Dear WINGs Members,

Many people have asked me how WINGs was originally formed. Well, it all started when Adaptec asked me to attend the ACIP Annual Symposium in June, 1997. Let me tell you, it was an eye opener! I had always been the sole immigration person at the previous companies I had worked for and felt that my co-workers and even management never really understood the immigration "lingo" or the challenges I faced. I also believed that many times I was reinventing the wheel and wondered how other companies handled certain laws, processes, etc. The symposium opened this whole new world to me! Here were over 200 people that understood the friend story ("But I have a friend...."). They shared the same experiences, concerns, and even frustrations that I did. I felt like I had come home! :-)

During the first evening's reception, I met John Cromarty (from HP at the time), Jason (from HP at the time), and Denise Espinosa (from SGI at the time). We were all from the Bay Area and discussed forming a networking group to share ideas and experiences on a regular basis.

When I returned from the conference, I started making phone calls right away. I contacted friends at other companies and asked them if they would introduce me to their immigration team. I made cold calls to companies that I thought might be interested in joining this group as well. It turned out that many people were equally excited about forming such an organization. A friend of mine who was a recruiter at Applied Materials introduced me to one of Applied's Immigration Specialists at that time, Yoshino. I explained to Yoshino our vision of starting this networking group and she informed me that she had once been a part of a similar group a couple years prior called "WING" but it had somehow died out. She suggested I contact Margie Jones at Intel who was one of the founders of the WING organization. I contacted Margie and she was very enthusiastic about starting up a group again. She still had the old contact information and graciously offered to invite those names to our first meeting. It was Margie's invitation that encouraged some of our "immigration veterans" to join including Leslie Nicolett, Cherry Gattuccio, and Heidi Wilson.

I needed a name for our new group and since I'm not the most creative person, I simply borrowed the name WING and added an "s" to differentiate it from the previous group and to add a little flair. :-)

The first WINGs meeting was held on July 17, 1997, hosted by Adaptec. There were 27 attendees -- not a bad start! From there, we began having meetings every other month and simply by word of mouth, many others joined our group. By May, 1998, there were 72 members and by March, 1999, we had reached 100.

The next exciting step in WINGs' future was obtaining the status of a nonprofit organization. It was decided that WINGs should have a website and since the server maintenance required a fee, we would need to charge dues for the first time. In order to do this, we needed the federal, state and city governments to approve WINGs as a nonprofit organization. This was accomplished in April, 1999 and all I will say is that it was a laborious yet extremely educational experience.

In the beginning of 2001, the group required more maintenance than I could (or wanted to) handle alone. It had become almost a second full time job. Therefore, I asked membership if we could set up a WINGs Board and encouraged the participants to volunteer for one of the new positions including: President, Vice President, Secretary and Treasurer. I have been serving on the Board in an advisory role these past 2 years.

The past five years have been an incredible journey providing me with much professional and personal gain. I have met some of the most bright, sincere, dedicated and fun people (yes, I did write FUN!). I have also developed close, personal friendships with many of our members.

I feel truly honored to be a part of such a dynamic organization.

-Michelle Rarick
September 20, 2002
*Name changed to Michelle Penoli-Zabel in 2008

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