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Letter to the Community: Reflections on my time with OpenMedia

The one-and-only Alexa Pitoulis looks back on her 2 years with OpenMedia, as our Managing Director and later as our Interim Executive Director

When I was hired as OpenMedia’s Managing Director over 2 years ago I was asked a question that had me curious and excited:

At OM, we do our best to weaveDan Pink’s ‘Mastery, Autonomy, and Purpose’ throughout our organizational culture. How would you, in your role as Managing Director, create conditions that support mastery, autonomy, and purpose?”

Wow. This was an organization I want to be a part of. So I took the job.

To be honest, I didn’t know the answer. My work and focus for some time, however, had been on playing with how to create the containers (organizations and businesses) that support individuals to actualize their greatest potential to transform the world. I had some clues as to where to start. I was ready and eager to experiment. Thankfully OpenMedia’s founder, Steve Anderson, and the rest of the team was game to play.

The week I started at OpenMedia in May 2014, the team was in 5th gear working on the Stop the Secrecy and Net Neutrality campaigns. I was in complete awe at how this small group could be amplifying the voices of so many citizens at such an incredible level. I was also in awe about how this team was having such an impact while being crammed in very small office spaces with dirty floors and working so much that the preferred communication methods were often IM chat over in-person conversations. These struck me as classic startup phase characteristics.

Over the last 2+ years, I have worked in close collaboration with Steve Anderson and each individual on our growing team to lead OpenMedia out of its startup phase – into the significantly more mature organization it has become.

How did we do it?

We started at the bottom and built a foundation. A foundation built on culture, leadership, and operationalizing our core operating principles. In practice this meant developing team agreements and learning how to communicate more honestly, humanly, and effectively together. We’ve put many processes and systems (human resources, financial, and project management) in place that make us feel very grown up. We also started from the top by having the team come together on vision and strategy. (Check out our Under The Hood blog series for more about OpenMedia’s vision here and our Strategic Goals for 2016-2018 here).

The diagram below is a framework used to visualize how the pieces I describe above fit together in an organizational ecosystem (Reference Carol Sanford):

OD ring framework.jpg

Needless to say, my time at OpenMedia has been largely behind the scenes, often working very closely with our Operations Manager, Jes Simkin (#JesIsTheBest) building great momentum on all the above. I have learned so much through the process - about myself and about building purpose-driven organizations.

Finally, a key piece of this maturation process was Founder and former Executive Director, Steve Anderson’s leadership transition into the role of Senior Strategist (more on that here). It is no secret that for many organizations the founder’s transition doesn’t always go smoothly. For us at OpenMedia, while not without effort and challenge, the process has gone very well. This is a huge testament to the grace, openness, and desire to put the needs of the team and our community first, that Steve brought to every step of this process. Thank you Steve. I am also grateful and appreciative of the leadership and support of each OpenMedia Board member as well as each member of our team.

Which brings me to the crux of this post. The final phase of the leadership transition was to bring on a new Executive Director with the passion, skills, wit, and smarts to lead OpenMedia to the next level. I am thrilled to say we have found that new special someone in Laura Tribe. You may know Laura as our awesome and feisty Privacy campaign lead. She has kicked some serious butt with her work on Stingrays and overturning Canada’s reckless surveillance law, Bill C-51. What you may not know is that Laura also has great experience, interest, and aptitude for taking on the functions of the Executive Director role. I see it like this:

Kick-Ass Campaigner + Deep Knowledge of and Passion for Digital Rights + ED Leadership Skills = #BestFit4OMsNewED

What’s next for me? Short answer is I don’t know yet. It was very clear to me when I accepted the role of interim Executive Director in January 2016 that the long-term role of OM’s new ED was not for me. I’m an expert in leading teams through transitions. I love working on the human dynamics to develop the people, the processes, and the systems. OpenMedia is through its start-up transition – time to pass the torch over to Laura.

What I do know is that I am sticking close by OpenMedia as a supporter, a community member, a friend, and as a monthly donor 😊

I can’t wait to see where Laura, with the team’s support, takes OpenMedia next. All the best!


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