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discussion An Open Letter to the VATSIM UK chain of command


Harry Sugden

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Harry Sugden

Unfortunately, I have now had enough. I have tried so hard over the last 5 months to pursue other avenues. This forum post is genuinely the last thing I wanted to write on a network that is built by and sustained by volunteers. But at the top of VATSIM UK and above it, it is clear that it is nigh on impossible to get anyone to care. Perhaps it is just me? Nope, I know - and I’m not asking you to speak up publicly, I’m happy to do it - that there are others who are fed up of being ignored.

From the moment a new Division Director was appointed in the UK, I was waiting for an Operations vacancy to open up. I was actually the first Operations Manager (it was called then), before losing interest in VATSIM as I moved on to University. I was excited to come back and contribute in something that I know I’m good at, so as soon as lockdown began, I enquired as to the plan. There wasn’t one. As you may have noticed, I’ve been back for a while and I just can’t get enough.

The thing that’s missing though is an Operations department to thrive. Our previous Division Director has told me that they had enough to do in that role alone. Being a leader is about delegating. It is about encouraging people to contribute, the glue that holds the division together strategically and into the future. But where is ours? A leader doesn’t hog, on a volunteer network. A leader doesn’t keep an I3 badge when they don’t have time to instruct. A leader says hello sooner than 3 weeks after their appointment. A leader involves themselves in events and day-to-day division life. But how does our current one manage 4 roles at once (5 if you include the DDD!)? 

I don’t think they can. My tickets, emails and PMs are invariably ignored, responded to months later - sometimes Slack even archived them before they were replied to! Myself and others have waited weeks and weeks to even be given approval to start on a new document. We contributors often wait until the night before AIRAC release to have our Pull Requests reviewed for the sector file, leaving no time to make changes in time for release. I struggle to receive even an acknowledgement that a document has been received and is in the queue for review.

I genuinely love Ops and this division. I’ve tried putting my absolute all into document creation, Spotlight posts, the like, with absolutely no reward other than the odd thanks. That’s fine - I don’t want a reward. But when I offer to help more formally, it falls on deaf ears. An email where I, in effect, formally complained got a response just under 4 weeks after I sent it. I was reassured by the Region Director that Ops would be appointed ‘soon’ - this was now over a month ago. An email I received nearly 4 weeks ago from the DD promised a more regular line of communication to discuss procedures and documents. I replied within days saying that sounded like a great idea! Guess what... no reply since! 

Yet, I receive a review on a pull request, 3 months after it was submitted, last night?!

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Let’s wrap this up. Active suppression of volunteerism is what this division is now about apparently. Not everywhere, of course. All staff - including the DD - put their all into this place. Training, Web, Marketing and Member Servcies should all be applauded for what they do - at times we all disagree with things, but they are volunteers who quite frankly deserve more praise.

But our DD doesn’t recognise when it’s time to let others help. I’ve sent my blueprint for Ops to them, because I have ideas to get YOU involved - the airfield info update project, which I’ve just started without ‘approval’, is the first of them. I don’t even want to be on the DSG (powerless ‘Manager’ would be fine), and I wouldn’t even mind if someone else got Ops Director... as long as it meant I could get a reply from them! 

This isn’t what the network is about. I’m tired of 5 months of offering to help, of waiting. It shouldn’t be like this, and I’ve tried so hard via the UK and Europe. I’ve run out of steam. And so I wanted you to know about it.

 

(P.S. If I’ve blown my chances of being ‘respected’ by the ‘old boys club’ management, then of course I’m sad, but not surprised. I love this network and have only ever tried to help. May this be my last attempt!)

Edited by Harry Sugden
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Alex Hodgkinson

From someone that has been a continual thorn in the side of the VATSIM UK management I congratulate you on speaking up. These issues affect us as a division and it's wrong that people with genuine enthusiasm are neglected. Harry, you have earnt my respect for voicing your concerns.

I won't say more on the matter as this post has the potential to catapult into a * slinging match, so I will bow out now, but well done voicing your concerns. I will watch this thread with intent.

 

  • Like 29
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Trevor Hannant

3 months?   You're doing well!   I submitted a Pilot's Guide for Inverness in March 2018, got an acknowledgement a month later saying it'll be looked at and it's still there unactioned over 2 years later...

Chris, I know you have a busy life away from VATSIM but please, for the good of yourself, the Division and it's members, delegate some of these roles out.   It does yourself no favours when people feel the way Harry does.   Give some of the roles over to others and concentrate on managing your team.

  • Like 22
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Chris Pawley

I hear you and I acknowledge your frustration.

The reason you have this response is not out of malice but comes from a chronic psychological state which manifests itself as the self-sabotaging behavior of procrastination. All procrastination is driven by emotions and for me utimately endures as a cyclic behavior of shame, anxiety and paralysis. For the majority of my adult life, this has been something I have been able to cope with but at times has had a dramatic effect on the way in which I am able to conduct my personal and professional life.

