Three years ago today I joined Canonical as the Ubuntu Community Manager.
Throughout this time there have been many adventures and many stories. I have had the good fortune to not just work with good people, but great people. The Ubuntu family is a welcoming, inspiring and productive one, and I feel a very personal connection to the ethos and opportunity of Ubuntu and the incredible people who turn that ethos from theory into something we can all see and touch.
Of all the reflections over the last three years, the one most upfront in my mind is the level of personal development that I have felt since I started due to this exposure to great people. When I took this role on I never expected to have all the answers, but retrospectively my experience has shown me just how few answers we had back then. Many parts of our community have developed largely by feel. We have made some decisions and focused on some opportunities that we felt made sense; at times it was difficult to articulate, but like making great music, the notes often land based upon rhythmic ideas. I have been keen to understand the science behind the feel though, and today I feel like my team and I are far more aware of the structure and foundations of great community, but there is still much to learn.
This personal development has not only involved understanding the nuances of community, but also learning to be a better leader and manager. When I joined Canonical I reported directly to Mark Shuttleworth. Although I have always had the freedom to focus my efforts where I felt they were most worthwhile, I was something of an island: I was not part of the Ubuntu engineering team, but I did work on Ubuntu. That was OK, though. Back then Canonical was far smaller and coming in earlier in the lifecycle of the company meant I had a set of pre-existing relationships with department leads (mainly as they were coming in to the company at the same time). As such, I was productive, hooked into the company and able to get most of my TODO list ticked off.
A year or so into the role the company had grown extensively and it made better sense to make me less of an island and more an integral part of the Ubuntu team: this would help expose me more to the engineering underpinnings of Ubuntu, and I could help bring added value to those teams. To do this effectively I was made a member of the Ubuntu management team and I started growing out my own team, which now includes Horsemen Holbach, Castro and Planella.
Heading into management was a positive but thought-provoking learning process. I had always considered myself a reasonable leader and a fairly clear thinker, but learning to be a great manager really tore into those assumptions, demanding an honest and frank look at myself, my areas of weakness and areas of strength. While again I only have a fraction of the answers, the experience has been exhilarating. What has enforced this growth is not simply being labelled a manager but the exposure to a tremendous set of peers, particularly Rick Spencer (Desktop), Robbie Williamson (Foundations), Pete Graner (Kernel) and David Mandala (Mobile) who have led their teams with great finesse. This exposure to their wealth of experience has helped me to define and grow my own management style to better help the horsemen do their work and better service our tremendous community.
So, in wrapping, I want to thank the inspiring Ubuntu community for making this role such a pleasure to wake up to every day, and thanks also to my awesome team and my peers. Here’s to another three years!