8 minutes reading time (1665 words)

Leadership interview: Luca Marzo


If anyone knows from personal experience what it’s like to be on the Board of Directors of Open Source Matters (the organisation powering Joomla), it would be Luca Marzo. He recently started his seventh term as Secretary of the Board, elected by us, the people of Joomla. After six terms on the Board, is there still any fun left? And what makes a good Board? Read and find out!

Congratulations on the election results Luca! We’re happy to have you once again as the Secretary of our Board.

This is your seventh term as Secretary. Does it never get boring?

How can anyone get bored in Joomla? Well, some fellow Board Members referred to me as the “Senator”, given my long presence in the Board. In reality, every year has been different, some of them have been exciting and rich of progress and achievements, some of them have been less interesting and full of difficulties. I completed my 6th term a few days ago and I can say that Joomla (and the web as such) today is completely different from when I started. I’m older too… 😀

You have seen a lot of different Boards during your six terms as a  Secretary. In your opinion, what does it take for a Board to function at its best?

I had the opportunity to work with many Board Members, 37 to be precise, as of today, including 5 Presidents, 6 Vice Presidents, 6 Treasurers and 25 Department Coordinators. Each of them contributed to make Joomla what it is today. As mentioned before, some terms have been more difficult, due to the challenges that we had to face, including legal cases and a high turnover rate in the Board. A Board works well when there are three key items: respect, responsibility and commitment. 

If Board members respect themselves and the Community, if they take their role seriously, with responsibility and are committed to improve the Project, then the Board will accomplish a lot to advance Joomla and its Community. Obviously, if respect is missing, if Board meetings are perceived as a battle arena, if Board members aren’t committed and don’t do their job, then the Board is dysfunctional and some members need to fulfill the tasks of those who are not delivering.

Being a Board member requires passion and commitment, and even more importantly, free time to devote to the Project. 

Could you describe what you do?

I’ve done many things over the years and the role has transformed itself. I’d say that the role of a Board Member becomes tailored to the person who takes it. Every one of us sees a role with a different perspective. The Secretary role has some “statutory” responsibilities, like arranging meetings, taking minutes, organising elections, ensuring compliance with laws and regulations, keeping the keys, and similar tasks. Being the oldest in the role made me become some kind of “consultant” for other Board members. I tried to support them, onboarding newcomers, offboarding leavers and ensuring continuity. I also serve as “historical knowledge” for Board members. I oversee sponsorship and partnership agreements, drafting the contracts, collecting signatures and archiving legal documents. Last but not least, I try to increase the efficiency of the administrative processes as well as contain costs, through grants and partnerships.

What do you want to achieve in your seventh term as Secretary?

I’m committed to continue optimising the internal processes and procedures to best serve the corporate needs. I’ll be there to support the Board and the Community for another year and provide historical knowledge whenever necessary. 

During this term, I will contribute to the fundraising initiatives and try to strengthen the relationships with Sponsors.

In your opinion, what makes a good Secretary?

That’s a difficult question. I was the only one since the structure transition of 2017 and I’m sure that there could be a better Secretary than me. I can say I did my best, especially in the beginning, to learn as much as I can, to fulfill my duties. The first time I was elected it was totally new to me and I had no idea of what I was supposed to do as Secretary. The whole leadership structure was new, so I had the opportunity to build the role as I thought it should be. In my opinion, a good Secretary should be there, should be present, should be reachable, approachable and should ensure stability. Whoever fills this role should devote time to understand things and be present for the Community. 

So who wants to be the next one?

What does the Board of OSM do?

The Board of Directors and Officers is the governing body of the organisation. Differently from other organisations, the Board is directly elected by team members. The Board should set the direction for the Project, should encourage volunteers to contribute and ensure a fair and safe environment for them. The Board should prepare the annual budget for the organisation and ensure an income flow to sustain the organisation’s expenses. Directors, specifically, should represent their departments and teams instances and needs. 

What is the most common misconception people have about the Board of OSM?

People see the Board as an abstract body which is disconnected from the project. That is far from the truth, since the Board is made of representatives directly elected by the active members of the project. I see this as one of the major advantages of the new leadership structure that we’ve introduced back in 2017. 

But, sometimes we’ve had misconceptions within the Board itself. For example, a few years ago, there was a Department Coordinator who pretended that tasks would have been completed by their department team members without even the need to talk to them. This kind of thing doesn't happen in corporations, so it's nonsense in a not-for-profit as well.

Are there any other Board roles you’d like to fulfill?

Even though it was just for one week, I originally got elected as Programs Director in 2017, before getting elected as Secretary. In the past I thought to be interested in running for President, one day, but over the years I changed my mind and realised that the only role suitable for me would have been the Secretary one, so that made me run for 7 terms, as of now, waiting for a successor to take over.

When a successor is appointed, it would be interesting to participate in the Advisory Board, so that I can continue to provide advice and suggestions to Board members. But there is a roadblock for that, since it would require me to not be involved at all in teams, instead I like to be a member of the organisation, being active in a few teams, like the Magazine one.

Where would you say Joomla stands at the moment?

From a technical perspective, Joomla is at its peak. We have the best version of Joomla ever available at the moment. It’s a robust, secure and performant software, it includes all the best practices and lessons learned from the previous versions (almost 18 years of development). It’s a complete and high quality product, which is stable and can be deployed either for personal websites and for large companies. 

From a community point of view, we have to be honest: we’ve lost a lot of volunteers over the years. That happened for several reasons: drama, broken friendships, project politics and the difficulty to find new volunteers, as the PHP-based ecosystem is less attractive for newcomers to web development. 

We failed big time at the “3 Rs”: recruitment, recognition and retention. These three should have represented the three pillars around which we’ve tried to build the Volunteers Engagement Program. 

We need to restart it but we need to change the order: let’s start with recognition: we should be grateful for the work carried out by the volunteers and we should thank them more for that. Recognition has a direct impact on retention: happy volunteers who feel appreciated and can contribute into a safe and healthy environment tend to stay more. Less drama, less friction, more collaboration and progress. A healthy environment is more attractive and makes it easier to find new volunteers, so here comes the recruitment phase, supported by specific programs like GSoC, when available.

What would you like to see happen for Joomla in the coming years?

I’m nostalgic. I wish to see a high number of volunteers contributing to the project again. Back in 2017 we had more than 200 voting members, which means that we had a lot of official teams with many people involved in them. Over the years the number of voting members has decreased to roughly 85 people recently. So what I want to see is a trend of growth in team members and activities. Having more people means that we, as organisation and project, are able to carry out a higher number of activities and initiatives.

How can we all help to make that happen?

Joomla means “all together” / “together as a whole”. Sometimes we forget that. We all can make things happen. We all count and each one can do their “bit” towards an achievement or a milestone. So my invitation is to start (or restart) contributing regularly to Joomla. You can do it in any capacity you prefer. There are many roles to be filled, from administration to infrastructure, from development to translations, from social media to fundraising. Joomla offers many opportunities and allows you to cooperate with talented professionals from the whole globe, so it’s an exciting experience that I’d recommend to anyone, especially young people.

As Luca says, volunteering in one of the Joomla teams is a very valuable experience. You get to meet new people, learn a lot and develop new skills you never thought you had in you. And there’s something to do for everyone, no matter what background or skill set.  What are you waiting for? Read more about what you can do: https://magazine.joomla.org/all-issues/february-2023/who-does-joomla-need-right-now 

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