Interview with Jane Silber

Our next interviewee should be well known to pretty much anyone who has anything to do with Ubuntu.   Jane Silber has been the CEO of Canonical since March 2010.  I will say no more and let you read on…

1. Tell as much as you’re willing about your “real life” like name, age, gender, location, family, religion, profession, education, hobbies, etc.

I’m Jane Silber, CEO of Canonical.  I live in London and hold dual American/British citizenship.   I spell like a Brit,  speak like an American, and wave my hands about like an Italian.  I grew up In Springfield, Illinois and have lived in Washington DC, Nashville, and Yokohama, Japan.  I moved to the UK in 2002. My background includes jobs in start-ups and large companies,  in domains ranging from health risk appraisal to artificial intelligence to military command and control.  I hold degrees in Math/Computer Science from Haverford College, Management of Technology from Vanderbilt University, and an MBA from Oxford University.  Outside of work I enjoy holiday travel, live performances, engrossing books, good food, witty people, and new experiences.

2. When and how did you become interested in computers? in Linux? in Ubuntu?

I first became interested in computers in high school, and studied computer science in much more depth in college. At the risk of sounding ancient, I first learned programming in Pascal and FORTRAN, and worked for many years as a C and C++ developer. I became aware of Linux through Unix while working in Japan, and found my way to Ubuntu when I joined Canonical in 2004 (back in the days!).

3. When did you become involved in the forums (or the Ubuntu community)? What’s your role there?

My first involvement with forums was before they existed! Ryan Troy took the initiative to contact me with a proposal for the Ubuntu Forums, and we discussed how to set them up, what it would mean to make them “official”, etc.  I continue to be astounded by and appreciative of the effort that the Forum staff and users put into the site.

4. Are you an Ubuntu member? If so, how do you contribute? If not, do you plan on becoming one?

No answer supplied.

5. What distros do you regularly use? What software? What’s your favorite application? Your least favorite?

All Ubuntu all the time! I probably spend most of my time in Thunderbird, but one of my favourite apps is the Ubuntu Software Centre. As I answer these questions, my open apps are Thunderbird, Firefox, OpenOffice, Gwibber and Pidgin. I don’t really have a least favourite application, other than the games in Ubuntu that on occasion lure me into wasting many hours!  For example, I have a long-standing backgammon battle against my laptop in GNU Backgammon.

6. What’s your fondest memory from the forums, or from Ubuntu overall? What’s your worst?

I have so many fond memories  it is impossible to pick.  My repeating highlight is probably each Ubuntu Developer Summit.  It’s so exciting to catch up with other Canonical folks, as well as the familiar names from the community. And there is a real sense of excitement and adrenalin at each UDS as new faces join the community, new companies who are using or shipping Ubuntu come to participate, and the next version of Ubuntu begins to emerge from the collaboration.

Outside of UDS, I love hearing the personal stories of random Ubuntu sightings – e.g.,  airport screeners recognising Ubuntu stickers on laptops, taxi drivers recognising Ubuntu t-shirts, the thank you notes we receive from all over the world, etc.  Those stories remind me of how large an impact the project has, beyond my day to day focus of making Ubuntu and Canonical successful.

7. What luck have you had introducing new computer users to Ubuntu?

I think I’ve had quite a bit :) . Some of that is direct advocacy amongst family and friends, just like so many of you do.  Amongst my many activities at Canonical,  I  ran the ShipIt programme for quite a long time, and I think that has had a big impact on introducing new users to Ubuntu!

8. What would you like to see happen with Linux in the future? with Ubuntu?

I’d like to see Linux  be the standard platform underlying people’s computing experiences. It already achieves that in many behind the scenes ways, and one of the reasons we focused on the desktop initially was to bring the goodness of Linux and open source in the limelight for a larger number of users.  I think that in order to achieve that, the Linux and open source community writ large need to avoid the temptation to tear each other down, but rather realise that a big tent approach strengthens us all.

9. If there was one thing you could tell all new Ubuntu users, what would it be?

Tell others!  We want Ubuntu to be fantastic for those in the Ubuntu and open source community, but also for those who simply want a great experience. Each Ubuntu user becomes a member of an ever-widening circle, and each can help that circle grow.

Originally Posted here on 2011-02-23

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