As Mark Shuttleworth has announced I will have the privilege of leading Canonical from March of next year. I am excited about the role, energised by the opportunities in front of us, and humbled by the collection of amazing and talented individuals in Canonical and the Ubuntu community. Mark will continue to play a major role in Canonical, and we expect this to be a smooth transition. We are making the announcement now in order to help ensure that. We recognise that there will be many questions about this announcement, so Mark and I sat down together to try to answer those questions which we think will be on your minds.
When will Jane take over as CEO?
JS: We expect the changes to be completely in place by 1 March 2010.
Who is Jane?
JS: I wear, and have worn, many hats at Canonical. I am currently Chief Operating Officer and Director of Online Services. I joined Canonical in 2004, and since then have been closely involved in the establishment and management of most Canonical functions including Ubuntu One, OEM Services, Corporate Services, Marketing, Finance, Legal and others. I have a technical background and started my career as a software developer, and have since held engineering and senior management positions at companies as diverse as a health and wellness promotion start up, a large technology and manufacturing company in Japan, and the US defence contractor General Dynamics. I am American, and came to the UK in 2002 to complete an MBA at Oxford. I learned about Canonical and Mark’s vision for Ubuntu while deciding whether to remain in England or return to the US, and haven’t looked back!
Does this mark a change of direction for the company?
MS: No, it doesn’t mark a change of direction. Jane and I have worked closely together over the last 5 years, and while in her new role as CEO she will have the authority to make decisions which may differ from those I would make, we are aligned on our strategy and direction. This change does mark our commitment to continually optimise our operations and offerings, and as Canonical matures as an organisation I believe that Jane brings the skills and experience that we need in the CEO role.
What will happen to Jane’s current responsibilities as COO and and as lead on the Ubuntu One project?
JS: I have always held quite a wide range of responsibilities at Canonical, and in the coming months we will begin an internal and external executive search to fill the key roles of COO and head of Ubuntu One. We expect that this will bolster the senior management experience within Canonical as a whole, which will also help support our growth and accelerate progress towards our goals.
How will this impact Mark’s role on the Ubuntu Community Council and the Ubuntu Technical Board?
MS: This change will have no bearing on my role on the Ubuntu Community Council and the Ubuntu Technical Board. We will continue to expand the Ubuntu governance structures as the project and Ubuntu community grow but I am not moving away or relinquishing any community role I hold.
JS: One thing this move will bring about is a clearer separation of the role of CEO of Canonical and the leader of the Ubuntu community. It will be two different people now, which I think will be helpful in both achieving their joint and individual goals more quickly.
Can you share some more detail on what Mark’s role will be?
MS: I will focus on my passions of product design and development. I want Ubuntu to succeed as the open platform of choice for almost all use types whether on netbook, notebook, desktop, server, embedded device or wherever people compute. That is a large undertaking and being able to focus on that, thanks to Jane, is a great privilege. I will also spend more time talking to and visiting partners and customers about what they demand from an open platform and feeding that back into the product through the community and Canonical.
Was there consideration of getting a new CEO from outside of Canonical?
MS: I considered it, but ultimately decided that Jane’s background, experience with Canonical, and the skills she brings to the table are exactly what Canonical needs at this point.
Is Mark transitioning away from the Ubuntu project? Will this affect Mark’s funding of the Ubuntu project or is Canonical able to fund it without Mark now?
MS: I am more committed now than I have ever been. This is all about focus. I will continue to be engaged, will fund the project as needed, and have the opportunity now to focus on the areas where I can make the biggest impact.
How will Mark and Matt Zimmerman work together with Mark’s increased focus on product?
MS: I work with the leaders of each of the teams that have products at Canonical, the most visible of which is the Ubuntu team lead by Matt. While Matt will report to Jane, reflecting the central nature of Ubuntu to Canonical’s range of services, I will continue to engage with the Ubuntu team through the existing design, development and community processes that I currently use to influence the direction of the distribution.
What changes will partners and/or customers notice?
JS: We intend the transition to be a smooth one so in the immediate term it will be business as usual. Over the medium term we think this will better align the skills that each of us has and therefore there should be positive benefits for all who are involved in the Ubuntu and Canonical universes.
Jane Silber, COO Canonical