Behind the Scenes: Life as an RSE Society Trustee

Photograph of Mike Simpson

Hello there! My name is Mike, and in September 2023, I was elected to the Society’s Board of Trustees. With the 2024 elections coming up, I wanted to share my experiences from the last year, along with testimonials from other current and former trustees, to help you decide whether getting involved with the Society is right for you.

Why did we become trustees? What is it like to be a trustee? What do you get out of being one? We shall now attempt to answer those questions.

My Story

I’ve been part of the RSE community since my first RSECon in 2017. This was while I working as a Research Associate, but spending most of my time writing code (stop me if you’ve heard this story before!). A few years later, I officially became an RSE, and decided that I wanted to give back to this amazing community that not only inspired me but literally made my job possible! In 2022 and 2023, I joined the organising committee for the RSE Conference. During that time, I realised that it was possible to support the RSE movement alongside my day job and decided that I wanted to do more.

Why did I become a Trustee?

I chose to become a trustee not just because I thought it would be good for my career, but also to gain experience in management and a few other skills that I don’t get to learn in my day-to-day work. I also wanted to support the brilliant work that the Society is already doing, help further the Society’s goals and push the industry forward. So much has happened in a relatively short period of time, and it’s inspiring stuff, but there is still more work to do, particularly around career progression, recognition, and well-being for RSEs. I want to make an impact and help make things better, not just for myself but for others, and I feel like I’ve already been able to do that in a few small ways.

What is being a Trustee like?

Being a Trustee mainly consists of attending meetings and completing various tasks around my day job. There’s a monthly trustee meeting, as well as meetings for each of the teams and working groups that I have joined. I work sporadically, usually spending a couple of hours a few days a week to check my emails and work on Society-related tasks. The expectation is that Trustees give up 2 days of their time per month, though this will vary depending on your workload and what’s going on in the community.

So far, I have been co-chair of the Events and Comms teams (bringing some of my experience and ideas from the conference committee to those roles). I was also part of the team that worked on the membership platform transition, and I’m now chairing the Elections team, helping to choose the next batch of new faces to join the Society.

There are definitely busy periods; the Conference and the weeks leading up to it are always fairly intense for everyone involved. However, the workload has generally been manageable. Also, although I have taken on responsibilities that I had no prior experience in, I feel very supported by trustees old and new. Finally, I would say that it definitely helps that I have a supportive manager who has allowed me to spend time on my trustee duties during working hours. As a father to a young son, I really appreciate not having to give up too much time outside of my 9-5 hours.

But don’t just take my word for it!

I reached out to some former Trustees to ask them about their experiences:

“When I first volunteered to be a trustee, I was keen to build connections within the RSE community which had given me a sense of home during my years of wandering through the academic wilderness. I was inspired to join to ensure that, as a membership organisation, others could get that same sense of belonging and community spirit that I felt I had benefited from. The work that the trustees undertake is often not highly visible but is extremely valuable in maintaining the organisation and community. My experience as a trustee and later as president was eye-opening. In my time as a trustee, I learned a huge amount about the depth of work that is required to run a voluntary organisation. Although challenging at times, I enjoyed putting in place procedures and processes to ensure the organisation would be able to operate effectively. I feel that I have translated this experience into aspects of my professional work, and as such, it has been highly valuable. I have built wonderful connections with colleagues and would thoroughly recommend to others to consider volunteering.”

Paul Richmond
Professor of RSE at the University of Sheffield and former Trustee

“During my two years as SocRSE trustee I learned so much, met lots of great people, and built lasting friendships as well as a professional network. Standing as a trustee was surely one of the best decisions I made in my career.”

Marion Weinzierl
Senior RSE at the Institute of Computing for Climate Science and former Trustee

“I got to work with some of the most experienced members of our community on policy topics for a research community and setting the direction of the Society into the future. This experience at an early point was invaluable to me as my career progressed and this becomes an ever larger part of my role, and that of central RSE teams in general. I’d definitely recommend standing as a trustee to anyone who has an interest in research culture and ensuring that we get the most out of our (still young) community.”

James Graham
Head of RSE at King’s College London and former Trustee

“I’m really proud to have been a founding trustee and served for three years. With a wonderful bunch of trustees, I created events and resources that the community needed and loved seeing the membership grow. It can be hard work but it’s very rewarding and you’ll not regret the experience.”

Claire Wyatt
Community Manager of RSE, Juelich Supercomputing Centre and former Trustee

More Information

More information:

Details of the election process and how to nominate yourself will be posted on this blog and on our various social media channels in the coming weeks. Once the nominations open, there will also be Q&A sessions with the trustees (dates to be announced soon).

Final Thoughts

I have really enjoyed my time as a Society trustee so far. I feel like I have already made progress towards my goals of having a positive impact on the Society and enhancing my own career. It can be a lot of work at times, and I would definitely recommend discussing it with your line manager first, but I think you will find it to be an enriching and fulfilling experience.

If you have any questions, please contact the current trustees at [email protected]. Be sure to join the mailing list, Slack and follow us on Social Media to hear more about the upcoming elections, including when the call for nominees opens and details of upcoming Q&A sessions.

About the author: Mike Simpson