Posts tagged leadership

A few things that I’m thankful for

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Wow… My heart is really full this week, and I’ve been overwhelmed with all the “thank you”s and and other kind wishes from people in the Fedora community as I’ve passed the torch on to Robyn Bergeron as the next Fedora Project Leader.  I always knew that I was only going to be the FPL for a couple of years, but now that the time has come to move on, it’s a bit surreal.  As I’ve said numerous times, the job is a difficult and stressful one, yet it’s very rewarding at the same time.  I couldn’t have done it without the support and hard work of the thousands of Fedora community members who continue to make Fedora an awesome place to participate in free and open source software.

In particular, I’d like to take this opportunity to share several things that I’ve been very thankful for during my tenure as the FPL.

First of all, I’m thankful for my friends… not only friends that made me laugh when I was stressed out, or friends that helped get things done, but also for friends that weren’t afraid to tell me when I made a mistake, or needed to view things from a different perspective.  I’m humbled by friends who have inspired me, and taught me, and set a good example for me, and listened to me when I needed to vent.  I’ve made a lot of new friends over the past couple of years, and I value those friendships as the number one thing I’ve taken aware from the experience.  I look forward to continuing to rub shoulders with my FLOSS friends in the future.  Thank you for your kindness and your support.

Next, I’m thankful for the perspective I’ve gained.  It’s so easy to get “tunnel vision” when working on a program or a project.  Many of us enjoy free and open source software because we learn about so many different things and become experts in many different areas.  Unfortunately, this also means we can assume that our world view is the correct world view, or perhaps even the only world view that matters.  If there’s one lesson I’ve learned from being the Fedora Project Leader, it is that there are many different perspectives on each issue, and that most of them have something valuable to add to the equation.  I’m thankful for the new perspectives I have gained, and for the experiences that have helped me to gain a wider view.

I’m also thankful for the many thousands of hours that hard-working Fedora contributors have put forth to make Fedora better.  In looking back over the past three releases (Fedora 14, 15, and 16), we’ve made a lot of forward progress.  That’s not to say that there hasn’t been some controversy along the way.  Looking to the future, I hope that we can continue to chart new territory in Fedora, while not forgetting the lessons of the past.  As one of my favorite songs puts it, “Fly your mind… fly it like a kite.  But keep your feet on the ground.”  I have no doubt that the Fedora community can continue to add new features and still do the necessary communication and integration work to make the disparate pieces come together to make a more unified whole.  Not only have we made the distribution better, but even more importantly we’ve made the community better and stronger.

Last but not least, I’m also thankful for Red Hat, and their continued support on behalf of Fedora, and for the great trust they place in the Fedora community.  I could go on and on about the relationship between Red Hat and Fedora, but let me just say that I’m thankful for Red Hat’s continued efforts to do the right thing and to practice what it preaches about open source communities.  During my tenure at FPL, I never once felt pressured by Red Hat to do anything that wasn’t in the community’s best interest, and I think that says volumes about a corporate sponsor.

 

Reflections on Change and Flexibility

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One of the topics I’ve been pondering lately is the dual-edged nature of change.  As a long-time systems administrator, I dislike change at a basic level.  I want systems to stay static, to work tomorrow the exact same way they worked yesterday, and so on.  On the other hand, as the Fedora Project Leader it’s my job to continue to drive innovation and progress (and therefore, change) through the Fedora release process.  And, as I look back at the past year, most of the conflict and friction inside of Fedora can be boiled down to a debate about what is an acceptable rate of change, whether that be in desktop environments, initialization systems, or translation infrastructure.  I’ve got a larger, more in-depth blog post in the works about the lessons I’ve learned over my first year as the FPL, so I won’t bore you with the details now, but I’d like the readers of my blog to think about where they lie on the spectrum between “totally static” and “completely flexible to change”.  (And, at least for me, my location on that continuum is distinct for different parts of my life.)

As you may have already read this morning, my good friend and mentor (and former FPL) Max Spevack has decided to make some changes in his career.  I’m a bit sad to see Max go and I’ll miss the opportunity to interact with him on a regular basis, but I’m also happy for Max and his new opportunity and wish him the best as he pursues his dreams. (Max, don’t be a stranger.  Even if you move across the country, you can still hang out in Fedora.  We won’t razz you too much!) I know in my heart that changes in leadership can be a healthy thing for a community, even if it is a bit chaotic in the short term. I want to publicly express my support for Harish Pillay as he takes over Max’s responsibilities inside of the Community Architecture and Leadership team within Red Hat.  I’ve known Harish for a while, and I have absolute confidence in his abilities.  The CommArch team is of the Red Hat teams that has the most interaction with our Fedora community, and I’ll work with Harish to ensure that the transition is as smooth as possible and that Fedora continues to receive the support and encouragement it deserves.

If you have any questions or concerns about the transition, don’t hesitate to reach out to me.  You know where to find me. :-)

 

Wearing a new hat

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Well, it appears that the news is out about my new role in the Fedora community. (I apologize for the slow response — I was at Scout Camp with my son last week when Paul made the announcement, and have been busy tying up loose ends at my current employer.)  I’m very humbled to be able to follow in the footsteps of some very fine leaders such as Greg and Max and Paul.  I’m sure many of you are wondering “Who is this guy?” and “What is his vision for Fedora?”

First, let me introduce myself.  My name is Jared.  In short, I’m a big Linux nerd.  (How does that analogy go?  “Nerd is to geek as Star Trek is to Star Wars.”  Or did I get it backward again?)  I’ve been very lucky to have been employed by some great companies over the past several years — companies that had the vision of how to both use and contribute to open ecosystems.  Most recently, I’ve been working for a company called Digium, which is the benevolent corporate sponsor of the Asterisk open source telecommunications platform.  I’ve done both community relations and training work for Digium, and I learned many valuable lessons that I hope to use in my new role.  Before working full-time on Asterisk, I spent a number of years doing large-scale Linux systems administration and network operations for a large web analytics company.  When I’m not on the road, I’ll be working remotely from my home in Virginia.  My wife and I used to joke that maybe I’d get lucky and get to work on free software when I retire; luckily for me, the opportunities came much sooner!

I’ve been using Fedora ever since it was announced, and was using Red Hat Linux before then. I very passionately believe in the freedom and community that Fedora represents, and want to do everything I can to further the cause. Over the past few years, I’ve gone from being an end user of Fedora to being a contributing member of the Fedora team.  I’ve come to learn that our greatest asset within Fedora is our vibrant community of users and contributors. More specifically, I love the way our community can help individuals rise to their fullest potential and become leaders.  I’m a firm believer that if you give someone the tools they need and a little bit of vision and then get out of their way, they’ll come up with solutions you never dreamed of.  I’ve seen it happen time and time again in different open source communities, and each time it gives me more hope for the future.

Please bear with me over the next few weeks as I wrap my head around this job and start to articulate my goals and visions for Fedora. I’m sure there are a lot of things for me to learn, and I look forward to sharing some of my knowledge along the way as well. I’ll be on the road for the next few weeks (another blog post about that shortly!), but I’ll be blogging more while on the road.  You can also catch me via email or IRC.  (My IRC nick is “jsmith”.)

Here’s to a bright future for Fedora!

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