"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has." ~ Margaret Mead
I’m a member of NAVUG, an online community that is the epitome of Margaret Mead's statement. If you will humor me and enjoy the story I am about to share, you too can build a thriving and successful online community in your sphere of influence.
My story is about the power of a thriving online community and my personal success because of that community. I use the word thriving because it denotes growing vigorously, flourishing, gaining in wealth or possessions, prospering, to progress toward or realize a goal despite or because of circumstances, and all of these things are what you will see in my story and within our community.
From Formal Education to Dedicated Mother
In 1980, I left high school and began the next chapter of my life as a productive member of the American working class. With a vocational accounting certificate in my hand, I began working as an intern for the company CFO and loved both working and getting paid. I worked in several accounting jobs during the 1980s and then part-time retail when my first child was young.
After a short-term job in the mid 90s as a bookkeeper, I had back-to-back babies and chose to stay home with them until they went to school. During those six years, the internet was taking shape. Online communities and learning were unleashed to the masses.
Networking and Building a Business with Free Online Learning
I joined two communities while at home. The first was The Cradle Room, a community for young stay-at-home mothers. The community kept us connected to the world and we shared help on every level, from cleaning and laundry to time management and business opportunities. We encouraged and inspired each other to keep on keepin' on. I had friends from South Africa, New Zealand, Europe, and close to home here in Ohio.
One of the things I was encouraged to do through the community was build a cottage industry – a business run from a personal house – something I could do while at home to add to our family income. I looked to the online communities again and found Web Tech University, where I took free web design and PaintShop Pro classes. Soon I built my own home-spun web design business called Heart -n- Hearth, and did quite well until I let it go and returned to the business world when my children started school.
I used those skills from Web Tech University when I returned to work and began down a new road as the Print and Cyber editor at our church. I enjoyed my work there for five years. Then, in 2008, I returned to the accounting profession as the receivables coordinator at American Ring; 10 years later I continue to work for them as the Director of Business Technology and Intelligence.
The People and Communities Who Helped Me Build a Career
That personal journey is an important part of my community story – a collection of seemingly unique experiences that all contributed to what was to come. It may seem surprising to go from an intern program in the early 80s with a vocational certificate out of high school, to Director of Business Technology and Intelligence. Community was my linchpin.
First, I want to give credit where credit is due: my personal community. I have wonderful bosses and work for a great family business. They have supported and encouraged me from the first day I arrived. It probably helps that I have a thirst for all things techy and will latch on to books, blogs, webinars, training, and communities if they feed my soul. So I was already primed and ready to take on NAVUG.
NAVUG is one of the Dynamics Communities that are named for the Microsoft software they represent. Our community’s central focus is NAV, a Microsoft ERP Software. The UG represents the User Group. The community consists of members that range from the very end user (data entry) to CEOs of the companies that have deployed the program. Other members of the community are developers of the software, business analysts, Microsoft employees and MVPs, and a host of other independent software developers that provide products that work alongside NAV.
Learning New Software with Community Content and Peer Support
I found myself in NAVUG not long after I was promoted to IT Coordinator at American Ring. Part of this new role was taking care of our ERP, Microsoft Dynamics NAV 5.0. While I was excited about this new opportunity and experience, my first thoughts were, “Where do you go to college for an education in NAV Administration?”
The immediate answer is, "Nowhere." Suddenly I felt like Tom Hanks in Cast Away, alone on a deserted island. A few months into my “desertion,” I was introduced to the NAVUG community.
I spent the next week on the website, reading everything in the open forum and blogs, viewing hours of webinars, and soaking up all the knowledge I could from this passionate and committed community of people. I did not wait the entire 30 days to commit to a membership in the community. I started adding other employees to the roster of members and sending them links to register for webinars in their areas of interest. One of the things I love about the NAVUG Community is everyone has a seat at our table.
Lifelong Learning, Giving Back, and Getting a Promotion
When we began the process of re-implementation to the latest, greatest version of our company’s database, I spent hours every day learning everything I could about the new version from community members: better ways to accomplish tasks, new modules and features and how to use them, how to troubleshoot our struggles with the software, and discovering how to solve problems.
While we worked through the re-implementation, I continued to study and learn under the tutelage of NAVUG community members. Before long I had filled out my volunteer profile, and began giving back to the community I had gained so much from.
By the time the project was complete, I received another promotion and NAV Administrator was added to my title. We continued to work on our NAV environment, producing better and better returns on the company’s investment. Much of the education and information to make this happen was learned in the community.
My passion grew for our community and my involvement became part of my way of life: leading webinars and live presentations, sharing on the open forum, leading a local chapter, and being a leader for the Women in Dynamics community (part of the wider Dynamics Communities). These rich, vibrant, and flourishing communities provide opportunities to showcase the talents and successes of our members, so we can all benefit and continue to grow, along with technology.
The Education and Support in Online Communities Can Help You Succeed
2017 brought a promotion and title change. I became the Director of Business Intelligence at American Ring, voted one of the NAVUG 2017 ALL-STARS and Advisory Board Chairman. None of this would have been possible without the education and help from the NAVUG Community. The education and advisement from our online community goes far beyond NAV and touches so many other areas of business and personal life and development. A thriving community is a place for exchanging information and for brainstorming with other like-minded people.
How can you not be obsessed with a community that brings so much value to your life, both personally and professionally? How can you not be passionate about giving and receiving in that community?
So, for the answer to my original question, “Where do you go college for such a specific education?” Maybe it is just a log in away in an online community!