Canonical CEO: Ubuntu Wants to Power Everything From Smartphones to the Cloud

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In March, 2010, you replaced company founder Mark Shuttleworth as CEO at Canonical. As a woman in an industry typically dominated by men, what was the transition to CEO like for you and did you encounter any issues inside or outside of the company that you hadn't expected?

There are always challenges with any new role - that learning experience is part of what makes it fun. I can't point to any specific issues in this transition related to being a woman. I have seen subtle (and at times not-so-subtle) examples of what I consider sexist behavior throughout my career in technology, but I have seen significantly less of it during my decade with Canonical. I attribute this to many things, including changing attitudes in general, the meritocracy inherent in the open source community, the Ubuntu Code of Conduct, etc.

What's the difference between working for Shuttleworth prior to becoming CEO and running his company following your promotion?

Mark and I have always had a close working partnership. When he was CEO and I was COO, we had a division of responsibilities that best matched our interests, skills and company needs. All of those variables are dynamic, and there reached a point where it made sense to make a change in responsibilities. We now hold different formal roles and reporting lines -- he leads all of our product strategy and I am CEO, but that close working partnership remains consistent and is the key to making this slightly unusual situation work.

What was the first Linux distribution that you ever tried and what were your first impressions?

I used various Unix systems in my days as a developer, but Ubuntu was the first Linux distribution. My first use of it was the day I started at Canonical, prior to Ubuntu 4.10 (Warty Warthog) being released. In an early example of our focus on user experience, Mark Shuttleworth handed me a CD and asked me to take notes/file bugs on issues I had while installing it.

Apart from using Ubuntu at work, what other operating systems or distributions do you use regularly and what mobile operating system(s) do you rely on on a daily basis?

I still use an Android phone, but other than that I'm all Ubuntu, all the time.

What's your daily desktop like? What applications do you rely on?

I use a two-screen set-up with a Dell XPS laptop, an Iiyama external monitor and a Kinesis ergonomic keyboard. My main apps are Thunderbird, Firefox, and Pidgin (my nick is silbs - feel free to say hello). For documents, spreadsheets and slides, I use both LibreOffice and Google Docs.


Lastly, if a member of the Ubuntu community recognised you, approached you in a pub and offered to buy you a drink as a way to say thanks, what kind of drink would you order?

Usually wine, but I also enjoy trying whatever the local or regional specialty is!

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This story, "Canonical CEO: Ubuntu Wants to Power Everything From Smartphones to the Cloud" was originally published by Network World.

Copyright © 2014 IDG Communications, Inc.

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