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Q&A with our new Director of Development
- Grant GrossIETF Blog Reporter
7 Jun 2021
Lee-Berkeley Shaw joins the IETF Administration LLC today as Director of Development. She will focus on designing and delivering the strategy to achieve the IETF’s goals for financial sustainability, with a focus on growing the IETF Endowment. We asked her questions about her plans for the IETF and her background.
What will you be doing in your new role?
Shaw: The primary goal of my work is to help ensure the IETF’s long-term financial sustainability. This will manifest in a variety of ways -- most notably in building the IETF Endowment. With the politics and culture around technology ever-changing throughout the world, it’s difficult to predict what lies ahead for any tech-based organization. By growing the IETF Endowment now, I hope that whatever challenges may emerge in the future, IETF will have the financial resources to ensure that the community’s work continues uninterrupted. I think there is a role to play in this effort for individuals, for corporate partners, and for the many other organizations who contribute their time, talent, and treasure to IETF.
Where does ‘Development’ come into it?
Shaw: ‘Development’ is the standard term for building partnerships with donors as ‘fundraising’ is too transactional. There can be occasional confusion in technical communities who are used to thinking of development as software development, but almost all of my work will be with organizations and individuals who are very familiar with the term.
What motivated you to take on the new position with the IETF?
Shaw: To be honest, I was enjoying my work at the Center for Democracy and Technology (CDT) and proud of the recent momentum we’d seen. That said, when I learned about the opportunity at the IETF LLC, I was immediately intrigued. I was familiar with IETF through my work at CDT, and had also heard IETF’s work spoken of in high regard from funders. Upon learning more about IETF’s history, current efforts, and long-term goals, I was inspired by both the vision of leadership, and the real value of the mission and work, and wanted to be part of the team that helps ensure a long and healthy future for IETF. I am convinced that it is important for IETF to continue as a global leader in creating technical standards and protocols that undergird the Internet. As the world becomes ever more reliant on technology and interconnectivity, I can see no effort more important than those being undertaken in the IETF.
Can you share some career highlights prior to working with the Internet Engineering Task Force?
Shaw: I’ve been working in development in a variety of fields for the last 23 years, including time with Rebuilding Together (a national housing nonprofit), the Washington Hospital Center Foundation, and the American Cancer Society. In these roles, I’ve had the chance to build development teams from the ground up, plan and execute high profile events, and work closely with individual and corporate donors. More recently, and of more relevance to IETF, I’ve worked with the Woodrow Wilson Center for International Scholars, the Newseum, and CDT. This work has introduced me to fundraising in policy and technology fields, and taught me much about the culture of philanthropy in a fast-paced and international arena. It’s been my privilege to plan and execute CDT’s Tech Prom the last several years, for example, and I’ve worked hand-in-hand with their policy experts and technologists to secure grants and gifts that allow for new research and new areas of studies to emerge. It’s been incredibly rewarding to see how fundraising can not only support current work being done, but pave the way for new projects and future sustainability.
Which challenges or opportunities stand out for you in your new role?
Shaw: As someone new to IETF, I imagine I’ll have some work to do understanding the community and culture I’ve entered into! One of my first tasks will be a listening tour -- I want to hear from those who are already so engaged with IETF on what motivates them, so that I can be sure that I have a deep understanding of what makes IETF tick, and can relay that back to potential funders. That said, I really see myself as entering this community, not someone on the outside looking in. I’ve had quite a few folks already reach out to offer guidance, and that is certainly welcomed. I also think the complexity of the work being done in the working groups, and the scale of IETF’s footprint will take some time to absorb. I’m not a technologist or engineer -- so I don’t know that I’ll ever be 100 percent up on the details -- but I am committed to working hard to understand the issues that drive us forward, and how development can be helpful.
The opportunities are enormous at IETF. The mission is compelling, and the work urgently needed. There is no denying the niche that IETF fills, and the number of entities -- governmental, corporate, and otherwise -- that benefit from IETF’s work is nearly beyond measure. I think that if we can translate the technical complexities into approachable language and a strong case for support for those less familiar with IETF, the potential support is significant. I am excited about introducing IETF to a broader audience and encouraging their support of this important work.
Are there any early experiences using the Internet that shaped your view of it today?
Shaw: Though not exactly the Internet, I’m one of the never-mentioned Gen-Xers, who was familiar with waiting patiently through AOLs modem connectivity sounds for emails from my friends. My high school had the old Macintoshs donated by Apple in the computer lab -- but only about 12 of them. I was a computer lab proctor, and loved playing around on the computer while I worked -- but almost no one else ever came in.
Then, in college, I used Gopher to access research papers, and remember failing a paper in college because I had recently discovered the potential of the late 1990s Internet, and did all my research online -- and thus, according to my professor, had no primary sources cited. I remember being so frustrated that my paper’s argument was sound, but I failed because I hadn’t used some aging document in the basement of our library, but instead found a recent source online. It seemed so unfair!
I think that because I went through high school and college during the same time the Internet was really coming into broader use, I’ve always considered it somewhat magical. Answers that I didn’t even really know how to ask the question for existed -- and even if they might be an ocean away, they were suddenly accessible to me. Even back then, I remember thinking it was wild that I could access other universities’ archives without ever leaving campus.
Now, the Internet connects people globally, it moves money and data, it encourages dialogue, it fosters travel, it solves problems. I know that with that kind of access comes threats and the potential for misuse, but deep down, I’m still the kid excitedly waiting to see if “You’ve Got Mail.” I think it’s easy to take the Internet for granted these days -- but I recognize that a lot of advanced thinking and hard work not only went into creating it, but continues to be applied to maintaining it and allowing it to be responsive to future needs.