Build & maintain complex distributed systems
October 1–2, 2017: Training
October 2–4, 2017: Tutorials & Conference
New York, NY

Find your way: Orienteering for managers

VM Brasseur (@vmbrasseur), Deb Nicholson (Software Freedom Conservancy)
11:35am12:15pm Tuesday, October 3, 2017
Technical Leadership
Location: Grand Ballroom West
Average rating: *****
(5.00, 1 rating)

Who is this presentation for?

  • Anyone who has been been tasked with building, managing, and growing a team

What you'll learn

  • Learn immediately actionable short-term tips and long-term strategies for both happy and unhappy teams
  • Understand how to build the environments in which teams thrive


Collaborative software building has its own special challenges: globally distributed teams, stakeholders who are coming from very different perspectives, and often a mix of paid and volunteer contributors. The good news is that there are lots of ways to improve a team’s communications and collective goal-setting as well as solid and reproducible ways to set expectations and build accountability without getting lost in the wilderness. The bad news is that it rarely works the way you expect because people are complicated and sometimes there are pockets of quicksand that no one warned you about.

Drawing on their deep experience with building both internal and external teams composed of a combination of different skillsets, seniority, and goals, VM Brasseur and Deb Nicholson share a map to productive, happy teams, covering setting the tone, nuts and bolts, ideas for troubleshooting, and where to learn more. You’ll leave with immediately actionable strategies for how to orient new team members, navigate thorny situations, and surmount communication challenges.

Photo of VM Brasseur

VM Brasseur


VM (aka Vicky) Brasseur spent most of her time in the tech industry leading software development departments and teams and providing technical management and leadership consulting for small and medium businesses. Now she leverages nearly 30 years of free and open source software experience and a strong business background to advise companies about free and open source software, technology, community, business, and the intersections between them. Vicky is the proud winner of the Perl White Camel Award (2014) and the O’Reilly Open Source Award (2016) and is the author of Forge Your Future with Open Source, the first book to detail how to contribute to free and open source software projects. (Think of it as the missing manual on open source contributions and community participation.) She’s the vice president of the Open Source Initiative, a moderator and author for, and a frequent and popular speaker at free and open source conferences and events. She frequently blogs about free and open source software, business, and technical management.

Photo of Deb Nicholson

Deb Nicholson

Software Freedom Conservancy

Deb Nicholson is the director of community operations at Software Freedom Conservancy, where she supports the work of its member organizations and facilitates collaboration with the wider free software community. A free software policy expert and a passionate community advocate, Deb previously served as the community outreach director for the Open Invention Network, a shared defensive patent pool on a mission to protect free and open source software, and the membership coordinator for the Free Software Foundation. She’s won the O’Reilly Open Source Award for her work with GNU MediaGoblin, a federated media-hosting service, and OpenHatch, free software’s welcoming committee. She is also a founding organizer of the Seattle GNU/Linux Conference, an annual event dedicated to surfacing new voices and welcoming new people to the free software community. She lives with her husband and her lucky black cat in Cambridge, Massachusetts.