Part of the IT Leaders 100 - a list of the most influential IT leaders in the UK in 2023.
Amanda is passionate about open source. As well as being the CEO of OpenUK she holds a number of other roles dedicated to promoting open source technology, including Executive Producer of State of Open Con; elected Board Member, Open Source Initiative; and appointed member of the Cabinet Office Open Standards.
How did you get into IT?
As a junior lawyer, I moved to a law firm in the mid 90's that specialised in IT. They sent me on a Masters program in IT and IP at Queen Mary and I began to advise clients on technology law, particularly through the dotcom boom when I worked at Freeserve as one of the team of 12 who built it and took it to IPO.
I was one of the better-known lawyers in this space publishing E:Business - A Practical Guide to the Laws second edition and editing law journals etc., as well as speaking and working in this area not only with Dixons but various industry bodies. My work included lobbying around the E:Commerce and Distance Selling Directives.
Much later, in 2008, I joined Canonical as General Counsel, setting up and running their legal team for 5 years. I became deeply immersed in open source software and am today recognised as a subject matter expert in that space from a legal, commercial and policy perspective, editing the leading text Open Source Law, Policy and Practise second edition in 2022.
How do you ensure diversity is taken into account in your IT recruitment?
I ensure that the spaces we create such as events have a high level of female participation - and wherever I can, other diverse participation - in the most public and obvious ways. For example, our Thought Leadership Day last year had all female deep expert panel moderators, and our conference in February had predominantly female track hosts. Those who were not female were otherwise obviously diverse.
My experience is that once people get through the door they are made welcome, and the first issue is to show them the door to go through - which may be difficult to see let along get through. I ensure that the door is very clear through blatantly diverse participation.
In terms of bringing in talent, my organisation is largely staffed by volunteers and I actively seek out and engage a diverse group of people, by offering people I see who are talented opportunities that they might not be confident enough to take.
My organisation has 30% women, which is double the open source software average, and our recent conference with circa 800 attendees had 49.7% non white attendees and 46% of the 130 plus speakers identified as women or non-binary. We actively track participation and engagement from a diversity perspective. This does not only mean race and colour, but also neurodiversity. I personally have recently publicly discussed my own neurodiversity in national press and podcasts and will be speaking about this at a major Women in Tech conference later this year. I think owning that and being vulnerable is a big part of allowing people to be diverse around you. It has a magnetic effect and attracts others into an apparently safe space.
Which technology are you currently most excited by?
Like everyone I am excited and somewhat concerned by generative AI. I am most excited by the open source software ChatGPT equivalents like ColossalChat. If we are to have a collective technology future, it will be critical that the successful technologies in AI are open source, and accessible by all.
What would an outsider find the most surprising part of your job?
The need to be able to deal with big picture, holistic policy issues one minute and minutiae the next. Few roles require so much of this ability to switch between the two and my ability to do this is one of the reasons I am best suited to it.
What's your secret talent?
My neurodiversity. I have a number of skills, like relationship building, which were learned and honed as a very young child to allow me to navigate life and manage relationships in a way most children don't need to. These polished skills have allowed me to flourish with an incredibly strong and close network. That support is what has allowed me to be successful.
What makes you laugh?
Lots of things. I laugh easily. The most amusing thing is always real life.