Succession Planning

Hello @team!

Ticket to log time

There has been great fortune in the Piacenti household in the past year. We greeted our first child, Evelyn, into the world back in September, and my wife Amber was recently accepted into graduate school. In a few years, she’ll be a licensed, practicing psychologist. These changes are ones I’m happy and grateful for, but they leave me in a tight spot.

For the last few years, I’ve had the incredible opportunity to work with the best team I could hope for. I brag about each and every one of you and your capabilities when I talk about the work I do. My favorite thing to say is ‘I could hand a task to any team member, go to sleep, and expect it to be done right by morning.’ That’s not a complement you hear about most teams, let alone most engineering teams.

Part of what makes our team work in the way it does is that we have set up specific incentives and processes for compensation that take a lot of the competitive element out of compensation while still allowing each team member to be compensated fairly. I think these processes have worked very well and I’ve been happy about the environment they’ve cultivated.

However these processes do leave edge cases and I find myself in one of them. I don’t think it would be best to change the process or make an exception for my sake, especially considering just how far out of balance these recent changes are going to leave me. So, that means that I will have to transition out of OpenCraft.

It hurts to write this post. I’m going to miss each of you. The good news is that this transition won’t be immediate-- I will still be here through the conference. My circumstances allow me to stay a bit longer before the new expenses kick in. I anticipate interviewing for positions in earnest once we return from the coworking week.

The reason for this long notice is that I anticipate it will be challenging to replace the roles I hold (specifically the business development role) and felt that it would be best to give a much longer lead time. When I told Xavier of my plans, he suggested I take on succession planning to make best use of the time. I agree, and when I suggested meeting with team members to figure out the next moves, he suggested, as he always does, being open and transparent so that my leaving would not be a secret within the group.

Working at OpenCraft has taught me a great deal and improved not only my skills in engineering and sales, but it has improved me as a person, challenging me in new ways day after day. It has been incredibly rewarding working here and I will miss it.

Now, to the concrete details. To have me roll off the team, the following roles will need to be moved:

  • Business Development Specialist
  • Developer Advocate
  • Listaflow Epic Owner/technical contact for the CCs on Listaflow
  • Backup OSPR Liaison
  • Sprint Manager for Deathstar

Most of these don’t have to be rolled off immediately-- it’s really the Business Development Specialist that will take a long time. If you’re reading this and always wanted to try your hand at it, I can say that this team has benefited from having a sales person with engineering experience. If there is someone within the team willing to take this role and be trained up on it, I think that would be preferable to hiring. Please let me know if this interests you-- otherwise we will start making job listings and start the interviewing process.

I will update this thread when I’ve accepted a new position and will be invoking the 30 days notice point. We might defer the reassignment of the remaining roles until then, but please let me know of your interest now if you have it.

Thank you all for everything that you do. I will miss this non-localized place.


Sad news for OpenCraft, but I’m happy to hear it’s because of such positive things in your life. Thanks for giving us the early notice, and I’m glad you’ll be there for this year’s conference/coworking!

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Thank you for writing such a thoughtful post @Fox :heart: You have been an incredible team member to lean on, and learn from. You’ve shown incredible support for all our UX and UI initiatives! It’s sad to see you go, but I’m happy you and your family are embarking on this new, exciting chapter. Glad we get to give you a proper send off in South Africa!


@Fox It was bittersweet to read. On one hand, I’m happy to see everything is going to a great direction in your life. I’m really excited for all of you. On the other hand, it is sad to see you go, though we will have the chance to meet you on the conference!

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@Fox I’m very happy to see that life has been treating you and your loved ones well, and that working with us has been such a positive experience for you :) like others have said, reading this post is truly bittersweet. It’s been such a blast working with you, and I’ve learned a lot in the process. Your years on the team have been a blessing, and you’ll sorely be missed.

With regards to the transition process, I’m glad you’re giving tons of notice and taking this planning approach. I’ll be happy to take on the role to manage the STAR sprints.

Agreed. Having someone with engineering experience in the sales role makes our proposals stronger, and greatly reduces the time spent doing back-and-forth between sales and our engineering team. Having it done by someone familiar with our values and processes is even better.

I think it would be relevant to mention that the sales position is not full-time – if a current team member takes on the role, there would be some time left to work on a few engineering tasks every sprint, if the person wants to fill up their schedule and work full-time. Correct?


We will miss you @Fox! :face_holding_back_tears: Please pop in to say hi from time to time, and let us know what this new chapter has in store for you. I have no doubt that you will kick butt wherever you end up! It has been great working with you, and I look forward to a proper farewell at the conference later this year. <3

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Correct. Some months things are pretty slow. Other months are hopping, comparatively. However, between all of my roles as listed above, I am lucky to clear 20h/week consistently. The busiest time during the year is the conference, since you’ll be chatting about at the time and meeting with folks.

Sometimes I have a large proposal to prepare or what have you. That might take a few hours. But it’s never been like, 40h a week unless I wanted to take some elective engineering tasks (my contract has been 20h/week over the last few years).

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@Fox It has been a pleasure to know you and work with you. It’s bittersweet as everyone said but I am happy to see Piacenti household doing well and I am eager to meet you at the conference.

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@Fox I could guess the contents from the title. Yet, the first paragraph tracks our life at home to the tee, from everything from our first child to my partner getting into the masters of psychology, that I really hoped it was just about shuffling responsibilities and not about you leaving the team. It’s bittersweet. :heart: It’s been a great experience working with you and happy that we will be meeting at the conference.

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Oh @Fox ! Replacing you on the BizDev front will be very difficult.

This isn’t the first time we’ve lost someone because our compensation policies aren’t flexible enough to work with their changing circumstances. This tells me there’s a problem with our policies. Money is far easier to find than good people.

But if you’ve decided to try something new, that’s understandable, and I wish you and your family all the best.


@Fox Thank you for the beautiful goodbye note - as often it’s superbly articulated, and with a really nice vision. As noted when we discussed, I really appreciate all you have brought to the job - or rather the many jobs you have had at OpenCraft. And you have already come back once, you’re definitely more than welcome to come back twice :slight_smile:

I want to highlight this part ^^ because it’s important! Fox’s current role as OpenCraft’s bizdev is to represent who we are - and it has always worked best for us when that person came from the technical or pedagogical side and had already worked on the Open edX project.

So if you are tempted but think you aren’t qualified for it, think again! The sales part can be learned, and it’s one of the interesting parts of the role. Having deep knowledge of the Open edX platform and of how we work is the truly important requirement for this role.

@jill I also wish I could always just tweak the rule and say yes all the time. But business reality is that we can’t increase rates without limits, as we have to be able to increase our client rate of the same %, and we are already losing leads regularly due to our higher pricing within the community. So regardless of the system in place, there will be times where we have to say no - I’d rather it be because it’s an edge case of a transparent and stable system, rather because of office politics - which it will definitely get into if we start to make exceptions.


Bumping up this thread, because we need to find someone to start training in the role, while you are still here @Fox . The earlier the person will start training, the smoother the transition.

So, does anyone in the team want to take on the role, at least for a while?

If there are no volunteers by the end of next week, ie May 17th, @Fox could you publish an ad for the role, and prepare to interview them? We would need to open the role to people outside the current team.

It’s worth posting the ad both:

  • in the community,
  • and where sales people with experience with education / university staff would see it.

@gabriel @DouglasDraper @tikr any recommendations?

Yep, I can do that!

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I’d suggest posting a job ad on LinkedIn, if not planned already. Also, @Fox, I’m happy to help review the job ad/description once you get to it :slight_smile: