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In the trenches with...Martin Musierowicz of Alfresco

In this third installment of In the Trenches, I talk with someone I know and love: Martin Musierowicz, who ostensibly works for me but from whom I learn every day.

Our next installment of the "In the Trenches" series introduces us to someone that I know very well, Martin Musierowicz of Alfresco. Martin works for me and has been exceptional. He came to Alfresco with ~eight years of open source experience and has put it to work for the company. Martin is proof that while I stink at most things, I hire very well.

Martin grudgingly agreed to talk for The Open Road once a month's salary was withheld. Martin fits this Series' profile perfectly: someone of which you may not have heard, but who has added significant revenue and expertise to the company. Martin is the best open source partner person I've met. JBoss taught him well to request value for value. Indeed, as he says below, open source companies can't afford to partner cheaply...

Name, company, title, and what you actually do

Martin Musierowicz, Senior Director of Channels...responsible for Strategic Alliances and OEMs (i.e., Glorified sales guy).

Do you work remotely or in an office with co-workers?

Work remotely, although it doesn't feel so remote with a 15-month old running through the house and peering through my office doors. Everyone on the Alfresco US team works remotely. We meet up for conferences, customers, and partners.

If you've had a similar role in a proprietary software company, how does your current role compare? Similarities? Differences?

Can't say that I did. Most of my "real" career has been in open source (IBM, JBoss, and now Alfresco). Before open source I worked in pharmaceuticals...I wish I could somehow relate my job in pharmaceuticals to open source, but that is like trying to compare Benito Mussolini to Richard Stallman....

How familiar were you with open source before you joined your current company?

I've been fortunate enough to have been involved with open source for almost a decade (Project Monterey at Sequent, Linux/OSDL at IBM, Middleware at JBoss, and now ECM at Alfresco). Open source is an evolution. Meaning, just when I think I'm familiar with open source, it changes. Tomorrow always brings new challenges.

Why did you join an open source vendor?

Truthfully, it was to make money in the stock market. I made, then lost, a modest amount of money in the bubble (who didn't :-) and I was looking for the next big thing.

I asked myself what company is making the most money then I asked what/who is their biggest threat/competitor. At the time is was Microsoft and I decided to go into the Linux business. Later it was IBM/BEA when I joined JBoss. As for Alfresco, that was luck. I met John Powell and John Newton at JBoss World Barcelona. They seemed like decent guys and I had too much open source on my resume to stop just yet.

How long did it take you to adjust to an open source operational mode?

Although I had worked in open source at IBM, it was a big transition when I moved to JBoss. At IBM we were promoting Linux, but we had tons of money to throw at sales and marketing. If it needed to be done, we had budget for it. JBoss was a wake up call. We would not engage in the simplest of activities or initiatives if there wasn't immediate money involved, and I strongly believe that this is (or should be) the open source way. Marten Mickos puts it best when he states that users can either pay MySQL by donating code or paying for subscriptions. That's it, no magic or sleight of hand.

In open source we are developing and innovating, and this incurs costs. Larger companies might have the luxury of a sales and marketing budget, but not most open source vendors....We need a commitment upfront because we are already giving the keys to the kingdom in the form of free software.

What do you think open source companies could learn from proprietary vendors?

I believe that enterprise software companies put more value on customers. (Please hear me out before the tomatoes and rotten cabbage start flying.) Open source values the development community and a large ecosystem of partners and the customers...and they should. But traditional vendors are myopically focused on the end customer and maybe open source should be more so. I realize that part of the beauty of open source is the community and I agree, but at the end of the day paying customers determine product requirements, direction and strategy.

At Alfresco, we take pride in our community, but we understand that it is the customers that keep the lights on and more importantly, feeds my baby. Open source should be more focused on discussing and thanking their customers. Traditional vendors thank their customers constantly. I feel that sometimes open source vendors spend too much time thanking their communities and not thanking the people that make everything possible...the paying customer.

Thanks, Martin. Releasing the funds now. Our next few submissions will take us to Zimbra, rSmart, and Hyperic. Stay tuned!