By: Matthew J. Szulik
“The only people for me are the mad ones. The ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved. Desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow Roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars and in the middle you see the blue center light pop and everybody goes awwwwww.” - Jack Kerouac
After almost a decade of leading Red Hat, I have decided to transition my CEO and President role for the personal reasons I have already discussed. It’s my privilege to continue serving this great company in the role of Chairman of the Board. Red Hat will be in the capable hands of a world-class executive team under the leadership of Jim Whitehurst as President and CEO.
My early days at Red Hat were sitting in small office with no door in Durham, NC, across from the free soda machine. People by the hour would stop and punch their selection for Mountain Dew or Coke. My challenge was that I was tasked to go and raise venture money for this free software company. And over the phone, in the middle of my sales pitch, corporate types at Dell, IBM and HP and others would hear the constant banging of soda cans dropping in the soda machine and would ask if there were fights going on outside my office. So, after a while, I told the prospective investors that YES there were fights going on. And yes, these fights happened frequently. It’s how people at Red Hat settled technical issues likes software bugs and features in new releases. Red Hat was a real tough place to work. Dell, HP and IBM became investors because they liked the fighting spirit of Red Hat.
Nine plus years is a long time. Microsoft anti-trust cases. Harry Potter. Clinton Bush Bush. Columbine. Dot com. Year 2000. September 11, 2001. China / WTO. Iraq. Tsunami. ENRON. Sarbanes Oxley. BRIC ( brazil russia india china ). Darfur. Italy and World Cups. Boston Red Sox. iPods. Spanish Rail bombings. global warming. Obama and Hillary.
As a leader of people, you search within your core to find a genuine common thread that exists to unite and inspire a multi racial, multi ethnic, mixed gender, global community called Red Hat. You attempt to create a culture of open mindedness and respect for diversity. You seek out those who believe that for any democracy to continue, free and unfettered access to information is an unassailable condition for advancement.
For many years, my face has been pressed up against the windshield trying to look into the future. Learning and adapting to an evolving Red Hat community, culture and marketplace. Red Hat associates past and present, along with members of the open source community and our customers and partners picked up their brushes, dipped them into a paint palette of color to create this artwork called Red Hat. I take pride when customers and industry types comment to me that the people of Red Hat are “different.” Not like the cylons who have come to dominate the industry of technology. Through our actions, the open source community and the people of Red Hat are defining a modern economic relationship between developer and customer. Collaboration. Transparency and value delivered. Our customers and marketplace are responding as evidenced by our financials and strong market potential. What was once considered a joke in 1998, no longer is. Today governments and industry are responding to the values and practices of open source as evidenced by their support of OLPC and the broad open source education initiatives in India, South America and parts of Africa.
Throughout my tenure, it was my dream, that even in the face of the most difficult odds and vicious competition, we, the people of Red Hat could make an enormous and positive improvement in the lives of others. I thank the people of Red Hat. I will always be grateful for the sacrifices, contributions and camaraderie.