Sunday, August 24, 2008

The week in Summary

Wow what a week its been. My postings so far have just been about our after hours activities. I want to give a little background first. As most of the the regular readers know I work for Canonical. Canonical is the commercial sponsor of the Linux distribution called Ubuntu. I'm the Kernel Team Manager, as such I'm part of the Distro team. A larger team that produces the Ubuntu operating system, in this team you will find developers, package maintainers, release engineers, kernel engineers and managers. The distro team is is broken down into several sub-teams (desktop, server etc...), each with a manager. This week was what we call our "Manager's Sprint. Its a week long meeting with Distro team managers with our boss the CTO (Matt Zimmerman). The week itself I think was one of the most productive meetings I've been in for quite awhile.

Our days were full, starting at 0930 and ending at 1830 with a few evenings of after work activities which I blogged about earlier. We covered everything from our teams structure, mission, growth to morale and job satisfaction. I've been a manager at every company that I've worked for since I got out of the Army and by far I can say Canonical truly cares about its workforce. And not the cheesy junk they teach in a MBA program. The vast majority of Canonical (upwards of 90%) employees work from home. Most people would say "work from home" where can I sign up... Its not as easy or simple as one would think. It takes a very disciplined type of person, you can't mind not being around your other co-workers, and most of all you have to be self-motivating. Many people can't take it, they find they need the office chat, collaboration with colleagues, and being to see your boss on a regular basis to get feedback, motivation and the like. Canonical makes it a priority for its managers to understand this unique aspect of the business and work with the staff to mitigate as much of this as possible. How you ask? Things like this past week, bringing teams (in this case the Distro team management) to meet face to face, hosting quarterly Distro Team Sprints, company all hands meetings, and encouraging every manager to get their teams together in person whenever possible. Another big help is UDS or the Ubuntu Developers Summit. UDS is where Canonical and the Ubuntu Developer Community get together to plan the next release of Ubuntu. Our next one is in December in California, Google is hosting us. More on that in a future blog.

The next question is "What is a Sprint", I'm glad you asked. Its basically a face to face meeting that is highly focused & fast paced with all the right people together in one spot.

We covered a lot of topics and had some very interesting and informative discussions. I'm very impressed with my peer managers, they are a very dedicated and sharp bunch. I have been asked by folks in casual discussion if everyone on the Canonical management team gets the Open source principals & ideals. I can honestly say yes from Mark Shuttleworth on down to the last manger gets it. Mark instills a culture of Open Source and it one of the first questions asked when decisions are made. Like, How is going to effect the community? weather that is the Ubuntu developer or user community or the Debian community (what is what Ubuntu is based on), to the upstream project. Mark is passionate about it and its in the management team as well.

I plan to do a series of blog postings about my first 90 days a Canonical, talking about my impressions and observations compared to Red Hat, my previous employer. For example... the hardest thing I found in moving from a Red Hat to a Debian based system, along with differences in development models & culture.

Enough for now. My battery is about dead on my notebook and I need to get a bit of sleep.