After nearly eight years of service at Canonical, I will be stepping down as the Ubuntu Community Manager and leaving my fellow warthogs at Canonical on 29th May 2014.
I have always been passionate about two things in my life. Firstly, I want to go to work every day and feel that my efforts are having a wider impact on the world. Secondly, I believe that community and collaboration is at the core what makes us human and what drives us to create beautiful things.
Canonical has provided room for me to explore both of these areas in droves. Free Software is an undeniable power for good in making technology accessible to all. Ubuntu has been at the forefront of this; focusing on simplicity, elegance, and ease of use to make technology as accessible and widely available as possible. Canonical and the Ubuntu Community has also provided an environment in which I could explore the many facets of community building, leadership, and growth…trying lots of ideas, learning from what worked and what didn’t, and evolving what we do.
This has resulted in me having the opportunity to learn from great people, in fun and challenging situations, and to further the art and science of building great communities.
A new chapter
…and this is where a new chapter in my life opens.
Recently I was presented with the opportunity to go and work at the XPRIZE Foundation.
For those of you unfamiliar with XPRIZE, their focus is to solve the major problems facing humanity. This work is delivered by incentivized competitions to solve these grand challenges.
This started with the $10million Ansari XPRIZE that spawned the commercial space-flight industry. Other examples include the Qualcomm Tricorder XPRIZE (to create an affordable handheld device to diagnose health issues), the Google Lunar XPRIZE (to achieve the safe landing of a private craft on the surface of the moon), the Wendy Schmidt Ocean Health XPRIZE (improving our understanding of ocean acidification), and the A.I XPRIZE (create the first A.I. to walk or roll out on stage and present a TED Talk so compelling that it commands a standing ovation).
XPRIZE is an organization with significant ideas and ambitions to have a profound impact on the world. If you want to get a better feel for this, I recommend you watch this video by founder, Peter Diamandis; it is tremendously inspiring.
Peter believes that competition is in our DNA. I believe that collaboration and community is in our DNA. As you can imagine, these concepts are complimentary to each other and this is why I feel like this such a natural fit for me.
As such, I will be joining XPRIZE as Senior Director of Community. I will be there to look at the full breadth of what XPRIZE does and inject community and collaboration into the many different layers from how the prizes are picked, how teams are formed, how R&D is created, how technologies go into production, and more. I am tremendously excited about the opportunity.
Although XPRIZE is an exciting (if unknown) road forward, leaving Canonical is bittersweet.
To put this in starker terms, Canonical quite literally changed my life. It helped to transform my career from a position of observation of communities to one of structured best practice. It helped me to think differently, challenge myself, and be open to being challenged by others. It afforded me the opportunity to travel the world, meet incredible people, see incredible things, and ultimately led me to meet my wife, Erica, who has become the corner-stone of our family. This was never a job, it was a way of life, and Canonical provided every ounce of support in helping me to achieve what I did here and to be the best that I could be.
Working with the Ubuntu community has not just been a privilege, it has been a pleasure. One of the many reasons why I love what I do is that I am exposed to so many incredible people, minds, and ideas, and the Ubuntu community is a text-book definition of what makes community so powerful and such an agent for making the world a better place. I will be forever thankful for not just the opportunity to meet so many different members of the global Ubuntu family, but to also continue these many friendships into my next endeavour.
Now, some of you reading this may be concerned by this move. Some of you may be worried that my departure is due to a negative experience at Canonical, or that the community is somehow less important than it used to be. I want to be very clear in responding to this.
I am not leaving Canonical due to annoyance, frustration, bureaucracy, lack of support or anything else negative. I have a wonderful relationship with Mark Shuttleworth, Jane Silber, Rick Spencer and the other executives. I have a great relationship with my peers and my team, and I love going to work every single day. These people are not just colleagues, they are friends. I have long said I have the very best job in community management and I feel as strong about that today as I did when I joined.
I am not leaving Canonical due to problems, I am moving on to a new opportunity at XPRIZE. I actually wasn’t looking for a move; I was quite content in my role at Canonical, but XPRIZE came out of nowhere, and it felt like a good next step to move forward to.
Likewise, I can assure you that the relationship with community at Canonical has not changed at all. Mark Shuttleworth and the rest of the leadership team are passionate about our community and they are intimately aware that our community is critical to the success of Ubuntu.
I believe in Ubuntu as much as I did when I joined. I have long talked about how Free Software and Open Source is only truly game-changing if the technology is simple, powerful, and accessible. Ubuntu is the very best place to get Open Source across the desktop, cloud, and now the mobile space too. Canonical has hired a phenomenal team over the years to drive this, and we are seeing the fruits of this success. I look forward to seeing this story unfold more and more and seeing Canonical achieve wider and wider ambitions.
Before I wrap up, I just want to offer some thanks to Mark Shuttleworth, Jane Silber, Rick Spencer, my team, my peers in the Ubuntu Engineering Management Team, my fellow warthogs at Canonical, and everyone in the Ubuntu community for being so supportive over the years. You all helped me turn my dream into a reality and help me become the person I am today.
I also want to say a special thank-you to Mark who gave me a shot in 2006 and has been a constant beacon of support and inspiration for so many years. I consider Mark a mentor, but more importantly a friend.
We have taken on some tough challenges over the years in Ubuntu, challenges that were necessary for us to grow. I have never questioned Mark’s commitment to our values and our success as a project once, and I am thankful for him to lead Ubuntu towards success; successful projects need leaders who can constantly ask new questions and explore new territory.
You don’t get rid of me that easily
Now, I won’t actually be going anywhere. I will still be hanging out on IRC, posting on my social media networks, still responding to email, and will continue to do Bad Voltage and run the Community Leadership Summit. I will continue to be an Ubuntu Member, to use Ubuntu on my desktop and server, and continue to post about and share my thoughts about where Ubuntu is moving forward. I am looking forward in many ways to experiencing the true Ubuntu community experience now I will be on the other side of the garden.
As I step out of my position at Canonical, I am hugely proud of the accomplishments of my team (Daniel Holbach, David Planella, Michael Hall, Nicholas Skaggs, Alan Pope (and alumni, Jorge Castro, Kyle Nitzsche, Ahmed Kamal)). I can’t think of a better group of people to continue to help our community to do great work and be successful.
To wrap things up, I will be doing my very last Q&A session on Tuesday 27th May 2014 at 6pm UTC on Ubuntu On Air – I hope to see you all there!
So, here is to fun and fond memories, and here is to a new set of challenges helping to create a a better world with XPRIZE. Thanks!