I have known Jennifer Cloer from the very early days, even before the Linux Foundation was formed. She is among the most influential women in the tech world, especially in the open source world. I have been planning to start a series of interviews of those women who made it into CIO\u2019s most influential women in Tech list. When I approached Jennifer, I learned about a development in her career that made this story even more interesting. Cloer is moving out of the Linux Foundation and venturing into a new world of her own.\n\n\nBut first, let\u2019s talk about her humble beginnings.\n\n\nClose encounter with the tech kind\n\n\n\u201cOne of my first experiences in tech was traveling to Europe for a five-day press tour, a different country every day. It was grueling,\u201d said Cloer. That was back in 2002 when she worked at Tektronix, a public company that builds test and measurement equipment.\n\n\nHer path crossed the Linux world when she started working with Page One PR. OSDL (Open Source Development Labs) was their biggest client. Later OSDL merged with FSG (Free Software Group) to create what we know today as The Linux Foundation. She has been around the Linux Foundation before it was born.\n\n\nThat\u2019s when she also started working closely with the Linux and Open Source communities. She started working with none other than Linus Torvalds himself.\n\n\nI find a kind of similarity between Jennifer and me. She also loves the challenge of translating complex ideas into something anyone could understand and be moved by.\n\n\nOpen source was where she realized that tech was where she wanted to work. Cloer recalls that it happened when she began promoting open source startups and software development philosophies. \u00a0\n\n\nShe remembered that she had just started working with Linus Torvalds and The Linux Foundation (when it was called Open Source Development Labs) and managed a CNN International shoot in Portland, Oregon. When Cloer saw Torvalds being interviewed by producers of the show, she realized technology was more than just 1s and 0s. Linux was changing the very foundation of our world. It was reshaping it. Today, Linux has become a dominant force in the IT world. Today Open Source has become the de facto software development model, Linux made it happen.\n\n\n\u201cI was humbled to be able to take what was at the time, a complex idea \u2014 Linux and open source software \u2014 and to translate that into one of the most well-understood and widely-accepted stories in the technology industry. I had the opportunity to be at the forefront of some of the most disruptive technologies in the history of computing, it\u2019s an amazing and unique experience,\u201d said Cloer.\n\n\nMoving out of the Linux Foundation\n\n\nThe Linux Foundation is one of the most powerful and influential organizations around. It brings stability to one\u2019s career while at the same time keeps you on your toes. \u201cIt was not a decision I came to lightly," said Cloer. "The work the Linux Foundation is doing is critical in supporting and shaping the future of software management and development. After 12 years supporting the organization, though, I decided there is no better time than now to begin my own firm. I see so many opportunities to adapt what I\u2019ve done to translate complex ideas to some of the most exciting and pressing issues in tech today: inclusiveness and diversity in tech, technology education for students of all ages and backgrounds, and technology invention that transforms industries through software and hardware development.\u201d\n\n\nAlthough Cloer is moving out of the Foundation, she is not moving out of the tech and open source world. \u201cI will continue to contribute through my ongoing work with The Linux Foundation, as well as with a number of community members as partners and clients. The great thing about the Linux and open source community is it touches all areas of the tech industry and a variety of markets, and your participation doesn\u2019t depend on any one company,\u201d she said.\n\n\nOnce a storyteller, always a storyteller\n\n\nI remember from early on I always wanted to be a writer, I used to live in my own dream land. I used to think that as a writer you never work a single day of your life, you just get paid to tell stories and continue to work like that an entire lifetime. Once a storyteller, always a storyteller.\n\n\nCloer is no different. As she moves out of the foundation she is setting up her own public relations firm because \u201csurfacing stories and telling them in a way that engages and inspires action is my elixir. I\u2019m addicted to this process and how satisfying it is when you see it work. Being connected to and moved by others through story is a fundamental human experience and more powerful than ever,\u201d she said.\n\n\nVoice of women in tech\n\n\nWhat makes Cloer more inspiring is her commitment to address one of the most pressing challenges in the tech world: gender diversity. When I asked if she recalled any particular incident in her life that inspired her commitment toward increasing gender diversity, Cloer couldn\u2019t pinpoint one.\n\n\n\u201cI can\u2019t recall a specific incident that compelled me to start addressing this in my work. Certainly I\u2019ve experienced inappropriate behavior over the years, from dismissive and sexist comments to exclusion. But I don\u2019t think this is uncommon or a surprise. Most women in tech will tell you similar stories. But as I saw more and more women speak up and call out this behavior, I couldn\u2019t stand by,\u201d Cloer said.\n\n\nJennifer has been instrumental in many efforts that the Linux Foundation has made to increase diversity. Two that I am aware of are childcare during LinuxCon so that working moms could also attend sessions or deliver talks. The second was a Women\u2019s Networking Luncheon also during LinuxCon 2016.\n\n\n\u201cI\u2019ve been a woman in tech my entire career, and I believe we\u2019ve reached a tipping point in which the issues facing women in this space are more visible. Yet they are still largely misunderstood and solutions aren\u2019t easy,\u201d she added.\n\n\nA lot of work is now being done to address these issues. \u201cI really like the work being done by organizations like YesWeCode and Code.org,\u201d Cloer said, \u201cBut I\u2019m also following organizations like Code School, SkillsCrush, Age of Learning and Exponential Education, among others. Of course, I\u2019m advising the Linux Foundation\u2019s programs with edX, Goodwill of Central Texas and others.\u201d\n\n\nLooking forward\n\n\nCloer has set-up a new business called \u2018reTHINKit PR\u2019. One of her first clients is, as expected, The Linux Foundation. A new and interesting company she will also be working with is Praekelt.org, which uses open source and mobile technologies to put well-being within reach of people living in poverty (through mobile apps on basic phones). \u201cTheir work has been largely focused on South Africa but is beginning to expand to Uganda, Nigeria and even here in the U.S. Their most recognized platform is MomConnect, which allows expecting moms in these communities to navigate their pregnancies without having to get to the clinic. A helpdesk function allows them to ask specific questions of nurses and others.\u201d\n\n\nAnother of her first clients is none other than the Big Blue, IBM. \u201cThe work with IBM is focused on engagement with the developer and startup communities and their cognitive and cloud work,\u201d said Cloer.\n\n\nIn addition to these, Cloer will also be working with FemCity as President of its Portland chapter.\n\n\nCloer is also working on a film that will feature three stories of three women in tech \u2014 one beginning her career, one mid-way through and one reaching retirement. Through this generational illustration, Cloer hopes to uncover the past, present and future of women in tech and see how we might begin to address some of the challenges we face today.\n\n\n\u201cWe\u2019ll bring the three stories together so the women can share with each other on film and make the viewer a part of that discussion. We think this generational approach can also touch on how different phases of life and the values associated with those stages affect choices for both women and men (raising a family, for example),\u201d said Cloer.\n\n\nAs someone who takes a keen interest in women in STEM, I am happy to see this evolution of Cloer. Its an inspiration to women who want to start something of their own, to create more opportunities for others, to be their own boss and to give back their talents to the community in a very meaningful way.