Canonical: Take 60 seconds with Henrik Omma

Lynda Phillips lynda.phillips at
Wed Sep 1 10:55:28 BST 2010


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later releases that function has been replaced by Wubi which actually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.

If you are interested in a career with Canonical please visit our web
site at

To post your vacancy to this mailing list please send an email to
ubuntu-jobs at

The Canonical Team

Lynda Phillips
HR Recruitment Specialist
lynda.phillips at
Phone: +442076302436

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