Farewell AIMIA and the YDL Program

AIMIA Young Digital Leaders ProgramThis year I was proud to be invited to mentor in AIMIA’s Young Digital Leaders Program. Little did I know it would prove to be the last chance I would have to give back to an organisation that has meant so much to me in both my professional and personal life.

Young Digital Leaders is a mentoring program through which highly-talented future digital leaders are matched with a more experienced digital mentor who can assist them to accelerate their careers with guidance, coaching, networking and sponsorship within the digital industry.

The experience of coaching and mentoring an ambitious, talented woman in the digital industry was brilliant. It also provided me with the opportunity to contribute to the industry that has been a big part of my career.

I received my Young Digital Leaders (YDL) certificate of recognition the following testimonial from the lovely young woman I coached and mentored:

Janelle was absolutely wonderful! I have never worked with a coach before and didn’t know what to expect. I didn’t think it would be as thorough and in-depth as it was. I thought it would just offer guidance, but it was so much more than that. Janelle would break down your goals and really get into the nitty gritty of what you wanted to achieve and how you could get there. While she didn’t give away the answers (as there aren’t really any answers) she was always beside you to lend a helping hand to help you find what it was you needed to do to meet your goals. I really enjoyed the coaching experience, and will take the knowledge and the bits and pieces I learnt moving forward for many years to come. Coaching with Janelle was a memorable and compelling experience. I have more focus. I now know what I have to do to achieve the things I want to achieve.

AIMIA - Back to my roots...

Reconnecting with AIMIA in this capacity was unexpected and I really enjoyed being involved with them again. In my 15 years working in the digital industry I spent nearly 8 years employed by AIMIA as the National TradeStart Manager. Previously, I was a member of the NSW State Chapter and briefly, a National Board Member. All up, a decade of industry development and collaboration with four out of six different AIMIA CEOs.

Unfortunately though, this reunion with AIMIA turned out to be short-lived and bittersweet as several days after receiving my YDL certificate, I was shocked to learn the Association was winding down after 23 years. Many have said it was only a matter of time this happened and have lamented the outcome.

The harsh reality for a not-for-profit like AIMIA is its financial dependency on membership fees, and when you have the twin problems of a shifting digital landscape and a consolidating member base, it’s tough to attract other revenue streams via patron relationships or via government programs that leverage well-established groups of industry members.

Individuals with a long involvement with AIMIA will remember the challenges faced as the industry evolved. During my time with AIMIA, we tirelessly worked together to promote the growth and success of the industry, overcoming whatever hurdles we faced. And we did what we could, often with very limited resources. There was a great deal of camaraderie and many friendships forged during those years, which still remain today.

On a personal level, I’m grateful for the experience of providing export and coaching services via TradeStart to AIMIA’s membership and the hundreds of Australian digital media / ICT companies I helped during my time with the Association. The TradeStart Program and the international trade missions I led to markets like New York, Hong Kong, China and Singapore were industry firsts and hugely successful. The participating companies leveraged those missions as springboards into international markets and many are still operating overseas today.

At times I have wondered how many Australian digital companies would’ve successfully made and developed those overseas connections if they’d not had the dedicated industry support of AIMIA and TradeStart to facilitate export opportunities and guide them as they forged ahead in uncharted territories. Exploring new international business opportunities and establishing relationships are often difficult to initiate and evolve from behind a desk.

As for the Young Digital Leaders program, it’s an absolute shame this won’t continue. It was well organised and played a pivotal role in addressing the skills shortage of the digital industry as well as fostering the growth of the industry by partnering talented young digital leaders with experienced digital mentors. Lest I mention the soon-to-be-gone AIMIA Awards; the longest running digital awards program and it’s highly coveted AMY statue which took pride of place in many businesses I had the privilege of working with.

Whatever your thoughts are regarding the industry and AIMIA – never forget that there were many passionate people who collectively contributed to growing the Association and the industry during those 23 years and that legacy is something we can all be proud of.

For those who are bewildered about AIMIA’s fate while the industry as a whole goes from strength-to-strength, please don’t attribute AIMIA’s outcome as a failure on anyone’s part, but rather celebrate AIMIA for everything it achieved in those 23 years. AIMIA will always rightfully have a place in Australian digital history.

Let’s face it – digital isn’t going anywhere. It’s more pervasive than ever and while this may have been a contributing factor to AIMIA’s demise, it doesn’t mean there aren’t new industry development opportunities on the horizon.

Mostly these opportunities will evolve from people willing to make an active contribution. If you are passionate about the future of the industry and having an active role in shaping it – then consider stepping up to be a leader and making it happen. You are a part of the industry and what you care about when it comes to industry development is important. Your voice matters. Only you can choose to do something about it.

Remember, all traditional grass-roots Associations like AIMIA started somewhere – the point is simply starting and caring enough to make a difference to follow through. The future of the industry and how it evolves is in your hands.


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