At RootsTech I had the opportunity to sit down one-on-one with FamilySearch outgoing CEO, Jay Verkler, and with incoming CEO, Dennis Brimhall. I asked each the same set of questions. The similarities and differences in their responses make interesting reading. I’ve presented the interview throughout this week. Click to see all the articles in this series.
The Insider: I'm a big proponent of the FamilySearch wiki.
Jay: Me too.
Insider: Everyone knows something. Can I get both of you to commit to adding something?
Jay: I won't commit to add a page. But I will commit, as I use it if there is something I can add, that I will take time and add it. I'll definitely commit to that. But off the top of my head, I don't know what I will add.
Dennis: (Laughing.) You know, let me be honest with you. I'm a bit intimidated by the Wiki. I look at it and I'm a little frightened. I'm a little intimated to add anything because we have this sense on Wikipedia that you don't really add something unless you can really add it and document it and have a citation and demonstrate that what you're adding is really improving it. So I confess to a certain bit of intimidation there. Now maybe I need to get over that because I'm sure I can find something where I can add something.
But I am a bit intimidated. Am I alone?
Insider: You are not alone.
Dennis: I'm just afraid. The worst case is you'll add something and 15 people will say, "You're crazy." Give me some time. I'll warm up to it.
Insider: Jay, what one counsel would you give Dennis about leading FamilySearch?
Jay: Obviously Dennis and I talk a lot about different specific aspects of the organization, most of which doesn't belong in any kind of public forum. The broadest public statement in terms of counsel would be to continue FamilySearch’s strengths, to have long-term vision, to articulate that openly and clearly and continue to get more and more open. The journey to an open organization is a long journey and I hope that will continue because there is great strength in it. I think we are demonstrating the great strength and then the focus on execution for that vision. Think globally or think long-term, execute in the short term. That's probably the best advice I can give.
Insider: Dennis, if you could give Jay one piece of feedback about his accomplishments at FamilySearch, what would it be?
Dennis: Congratulations! If you go back to where we were when he came, if you just go back and say, “OK, that's what it looked like,” and you look at it today: it’s a miracle. It’s a stunning miracle. I think that because technology is like a frog in the water, it changes and we get used to it. All of a sudden we're used to cell phones. We forget when they were the size of bricks and they had batteries the size of shoeboxes. So [with FamilySearch,] go up and come back in and say, “Wow. Look at what's happened.” If you look at his contribution, if you look at what he did, how he organized us, and what he's gotten going, it's a stellar accomplishment. I would give him a statement of congratulations.
I hope that he handles the withdrawal well. (Laughter.) He will. He's very bright. He's got other great things to do.
Insider: Thank you both. Any final thoughts?
Dennis: Thank you. As you know we are very, very appreciative and dependent on this type of interaction [with the genealogy media and bloggers] for what we're getting done. You are all people who feel strongly about it. You all contribute in some way. We don't get our efforts done by going on Good Morning America so much as we just talk to passionate people who can spread the word. We're very grateful for it.
Obviously we're looking out to the 1940 census so any little boost you can give us there will be gratefully appreciated. It's not “we,” it’s a community effort. But thanks for all you do.
Jay: it's been a fantastic ten years and I've really appreciated all the great people, in FamilySearch and all the great people outside the organization. This is a community with some really great people I'm going to continue to meet and run into all the time, just people who are really good people. It has been a great privilege.