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The call for comments is now closed.

The final Executive Director job description can be found at

The Sakai Foundation seeks an Executive Director. Community members are invited to comment on the job description, posted below. Comments should be submitted by 13 April 2007.

Position Title: Executive Director, Sakai Foundation
Reports to: Chair, Sakai Foundation Board of Directors
Date of Hire: On or about May 31, 2007
Terms: This position is full time and continuing

Applicants should submit a resume and letter of interest to Mary Miles,, who will coordinate this process for the Sakai Foundation Board. Confidential questions about this position may be addressed to Lois Brooks, Resumes for this position will be accepted until 26 April 2007.

Position Summary

The Sakai Foundation seeks an experienced, creative, mature, visionary leader to fill the position of Executive Director (ED). The Sakai Foundation is a non-profit organization that supports the Sakai Project, a collaborative, open source software effort producing teaching, learning, research and collaboration software tools for higher education. The Foundation will have a purposefully small staff. Much of the innovation and tool development will continue to be done where it is best understood - among the distributed community of Sakai users and developers. The ED will facilitate this community in every way possible. He or she will represent the foundation publicly and in business negotiations.

The Executive Director is the chief operating officer of the Sakai Foundation. Candidates should have a distinguished record in leading organizations and working effectively in distributed, collaborative communities. Demonstrated experience leading software development is required, and experience in an academic institution is highly desired.

Scope of position

The Executive Director is responsible for the successful planning and operations of the Sakai Foundation. He or she will develop priorities for the projects in the organization, create and implement plans, manage fiscal and human resources, coordinate programmatic initiatives, technology, and work effort across the entire project. He or she will develop and maintain effective partnerships with other organizations to foster interoperability and cohesion within the academic software development community.

The person in this position must be able to work comfortably in a demand-driven environment, with oversight responsibility for a large number of sophisticated and interrelated software products and requirements. The incumbent must be able to respond quickly to new technical challenges with well-conceived solutions that meet the needs of the Sakai Foundation members.

The ED will have responsibility for maintaining and increasing the Sakai Foundation revenue. This will include communication with members, recruiting new members, and retaining existing members, as well as development of grant proposals.

This position requires extensive experience in delivering academic technology services, which may be gained through a combination of professional experience and education. This position requires excellent leadership and communication skills, expertise with technology, and demonstrated effectiveness in managing staff and projects.


  • Leadership: With the Board of Directors, establish the Foundations vision, mission, and annual goals and objectives. Develop a strategic plan for each year for technology and community development, seeking community input and engaging their support, and evolving the plans to meet changing technology and community priorities. Identify and respond to opportunities and challenges.
  • Outreach: Represent the Sakai Foundation publicly; bring expertise to initiatives and contribute toward development of policy, work practice improvements, and positive outcomes. Develop and maintain effective partnerships with other organizations to assure cohesion and interoperability. Actively engage community members around the world.
  • Technology: Ensure that Sakai remains abreast of, and makes appropriate use of the latest technology advances. Work with Chief Architect and peer software to ensure maximum interoperability of code and content with peer educational projects. Assure a high-quality, dynamic and innovative environment central to meeting the needs of a largely virtual community for software development. Assure there is up-to-date information, access to resources, venues for debate, discussion and exchange on topic issues with and within the whole Sakai community.
  • Product Management: Provide high level coordination for a distributed software development and deployment effort. Coordinate and facilitate the myriad of activities related to the success of the Sakai code base, documentation and training.
  • Program Management: Manage the day-to day operations of the project, monitoring projects and budgets ensuring that mandates are executed in an effective manner consistent with Foundation policies. Effectively balance resources with need.
  • Communication: Develop and manage a successful communications program. Communicate widely and regularly.
  • Community development: Lead and facilitate the development of practices and policies for the Sakai Community. Work constructively with the community to foster activities, encourage community involvement, and develop best practices for technology, process and pedagogy.
  • Fundraising: Participate in development of grant proposals and other fund raising activities. Identify potential (international and national) new initiatives and partnerships to build the community and generate revenue for the purpose of enhancing the original mandate and goals of the project.
  • Administration: Fulfill administrative requirements of the Sakai Foundation including: assuring that the By-Laws of the Foundation are adhered to; actively participating in Sakai Foundation Board as a non-voting member; sign contracts and other legal documents on behalf of the Foundation; establish all administrative policies and procedures.
  • Extensive domestic and international travel required.


  • Demonstrated ability to lead, plan, and support a functionally organized, technically oriented environment, with staff working on a wide variety of technical activities. Ability to forecast, develop and implement organizational initiatives. Ability to think strategically and programmatically as well as successfully manage operations. Ability to set priorities, allocate resources, provide follow-through, assure a well-organized workforce and to provide evaluation of projects and efforts.
  • Excellent management skills, and demonstrated ability to lead, motivate and direct professional and technical staff. Demonstrated success in managing fiscal, technology and human resources Excellent project management skills, including demonstrated ability to deliver software on deadline that meets functional specifications.
  • Excellent oral, written and interpersonal communication skills. Ability to resolve issues quickly and make decisions that meet Sakai Foundation objectives, in a collaborative culture. Demonstrated ability to consistent, effectively and tactfully communicate with people at many levels about academic, administrative, and technical topics. Demonstrated ability to develop and maintain effective working relationships.
  • Extensive experience (8 or more years) leadership in technology leadership and/or community development. Academic experience highly desirable. B.A./B.S. required; advanced degree highly desirable.

