What The Heck is a Chief Sakai Strategist?

I figure I should clarify my Blackboard title. “Chief Sakai Strategist” – pretty awesome and cool huh?

Blackboard Open Source Statement of Principles (scroll down to see my title)

First, it does not contain any words that make it so I can make legal commitments on the part of Blackboard. Those words would be things like “Director”, “Manager”, “Vice President”, etc.. I am prohibited from having any of those “legal” titles since I am a full-time faculty member at the University of Michigan. You will notice that my contribution agreement is signed by Michael Chasen and not me. That is because I cannot sign for anything as a legal representative of Blackboard.

To be honest, other than that I could make up my own title. I imagined and discarded, “Master of Interoperability”, “Standards Cat Herder”, “Agent of Change”, “Source of Chaos”, or “Trouble Maker”. Titles like that are funny for the first few minutes but kind of dumb after that – of course unless your title is like Mark Zuckerberg’s in the Social Network movie. Mark’s title stays fun for a long time.

I wanted “Sakai” in my title because it allows me to avoid a lot of meetings. Someone might invite me to a Collaborate meeting titled, “Learn Ocho Features” and I would ask, “Is there anything about Sakai in there?” If the answer was ‘no’, I could skip the meeting and write some code or run out and get a Starbucks.

I was thinking about “Sakai Advisor”, but that made me think of the “CIA Advisors” in the Vietnam War – and I did not want folks to make that association.

I was thinking about “Sakai Evangelist” – but outside the US (and frankly outside most large cities in the US) – that might be mis-interpreted.

So then , why “Chief” in “Chief Sakai Strategist”? First I wanted to make sure Blackboard was hiring a really special dude. There could be a whole wing of “Sakai Strategists” but only one “Chief Strategist”. And since there was only one of me, I just grabbed the “Chief” title right off the bat like a domain name. When Blackboard hires another “Sakai Strategist”, perhaps we will play rock, paper, scissors to decide who is really the chief from that point forward.

I discarded “Lead” because that pre-supposes that people will listen to me and follow what I say. That is not particularly likely and I did not want set an expectation I could not achieve.

I will admit that there is homage to “Chief Cook and Bottle Washer” since I am a lone Sakai guy, doing most everything myself related to one of the five LMS systems Blackboard is involved in. The other LMS systems have a lot more people than just one. I will be as busy as a one-handed paper hanger.

I also like the sound of “Master Chief” – like Kevin Costner as a rescue swimmer in “The Guardian” and also like Rob Lowden in “The Bloomington Area”. (The Kevin Costner character in that movie was loosely based on Rob except that Rob was in the Navy – not the Coast Guard). Maybe after I do well for a while and learn to jump from helicopters into the water and save people, I can get a promotion to “Master Chief Sakai Strategist”.

Also there is homage to “Chief Information Officer” and “Chief Technology Officer” – but with titles like that someone might get ahold of me and ask to do some real work – like upgrade servers or fix Y2K or something like that. I need to focus on thought leadership without any distraction of actual work.

I was “Chief Architect” of the Sakai Project in 2003-2004. But that name has waaay too much baggage (have I mentioned how cool it would be if you read my Sakai Book)

I also liked the fact that “Chief Sakai Strategist” felt tastefully over-stated like “Senior Lead Janitor”.

So it turned out the be the right title for all these reasons.