.” I’ve learned to laugh harder and Google Hangout better.

I’m very excited about staying involved with the SMCHI BOD as the Membership Chair. Its truly going to give me a chance to do more of what I love: be with amazing people. But before I move into that new role, I have to thank some special board members and SMCHI supporters who really helped me as SMCHI’s first (and second) elected President. There just isn’t room to thank everyone who has supporter me and SMCHI, but this is the short list of people without whom I could not have been an effective President. They each taught me something along the way and I’d like to honor some of the things I’ve learned from this special group.

Roxanne Darling and Tara Coomans posting the prize winners on TwitterRoxanne Darling  As founder of SMCHI, Roxanne laid the groundwork for so much of what SMCHI accomplished since its founding in 2008. Roxanne and I spent countless hours on the phone, email, Google Hangout. Strategizing, imagining and implementing what we KNEW SMCHI could be. I couldn’t possibly list all the things I learned from Roxanne. But maybe one of the best lessons I learned from Roxanne is to let go of perfect. Your blog post might have a typo. Your video may be a little darker than you’d like. But through experience, we learn. Its more important that we take steps to learn than achieve perfection right out of the box. Social media is inherently imperfect and that’s OK.  Through it all, Roxanne became a mentor and friend to me. Not to mention the fact that she ALWAYS looks better in the SMCHI photos than I do (as evidenced by this photo). But perhaps there is still hope for me. After all…I think I still have some things to learn..like letting go of perfection!




Peter Liu: Peter LiuI choose this picture because it represents the most frequent way I see Peter: via video. But such is the nature of social media, we don’t always get to see one another IRL and yet, I feel like I know Peter pretty well. From Peter I learned that volunteers are volunteers (not employees) and it should be fun. I  also learned to “Keep It Simple, Silly.” As a survivor of Silicon Valley startups (during the FIRST boom), Peter had no patience for the overly complicated and that made me a better leader.




a675d07c3aa511e2ba2d22000a1f97cd_7Derek Gabriel: Again, I often saw Derek via Google Hangout.  He was supposed to be “tech” guy, but in 2012, he was really my go-to guy. He helped with event planning, membership recruitment, communication and yes, even technology.  When I couldn’t get something done, Derek would just do it. But those who know Derek know that he’s also the first to voice his opposing views and I wasn’t exempt from that. From Derek, I learned how to ask nicely. I also learned to graciously accept criticism. Learning how to do both those things with the same person..well, that is definitely a unique learning experience. Truly, every leader needs some back-up support AND someone who challenges the norm and in 2013, Derek was that person for me.




Gwen Woltz SMCHIGwen Woltz: Anyone who knows Gwen knows that she has an irrepressible smile. I’ll never forget the first time I met Gwen and its been a joy working with her since. Gwen was often the person on our team who just did what needed to be done without asking. Gwen is also very organized and a master with the spreadsheet and who doesn’t need someone like that on their team?! One time, it was Gwen who told me that we’d all forgotten about a board meeting. Whoopsie! From Gwen I learned that no matter what is happening, there is no excuse not to smile. About to collapse? Just smile. You’ll get through it. Whenever I needed something organized, I’d go to do it and find that Gwen had done it already…and it was always at just the right moment. Gwen is our in-coming 2013 President, I’m looking forward to serving as one of her Board Members.




Laura Kinoshita and Tara CoomansLaura Kinoshita: Laura has been a friend and a colleague to me. We serve on the Board together, we work together and we are friends. Laura’s business judgement is sound and thoughtful; she is also wickedly smart.  From Laura I learned to listen to my voice of reason and keep my reasoning sharp. Laura sees things in unique ways and she can challenge an idea while also coming up with an alternative solution. After all, its easy to red-team an idea, but harder to make that idea better.  I’m a passionate person, but whenever I needed someone to bounce an idea off of, or give me a logical perspective, I could count on Laura.





Rob BertholfRob Bertholf I have to also thank Rob. As one of the original dedicated volunteers for SMCHI, before there was an “official” board, Rob originally encouraged me to get more heavily involved in SMCHI.  Although he wasn’t technically on the BOD during my tenure, be remained a supporter of SMCHI during my time as President and a favorite brainstormer/collaborator of mine. Rob always gave to SMCHI without expectation of anything in return. I’d be remiss if I didn’t thank him as a supporter of SMCHI during my time as President.  More than once, I  called Rob humbly asking for a favor and never once did he ever make me feel bad about it. Having Rob return to the SMCHI 2013 Board of Directors will be great..again!





I look forward to supporting the next generation of SMCHI leaders. As social media is still an evolving industry, I’m sure SMCHI will continue to evolve to meet the changing needs of the industry and the community. As it should be. As I hope it always is.


Hope to see you IRL - Tara Coomans Signature


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