Canonical: Take 60 seconds with Henrik Omma

This Month we have profiled a member of the Canonical family, who has been with us almost from the start

*Henrik Omma*

Read on to see his recollection of what Canonical was like in the early days and why he enjoys working here.

*Take 60 seconds with Henrik Omma*

Henrik works as the Enterprise Applications Team Manager and has been with Canonical for 6 years.

*In layman’s terms what do you do?*

I manage a small team that develops & maintains in-house systems used for sales, finance and HR.

*What did you do before joining Canonical?*

I was doing a Doctorate in Astrophysics at Oxford. I actually started with Canonical part-time while I was still writing up my thesis. It was good to balance the two activities because thesis writing can be a long and monotonous process. I moved to full time in May 2005, after completing the thesis.

I had been using Linux for fluid dynamics simulations on super computers for my thesis research, which then introduced me to the world of Open Source. I became interested in the philosophy and the world changing potential of Open Source and started my own project called the OpenCD. Later I also co-founded ‘Software Freedom Day’. Both these projects were about spreading the message of Open Source and increasing adoption.

I meet Steve Alexander at a conference who in turn introduced me to the Shuttleworth Foundation and the ‘Go-Open’ project, which was also about spreading Open Source, specifically in South Africa. They decided to distribute the OpenCD to about 300,000 people there, which was of course our biggest distribution to date.

This was happening in Spring/Summer 2004, when Ubuntu was still a secret project operating as 🙂

I was then invited to attend one of the first sprints (which later evolved into UDS) in Oxford where they were putting together the first Ubuntu release. I meet Jane (Silber, CEO) and Mark (Shuttleworth, Founder). They had decided they wanted to add some Open Source applications for Windows to the Live CD to help ease the transition for new users and that the OpenCD project might be a good base for that. In later releases that function has been replaced by Wubi which actually lets you start Ubuntu from a Windows system.

*How has Canonical evolved since the early days?*

Now there is more structure, back then we would all pitch in a do a bit of everything. I have filled quite a few roles myself; I was running the Open CD project within Canonical for a while, then I became the Web Master. I have also guided various community teams like the Art & Accessibility teams and acting as forum liaison. I also built up the Ubuntu QA team before taking my current role.

The original core of the company was made up of a group of open source hackers, largely from Debian. So we’ve taken much of our culture, ideals and technologies from there. That’s for example why we use wikis, IRC and mailing lists while other companies this size might use a proprietary intranet system.

*So what kind of person do you need to be to survive here?*

You need to be able to work independently, structure and motivate your own work. I am speaking as some one who works from home, and structures my own hours. You also need to keep informed about what going on around you and not just wait for someone to tell you what to do.

*So what excites you about being here?*

The top thing is working with lots of great people and the projects that we are involved in, trying the change the way software evolves in the world. I remember when I attended the first sprint in August 2004 that I was struck by what an amazing group of people were gathered there — that this group would do something amazing and that I wanted to be a part of it! It’s great to actually see that potential playing out now.

Over these 6 years I have had the opportunity to change my role within Canonical several times as the company has grown. Personally that has been a good thing, as I am able to do something different day to day while still being part of that bigger picture and ideal of increasing Ubuntu’s accessibility to the world.

At Canonical many of us work from home, which I find very convenient and it also means that you can choose where you want to live while staying in the same job. I moved to Norway shortly after my thesis was complete (having started at Canonical), which is where I am originally from. But after two years I opted to move back to the UK and Oxford, where I had really enjoyed living as a student.

*What you you say to anyone thinking of joining Canonical?*

Depends on what sort of role they are looking for, but I can speak mostly on engineering roles. It can be an exciting place to work but you need make sure you connect in with the pulse of the company and work out how you can make contributions. We welcome initiative and encourage people to suggest and start projects, but you need to understand how things fit together to see the right opportunities and then know who to work with to implement your ideas. So you should spend a some time at the beginning to ensure you’re connecting to the information streams within the company. The mentoring scheme is very useful and newcomers should take full advantage of that.

*What is your next career goal within Canonical?*

After being in various roles I find I really enjoy managing a team of engineers, as I did on QA and now in CDO (Core Development and Operations). So for the moment I just want to grow to do that better. I know on thing though: it all starts with hiring top rate engineers onto the team.

[Discuss Henrik Omma on the Forum]

Originally sent to the ubuntu-jobs mailing list by Lynda Phillips on Wed Sep 1 10:55:28 BST 2010

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