I tell you this not as an excuse, or as justification but hopefully to reassure you that this is not a choice I am making intentionally or even one I notice I am making often.

I find the proposal I sabotage volunteers upsetting, the broad contribution of volunteers to the output of the department is part of what makes it so valuable and I consistently and religiously acknowledged the work that individuals have put in to making these outputs. While my behavior may have this impact it is not intentional.

My response is seek as follows. I will seek to have someone above me in the VATSIM structure work to mediate between the two of us as it is clear that the relationship is dysfunctional despite both us having best intentions. I will work on bringing a resolution to this situation as soon as possible which is amicable to the relevant parties and in the best interest of the division. 

  • Like 21
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Harry Sugden
Posted (edited)

I appreciate your honesty Chris, I really do. It takes a lot of courage to do that on this forum, and it was no doubt difficult. I will publicly try to reassure you that I think nothing less of you as a person over all of this. All I’m looking for is, as you say, a resolution that works for the division.

No animosity, no hard feelings. As I said in my first ‘long’ email those weeks ago, all I want to do is help.

What I will say though, is that I think the time is now to accept the help - if not from me, then from others. You didn’t need to take all of this on by yourself; but this is something you can fix.

Edited by Harry Sugden
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Alex Hodgkinson

Thank you, Chris, for speaking up and it's very honest of you to speak publicly about your individual mental heath.

But where do we go from here?

Harry is right. A noble person doesn't press on and let the work pressures submerge them to the point where they can no longer float, no. They reach out for a helping hand and accept it before they get tired and start to sink...

People want to help. I've got three vMATS for airfields waiting for revision, and it took over a year to get control of the Jersey vMATS to get those released. We all want to contribute advice, documents, drawings and the like to ensure that we are offering as much help and support to the members as possible. We've come so far in the *ahem* years I've been around. I've seen three VATUK1's in my time, they've all had their merits, the systems have changed more times than I can remember, and yet we are at risk of falling backwards just by purely being too stubborn with ourselves to just say 'I need help.'

Like @Harry Sugden says, I think the time is now to accept the help.

I opened a ticket up a few months ago (Harry, don't know if you saw it) which said the following:

Helping the Ops Department :

With me currently WFH I have a bit of spare time on my hands. Plus with my assistance towards the CI ATC documents if there's anything document or drawing wise (I've got quite good at Google Drawing for airspace layouts etc) I can help with please get in touch. I know Chris is overseeing the Ops department also but I'm happy to volunteer with anything else pending. I'm not asking to be an official 'staff member' or whatever, just basically that I'm happy to help if you have a backlog of updates that need looking at.

As I type, it's been six weeks since my initial offer of help (which was accepted) and I've not been directly tasked with anything. I've had other people mention they've got projects lined up that they'd like me to help with, but I've not been given a direct "do this" yet...

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Lewis Hardcastle

Chris, I respect your openness and hope your mental health improves 🙂 Appointing and delegating areas away from your day-to-day duties will help the division to maintain our assets and allow the community to openly contribute without substantial delay. The web team is a great example where Calum's team openly allow experienced and curious members to contribute to our offerings. Some more people to help you will make us better!

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Tom Knowles

On the subject of volunteering, don't get me wrong I love VATSIM and have been a key member for nearly 10 years. Great network! However, I think when someone is offering their services to the pilot training department as an examiner, with a lot of real world experience flying, you are told you are not required.

Also, flying out of Heathrow airport daily real world, and asking to be a mentor, I am told they do not need anyone! Do we not always need more mentors and examiners?  Feels like an exclusive club.

Why is all this experience, that many of us have and are willing to share, not being utilised?

Edited by Tom Knowles
  • Like 6
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Darren Hill
6 hours ago, Tom Knowles said:

On the subject of volunteering, don't get me wrong I love VATSIM and have been a key member for nearly 10 years. Great network! However, I think when someone is offering their services to the pilot training department as an examiner, with a lot of real world experience flying, you are told you are not required.

Also, flying out of Heathrow airport daily real world, and asking to be a mentor, I am told they do not need anyone! Do we not always need more mentors and examiners?  Feels like an exclusive club.

Why is all this experience, that many of us have, not being utilised?

Hi Tom,

I am not sure who told you this, but we are actually in dire need of mentors and examiners at the PTD for both the new P1 and P2 ratings. Such real world experience would be invaluable to us going forward. I'll pop you a DM and we can discuss this further 🙂

Kind regards,

 

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Daniel Crookes
7 hours ago, Tom Knowles said:

On the subject of volunteering, don't get me wrong I love VATSIM and have been a key member for nearly 10 years. Great network! However, I think when someone is offering their services to the pilot training department as an examiner, with a lot of real world experience flying, you are told you are not required.

