Press releases/QA WMF announces new ED Lila Tretikov/en

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Please see the May 1, 2014 announcement regarding Lila Tretikov's appointment to the Wikimedia Foundation.

Who is Lila and what will she be doing?

The Executive Director is the chief executive of the Wikimedia Foundation, responsible for leading the Foundation, setting its strategy, and managing day-to-day operations. It's a central position in a complex global volunteer-driven movement, which is building the largest collection of shared knowledge in human history, used by over a half-billion people around the world.

When is Lila starting?

Lila's scheduled to start as Executive Director on June 1, 2014. She will spend May in active listening-and-learning mode, meeting with staff members and others in the Wikimedia movement, getting ready to take over the leadership of the organization. Lila has met several times with Sue over the past few weeks, and they will continue to work closely together in May.

Who picked Lila and what was the process like?

The Transition Team charged with finding a new Executive Director was established by the Board of Trustees, and is composed of WMF Board Chair Jan-Bart de Vreede, WMF Board members Phoebe Ayers and Alice Wiegand, former Board chair Kat Walsh, current Executive Director Sue Gardner, and WMF staff Erik Moeller, Geoff Brigham and Gayle Karen Young. The Transition Team hired a recruiting firm, m/Oppenheim, to help with its work.

In June 2013 m/Oppenheim compiled a list of potential connectors and candidates based on consultation with the WMF Board, Advisory Board, staff and community, as well as through its own research. Over the next several months m/Oppenheim reached out to more than 1300 people in 81 countries, including the United States, Brazil, Canada, Egypt, Finland, Germany, India, Indonesia, South Africa and the United Kingdom. Word of the position was also sent by the WMF to various groups, posted on blogs, the WMF and m/Oppenheim websites and LinkedIn, and an advertisement was placed in The Economist. Sue did an interview with the New York Times to publicize that the role was becoming available. As a result of all this we received a significant number of nominations and applications, and m/Oppenheim ended up speaking or corresponding with nearly 500 people. In the end, there were about 200 applicants for the role.

In September 2013 m/Oppenheim presented the Transition Team with a potential shortlist of about 25 people representing a mix of backgrounds and experiences including start-ups, large websites, mid- and large-sized tech companies, community websites, non-profit organizations, educational institutions and media organizations, representing multiple nationalities. This was followed by a series of interviews that resulted in a restatement of the core job description to more tightly focus it on product and engineering, outreach to a new targeted list of connectors and potential candidates, and refinements to the interviewing process itself.

By February 2014 the Transition Team had five solid new candidates who fit what the team felt the Wikimedia Foundation needed. The finalist interview process included several structured panel interviews to assess candidate experience, skills, leadership style and culture/values fit, as well as several informal conversations and dinners, formal candidate proposals for how they might spend their first six months as ED, mock media interviews, Skype conversations with Jimmy Wales, a Google Hangout with the full Board, extensive background checks and extensive reference checking. In the end, the Transition Team unanimously voted to recommend Lila to the Board, and the Board unanimously voted in favour of Lila's candidacy.

Why does the WMF believe Lila will be a good ED?

The WMF set out to hire a person with a strong background in product as well as operational experience managing a WMF-scale organization. This describes Lila perfectly. She understands and embraces our mission, and has the right orientation and personal style for the role: collaborative, smart, and open. We also believe she is courageous, an important quality for the ED of the WMF.

Lila is experienced with open source and with supporting customers and users, which will prepare her well for working with our readers and our movement. In our earliest conversations with Lila she immediately understood the importance of editor retention, and we are confident she'll tackle it energetically. We think she will work well with the WMF staff and the community, and we look forward to working with her.

Why did the WMF decide to hire someone whose main expertise is in product and engineering?

Because engineering is our core work. The WMF is responsible for the Wikimedia projects - the websites used by millions of people every day. More than half the staff are engineers, and more than half the spending is technology-related. In our Narrowing Focus exercise the Foundation renewed its commitment to being primarily an engineering organization.

What we do is support a community of volunteers in making educational material freely available to people around the world, and how we do it is primarily by building and maintaining websites for those people. That's why the Foundation set out to hire a person from a product, user experience and engineering background: because those are the main skills and experiences that we believe the ED needs.

In the beginning of the recruitment process we interviewed candidates from many types of backgrounds including education, publishing, journalism and advocacy, as well as people who had carried out community-related work of various kinds. Although many of those people were talented and compelling, through the process of speaking with them it became even clearer to us that product and engineering expertise is at the heart of what the WMF needs.

Why didn’t WMF hire someone from a non-profit background?

It’s extremely uncommon for someone from a non-profit background to have the level of product and engineering experience that the Foundation was looking for. The Board and transition team knew that going into the search, and fully expected that the next ED could come from a for-profit organization.

What changes can we expect when Lila comes onboard?

