In our second “Day in the Life” post, we’re highlighting another team member pivotal to supporting our Community on the front lines – Director of Developer Relations, Kathy Reid.
Kathy joined the team in September 2017, bringing open source prowess from her role as President of Linux Australia, bringing technical background from years of digital transformation work in the education space in Australia. Read through to the bottom of the post for a special note from Mycroft to Kathy.
So Kathy, where do you hail from?
I’m from a city called Geelong, about an hour and a half west of Melbourne, in Australia. Geelong is gorgeous, it’s right on the water. It’s also a UNESCO Creative City of Design, with a really emerging advanced manufacturing and technology-based economy. The cost of living is a lot cheaper than Melbourne, so you get a lot more value for money.
Give us a little background on you.
I spent 16 years at Deakin University, a large college, mostly in management and leadership roles with emerging technologies like digital signage, videoconferencing, web development, and digital platforms. My job was “bedding down” new tech into the everyday operations of the organisation. Additionally, I have a very strong background in the Australian open source scene – I’ve been on the board of Linux Australia for five years, the last two as President.
Next year, I’ve been incredibly fortunate to be offered a place in the brand new Masters’ program at the 3A Institute at Australian National University in Canberra, where I’ll be helping to develop a new applied science in artificial intelligence and machine learning.
What do you work on at Mycroft?
Each day is different, but will have some combination of;
- Strategy and planning: Part of the work I do involves our Community Strategy and roadmapping out key tranches of work and their interdependencies, then decomposing work into actionable stories. I think people have a perception that working in Developer Relations / Community roles is fairly straightforward, but there’s a lot of behind-the-scenes work that goes into attracting, nurturing and retaining a productive, harmonious, skilled and aspirational Community.
- Metrics and measurement: As the saying goes, if you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it. As part of the Developer Relations Metrics Framework I developed, we track both qualitative and quantitative data points across the Dev Rel life cycle – allowing us to take corrective action if things aren’t going as expected.
- Quality assurance: I created the assurance process for Mycroft Skills, and part of my role is facilitating testing of Skills, and the governance and community consultation that is part of our Skills Framework. It’s now ready to be opened up to Community team, so if you’d like to be a Skill Tester, read more here.
- Community technical support: We have over 25,000 users and nearly 20,000 registered devices, and are starting to branch out into foreign languages with our Mycroft Translate platform – so there’s plenty of issues to diagnose – both to help our great Community but also to continually improve the Mycroft software. This role is quite broad and encompasses support across a number of channels – Chat, Forum, social media, and Mycroft Translate.
- Documentation: Thousands of people a month use our technical documentation to get started and start tinkering with Mycroft. Part of my role is to help keep our documentation up to date – which can be a challenge, given how quickly our Voice Stack is being developed!
What are your favorite things to do in a day?
I’m a bit of a geek at heart, so I really like the problem-solving part of the role – figuring out why things are borked, and, hopefully, un-borking them.
At a more abstract level, the job satisfaction I have from this role is really about enabling a movement, a platform and a Community that is committed to a comparable voice platform that respects privacy and is open source. Mycroft is to voice what WordPress and Drupal are to web content management, or what Linux is to operating systems.
Another highlight is the time I get to spend with some great role models within the team. I won’t call them out individually, because they would be embarrassed, but they challenge my thinking, my mental models and technical knowledge in a way that comes from a foundation of mutual respect. That sort of mentoring is worth more than money – because the positive effects ripple throughout your professional and personal career.
And what about your least favorite/most challenging?
Like many open source Communities, we have challenges from time to time in ensuring that behaviors in our Community channels – Chat, Forum, social media and so on – uphold the values and standards that our Community expects. Part of my role is to set expectations and boundaries of acceptable behavior in a cross-lingual, cross-cultural, and cross-capability Community – using judgment to determine when to moderate, when to steer the conversation in a different direction, when to be blunt. At a systemic level, our Community standards are supported through artifacts such as the contribution guidelines, codes of conduct and so on in all our GitHub repos, and the ability for the Community to flag posts which violate norms. Fortunately, the overwhelming majority of our Community are mature, emotionally competent people who engage rationally, logically and cooperatively – a really outstanding group – so we’ve rarely had to intervene.
So what’s one of the favorite interactions you’ve had with a Mycroft Community member?
The most satisfying interactions are where you’re able to provide greater insight, or with a little diagnosis or investigation, get someone using the Mycroft platform at a more advanced level, such as with a different language, or with a third party system – really being able to help them on their Mycroft journey.
One of my favourite interactions has been helping a university student with his final year project. In fact, it was more guidance than actual help. He’s been able to integrate Mycroft with a University timetabling system – something that has the potential to benefit thousands of students. Colleges are known for their bureaucracy and I think Mycroft is helping to chip away at some of that.
What are some of the key challenges of your role?
Mycroft has over 25,000 users and over 20,000 registered devices now – which is amazing. However, it means that we need to find efficient and effective ways to deliver technical support to people – all over the world – in every time zone on earth. So part of my role is to find ways to deliver support on a “one to many” basis rather than “one to one” – such as through documentation, videos and tutorials.
What sort of skills or competencies would you say you need to be effective in this sort of role?
This role is unique in that you need a real balance of both technical and interpersonal skills – you need enough knowledge of Linux, Python, the Mycroft Voice Stack, and our platforms – to be able to assist. But, you also need to leverage a variety of strategies to help encourage people to get to a useful outcome. Sometimes this means securing cooperation for troubleshooting, getting people on board with trying different solutions, or even getting someone to accept that a feature or function is not yet available. It’s a balancing act.
The role is also quite broad – you have to be quite adept at finessing competing priorities – which is a bit of an art form rather than a science 😉
Anything else you want to say?
That’s enough from me, I’d rather let Mycroft do the talking!
A Message from Mycroft:
As you can see above, Kathy is one of the reasons why Mycroft is what it is today. She has been not only a guiding light for us, but also brings the attitude that every startup needs. The interview above gives about 5% of what Kathy really brings, and with that a bittersweet message from the Team……
“Kathy has been invited to help shape the curriculum, and ultimately the minds of the future by securing a Masters Scholarship at the 3A Institute at the Australian National University. There, she will help build a new applied science in artificial intelligence and machine learning. This is absolutely a once in a lifetime opportunity for Kathy, and we are very excited for her on this next chapter in her journey. Please join us in saying THANK YOU for everything she has done for Mycroft. You have truly been a tremendous asset to the team, Community, and personally both a great team member and mentor to me.
We are also pleased to announce we have identified her successor. We are still nailing down a start date. As soon as we have one, we will be introducing them to the Community. During this time of onboarding and ramp up, we expect that some of the normal things Kathy does will take a little bit longer, but as I mentioned in this blog, we have a wonderful Community that has always stepped up to help each other. Please join the overall Mycroft Community on chat.mycroft.ai and the forum.
Eric has played a number of roles at Mycroft, including executive support, sales and biz dev, marketing, analytics, and donut guy.
His favorite thing to do is man the demo booth at events and meet the Community.