[Wikimedia-l] WMF HR and leadership questions

Quim Gil qgil at wikimedia.org
Fri Dec 28 21:26:26 UTC 2012

Just a personal opinion about "talent retention" at the WMF.

There are not many factors contributing to retention in an organization 
like this, in a context like ours:

- Tech sector is very competitive. Not even high pays, bonuses, stocks 
and perks are any assurance of keeping people around for long.
- SF Bay Area is especially crazy. Guess why LinkedIn or Glassdoor were 
founded here.
- Average age of hires: young. Retaining people in their 20s is more 
complex than retaining people in their 40s.
- High % of remote workers. I have no data but I bet this adds to the 
- "Open source style for real" is a key factor WMF has almost like no 
other mid sized employer. I can see why many qualified professionals may 
think this is cool when being interviewed, only to realize some months 
after that they are not really made for that.
- Young & fast growing organization. Lots of hiring with time pressure 
brings a higher risk of people leaving.

Looking at the numbers is not enough. The question is: are people 
leaving the WMF happy about their time here or not? Is the first 
motivation "leaving" or going to a new exciting challenge?

One thing is if someone leaves the WMF happy about the experience, and 
that experience actually helps that person getting an interesting offer. 
A very different thing is if someone leaves frustrated, escaping to 
anything else as long as it pays the rent. Both cases would count as "1" 
in the numbers.

Do I believe we should change the factors above? Actually tech, SF, 
young, remote add radically open were very positive factors when I 
considered joining the WMF some weeks ago. I'm very happy of working in 
a place like this! I'd rather keep the HR department busy trying to 
figure out how to work in a peculiar organization like this, instead of 
trying to become a more standard org you can run by the book.

The growth factor is another thing. I wish we were at the end of a crazy 
growth curve, prioritizing consolidation, sustainability and quality 
instead. The 'Narrowing Focus' strategy points in that direction, as 
well as the fact that we just ended a fundraising campaign before the 
planned date because we had reached the objective. I'm hopeful.

PS: what if there was a parallelism with Wikipedia editors? There, like 
at the WMF, you can see trustful oldtimers still around and then many 
newcomers, but a difficulty to keep these as mid time contributors. Just 
another personal idea without any data to back it.  :)

Quim Gil
Technical Contributor Coordinator @ Wikimedia Foundation

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