Former Connect president Nina Buik, who's made a career in sales and marketing in the IT industry, has been hired as the user group's Chief Marketing Officer. It's a move that the group's executive director and COO Kristi Browder says will bring on new partnerships and alliances, along with increased awareness of the group's education.
Connect restructured itself last year, stepping away from a management contract with user group services company Smith Bucklin and taking its operations in-house. But the group didn't create a raft of paid staff posts to replace the fees paid to Smith Bucklin. Volunteers from the group's board picked up some of the work. Contractors helped with graphics, web design, publicity. Meanwhile, Browder and one part-time administrative assistant comprised the full paid staff for Connect, until Buik joined the group's payroll.
"Now that we have contracted in terms of our operating structure, the organization is poised for significant growth," said Buik. "In order for us to grow, you have to add people."
Browder said Buik "has worked tirelessly as a volunteer from Connect’s inception to create a strong brand and organization that now includes more than 50,000 members worldwide. The ability to bring in Nina as chief marketing officer with her strong marketing and sales background, coupled with her unique understanding of the user community. will benefit the Connect community for years to come." Both women have served as presidents of the user group, Browder before Connect was created in a merger of Encompass and three other groups.
User groups, once commonplace in the IT world, have become a rare species of networking creature. IBM's Series i retains its COMMON group, which claims to have a 50-year history. But few have dedicated a full-time paid marketing chief when their total staff is just three employees. Connect says it sees opportunity to reach out to more sponsor partners as part of its marketing push. It's got a vision of more events during 2011, plus vendor participation in getting a message to the HP community.