Thomas Mortagne, our Lead Developer

21 Jul 2020 5 min read
in 5 things
  • Favorite artist: Emir Kusturica & The No Smoking Orchestra
  • Best book ever read: The Discworld books series by Terry Pratchett
  • Dream destination: A sailing boat on a calm sea
  • Quote you live by: Don't have one
  • At the office or remote? Remote

Tell us a bit about yourself.

Bonjour ! My name is Thomas, I'm 38, I am a Lead Developer of the XWiki Open Source project, within XWiki SAS for 13 years. Out of them, the last 9 were remote, from the beautiful city of Lyon (France). I'm also a contributor and committer on various Open Source projects, like jdeb or Pygments. Along the way, I founded the Pavillon-Noir video game project and I've been an editor for a reference Terry Pratchett fan French website - very important to me since it's how I met my wife. 

The journey to XWiki

What were you doing before XWiki? Did you change careers when joining our team?

Before XWiki, I worked in an SSII (French service company) that got acquired twice in less than 1 year. We were mostly working for a client, along with 4 other service companies, and nobody (including the client) cared one bit about the application developed. It was a bad experience for a young and excited developer.

Joining XWiki was not so much a career change than going back to building software that matters. During my Computer Science studies, I worked for various Open Source projects, so I knew there are better options. Also, contributing to Open Source projects (as a hobby) was what kept me sane during my short experience in the worst of what the French numeric market has to offer.

What is it like to be working in the Product team at XWiki? What was your career evolution like?

A total opposite to my first job. Not only what I do is valuable, valued, and interesting, it also challenges me to keep evolving. It's the perfect environment for someone that wants to build qualitatively and for the long term. Of course, at times there are way too many different things to do but it's good stress and a part of what keeps me engaged.


Open Source impressions

Was Open Source something you had an interest in before XWiki?

Yes. I started several Open Source projects, but back then I did not imagine I would find a job where I'm being paid to do Open Source.

What's the Open Source value you appreciate the most?

Cooperation. While working on the XWiki project I became a committer to several other Open Source projects on which XWiki depends. It started by fixing bugs, and it quickly moved to improvement contributions.

Being an XWikier for 13 years and counting

What has kept you at XWiki so far?

Interesting question. If I'd have to name a few benefits they would probably be: having the opportunity to work remotely (9 years ago it wasn't as popular within companies as it is now) and having the privilege to be paid for developing Open Source projects. But most of all, the transparency and the family-vibe our team has have always contributed to me being the happiest at XWiki.  


If you ever wished for a job change, what made you decide to stay?

It would be very difficult for me to abandon my "Open Source baby" - XWiki. For me, the family-vibe within a team is very important and I'm thrilled to enjoy it on our team. 

What were the most important or drastic ways in which XWiki changed during the years you've been around?

There have been so many changes over the last years. XWiki has grown a lot, became more organized, people left, people joined, but the values and spirit of the company were constant. For me, the biggest change has been to become a remote worker.

When did you switch to remote working? What was it like?

After living in Paris for a while, my wife and I decided to get a bigger place to grow our family. As Paris is expensive, our options were to move further from the city center and lose a lot of time on commuting, a perspective that was not exciting at all. My wife is from Lyon, has her family here and I've come to like it too, so we felt like it would be a good move to settle down here. XWiki was already promoting working remotely at the time, so it came naturally to do the switch. 

At first, I thought it would be really easy to work remotely, and the changes were not visible for a while. Then it gradually got harder to stay undistracted, so I've moved to a co-working space close to home. It's been the best thing for me, as I get to spend a lot of time with my family, but also to stay focused when working. 

What would you tell workers transitioning to working remotely?

1.a. Find or start a co-working space;
1.b. If at home, have an office space and working schedule, just so you're not disturbed;
2. If you work from home, get out of the house on a regular basis;
3. Try and keep work and personal life as separate as possible.

What would you advise companies transitioning to working remotely?

4. Communicate as much as possible and don't keep team conversations in private chats;
5. Have company meetups from time to time - our yearly seminar is a good example in this regard;
6. Make sure the employees have the infrastructure to do their work, and, if needed, pay the co-working space fees;
7. Embrace remote working and trust your employees that choose it.

Lessons learned

What would you say is the most valuable lesson you learned during your time at XWiki?

How to ensure the quality of software while working on it.

The XWiki experience

If you could describe XWiki in one word, what would it be?


What is your favorite memory of the years as part of XWiki?

It's not easy to choose one since it's been a lot of years, but surely it has to do with the seminars (not a specific one since they are starting to mix in my memory).


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