Catherine Paganini, Head of Marketing at Buoyant and CNCF TAG Contributor Strategy co-chair, recently sat down with KBE Insider for a car interview to share her community building experience. Catherine explains how prioritizing end-user voices at conferences, and building cloud native resources for non-technical audiences has been a big focus for her. She also shared her perspective on the challenges faced by project maintainers and how they can save time and enable future growth. This in-depth post will recap key highlights from the interview and provide additional context around Catherine's work at the CNCF and the wider cloud native ecosystem.
Background on Catherine Paganini and Linkerd
Catherine is the head of marketing at Buoyant, the creator of Linkerd where she is heavily involved in growing the Linkerd community. She is also co-chair of the TAG Contributor Strategy and Business Value subcommittee at CNCF.
Linkerd, the CNCF-graduated service mesh, is the first service mesh and the project that coined that term. Known for its operational simplicity, Linkerd eases service mesh adoption for organizations around the globe.
When asked about Linkerd Day, a day-zero event at KubeCon, Catherine is excited to share that the event had 100% end user content. In her opinion, end users provide the most powerful stories because, unlike vendors, end users have real-world production experience and are generally not biased. A compelling example Catherine gives is a talk given by an end user who managed to successfully implement Linkerd in production with just a team of one, powerfully demonstrating its simplicity and ease of use.
Fostering Cross-Project Collaboration Through CNCF
Shifting gears and moving to her work within the CNCF's TAG Contributor Strategy. The TAG's main goal is to foster a broad, cross-project open source community for CNCF projects. Today, most projects tend to be siloed, focusing on their own communities. However, project maintainers across the cloud native ecosystem are facing many of the same challenges and repeatedly reinventing the wheel rather than collaborating.
The CNCF provides a "common home" for projects to come together, break down silos, and share ideas and best practices. For example, when she first joined the TAG, Catherine needed to understand how to grow and foster an engaged community. So she set out to interview maintainers from various projects to document their advice in a guide to help her and other projects follow best practices and avoid pitfalls. A great benefit of helping develop these resources within the TAG, is that it provides opportunities to access people who wouldn't otherwise be so generous with their time. They are much more likely to share experiences and lessons learned if they know it will help the community rather than just one individual.
The Cloud Native Glossary
Catherine also spearheaded a CNCF initiative that has become a great resource for anyone new to cloud native: the Cloud Native Glossary. The Glossary defines cloud native terms in simple words so technical and non-technical audiences can understand them. It is community-driven and vendor-neutral, and anyone is welcome to contribute. There are also multiple localization efforts, with teams translating it into German, Spanish, Korean, Chinese, among others (an effort that got a shoutout on the keynote stage an hour after the interview was recorded!) — expanding global access to cloud native concepts for non-native English speakers worldwide.
Empowering the Non-Technical Community
As a non-technical individual, Catherine faced challenges when learning about Kubernetes after joining a Kubernetes company in 2017. Existing content assumed too much context, unfamiliar to beginners. At some point, she decided to buy a computer science textbook to build baseline knowledge and vocabulary.
As adoption started spreading, acquaintances outside cloud native started asking Catherine to explain Kubernetes. That's when she realized that many non-technical practitioners are in the same boat, needing to learn core cloud native concepts without having a technical background.
After one more "can you explain Kubernetes to me," Catherine decided to write a Kubernetes primer for non-technical readers, leading to various other intro articles. Positive feedback indicated a broader need, so she reached out to the CNCF to ask if they'd be interested in creating this type of content. This led to the formation of the CNCF Business Value subcommittee which focuses on creating cloud native resources for business audiences. Just like the Glossary, these resources aim to be easy to understand for anyone new to cloud native, whether they are non-technical or junior technical practitioners.
Connecting End User Voices, Cross-Project Collaboration, and Non-Technical Communities
Ultimately, Catherine's work demonstrates the power of amplifying end user voices, building a cross-project community, and empowering non-technical community members. The initiatives she works on bring these elements together, fostering a more diverse, accessible cloud native ecosystem — valuable lessons for organizations looking to engage with cloud native. Looking ahead, Catherine plans to continue evangelizing initiatives that prioritize end-user voices at KubeCon and beyond. She also hopes to organize another Linkerd Day in the future showcasing more end user stories.
Full video at: KBE Insider Amsterdam
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