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ICANN Registrar Stakeholder Group Leadership Handover

The ICANN Registrar Stakeholder Group (RrSG) is one of several stakeholder groups within the ICANN community and is the representative body of ICANN accredited domain name registrars. It is a diverse and active group that works to ensure the interests of registrars and their customers are effectively advanced.

The leadership team (ExCom) consists of five officers who manage the Registrar Stakeholder Group (Chair, Vice-Chair of Policy, Vice-Chair of Technical Operations, Secretary, Treasurer). Three GNSO representatives and one Nominating Committee member complete the group.

This year there will be a significant change as many executives have reached their maximum term in June and October. Let’s take a minute to discuss this with the outgoing executive.

For those who don’t know you: Who are you, and what do you do?

Graeme Bunton: I am the Head of Policy for Tucows, which among other things, is a large wholesale Registrar based out of Toronto, Canada. I’ve just completed two terms/four years as Chair of the RrSG.

Caroline Greer: I am the Head of European Public Policy for Cloudflare, and I have been the registrars’ representative on the Nominating Committee (NomCom) for the past two years.

Michele Neylon: I am CEO and founder of Blacknight, which is the largest hosting provider and a domain registrar in Ireland. I’m currently finishing my second term as a GNSO Councillor, which later wraps up at the AGM this year.

Kristian Ørmen: I’m the Registry Liaison at Larsen Data. A Danish registrar that focuses on domain registrations in almost any TLD. I have worked at Larsen Data since 2008 and in the industry since 2000. Since 2017 I have been the ExCom Secretary in RrSG.

Tobias Sattler: I’m the CTO of united-domains AG, the Vice-Chair of Technical Operations of the RrSG since October 2016, and one of the Co-Chairs of the CPH TechOps group since September 2017.

Your term is coming to an end. Looking back, what would you describe as your greatest successes in the RrSG?

Graeme Bunton: My sense when I became Chair was that there was more work within ICANN that we could accomplish, so I set out to improve our processes and provide more opportunities for members to engage. The first step on that path was hiring Zoe as our secretariat. She has been fundamental in getting us on track, managing deadlines, and staying organized. Next, the creation of teams or groups within the Stakeholder Group has allowed more members to actively participate in the issues they care about, such as TechOps, policy, compliance, or DNS Abuse. All of those areas are in a much better place now, as we’re able to make contributing easier and more focused. We’re also able to give people real opportunities to lead, which I think will lead to healthier competition for ExCom functions in the future. I’m proud of how all of the above is functioning today.

Caroline Greer: Specifically related to the Nominating Committee, I have been proud of the group’s dedication to finding high quality, diverse candidates to serve the ICANN community. That is always a collective effort, and I have been fortunate to work with two great committees.

Michele Neylon: It’s been both an honor and a challenge to represent registrars on Council over the past four years. When you’re an elected representative, you have to put your personal views to one side and advocate on behalf of all registrars, and they are indeed a diverse group. Over the years Council has worked quite collaboratively even if its makeup is very varied.

Kristian Ørmen: Besides acting as the Secretary, I have also been Co-Chair in the RrSG compliance subgroup. I believe the work this group has done has improved our collaboration with ICANN compliance a lot.

Tobias Sattler: We have implemented and achieved a lot together. If I have to highlight any of these, then it was the founding of the TechOps group. Imagine it like a think tank to address the technical and operational needs and challenges of registries and registrars. At TechOps, we had our share on ICANN’s Temporary Specification, wrote IETF Internet-Drafts to solve operational issues, and did a whitepaper on a possible new future of domain transfers.

What was the most significant challenge that you faced?

Graeme Bunton: There are lots of challenges particular to being Chair, though I primarily struggled with ensuring I represented member perspectives correctly, especially when member input was minimal. In terms of substantive issues, the lead up to GDPR, the TempSpec from ICANN, and the subsequent work to create and run the EPDP have all been challenging, and at times quite stressful. The Vancouver GDD summit was, in retrospect, absolutely bananas. Which reminds me, I think it’s exceptionally tough to carve out the time not just to be reactive but to think longer-term and strategically. We’re beginning to do that as a stakeholder group, and it’s showing some success, but it’s just incredibly difficult to do when there seems always to be something on fire.

