The Olympians of OSS: Unveiling the key attributes of our most elite OSSletes

Athletes from around the globe will soon be descending on Paris to compete for Olympic medals in a multitude of events. Olympic champions will be determined through a variety of performance attributes – skill, strength, endurance, speed and much more – with different attributes required for any given event.

That made me wonder – What are the performance attributes of the best OSSletes in the world?

Skill, strength, endurance, speed, etc also come into play in OSS “events,” but not many of the best OSSletes would be considered Paris24-level athletic!

How do OSSletes and athletes compare? Here are some key characteristics of top OSS experts as mapped to athletic qualities:


  • In many cases it is a race: Time to Market (TTM) is a key metric, whether that’s relating to the timely delivery of an OSS transformation, operationalising new products or networks, readiness of customer services or much more. Completion time is one of the most common deciding factors in the Olympics and OSS alike
  • Rapid Problem-Solving: Just as athletes need speed, OSSletes must quickly identify and resolve what their next-best action will be (eg resolving issues to ensure network uptime)
  • Fast Learning: Ability to rapidly assimilate new information and technologies, staying ahead of the never-ending competition of industry changes


  • Technical Mastery: In Olympic events, there is often a very specific set of skills to master for any given event. However, in the world of OSS, there is a multitude. Proficiency in OSS/BSS systems, network engineering, software development, project coordination / management, network operations, data management, product design. There are simply too many skills to list!
  • Analytical Skills: OSS implementations produce an endless series of problems to solve across many different dimensions. Complex decision-making is a must, so being skilled in data analytics and the ability to interpret complex datasets aids in data-driven decision-making
  • Human-factor Skills: This is a long, long list that’s often underestimated by many of us techies! It includes communications, listening, collaboration, teaching / coaching, conflict resolution, persuasion, empathy, customer relationships, process optimisation, resilience and I’m barely even getting started am I?


  • Robust Solutions: Ability to design and implement resilient systems that can scale to handle high loads and demanding environments
  • Leadership Strength: Strong leadership qualities to guide teams through complex projects and challenges.


  • Sustained Performance: OSS transformations are rarely short-term projects. They require consistent delivery of high-quality / high-volume work over long periods, often in high-pressure situations. The ability to work at near-maximum effort for long periods of time and high levels of output is as important in OSS projects as it is in the marathon at the Olympics
  • Preparation and Teamwork: The Olympics only come around once every four years, so athletes are often planning, training and building for years before their event. This is often true of OSS transformations as well (albeit not exactly once every four years). They are almost always a sustained effort by teams of people, just like athletic events where even the solo races like the marathon still require a team of support staff in the preparation phase

Flexibility / Adaptability

  • Adaptability: Ability to endure and adapt to rapidly changing technological landscapes, market demands and competitive pressures
  • Problem-Solving Agility: There are always unexpected situations arising in the world of OSS [that’s the reason why we have the OctopOSS as the logo for PAOSS – just when you think you have all tentacles pinned down, another comes and whacks you on the back of the head]. The ability to adapt, troubleshoot and resolve diverse issues on the fly are all essential OSS implementation attributes
  • Versatility: Then there is also the diversity of expected situations that arise. There are so many aspects of OSS/BSS, from technologies to strategic planning and much, much more, that nobody is ever an expert at every facet. Even teams are likely to have to learn in-flight
  • Collaboration: It’s mandatory to have excellent teamwork and communication skills to coordinate with different customers, suppliers, departments, stakeholders and all of the other pieces that make up each Ops Model

Mental Toughness

  • Resilience: How many times have we seen a less gifted athlete win due to mental fortitude and never-say-die attitudes. The ability to stay focused and productive under pressure, managing high-stakes environments is a super-power. I’ve been grateful for this attribute being present in some of my team-mates on OSS projects on many occasions! [By comparison, there are certain activities, such as bug-fixing my code (I struggle to program my way out of a wet paper bag), where I’m more likely to throw my toys out of the cot than show any sign of mental resilience! Mental note for you – never ask me to write code for your OSS. Psuedo-coding, SQL scripting of data, wireframing, application specification capture and software configuration are all things I can definitely do, but not hard-core back-end coding and integrations!! I leave that to the experts]
  • Continuous Improvement: The unbounded commitment to continuous learning and improvement, staying motivated and dedicated to excellence, is all but mandatory for the continually changing world of OSS. The half-life of skills / knowledge in OSS is surely much faster than any other industry isn’t it??

Tactical Awareness

  • Strategic Thinking: Like athletes who understand game tactics, OSSletes must have a strategic vision for business operations, network planning and business alignment
  • Holistic Understanding: We often refer to “Valuable Tripods” as the people with a wide-ranging and comprehensive awareness of how different components of the telecom ecosystem interact and affect each other. Not just technical, but also operations, people, processes, business imperatives, etc. These valuable tripods are often the glue that connects all the people / teams that have narrower sets of expertise / knowledge

What do you think? What other OSSlete attributes have I overlooked? What are the other superpowers that set you apart from the rest, or what are those superpowers you’ve seen in the OSSletes you most admire?

Just like the Olympics though, where there are different attributes required for the different events, the same can be said for the different roles performed by an OSS implementation team.

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