Lessons Learned from 28 years of Attending ARMA

By: In: Records Management and Storage On: Nov 07, 2011
Lessons Learned from 28 years of Attending ARMA

<< Jumping at ARMA

It’s funny how memories that should be wonderful are often overshadowed by the little things that occur.  I haven’t been back in Washington since 1990.  I was President of ARMA International that year and a small group of us were going to the White House to meet with one of President Bush’s legislative aides regarding the Paperwork Reduction Act.  Imagine just how excited we were… ARMA at the White House!   As we went through security I was made aware that no, they don’t let prunes (or any food for that matter) into the White House!  Now I don’t know about you, but my opinion is that prunes are a great thing to have at the ready when you travel.  There were only a few in the bag so I stuck them in my purse.  My colleague who accompanied me is still laughing, more than 20 years later, so you can only imagine how embarrassed I was and the ribbing I received at the time they confiscated my dried fruit.  I can’t tell you what I saw in DC that week or even what we discussed in that meeting for my only memory is that of the prunes!

As I celebrate my 30 years with Iron Mountain and 28 years as an ARMA Conference attendee, I think back to what this event has meant to me over the years.  Education, marketing and networking are certainly its focus, but one should also acknowledge that at its core, it’s also a reunion.  I learned many years ago that when greeting someone at a conference, never to say “nice to meet you.”  Chances are that somewhere, sometime, your paths may have crossed thus “nice to see you again” has become a much safer alternative!  With a simple smile across a crowded session or a wave on the escalators going in different directions – each year for three short days we reconnect with our ARMA family members.  Much like those occasional reunions we have with our blood relatives, we pick up right where we left off and it feeds our hearts and feeds our souls.  Hugs abound and talk of family, jobs and old friends can be overheard when this reunion is underway.  It’s always amazing to me that I can speak with someone I consider a “friend” for 5 minutes once every year and feel such a strong connection with them.  Occasionally, we’re fortunate enough to steal away for a quick lunch or cup of coffee together but given the amount of activities crammed into three days, that’s a luxury we don’t often experience.

At this reunion there is also a subculture comprised of various factions who recruit members into their fold enabling that circle of friends to grow larger and larger.  The Clancy’s, La Arma Nostra and even the Canadian Members with their “goosing” ceremony all have one very important thing in common: they do not discriminate who gets inducted into their group.  New members, old members, those bearing prunes……..you never know who is going to be called upon to say the pledge and receive the symbolic pins.  Those pins become a part of the ritual and once a year we’ll polish our silver goose and check our luggage to be sure all of the appropriate designations are with us for display on our lapels.  We have personal rituals outside of the scheduled events as well including showing our face at the Houston Hospitality suite, Listserv Party, Clancy Party, FOD Dinner or even that special friend who never fails to bring us handmade gifts, year after year after year.  There are surely more stories of kindness and community than can ever be told and each one rooted in the history of this important gathering.

So as I tuck away my pins (including my newly acquired La Arma Nostra pin), toss the leftover prunes and reflect on all those friends who’s faces I’ve seen even if for only a moment, my spirits are uplifted and my bucket full for yet another year.

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About the author

Wendy Shade

Wendy Shade, FAI, is Program Manager with Iron Mountain. She has more than 30 years of experience in the field and serves as a partner with various internal teams in developing solutions and strategies to meet the current and future needs of the information management industry. Throughout her long tenure at Iron Mountain she’s held numerous roles which together with the extensive interaction she’s enjoyed with Records Management professionals, contribute to her ability to help shape the future of her organization. She served as President of ARMA Intl. in 1990, received the Distinguished Service Award in 1997 and was inducted into the Company of Fellows in 2003 as Fellow No. 34. Follow Wendy on Twitter @shadesky1