One of the most important sites on the Internet has a new leader: Lila Tretikov is the new executive director of the Wikimedia Foundation, the nonprofit that operates Wikipedia and supports its volunteer corps.
Tretikov was formerly chief product officer at SugarCRM, having worked at the business software company since 2006. She assumes the role from outgoing executive director Sue Gardner on June 1.
Tretikov said in a statement, “When I got the news, I thought, ‘This is big in every way: A big website — the fifth most popular in the world. A big community — 80,000 active Wikimedians from around the globe. And a big mission — nothing less than making the sum of all human knowledge freely available to all.’”
Wikimedia — which is fighting an uphill battle to increase the diversity of the people who write its content — cited Tretikov’s personal background and experience with open-source engineering as reasons for the choice.
Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales said, “When I first met with her, she talked compellingly about her childhood growing up in the Soviet Union, and she was genuinely and deeply motivated by Wikimedia’s mission to spread free knowledge to people everywhere in the world. I also appreciated her experience with open-source technologies, and I am really happy we found someone with a strong background in product and engineering.”
Coming off more than six years as executive director, Gardner noted, “The WMF needs a person who is generally flexible and open to influence, but who also knows when to be unyielding, for example when Wikipedia is threatened with censorship. I think Lila has that rare ability to be either soft or hard, as the circumstances require.”
“It’s extremely uncommon for someone from a nonprofit background to have the level of product and engineering experience that the foundation was looking for,” said a foundation post that explained the choice and noted that more than half the Wikimedia staff are engineers and half its costs are technology-related.
The post also noted that Tretikov was not a Wikipedia editor herself, though she has been a reader for years.