Tretikov started her career in the technology world in 1999 as an engineer with the Sun-Netscape Alliance, the name used by Netscape during its acquisition by AOL. Over the succeeding years, she founded her own company and served as a senior director of development for TeleSpree before moving to SugarCRM, where she had been employed for the past eight years. Tretikov was also named as a 2012 finalist in the Female Executive of the Year – Business Services category.
Tretikov served most recently as SugarCRM's chief product officer, which is based in Cupertino, California, and produces Sugar, a customer relationship management system. The Foundation has described the company as an "open-source, cloud-based software vendor": "SugarCRM sponsored an open source project with more than 30,000 contributors and deployed by over 1.5 million individuals in 120 countries and 26 languages. Lila’s responsibilities during her tenure included product strategy, engineering, operations, IT, product management, professional services, marketing, and user experience."
According to the company's Wikipedia article, it was founded in 2004 to create a strictly open-source customer relationship management software. Having joined only a few years after its founding, Tretikov has a wealth of experience from its open-source activities, despite its August 2013 announcement that the software's newest version, Sugar 7, would not include a community edition, and a February 2014 community post notifying users that they would no longer be releasing new community versions.
Tretikov addressed this in the live announcement, saying that while she had championed community involvement with Sugar, the decision to discontinue new community editions was made by the company's board.
Having held these varied roles, Tretikov comes to the Foundation with a strong skill set. Her personal LinkedIn profile emphasizes the hiring and developing of people, technical management, and product design. These, and a surprisingly lengthy list of other required qualifications the Foundation was looking for, factored into their decision to hire her:
We decided the new ED should be someone with a product/engineering background, ideally in an open-source or other online community context. We wanted someone experienced with organisations that were growing, who'd managed staff and budgets comparable to ours, and who had experience creating continuous delivery of technology improvements in an agile context. We wanted a person who is oriented towards collaboration, transparency and openness, with some experience with complex stakeholder environments, and with an international orientation. We knew we needed someone with courage and strong personal integrity, who wouldn't be intimidated by attempts to censor the projects.
According to Gardner and Foundation board chair Jan-Bart de Vreede, "Lila is precisely what we set out to find."
In announcing Tretikov, Gardner described this complex set of requirements as forcing them to look for a "unicorn—one that we weren't sure existed". These arose because Gardner was given the unusual chance to grow into the role: under her leadership, the WMF has undergone fundamental changes. In 2007, its budget was only $3.5 million. By 2012, this had risen to an annual $22.3 million, the year in which a five-country fundraiser netted $25 million in just nine days. Over the same period, the Foundation has expanded beyond a simple server-supporting organization, funding programs from education to GLAM opportunities. The WMF itself was transplanted from St. Petersburg, Florida to San Francisco, along with expansion from fewer than 10 employees to 160 by 2012 and 207 today.