More From Your Newest Board Member: An Interview with Cheryl R. Blain

12/12/2014

Recently, The FreeBSD Foundation announced the addition of Cheryl R. Blain to the Board of Directors. We sat down with Cheryl to find out more about her background and what brought her to the Foundation. Take a look at what she has to say:

Tell us a little about yourself, and how you got involved with FreeBSD?

Cheryl R. Blain

Cheryl R. Blain

I was bit by the entrepreneur bug in 1999 when working for a non-profit. I’ve worked with high-tech, venture-backed, small-cap companies ever since. My typical engagement finds me streamlining operations and sales teams to prepare companies for their next step forward, which most often involves financing.

I have a master’s degree in business administration with a dual emphasis in finance and sustainable enterprise, from Saint Mary’s College and as a visiting student at UNC Kenan-Flagler.

Xinuos is the latest high-tech, venture-backed company to which I’ve plied my wares. While working for Xinuos, I was exposed to FreeBSD for the first time in 2013. During my first week on the job, I was asked if I was willing to go to Ottawa, Canada to learn more about FreeBSD and the community of developers. The head of engineering and I felt the conference was very important to Xinuos’ future, so we decided it was an opportunity not to be missed. Since the trip was so unexpected, I actually had to have my passport over-night shipped to me in our New Jersey office so I could leave the following day! My colleague and I attended BSDCan and it was everything we had hoped it would be. We were welcomed by the development community and pleasantly inundated with inquiries about our interest in FreeBSD. David Chisnall was an especially helpful evangelist of FreeBSD, and made sure my colleague and I had the information we needed.

Why are you passionate about serving on the FreeBSD Foundation Board?

The FreeBSD community (including the board) is in no small part the reason I chose to learn more about the project as a commercial offering two years ago. My passion is in building businesses, and I wanted to work on a project that was technologically sound, well supported and attractive to people who I like and respect. The FreeBSD community quickly forgave me for being the least technical person in the room, and was wonderful in embracing the value I can bring to the community from a business perspective.

I look forward to doing my part to ensure that the FreeBSD project has a vibrant future.

What excited you about our work?

There are many things that make FreeBSD interesting…but the first time I think I got really excited was in Ottawa in 2013, when Matt Ahrens gave his talk on ZFS. Every developer in the room was abuzz with excitement. In Matt’s presentation he listed logos of the other open source operating systems using ZFS, but I connected with how the room full of BSD developers really embraced Matt as their own. His bold move to pack his box at Oracle to continue his open source work, helped me realize the people associated with FreeBSD are not status quo…they are pushing the envelope. Then I met Peter Grehan and Neel Natu and was introduced to their work on bhyve, and Justin and George as Foundation board members and FreeBSD committers and knew that even though the FreeBSD project has been around since 1993, new excitement and innovation is happening right now. And I haven’t even mentioned Capsicum or Clang! Oh and I can’t forget, I was there for the naming of Groff with all the rowdy laughter and good spirited banter, and it was then that I felt like I was among friends.

What are you hoping to bring to the organization and the community through your new leadership role?

I hope that my participation in the planning discussions will encourage other business leaders to join in the discussions as well.

I also hope to encourage those who use FreeBSD commercially to become more vocal about their experiences and use cases, to encourage others to develop with FreeBSD as well. In doing so, there is a great opportunity to build an endowment among alum to ensure a vibrant future for FreeBSD.

How do you see your background and experience complementing the current board?

I will be delighted if I am successful in bringing a business lens to the board discussions. I would like to help elevate FreeBSD in the minds of technology companies worldwide and see a broader acceptance of the OS as a commercially desirable alternative.

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