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Editor’s note: Today, we announced that Matt Hicks will assume the role of president and chief executive officer of Red Hat, succeeding Paul Cormier who will serve as chairman of Red Hat, Inc. Matt shared the following email with Red Hatters.
When I joined Red Hat in 2006 as a developer on the IT team working on porting Perl applications to Java, I never imagined that my career would lead me to this moment. If I had followed my initial path, not raised my hand for certain projects, or shied away from contributing ideas and asking questions, I might not be here. That is what I love about Red Hat and it’s something that differentiates us from other companies: nothing is predetermined; we’re only limited by our passion and drive to contribute and make an impact. That’s true not just for us as individuals but also for us as a company.
Our legacy of success, however, can trick us into believing it’s a given for Red Hat. I’ve learned a lot from Paul Cormier over the years, but the thing that I try to bring in every day is that we will have to fight for Red Hat to succeed—it won’t be given to us. That was true the day Red Hat was founded, it is true today, and it will be true far into the future.
I’ve worked with Paul for over a decade and have never seen him complacent. I’ve never seen him quit. He gives Red Hat his all every single day. That drive has always motivated me to look forward to what is possible for Red Hat. And if there’s one thing I can guarantee in Paul’s role as Chairman, it’s that he will continue to push us towards success. And we must always be ready to earn it.
I’m honored, proud and thankful as I step into this role, to both serve you and help take Red Hat to even greater places. There’s a significant opportunity ahead of us and I’m eager to help us seize it. As I’ve prepared to step into the CEO role, I’ve spent a lot of time reflecting on what makes Red Hat unique. There are three values that I want to see us embrace, or in some cases recommit to, as Red Hatters.
Passion with Respect.
We are here because we believe that Red Hat can solve many of the biggest challenges in our industry and our world with open source. We are here because we believe Red Hat can enable our customers to innovate and solve challenges for their customers with open source. We can only say open unlocks the world’s potential if we have passion behind that statement. And we do.
Open source development has always resulted in better innovation faster because it brings together people with diverse experiences to work together to solve a common challenge and spark new ideas. This is Red Hat.
To live up to that statement means bringing our all to the table every day and never being complacent. We must constantly push one another, always remembering that we are on the same team. We must seek out and actively include new and differing perspectives. Ask questions, share ideas, debate approaches, and challenge assumptions as we work to solve problems and find better solutions together. This is how ideas are strengthened.
Respect goes hand-in-hand with passion and constructively challenging each other. If you are as passionate about understanding someone else’s contributions as you are about your own ideas, finding mutual respect will be easy.
Red Hat is a global company with 20,000+ associates, all with something to contribute and a unique perspective, unified on the same team by a shared mission. Approach every interaction with a curiosity for understanding one another. Listen to and respect one another, even if you disagree. Be open to learning something new or gaining a different perspective, whether on a piece of technology or an experience. Be open to the barriers others might see in the way of your idea. Learn from them. When necessary, be open to changing your mind.
I’ve learned infinitely more from being challenged and proven wrong than when I’ve been correct. Pride can make these moments hard to accept, but we must be open to them—we can’t be blinded by passion. When we can step outside of our typical mindsets, new ideas can be born.
As Red Hatters, we are called to debate ideas, not people. We will productively debate the ideas that will enable us to make progress, innovate, and deliver breakthrough solutions. We don’t have to agree on everything; truthfully, if we’re bringing that passion I talked about, we shouldn’t. The open part of Red Hat’s culture has never meant we work as a democracy, or even that we’ll get consensus. As a company, we must make swift decisions that enable us to seize the opportunity in front of us. Sometimes, this means you will voice your ideas or thoughts and then disagree and commit once a decision has been made.
No matter the topic or depth of your passion, we must always bring a level of respect that can put us all on equal footing.
Contribution with Accountability.
Being on equal footing is what sets Red Hat apart: every one of you has the power to influence the company. Every single one. Even coming in as an intern, you can make an impact. I genuinely believe this.
At Red Hat, you can influence the company and make an impact by contributing and participating. Your title has no bearing on how impactful you can be. We need your ideas, skills and expertise. You are all here for a reason and bring something unique to Red Hat no matter where you sit. But you have to share it. Everyone here should feel that you not only can but that we need you to jump in, share ideas, volunteer for projects, and push yourself. Embrace your role and excel at it, but never be limited by it.
When you contribute, we want it to count. You must have the accountability to direct your contributions. You have to understand our strategy and make contributions that progress it, not work against it or one another. How you contribute matters.
Contributing doesn’t mean your ideas will always succeed. I want to see us try new things. I also want us to make mistakes and even fail at times—that’s important because it means we are being bold and stepping outside our comfort zones. The key is that we always learn and quickly adjust so we do not make the same mistake again, and so we can make faster progress in areas that are working. Don’t get trapped in the cycle of trying to make something work when it’s not delivering results.
If you are going to contribute, you must follow through. One of the things that I believe has helped me throughout my career is that I am not afraid to dig in and do whatever task helps move the team forward. In my teens, I worked in a bagel bakery. I had a boss named Alan, who regularly reminded us that "we all empty the trash around here." No job was beneath anyone—we all pitched in to do the work. No matter what title you hold at Red Hat, you should always be willing to jump in and do the heavy lifting. Red Hat became Red Hat by being scrappy, and we must keep that mentality because we will all empty the trash around here (thanks Alan).
We also must stay curious. Stay curious about the world around us, stay hungry for the next challenge and keep an eye out for potential, perhaps in unlikely places. In open source communities, there is a straightforward system to find out who are the most impactful contributors; often, it’s not always the most vocal person or the people you would expect.
Time and time again, I’m inspired by the incredible potential in people. I’ve seen us hire associates with no experience in open source who have become some of the world’s most impactful open source engineers. Taking the chance, whether on a person or a new project, will be critical as we scale. When we hire, look for culture add, not culture fit. Find that passion, encourage contributions, and make this a place where everyone is welcome and can thrive.
Embracing these values will give us the team dynamic we need to win. But our playbook will need some refinement as well. With all the opportunities in the market, it would be easy to start doing more and more things to try and capture it.
Instead, I believe we are at the perfect time in our journey to simplify. There is power in simplicity and focus. Our strategy is to deliver open hybrid cloud. To do that, we must deliver the platforms that enable customer success from on-premises environments to cloud services and at the edge. We will refine our playbook to the simplest possible set of things to deliver in these areas, and with that simplicity, I believe we can become best-in-class in everything we do.
In this simplification, I also want us to reinvigorate the core of Red Hat’s value–what we give to customers that others can’t. We make customers successful with open source software.
Sometimes we stop after the word successful, but the "with open source software" piece is what’s most important. There’s a lot of open source software out there, and yes, the marketplace is more crowded than it was at the beginning. But that’s because we’re accomplishing what we set out to do: show the power of open source to change the world.
Open source is now solidly the innovation driver for the software industry and Red Hat is the leader in enterprise open source, period. No one does it better than us. We will continue to earn that respected position and push ourselves to deliver the open source innovation that makes customers successful.
I’m here to do the work with you. Let’s roll up our sleeves together, embrace these values and earn the opportunity ahead of us.
About the author
Matt Hicks was named President and Chief Executive Officer of Red Hat in July 2022. In his previous role, he was Executive Vice President of Products and Technologies where he was responsible for product engineering for much of the company’s portfolio, including Red Hat® OpenShift® and Red Hat Enterprise Linux®. He is one of the founding members of the OpenShift team and has been at the forefront of cloud computing ever since.