ROSE Blog Interviews: Cheryl McKinnon, CMO of Nuxeo

Rikki Kite

ROSE Blog: Rikki's Open Source Exchange

Oct 19, 2009 GMT
Rikki Kite

Cheryl McKinnon will be one of the speakers at this week's Ontario Linux Fest. In this interview, Cheryl talks about her new role at the rapidly growing open source ECM company Nuxeo.

Q: Who are you?

A: My name is Cheryl McKinnon. I've spent most of my career in the technology space known as ECM – Enterprise Content Management. It's a pretty broad category that includes software to help companies with their electronic content: document and records management, archiving, workflow, and collaboration. I became interested in this area while a grad student in History – started thinking about some of the preservation and archive risks we will face in the future as the world of work goes online and we forget traditional record-keeping practices. Companies, governments, and individuals need to think about what kind of digital legacy we're going to leave for future generations.

After 10+ years working for proprietary vendors, I made the jump into open source this year when I joined my current company, Nuxeo.

Q: What do you currently do in open source? What do you love about it?

A: I am the Chief Marketing Officer for a small – but quickly growing – open source ECM company. It's a very exciting time because they're [Nuxeo] launching themselves into the North American market after many years of success in Europe. One of the biggest items on my to-do list is to help educate business buyers on why open source is a safe, secure, sensible option for their corporate content management. There are still a lot of outdated and inaccurate perceptions of open source out there. What I love is explaining how simple and straightforward it is to download and try out what we offer. No tricks or catches. Just call us and sign up for a support package when they're ready to roll out. That's our value to the market, that's how we make a living. I love the looks on people's faces, almost a sense of disbelief that it can be so easy to get started on a project.

What often frustrated me in the proprietary world was watching the endless sales cycle charade that would last months. A customer wants to buy, the company wants to sell, but the back and forth on contracts and legal and crippled eval versions and price negotiation just becomes tiresome. In the meantime, the end users are suffering due to lack of a system to help them manage their critical business documents. With the open source model, we let people just get it done.

Q: You're speaking to a group of women from other fields who are considering switching careers. Why should they consider moving into an open source-related career? What should they know about the open source environment to prepare them for the transition from a different field?

A: Great question – I'm a big supporter of activities designed to get more women in tech, whether open source or proprietary. There is still a lot of bias in the field, and even in this second decade of the 21st century I've received emails that said “dear gents”.

The elements of the open source world that should appeal to women are:

  • Transparency – Good code is good code regardless of the gender, color, or ethnicity of the person who created it. Quality work product is available for everyone to see and learn from. Talent and skill can speak for itself.
  • Community – Collaboration and knowledge sharing are often perceived as habits associated with women, so working towards mutually beneficial goals and milestones with peers, customers, partners should make perfect sense in the open source development model. Empire-building and internal fiefdoms aren't the goals here.
  • Opportunity – The category is so incredibly vast. As business acceptance of open source accelerates, the range of technology products created with open source models has really shifted – it's not just operating systems any more, but interesting apps intended for everyday business users. No shortage of interesting projects out there. No one talked about open source ECM five years ago, now we're being tracked by all of the big-name industry analysts and creating new job opportunities around the globe.


Q: You're speaking to a group of high school students (male and female). Why should they consider exploring career options in open source?

A: No one has a magic crystal ball to see the future, but I think it is a safe bet to assume that many companies learned a tough lesson over the last year. The economic uncertainty that's out there is a wake up call for organizations to pay attention to how and where their limited resources are being put to use. Many of the industry pundits are saying the this is the time for open source to become a lasting force in the enterprise application market because companies are looking for leaner, less-expensive software alternatives. As open source adoption rises, it means more jobs not only for developers but for marketers, integrators, tech writers, and system administrators. It's not just the computer grads who should pay attention to this space – it's anyone interested in where the future of the technology business is going.

To find out more about Cheryl, check out her blog at: http://candyandaspirin.blogspot.com

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