Feeds

New Nominet chair: I’ll start by listening

Baroness Rennie Fritchie opens up

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk

Nominet’s new chair will start her new job by listening.

“I don’t come in with answers. I would like to listen to staff, but I also recognise how important it is to listen to members, to see how strongly they feel,” Baroness Rennie Fritchie explained to The Reg in her first interview since accepting her new position. She is also setting up one-to-one meetings with Board members “to understand the past and the aspirations they have for the future of the organization and for the Board”.

The cautious listening approach will be welcome after years of fierce fighting at the Board and member levels of Nominet over the direction of the organisation. That fight ultimately cost Nominet three Board members, including the chair, its IT director and its legal and policy director, and badly damaged relations between staff and members.

A truce of sorts has emerged with the adoption of a number of constitutional changes earlier this year, and Baroness Fritchie is keen to exploit it. “I recognise that Nominet has been through challenging times, but I also see it as an organisation that is good at heart. The Board has an opportunity to start again — or, at least, not continue down the same path. It can step up in a strong way.”

Despite having limited technical understanding — “I have a number of email accounts, and I can use Skype, but if I comes to acronyms I need people to tell me about them" — she says she shares “values that are probably similar” to the technical community she will be serving.

As chair of the Web Science Research Initiative at Southampton University, she met and got to know Tim Berners-Lee and Wendy Hall, and as a result, “I understand the importance of a web that is open, safe and secure.”

Her qualifications from the job instead stem from her (extensive) experience chairing Boards and — another complicating factor in Nominet’s existence — her experience with the government.

Conflict

“I understand how challenges and risk and conflict can impact an organization,” she tells us, “I have been doing it for many years.” (She doesn’t mention it, but pre-Baroness Rennie Fritchie wrote Resolving Conflicts in Organizations in 1998. You can still buy copies online.)

Asked why she had been chosen after an interview process that comprised three sets of interviews with headhunters, Nominet’s non-executive Board directors, and finally its CEO, she suggests that they “liked this seasoned person”.

“In the IT world, people are typically very young and energetic and lively; I am seasoned and experienced. I have been white-water rafting before, and I know how to chair a Board.” A key issue at the heart of Nominet’s problems is a small group of determined domainers who feel the organization is not listening to them — they want lower per-domain prices, whereas Nominet’s management is keen to retain what it sees as the high status of dot-uk domains.

Due to Nominet’s unusual membership and voting structures, this small group was capable of exerting disproportionate influence and did so to elect Board members who then opposed plans internally. Baroness Fritchie says she understands the pressures that can result from new groups upsetting the status quo. “I was vice-chair of a building society when it went through carpetbagging. We had a few people with different agendas.”

(Quick bit of history: in the 1990s, the rules surrounding building societies in the UK changed to the extent that members of mutual groups stood to gain financially if they decided to change their charter. They then found large number of new members who joined in order to encourage such a change and so reap a resulting windfall.)

The situation is not the same with Nominet, she stresses, “but there are some similarities, and I lived through that experience.”

Security and trust: The backbone of doing business over the internet

Next page: Regulation

More from The Register

next story
Brit telcos warn Scots that voting Yes could lead to HEFTY bills
BT and Co: Independence vote likely to mean 'increased costs'
Phones 4u slips into administration after EE cuts ties with Brit mobe retailer
More than 5,500 jobs could be axed if rescue mission fails
New 'Cosmos' browser surfs the net by TXT alone
No data plan? No WiFi? No worries ... except sluggish download speed
Radio hams can encrypt, in emergencies, says Ofcom
Consultation promises new spectrum and hints at relaxed licence conditions
Turnbull: NBN won't turn your town into Silicon Valley
'People have been brainwashed to believe that their world will be changed forever if they get FTTP'
Blockbuster book lays out the first 20 years of the Smartphone Wars
Symbian's David Wood bares all. Not for the faint hearted
Bonking with Apple has POUNDED mobe operators' wallets
... into submission. Weve squeals, ditches payment plans
prev story

Whitepapers

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops
Balancing user privacy and privileged access, in accordance with compliance frameworks and legislation. Evaluating any potential remote control choice.
WIN a very cool portable ZX Spectrum
Win a one-off portable Spectrum built by legendary hardware hacker Ben Heck
Intelligent flash storage arrays
Tegile Intelligent Storage Arrays with IntelliFlash helps IT boost storage utilization and effciency while delivering unmatched storage savings and performance.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Beginner's guide to SSL certificates
De-mystify the technology involved and give you the information you need to make the best decision when considering your online security options.