Also, flying out of Heathrow airport daily real world, and asking to be a mentor, I am told they do not need anyone! Do we not always need more mentors and examiners?  Feels like an exclusive club.

Why is all this experience, that many of us have and are willing to share, not being utilised?

Hey Tom! The reason that we suspended onboarding pilot examiners was due to the new pilot ratings which are shortly to be released - this was explained in your ticket just incase you didn't read it. Once we obtain approval for the new pilot ratings, as always, we welcome the help of anyone who can contribute - if not, we wouldn't be able to train anyone 🙂 

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Lewis Hammett

Hi Tom,

I agree with Darren, struggling for mentors for months. Would have been great to see you mentor for us this year to help the students... We have P1-4 students waiting a long time between sessions. Help with the new pilot ratings would be great as well. You have the mentor rights.

If you need help with getting back into mentoring, please DM me or anyone on the PTD staff.
 

As we are working flat out at the moment trying to get these ratings completed for the 18th. 

Lewis
 

 

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Daniel Crookes
15 hours ago, Tom Knowles said:

Also, flying out of Heathrow airport daily real world, and asking to be a mentor, I am told they do not need anyone! Do we not always need more mentors and examiners?  Feels like an exclusive club.

Why is all this experience, that many of us have and are willing to share, not being utilised?

I have asked the guys to look into your Heathrow mentoring rights as we are in need of mentors for Heathrow. 

I can say with confidence that the experience of our membership is heavily utilised - to say it is not, would be a misrepresentation of the way that we operate. To list but just a few projects and general day-to-day tasks where we utilise our memberships experience:

  • The development of 4 new pilot ratings,
  • New London vMATS,
  • Upcoming Scottish vMATS,
  • Upcoming New Controller training group lesson structures,
  • Updates to our sector file,
  • Updates to our documentation with guidance from ATCOs who operate at the associate unit(s) in the real world,
  • Controller fast-tracks,
  • Pilot fast-tracks,
  • S1, S2, S3 and C1 moodle course development

The list goes on 🙂 

Edited by Daniel Crookes
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Matt Hardy
1 hour ago, Daniel Crookes said:

I have asked the guys to look into you Heathrow mentoring rights as we are in need of mentors for Heathrow. 

I can say with confidence that the experience of our membership is heavily utilised - to say it is not, would be a misrepresentation of the way that we operate. To list but just a few projects and general day-to-day tasks where we utilise our memberships experience:

  • The development of 4 new pilot ratings,
  • New London vMATS,
  • Upcoming Scottish vMATS,
  • Upcoming New Controller training group lesson structures,
  • Updates to our sector file,
  • Updates to our documentation with guidance from ATCOs who operate at the associate unit(s) in the real world,
  • Controller fast-tracks,
  • Pilot fast-tracks,
  • S1, S2, S3 and C1 moodle course development

The list goes on 🙂 

'we are in need of mentors for Heathrow'

I would have to query that statement Daniel as several members have all been told from the 'TGI' that Heathrow is more than capable to run down the waiting lists with the mentors that are already involved.

What I dont understand is, when people volunteer to help the division with training, why are we being told that there is no need for us?

Edited by Matt Hardy
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Daniel Crookes
2 minutes ago, Matt Hardy said:

'we are in need of mentors for Heathrow'

I would have to query that statement Daniel as several members have all been told from the 'TGI' that Heathrow is more than capable to run down the waiting lists with the mentors that are already involved.

What I dont understand is, when people volunteer to help the division with training, why are we being told that there is no need for us?

I would take caution when branding an entire department based one or two events. I will engage with the Heathrow training team and ensure that we review the offers of help from members. If there is a problem, misunderstanding or miscommunication, I have no issues with working with people to resolve it. As I have said in almost every post I write, whether it be on slack, discord, the forum or TeamSpeak - we are grateful for peoples contributions because we wouldn't be able to operate without them.

I would advise people that if they feel that there is a problem, or they are unhappy with the outcome of situation, then come and speak to @Oliver Rhodes and myself. We cannot fix a problem we do not know exists. If the first place people express an issue is on a forum post 8 minutes ago, then that's the reason it's still a problem.

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Veda Moola

@Daniel Crookes I can help with the S1 Moodle course and to improve it and even if possible create S2 moodle Course since its not there and don't get me wrong but when you attending seminars and getting notes and for any rating except S1 it really hard to understand all at once and we need moodle courses for understanding since it has question to answer and help us to understand in detail like we have for S1.

 

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Oliver Parker

Classic Vatsim-UK. Just create the documentation and distribute it unofficially. It worked 10 years ago and people probably still use it today.

See you in another 10 years when this thread is re-written(for a 3rd time) and @Trevor Hannant is still waiting for Inverness Pilot's guide to be reviewed. 

 

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