Lila has no plans right now to make any major changes. She is in learning and listening mode, and will spend the beginning of her tenure getting familiarized with the Foundation, the staff, and the movement.

How does this affect the Foundation’s planning process?

The annual plan for the Foundation is currently in development for the coming year. Because the annual plan was under development before Lila started with the Foundation, she has not been involved in its preparation. The plan will be finalized and approved on its ordinary schedule, and published on the 1st of July of this year. As Executive Director, Lila will have the ability to work with the senior staff and Board of Trustees to implement the plan as she sees fit.

Why does Lila want to be ED?

Like many people, Lila has been a Wikipedia reader for years, using it to get background on events in the news, look up quick facts, and better understand the world. She has long appreciated that she can get quick, easy, free access to information on practically any topic from Wikipedia.

However, as an educated person living in a rich part of the world, Lila recognizes that she has the privilege of access to a wide range of information resources. That's not true for everyone. For people who are less economically fortunate, or who live in parts of the world where access to information is heavily constrained, Wikipedia is critical and utterly unique.

Lila wants to work for the Foundation to ensure it achieves its mission to provide free, unbiased information for everyone around the world, in their own language, unimpeded by censorship or other forms of interference. She is glad and humbled to be playing a leadership role in our movement.

Does Lila have any experience with Wikipedia or the other projects?

Like hundreds of millions of people around the world, Lila has used Wikipedia as an essential, everyday resource for many years. She is very familiar with the project, but she is not an editor.

What's Lila's commitment to our core values?

Lila is committed to improving the world through her work. Her relationship with the principles of free information, transparency and openness is rooted in her childhood -- she was raised in the Soviet Union during Glasnost -- a period of increased openness in government. She has an unshakeable dedication to Wikimedia’s core principles. Lila’s international background will also help her work effectively across the many languages and cultures represented in the Wikimedia movement.

What's Lila's plan for getting to know the community?

Lila has already met several community members through the hiring process and is looking forward to meeting many, many more. She will be at Wikimania, and is likely to do an office hours session on IRC in the near future.

Has the entire Board met Lila and how do they feel about her joining us?

Yes. The Board members on the Transition Team, Jan-Bart de Vreede, Phoebe Ayers, and Alice Wiegand, as well as former Board member Kat Walsh, met Lila months ago in the initial interviewing and immediately liked her. They found her warm, energetic, and unpretentious. The rest of the Board members later met her individually and collectively, mostly via Skype and Google Hangout. The Board also spent an orientation day with Lila during their past board meeting. The Board voted unanimously to appoint her, and everybody thinks she will be a great ED for the WMF.

What does Jan-Bart have to say about Lila?

Here is what Jan-Bart said:

“I met Lila months ago and I think she is exceptional. We began our search looking for someone who has a strong background in engineering and product development and this is exactly what we found in Lila. She also has the kind of likeable and open demeanor that is going to resonate well with the personalities in our movement. She is experienced at leading in high-growth organizations, and her past experience has demonstrated the ability to handle a broad swath of responsibilities that makes me feel confident that the future of the WMF is in very good hands.”

What does Jimmy Wales think?

Here is what Jimmy says about Lila:

“I am really happy with the choice of Lila as ED. When I first met with her, she talked compellingly about her childhood growing up in the Soviet Union, and she was genuinely and deeply motivated by Wikimedia's mission to spread free knowledge to people everywhere in the world. I also appreciated her experience with open source technologies, and I am really happy we found someone with a strong background in product and engineering.”

How does Sue Gardner feel about Lila?

Here is what Sue had to say:

“I believe Lila will be terrific for the WMF. Running the WMF is a unique job that requires a really unusual mix of skills and capabilities, and I think Lila has exactly what we need. The WMF needs a person who is generally flexible and open to influence, but who also knows when to be unyielding, for example when Wikipedia is threatened with censorship. I think Lila has that rare ability to be either soft and hard, as the circumstances require."

How does the C-Level team feel about the transition?

The C-level people on the Transition Team (Sue Gardner, Erik Moeller, Geoff Brigham, and Gayle Karen Young) met Lila during the initial interviewing stage: like the Board, they liked her immediately. All the other C-level staff (Anasuya Sengupta, Garfield Byrd, Lisa Gruwell, and Katherine Maher) have now met Lila as part of the transition process. They are excited about welcoming her to the Foundation and supporting her leadership.

When is Sue leaving?

Sue is helping Lila make the transition and will continue to be the Executive Director until June 1, 2014, at which time she will transition to be a special advisor to the Foundation. She will continue to be available for the transition and the WMF, she will continue to be an active Wikipedia editor, and she will continue to speak on behalf of the WMF from time to time. She is and always will be a friend to the movement and the WMF.

Will Sue be going to Wikimania?

Yes.