Three Questions for the Wikimedia Foundation’s new CEO, Maryana Iskander

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Maryana Iskander is the Wikimedia Foundation CEO today. After her appointment was first announced in September, she spent two months on a global listening tour to hear from Wikimedia staff and volunteers all over the world. Here is some of what she has learned so far: 

Q: What did you do to prepare for your first day on the job? 

A: Although today is my first “official” day on the job, I have spent the last two months on a Listening Tour learning about this incredible human-led, tech-enabled movement that brings free and open knowledge to everyone! I joined events all over the world organised by local volunteers to hear more about their community contexts, successes, and challenges. I learned about amazing programs to support gender diversity in Mexico, on-the-ground efforts to preserve endangered languages in Nigeria, and innovative ways of bringing women together to contribute to projects in India, as just a few examples. I talked to hundreds of people across 55 countries and saw first-hand the remarkable global diversity of this movement. While the ‘tour’ may be ending, the listening won’t stop – I will continue to speak to and learn from dedicated staff and volunteers who are committed to the cause of free and open knowledge! 

Q: What are you taking from all this listening to help you get started? 

A: I have seen that a shared purpose connects us, even though there are so many different contexts in which people choose to contribute to Wikimedia projects. What struck me most is that the need for access to verified, credible information has never been more urgent in our world. And this movement has unique potential to deliver on that need. We can harness the true multilingualism of projects that span hundreds of languages. We can tap into the sources of motivation that drive people to edit online and build communities offline. At the end of this month, I will be sharing more of what I heard on the listening tour from so many of you.

Q: What will your first priorities be as CEO?

A: As I said in my welcome letter, I am driven by the question of what it will take to create—not just imagine—a world in which every single human being can freely share in the sum of all knowledge? I will begin by focusing on the annual planning processes at the Wikimedia Foundation so that we can share  how our current resources are allocated in support of our mission. This will help us engage with each other, and our movement colleagues, in where targeted investments will support further impact. I will also invest in supporting our Product and Technology teams as we recruit world-class leadership to guide their next phase of growth and innovation. I will also be launching a conversation about our Wikimedia Foundation values and how they guide our organization’s actions, behaviors and performance so that we are more aligned in our expectations of each other. Of course, I don’t get to just do three things at a time, but these will be my key priorities for the first six months! 

Thank you to everyone who participated in Maryana’s listening tour over the past several months. Stay tuned to learn more about Maryana’s takeaways from the tour and what’s next. Welcome, Maryana!

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