Earlier today, I announced to my colleagues at the Wikimedia Foundation my
intention to step down as CEO later this spring. April 15th will be my last
day, marking my seven-year anniversary with the Foundation and the
movement. This was not an easy decision, but it is the right one. For now,
I want to share with you why I’m moving on, and what comes next. I’ll save
the customary email with deeper reflections, memories, and thanks for later
In some ways, this was the easiest hard decision I’ve ever made. It’s never
exactly a good time to step away -- transitions always have some rough
edges -- but it’s always best to do so when the organization is strong, and
before you’ve overstayed your welcome. The movement is in a good, strong
place. Our communities are growing, our readership is too. Our 20th
birthday, the launch of our Universal Code of Conduct, and the movement
strategy recommendations are all milestone moments of solidity and
strength. I have great hopes and confidence in the upcoming plans for
strategy implementation, particularly the work on the movement charter and
interim global council. We are healthy and thriving.
While we will always have more work to do to become the Wikimedia that we
want to be, our movement and our organization is in a phase of renewal and
regeneration. We have deepened our practices of consultation,
collaboration, and inclusion that will be the foundation of the next decade
of our work. We have a deep and stable financial position that will help us
grow and protect us from any storm, and the trust in our projects has never
been higher. Our communities are poised to take on deeper responsibilities
of governance, accountability, and leadership, populating a rich,
representative, and leaderful movement for free knowledge.
The Foundation is also strong, and filled with passionate, values-aligned
leaders at every level of the organization, deeply committed to the work of
our movement and mission. Although we don’t always all perfectly agree on
absolutely everything, we are working more openly and cooperatively with
our movement than ever before. Collaborative strategic planning,
sustainable programs to support technical communities and tooling,
co-development and consultation on transformative new experiences welcoming
newcomers, cooperative partnerships on public health data, bibliographic
data, and human rights data -- all of these are signals of much great work
to come. Even difficult topics, such as brand and movement governance,
continue to bring people together in nothing less than feisty commitment.
Together, we have rich resources of brilliant people, deep passion, and
compassion. We are making progress on some of our greatest challenges, from
editor and readership growth, technical debt, representation and
participation, safety and knowledge equity. I am proud of what we’ve done
together and grateful for all the ways in which this movement has made my
life immeasurably richer: friendships that will last a lifetime,
intellectual curiosity and kinship, and so many memories of *so much
dancing*, from Accra to Berlin to Chandigarh.
As for me, I’m going to take a break, and a research fellowship, as a place
to think about what’s next. It’s hard to think about your future when
you’re fully in your present, and for the past seven years, I’ve been fully
present for this movement. But as I look around, I see global challenges
such as polarization, inequality, and climate change, as well as
opportunities for generational renewal and optimism. As a Wikimedian, I
lean toward optimism, and plan to apply myself in that direction!
- We announced this planned transition publicly on our communications
channels during a Foundation all-staff meeting today.
- A Board Transition Committee composed of Dariusz Jemielniak, who is
chair of HR Committee, Tanya Capuano, who is chair of the Audit Committee,
Raju Narisetti, and María Sefidari as Board Chair, will launch the search
for a new CEO. They’ll work closely with the executive Transition Team on
organizational operations, and with the broader board on an open candidate
call. The Board is working with the goal of onboarding a new CEO by Q2 of
the 2021-2022 fiscal year.
- We’ve been working on succession planning for the CEO role since 2019
as a matter of best practice, and the organization is well-prepared for a
thoughtful search for the next phase of our mission. The Board has decided
to work with Kathleen Yazbak of Viewcrest Advisors for the executive
search: I’ve worked closely with Kathleen on a number of occasions, and she
is a true Wikimedian at heart.
- I’ll be drawing back from day-to-day operational work to transition
interim responsibilities starting February 8th. A C-level Transition Team
of Jaime Villagomez, Amanda Keton, and Robyn Arville, our two board
officers and chief people leader, will take up key responsibilities and
decision making around planning, community, and people, and work closely
with the broader C-team and VP leadership cohort.
- I’ll spend the next three months supporting the Foundation in readying
itself for a transition. I’ll spend February preparing with this group and
other organizational and community leaders on movement strategy and
institutional knowledge transfer, sharing lessons learned, and supporting
the organization in developing the next year’s strategic plan.
- I look forward to celebrating with you in March and April!
I'll be around for a bit, so feel free to reach out, and after that, I'll
see you on the wikis!
Katherine Maher (she/her)
Wikimedia Foundation <https://wikimediafoundation.org/>