Every six months (in January and August) the CentOS board has the opportunity to reelect, or replace half of the directors. This staggered approach was adopted so that we are never in a situation where the entire board (or even a significant majority) is replaced, leaving no experienced directors.
In the January 2022 board meeting, the CentOS Board selected two new directors to replace outgoing directors Jim Perrin and Karanbir Singh - Celeste Lyn Paul and Amy Marrich. In the February meeting, these new directors attended as full members for the first time.
Last week I had the pleasure of speaking with Celeste about how her journey has brought her here, and her vision for her time on the board.
A video of this interview is on YouTube.
Celeste just recently started at Mitre, but over the past 2 decades has had a variety of educational and government positions.
Celeste has several art degrees, which informed the usability and human factors work that she did early in her open source career, which was for the KDE project, and extended to the KUbuntu projects. She was very instrumental in the usability project in KDE, which wasn’t just focused on the desktop environment, but worked with different distributions to understand how they were setting default preferences for users to make sure the KDE user experience worked well with what they were working on the core project. That allowed her to get to know how distributions worked, but also how upstream and downstream interact with each other.
She also got to work with printer vendors, and other commercial entities, that contribute to open source, but are not pure open source, to see how the whole ecosystem works.
She worked in user experience and human factors field in the commercial sector for about 10 years, and then began graduate school, where she worked on a PhD in human-centered computing, which is a field that combines computer science, psychology, and design, where you understand how humans interact with technology, and technology interacts with humans.
She joined the department of defense, where she did research looking at visualization and analytics, understanding how people interact with technology, or use technology to interact with data. That’s also where she started getting interested in cybersecurity.
She is now at the MITRE corporation, where she is a principle cybersecurity engineer.
I asked Celeste what her vision is for the coming year (or, hopefully, years!) on the CentOS board. She again emphasized user experience and usability. As compared to 15 or 20 years ago, when usability was not a high priority in open source software, today everyone recognizes the importance of usability and user experience. But whenever new technology is introduced, you have to understand how that impacts users. There’s always some kind of design that needs to be done. Ensuring that there’s a healthy usability and design community is important to her.
There’s also the business aspect of how upstream and downstream interact with each other. There have, of course, been recent changes with CentOS and how we interact with RHEL and Fedora. Ensuring that we maintain a healthy community, and everyone understands what their roles are and how to contribute, is important for the longevity of the project.
Celeste is also a university instructor, and feels that this keeps her connected with the learning process, which gives insight into how beginning technology users interact with technology, which, in turn, is very informative in terms of how technology should be designed. There can be a tendency for us to get stuck in seeing the world how it was when we, ourselves, started, and lose sight of the perspective of today’s audiences.
And her work in government has taught her a lot of leadership skills, and especially around achieving consensus and resolving conflict in diverse groups of stakeholders.
On behalf of the CentOS community, I want to welcome Celeste to the board, and I look forward to what the board will accomplish in the coming year.