GitHub President Becomes CEO, CEO Becomes President In Executive Role Swap

So now is the time for top execs at middle-stage technology companies to trade titles with each other apparently: GitHub has just announced that co-founder Tom Preston-Werner will be taking over the role of President from fellow co-founder Chris Wanstrath, who is moving into the CEO position made vacant by Preston-Werner. It sounds familiar because WordPress creator Matt Mullenweg just did essentially the same thing with Toni Schneider at Automattic.

For GitHub, the switch seems designed to shake things up a bit in terms of giving Preston-Werner time to take a more hands-on approach to R&D and “growth opportunities within the company,” according to a blog post he ran announcing the news. Preston-Werner will also remain the primary face of the company, he says. Wanstrath, for his part, will be handling more top-level strategy and overarching company vision.

As did Mullenweg and Schneider, Preston-Werner downplays the significance of this shift, noting that there’s a lot of fluidity when it comes to roles and duties within GitHub’s corporate structure. He even goes so far as to say that they’ve already made the switch in practice, and are only now catching up to doing so in name.

We heard from Preston-Werner back in September at TechCrunch Disrupt, when he discussed the company’s 4 million user milestone, and the shifting nature of the traditionally code-focused platform as a more broadly targeted collaboration platform. At the time, Preston-Werner also denied that the company’s recent $100 million raise was an immediate precursor to IPO plans.

It’s possible that Wansrath is stepping in to help prepare the company for that transition, but it looks more like companies that deal in highly collaborative tech like GitHub and WordPress with young executives are getting more comfortable with a shifting definition of executive roles. Less rigidity at the top could allow for greater adaptability throughout an organization, so it’ll be interesting to see how companies embracing these moves continue to perform in 2014.