Caroline Greer: The COVID-19 pandemic has forced the NomCom to adjust its timetable and working process this year. And it has been a challenging time for a group that values in-person interactions during the recruitment process. That said, we have adapted accordingly and have been creative in how we manage the process.

Michele Neylon: Council is meant to manage the policy process and not create policy. Over the past couple of years as a group, we’ve struggled to handle some of the workgroups, though I think that has improved overall. It can be a challenge to stay focused during some of the marathon sessions we’ve had over the past couple of years, though the work is usually varied and interesting. Some of the policy issues that are before the Council at the moment are contentious, and trying to reach any level of consensus on them can be extremely hard.

Kristian Ørmen: The main task as the Secretary is to run elections. Unfortunately, some members had to leave their positions before the end of their term. So there have been more elections along the way.

Tobias Sattler: I was hoping that I would have more time available. There was so much going on, and sometimes it felt unfortunate that everyone on the ExCom was working so hard, and you have other things you have to do. Nevertheless, the team was excellent and had no hard feelings.

Who will take over from you, and do you have any good advice for them?

Graeme Bunton: Ashley Heineman from GoDaddy has stepped up to the Chair role. I think her greatest strength is that as a relative newcomer to the RrSG, she’s going to have a wonderful perspective on the things we do for historical reasons that don’t make sense anymore. My advice goes back to the challenges I mentioned about being Chair, and that it’s crucial to remember that long term success requires long term thinking. Always remember to spend some time considering the longer game, and not just the latest crisis.

Caroline Greer: Tobias Sattler will be the new registrar representative on the 2021 Nominating Committee. My advice is to get to know all the NomCom members individually as the group works together very intensely over the year, and the bonding is essential.

Michele Neylon: Kristian will be our new GNSO Councillor. Like Caroline, I’d advise him to get to know who the other members of the Council are and understand which groups they represent. At times a Councillor has to take a particular position on behalf of the group they represent. Being able to separate the person from the job can be a challenge, but if you can get to know the other councilors as people, it can help.

Kristian Ørmen: Eric Rokobauer from Endurance will take over the Secretary position. The essential task is working together with our secretariat. If Zoe is happy, you can be sure everything is running smoothly.

Tobias Sattler: Unfortunately, in the first round of nominations, no successor was found, but in the next one, the RrSG members nominated Jothan Frakes. I have known him for several years, and I wish him well. A bit of good advice? The work on the ExCom is always teamwork. The rest will work itself out.

What are your plans for the future?

Graeme Bunton: I’m going to remain engaged within the RrSG on issues of DNS Abuse, so I’m not entirely putting my feet up, as tempting as that is. We don’t formally have a Chair Emeritus position like the Registry Stakeholder Group (RySG), but I’ve certainly offered to share input and advice where it’s requested. I’ve also been neglecting a lot of important policy work at Tucows, especially surrounding our Fiber-to-the-home Internet access business. I’m looking forward to digging into that space. But also, maybe, relaxing just a bit.

Caroline Greer: I am excited to see the new leadership team take up the reins, and I know that they will achieve great things. I look forward to supporting them in their work as a member of the RrSG.

Michele Neylon: I’m involved in several trade associations and other groups and have been for several years. I suspect I might be able to dedicate more time to them and my official day job. How involved I’ll be with ICANN in the future is unknown. I’ve been at this for over a decade now, so stepping back a bit isn’t bad.

Kristian Ørmen: I’m looking forward to my new role as a GNSO councilor. I will take over this role from Michele Neylon when his term ends at the end of ICANN69. I will do my best to represent RrSG, including all the different types of registrars.

Tobias Sattler: Although four years is a long time, and one feels that one ages faster, I gladly accepted a new challenge to be the Registrar representative to NomCom. My term will start in October. Therefore, I will have some ICANN-free time until then. So no more meetings at crazy hours for now. Of course, I will continue to support the TechOps group, but I look forward to working on the Nominating Committee.

Thank you for your time and insight!

By Tobias Sattler, Board Member neubau kompass AG

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