Faces of EVE University: Laura Karpinski, former CEO

Hideo Date:
It has been a few years since our last interview. Thank you for taking the time again!
As it stands you just stepped down from your position as CEO of EVE University. May I ask what made you decide to do that, and why now?

Laura Karpinski:
Being CEO is a wonderful, rewarding but taxing job, and not one I had ever planned to do forever. To me, one of the biggest challenges involved in being a leader is ultimately replacing yourself. At the start of this year I had been CEO for 3 years and I had a great potential replacement in Jilokari Kurvora. So I figured this year would be a good time to focus on tying up loose ends for my period of leadership and transferring CEO over to Jilo. It just seemed like the best possible time to start that process of change.

Hideo Date:
Q: So tying into that could you maybe enlighten us a bit about the process of transferring the power of CEO in such a huge organisation? I am sure most of the details are opsec, but maybe you can give a general outline?

Laura Karpinski:
To start with I spoke with Jilo around March to get his thoughts on taking over as CEO. After some serious consideration he agreed he would be up for the massive challenge. Like Azmo before me, I figured that appointing Jilo initially as a second in command would enable me to gradually bring him up to speed on the various aspects of the alliance. There was a huge amount for him to get familiar with, and I know that I personally found it very useful before I took over when Azmo bounced ideas off me and took me through his thought process on making decisions, so I involved Jilo in making the CEO level decisions from when he became Director of Operations in April. Once we were both comfortable that he could step into my shoes we agreed a timescale together for me to step down and for him to take over. We get along really well so it was honestly a pleasure to work together on the transition. I will be there for Jilo as his biggest supporter and to answer questions or give a second opinion for as long as he needs.

Hideo Date:
Q: Seems like that process went quite smooth and natural. I guess having a good personal relationship helped a lot in that.

I am curious how these past years as CEO have treated you. Did you enjoy being in that position? Were there things you didn’t like about it?

Laura Karpinski:
Being CEO was a massive honour, and most of the time I loved it. Having the opportunity to make decisions for, and guide the direction of, a community and resource I love was fantastic. It was also a struggle sometimes; it can get pretty lonely being the person in charge, even in a community as lovely as this. The ultimate decision is yours to make and there can be a constant worry of whether you are doing the right thing, or doing enough. There will always be people who disagree with the decisions you make, and at times the criticism can get quite brutal. That was difficult to deal with, especially given my own mental health struggles. I’ve been upfront with EVE Uni management and members about the times I have struggled with depression, because I think it’s important to normalise talking honestly about mental health and the resources that we have out there, like the fantastic Broadcast 4 Reps. But mostly being CEO has been wonderful and I consider myself very lucky to have held that position.

Hideo Date:
I personally find it really important and impressive that you talk openly about your mental health. Especially as the (former) head of an integral organisation in the cruel Universe of New Eden. But even more as a guide for the real-life-people that make up our wonderful community. 

(EVE University specifically has done a number of events with Broadcast4Reps. The recording of the last event we did with them can be found here. Check out their in-game channel and Discord.)

Onto the next topic: Last time we talked about how you became CEO. This time could you enlighten us about how you solidified your position? Were there any struggles or pushback to overcome and if there were any, how did you deal with them?

Laura Karpinski:
There wasn’t a lot of pushback, generally people were very welcoming and willing to give me a shot. Some people were (and are still) surprised to find out I’m female. EVE is certainly a game with fewer female players, though there are a lot of corps and groups with strong female leadership and I love to see it. It’s tough sometimes to find the balance between being “the Boss”, but being seen as unapproachable and being a friendly leader but not taken seriously. At times I’ve gone too far either way, but I like to think I got the balance right mostly, particularly towards the end of my time as CEO when I was more confident in my decisions and had great backup and support.

Hideo Date:
Q: Honestly coming back to EVE Uni after a two year break felt a bit like coming home for me. But I also noticed that lots had changed – White 0rchid hinted at a few things in our interview as well. I see that we heightened our efforts to push back against war targets and do structure bashes regularly. I also noticed some changes to the rules. But the biggest thing I noticed is that the directorate and management seem to have found their undock buttons again and are way more out and about. What happened? 

Laura Karpinski:
There have been a lot of changes while I have been CEO. There has been a cultural shift really in terms of what is expected from Uni leadership. Jilo and I cut the management team numbers in half, and have set expectations in terms of activity. It’s an old joke that Directors have their undock button confiscated here, but that’s out of date. All our Directors are active in game, myself included, and I think that is actually very important. You can’t make good management decisions if you do not play the game. We’ve had a lot of previous members come back to EVE Uni over the last few months, I think partially because of the way the corp has changed. Their support and knowledge have been really invaluable.

Hideo Date:
I fully agree with it being important and love that the non-functioning undock button is now an old trope. 

To further elaborate on the developments over the years: what do you think were the biggest changes in EVE University during your tenure?

Laura Karpinski:
I have tried as much as possible to remove red tape and bureaucracy, including loosening a lot of rules and entry requirements (such as allowing people to join with alts). I have also focused on taking the Uni back to its roots, as a neutral training organisation, by reassessing and redefining our relationship with third parties and bringing the focus back to education. Finally, I’ve tried to bring things more up to date, with things like moving to Discord, building up more of a social media presence and facilitating things like teaching classes through Twitch and Discord.

Hideo Date:
I think the more modern face of the Uni really shines bright and gets us ready for the third decade!

To round out our talk I would like to hear what your plans are for the future. I take it you will still be around for a while as you just took on a newly created position in the Uni. Could you maybe tell us a little about that?

Laura Karpinski:
Jilo asked me to take on a position as a Director after I stepped down. I was of course happy to do that, on the condition that my new role was something where I could really be useful to him and the community. We settled on creating the Director of Alliance Services, which covers several departments doing alliance level work – Diplomacy, Communications, Finance and the FC Team. I think this is a good match for my experience running the Alliance and something where I can really put my knowledge to good use. I already have so much more time on my hands, which is great. In terms of the game more generally – over the past few months, with Jilo taking on some of the CEO burden, I have personally undocked more than I ever have. I love playing the game right now – joining fleets, mining, learning new things after all these years. It’s really exciting. 

Hideo Date:
Q: Any closing words, former Overlady? 

Laura Karpinski:
I could not have chosen a better successor than Jilo, I’m delighted that the Uni is in safe hands and I firmly believe he will continue to make awesome changes to make the Uni a better place to be as a member and a better resource for the EVE community. It’s always going to be bittersweet handing over the reigns of a group I have been involved with for so long, but I’m really excited about what the future will bring and spending my newly increased free time playing this game.

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