Hiring Logistics

Depending on the circumstances of the successful applicant, this position could be established in a number of ways, including:

  • as a grant to an existing organization, with an agreement to second the employee to the Sakai Foundation, if the candidate wishes to remain with his or her institution
  • as a personal consultancy directly to the Sakai Foundation
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  1. 1. There are several sentences scattered throughout the document that end in double period, e.g. "is highly desired.."

    2. Seems the timeframe is quite compressed. Community comments are open until April 13th, then resumes are only accepted until April 26th, and hire by May 31st? Doesn't seem likely you'll have much time for an international search that way?

    3. Position Summary paragraph: I don't think the position qualifies as "newly-formed" anymore.

    4. The position reports to the chair singularly? Not the Board as a whole?

    5. Some statement of the current size of the organization and it's membership or budget might be attractive and useful to likely candidates.

    1. Thanks for the comments. I'll get the edits in place, and will amend with more information about the Foundation.

      Regarding the time frame, it's aggressive to be sure. Our thought is that some interviews can happen via video conference to allow the hiring process to proceed more quickly. Depending on availability of the candidates we may not be able to make this schedule, but I'd like to try.

      The supervisory relationship is with the Board chair. There is a lot of interaction with the board, of course, and the board as a whole is involved with setting direction and priorities for the Foundation, and hence, for the ED. However, it would be unwieldy to report to a committee.

  2. Might want to revise the sentence that describes this position as to "newly-formed" since there has been an ED in the past.

    1. Which demonstrates, of course, that QA matters. Thanks, Megan.

  3. I think this is too much to ask of one person. Consider:

    1. Technical Leadership
    2. Project Promotion
    3. Fundraising
    4. Administrative Management and Budgeting

    In any commercial software company, even a startup-up, each of these would be held by a different person. For Sakai, technical leadership is critical, though if we HAD a chief architect much of it could be offloaded to that person. Lacking such a person, the ED needs to be very technical. I think it will be VERY hard to find someone who is strong both technically AND a good promoter AND can raise funds AND can manage the Sakai staff.

    I would suggest the following. Let the ED focus on technical leadership and project promotion. Designate someone who reports to the ED to supervise the staff (budgets, invoices, etc.). In the long term, funderaiser should be a separate position for someone with proven skills. Meanwhile, perhaps the Board could continue it's fundraising activities.

    I know money is an issue here, but I think that we might find an ED for less money if they were allowed to stay focused on technical leadership and promotion. That would free up money to fund a part time staff supervisor.

    1. I'm not sure that I see technical leadership as an emphasis of this description, but that may be after applying my own filters since I confess that I'm tempted to go the other way. What if the technical leadership came from either a Chief Architect or a technical advisory committee of some sort instead? Is technical leadership really what we need an ED for?

      And how much of this is owed to our history? Others have raised the question of whether we need an ED at all, and while I don't really mean to revisit the issue, it provides a useful starting point: if I start with a clean slate by imagining no ED, and then think about what leadership is called for in the Foundation, given how it's been working itself out in the last couple years, I don't think I end up with a technical lead in view.

      1. History does play a role here, certainly. Not just in my thinking, but also in the community as well. If we had a strong chief architect or a technical advisory committee in place, then the ED could focus his efforts in other directions. I think your suggestion has merit, but I haven't seen much motion towards filling these technical roles. I can think of one or two people who might serve as chief architect. The committee approach requires more thought, I think.

        My point was merely to state that the job description above asks too much of one person. In that, we agree.

    2. Mark,

      You've captured my intent quite well, and I'll work with the text to try to make it more clear.

      For the Sakai Foundation to thrive, there are activities that must be carried out, both by the Foundation staff, and through coordination and collective action in the community. The ED will not do all of the activities himself or herself, but is responsible for assuring that they are done. I was trying to capture the breadth of activities that will need this person's thoughts and attention. However, you're absolutely correct that the ED cannot do all of this alone.

      1. Great! We don't want to scare away candidates. (smile)

      2. I think the phrase under 'Responsibilities' for "Technology: ..." is good, but I think this (earlier) phrase could be clarified: "The incumbent must be able to respond quickly to new technical challenges with well-conceived solutions that meet the needs of the Sakai Foundation members."

        I expect you mean the "solution" is co-ordinated community effort rather than technical design, in line with the comments by Clay and Mark above. I agree with this vein of discussion – I believe the ED's #1 responsibility is in leading the community, not the product.

        I think it is more important for the ED to know what the community looks like in 12 months time than what Sakai 3.0 looks like. The ED's goal is then to grow the community – in participation, in vision, in finances, in effectiveness, in people. And it growing the community, to help them define what Sakai 3.0 looks like.

        So more than just "The ED will facilitate this community", what about "The ED will lead, cultivate and facilitate this community" (or similar)? A statement along similar lines could also appear in the next paragraph – ie. experience in multi-organisational projects or volunteer-projects would be highly desirable. I think there is a unique dimension to leading a project through influence (in a community of equals, the ED can never appeal to "a higher institutional authority" – each institution has its own hierarchy and priorities)

        Finally, I think it would be good to incorporate something about team building and succession planning. The longevity of the community will crucially depend on the capacity of the ED to identify leadership gaps, help them to get filled and help them to stay filled through effective succession planning. And the ED should exemplify that in their leadership/management of foundation staff.

        PS: I apologise for the length of my comments (wink)

        1. Nathan,

          Thanks very much for the thoughtful comments. I've incorporated your ideas and some of your words into the job description.