Sara, I know these two years have been difficult. We’ve all been through a lot and you’ve borne the brunt of it. You’ve been willing to take on more than you likely should have and you’ve shown me how much you care about this team - and me in particular. I don’t know what the future for us will hold but I believe that the work you’ve done with us has helped us grow and be better able to support our communities. You’ve left us in a stronger place than where we were a year ago. Thank you for that.
While I sorely miss the CMs who have left; you have worked to leave us a stronger team than we were a year ago. Stephanie is an excellent organizer and supporter for us and keeps us unblocked and moving forward. Rosie has already shown her excellence as a manager as well as an eager learner of how our community works and I think it’s fair to say that JNat and I are excited to have her. I can already tell I have plenty to learn from Philippe and Ayo and look forward to getting to know them better. And, as the leader of our whole department, Teresa has been an excellent ally and supporter and I look forward to working more closely with her.
I wish you joy in the world of Open Source engineering.
The last two years we’ve had Sara as our Director have been complicated. Her most publicly-recognized actions at the start of her tenure put her at odds with the community. I recognize that and that it likely still colors how many of you see her. What you may not realize is how much our relationship has changed over the last 18 months. In late 2019 I didn’t feel like I could talk to her about anything. Now - particularly since the start of this year - she’s one of the people I trust the most to listen to me and someone who I know values my experience and expertise. She’s also someone who has worked with me closely to help me grow.
As she departs, I offer you all a bit of an overview of that change and how it’s impacted me. I want to share a side of her that you likely haven’t seen because, as rough as her beginnings were, she chose to listen, learn and grow and devote her energy to supporting us as we’ve worked to rebuild your trust and improve your experience here.
I met Sara in person in May 2019, in NYC, at my first team meetup. She was introduced to us as our new Director of Community and we found out the structure of our team was changing drastically as we were moved under the Engineering organization. Most of our interactions over the next few months were in passing - I don’t remember interacting with Sara much at all between the meetup in May and so much falling apart in September.
After September, it’s fair to say that relationships were strained - I saw more of Sara as the team worked together over several weeks to document, discuss and work towards understanding what happened, how to address it, and how to prevent it from happening in the future. At the company meetup in Austin in November 2019 we spent time as a group with our VP of Engineering at the time, Mary, leading us in discussions to work on that relationship - talking about how we felt in person. Sara heard a lot from us at this meetup - our feelings, pain and struggles, much of it directed at her and - while I’m sure it was difficult, she listened.
While things weren’t “all better” after that meetup, our ability to communicate, be heard and get things we needed seemed to improve… Then, in that January 2020 week, we lost three CMs - the three longest-serving, most community-connected members of our team. Immediately after, we were moved to be part of the Product team and Teresa was hired to be the company’s Chief Product Officer.
With these losses, our team structure changed again - it had to. With only four CMs left, there was only so much we could do and a lot we had to scramble to pick up. Sara became much more active in our work as we started making quarterly roadmaps and working as a team to discuss and plan the projects we wanted to get through each quarter.
Infrequent communication became regular, as work on the Moderator Council and the Moderator agreement were my priorities and Sara was closely involved with both. She was always open to my feedback and guidance and was able to see the value in it and accept it. There were key points in 2020 when things started to change - where I would reach out to Sara when things were stuck and I needed some help and she’d be there with an answer or offer to find one if she didn’t have one.
I spent a lot of 2020 not sure whether working here was where I wanted to be. I was struggling a lot and was unhappy, and that impacted the people around me negatively. It was so easy to see every stumble others made as evidence of malice when, really, there was none intended. The fact is, our system is complex and we’re all learning more about it every day, so it’s easy to make errors. I think the important thing is how we react to others pointing out errors, more than trying to avoid them entirely.
After the new year Sara acknowledged what she saw - my frustration and unhappiness and asked me whether I still wanted to be here - did I feel that I was still able to do good for the Community and myself or had I given up and was burning out. She told me that, if I did want to stay, she wanted to help me change how I was thinking about things. She affirmed that she saw how much I cared about the communities here and that I was an asset to them and the company, but she could tell I was struggling.
And so I thought about it. I had been unhappy, but a lot had changed - the new team structure - splitting the CMs into three teams - was still being figured out and, while I felt lost and unsure what my new role was and as hard as the last 18 months had been, things were getting better. I had chosen to join the Community Operations team and Sara was my direct manager and JNat was working closely alongside me and those were both strong points of support.
I realized that, as much as it’d been hard, I still wanted to be here - things were improving and new people were being added to the team. So, I took her up on her offer and, for the last two months, Sara has listened - we’ve talked twice-weekly about all sorts of things - she’s helped me work through things that were bothering me, answered questions, asked questions and just been there to support me and help me feel like someone actually heard what I was saying and wanted to get action on things I thought were important.
And, so, as she leaves, here I am.
There are good things that Sara's established and I look forward to seeing what the future holds. With this role changing to be a VP instead of a director, there'll be a lot more visibility of the needs of the community at the executive level to support and grow upon what Teresa's already been doing for us.
As I wrap this up, I’d like to end with something Sara wrote in her leaving email to the whole company, which she’s kindly given me permission to quote here:
Please handle our Community Team with care, they mean a lot to me and they deserve all the best things.