The engine that keeps any organization running — club, nonprofit, business or otherwise — is the degree to which it can keep itself organized.
I joined the Georgetown Journal of International Affairs as its chief financial officer this semester due to the particular knowledge I could bring through my role as the chief operating officer of another student-run group, the Georgetown International Relations Association, Inc. In my capacity as the Journal’s CFO and as a sitting member on the Journal Leadership Council, I worked closely with Executive Director Lucas Chan (SFS ’15), COO Victoria Moroney (SFS ’15) and its new Director of Strategy, Elizabeth Walsh (SFS ’16) to help push the principles of efficiency, adaptability and productivity, while overseeing the financial side of the journal. Most important, however, was the experience I could bring in organizing the business side of the publication.
In my first month working with the journal, I was introduced to a business undergoing a significant reorientation in attempts to improve its flexibility and capacity to implement new initiatives. This arduous process, as both Lucas and Victoria adequately informed me, required sincere cooperation and effort on the part of the entire business team. For me, this meant taking on responsibilities as CFO that extended beyond just running the journal’s finances.
Although the journal has been around for approximately 15 years, the current structure of its business team was only introduced a year ago under the leadership of the previous executive director, which itself was a newly established position. It was my task to build upon this initial foundation, institutionalize processes and improve performance.
Prior to the revitalization of the business team, the financial side of the journal had taken a backseat to the content, until it became apparent that the journal’s growth demanded expanded avenues of distribution, which in turn required a stronger business team. In the past three years, the journal went from producing a well-respected biannual publication to including an annual special-issue cybersecurity edition and a website that was updated daily and professionally solicited. Underlying these initiatives are dynamic professional relationships — with advertisers, publishers, authors, partners and sources of sales — that require a business-like mindset and professional organization.
The journal’s most recent business transition marks a difficult period. Information and records I expected to receive in order to hit the ground running were not immediately available and had to be actively sought out. The historical and institutional knowledge key to operating such a complicated institution had to be slowly drawn out from various sources.
While the journal has had a successful structure, a recent transition between distributors has set up various challenges such as reintegration into the journal’s website, phasing out old articles into the new distributor and price negotiations. Over the summer, Lucas and Victoria committed countless hours to recording, discovering and organizing much of the information, which they requested remain private, that the journal needed. Their work has proven priceless and has guaranteed a much more successful transition than what could have otherwise happened, but there is a lot more to be done.
However, my position not only required focusing on the journal, but devoting a significant portion of this past summer to the organization of myself. My motivation was not out of self-improvement, but rather a circumstantial demand. The skills demanded of me in my role as COO of GIRA were ones I had not previously had to acquire. My predecessors may have managed the role with ease, but over the course of both managing the disbursement of a grant and GIRA’s operational costs and services, I realized my job necessitated quality documentation. Fortunately, there were plenty of existing structures for me to build off of — I wasn’t being handed a blank slate and told, “Here, now build.”
Lucas, Victoria and I, in our capacity as leaders, present a clear vision for the journal’s future growth and structural development. Every individual on the journal’s business team actively contributes to the journal’s success, from managing a list of our subscribers to organizing our Dropbox account. People join the business team with a desire to learn, accumulate experience and deliver a great product. Their positions on the team enable them to do just that. That said, the key to any group’s success is institutionalized organization — a value I am working hard to ingrain into the journal.
I was chosen because of my sincere commitment to this principle. Over the course of this semester, I have attempted to install structure and procedure in any area that demands it. At the very heart of all my efforts is the hope that the next generation of journal leaders and business directors will feel as though this organization, although run by college students, is successfully organized.
JEFF SHAY is a junior in the School of Foreign Service.