Working with SDOs

On May 28, 2020, Women in Standards hosted Kate Dolan as she discussed her work as a convenor of an ISO Technical Committee (TC). The webinar was well attended by Women in Standards members and stakeholders and is included below free to the community.

In her presentation, the structure of standardization both on an international level and in the United States was discussed. With special highlight of ISO, IEC, ITU and other standards developers that work to develop international standards.

In her role as Chair of the ISO 3166 Maintenance Agency, Kate responds to requests for codes and information, prepares agendas, coordinates work of the agency to address requests, answer questions, and update the agency’s Terms of Reference (TOR) and works with ISO to ensure the timely development and publication of the ISO 3166 series of standards. While not universally used for all standards technical committees, Kate provided feedback on the role of maintenance agencies in ensuring the effective use of international agreements. ISO provides additional information on the use of maintenance agencies here.

Kate also serves as convenor of ISO Technical Committee (TC) 46, Working Group (WG) 2 referred to in ISO shorthand as ISO/TC 46/WG 2 which oversees the “Coding of Country names and Related Entities.” In her role as convenor, Kate provides guidance and oversight to members, works with members to address conflicts, provides ISO with annual reports of the working group’s activities, and participates as a non-voting member. Additional information on ISO 3166 and its standards can be found here.

The work of convenor requires patience, Kate reiterated to attendees. Committee members come from ISO member organizations throughout the world and for many, English is a second or third language. Additionally, cultural differences may prevent the use of certain words or in some cases, political issues must be understood to avoid miscommunications or offense.

Kate stressed the need to adequately prepare when travelling, checking local travel information and the CIA Fact Book to help better prepare for local customs and transnational issues.

While challenging and sometimes time consuming – it’s noted that many ISO participants volunteer their personal time to participate in meetings – Kate encouraged others to consider participating, noting that the rewards are well worth it. Working on ISO committees is educational both professionally and personally, participation provides opportunities to practice skills such as leadership and diplomacy, and travel to international meetings is a unique experience to learn new cultures and see foreign locations with new perspective.

Speaker Bio:

Kate Dolan has had an extensive career in Information technology focusing both on information and technology. She has an MLS and worked in and around libraries for more than 25 years; she also has an MPA in Information Systems Technology and has worked as a systems librarian as well as a systems engineer. Most of her career has been as a government employee (both federal and local government); she also worked as an independent consultant and for OCLC. 

Kate’s interest in standards and standardization began in library school when she was intrigued by the MARC standard. She later became interested in other information related standards as well as standards for IT systems and cybersecurity. This led her to the National Information Standards Organization (NISO) where she became interested in ISO 3166 (Country Codes) activities. She became the ANSI/NISO representative to the ISO 3166 Maintenance Agency and went on the Chair the MA and become Convenor of ISO TC 46 WG 2 which is actually responsible for the standard itself.


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