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Editor’s note: Earlier today, president and chief executive officer of Red Hat, Matt Hicks, shared the following email with Red Hatters.

Hi all,

Today I want to share some bittersweet news with you. After 24 years with Red Hat, Paul Cormier will be retiring on April 1.

I can sum up his tenure very simply – Paul Cormier is Red Hat.

His fingerprints are on just about every part of the company. Arguably more than any other Red Hatter, he is responsible for the direction of our product portfolio and the position the company is in today. It’s hard to capture the full scope of his impact in one email but I’ll do my best to share some lasting lessons I learned from him over the years.

Work for the future you want. Paul has never been content with the status quo. He is always looking ahead to what the next trend or area to explore could be. He led the vision and strategy for open hybrid cloud and he talked about hybrid cloud on the Red Hat Summit stage nearly 10 years ago! The sheer amount of work to deliver on this didn’t bother him - he knew this was the area in which Red Hat could uniquely contribute. And Red Hat operating on a vision has always been unstoppable.

Take risks and trust your gut. One of his most memorable moments, and for me, one of the best leadership lessons I’ve ever seen was when he put his job on the line to make the switch from the boxed Red Hat Linux product to the subscription-based Red Hat Enterprise Linux. This was a defining moment for Red Hat. This changed the trajectory of the company and helped put us on the map for the enterprise. This is quintessential Paul. He knew this was the right move and stood behind his convictions. I often talk about believing in what we do - this was all Paul. His belief led him to trust his intuition and make the right decisions about the company direction.

We’re stronger together. Paul never lost sight of what made Red Hat successful and the community has always been a part of that. He is proud of our ability to have full-time associates dedicated to community work. He is proud of the contribution Red Hat makes to open source each year. It was a development model that not only worked well but also one that changed the industry and changed the world of software for the better. But he never lost sight of the pivotal position Red Hat holds in open source as well. To make open source thrive, to make our contributions lasting, our business needs to thrive. Red Hat depends on open source and open source also depends on Red Hat.

I’ve been asked more times than I can count what it was like to work for Paul. My response hasn’t varied in the 15+ years I’ve known him. Paul wakes up every single day to fight for Red Hat’s success. I never saw him back away from a challenge, if it was the right thing for us to do. I never saw him doubt our ability to execute. He brings an intensity and passion to his work every single day that inspires me. I experienced that in our first meeting where we ended up battling over some work that needed to be done to support a RHEL launch. He wasn’t just looking to argue - he wanted the right outcome and was willing to understand my perspective to get there. I was on a plane to Westford right after our call and soon after, my new job was supporting Paul’s group for IT. In the years that followed, I watched and learned as much as I could from how he led. His leadership was on full display when IBM acquired Red Hat in 2019. He led the work, alongside IBM CEO, Arvind Krishna, to ensure that Red Hat would remain Red Hat, but we would be backed by the scale of IBM. We’re seeing the benefit of those efforts now. Once again, we wouldn’t be where we are today without his passion for open source and his ability to see the long-term vision.

To distill it down, Paul taught me what it means to believe in Red Hat and believe in the work that you are doing. He is the one that I’ll always credit with showing me the true power of believing in Red Hat.

To honor Paul’s impact, I’m proud to announce that we are renaming the Chairman’s Award to the Paul Cormier Trailblazer Award in 2025. With this award, we will celebrate those associates who are leading Red Hat into the future with the same spirit that Paul brought to his work every day.

In addition, we’re also going to honor Paul’s legacy and his passion for developing the next generation of open source talent, by endowing two universities with gifts in locations that are important to Paul and Red Hat.

  • Boston University will receive an endowment, which will be awarded to a student studying open source technology or a related field. This will be awarded over four years.
  • Masaryk University, in Brno, Czech Republic, Red Hat’s oldest and largest university partner in EMEA, will receive a one-time gift to be used at the university’s discretion in a way that is connected to open source principles.

I’m reminded of the last keynote Paul gave at Red Hat Summit in 2022. He closed out the day talking about the path open source has taken, the role Red Hat played, and forecasted what he saw as our future.

“Let’s be clear, open source technology has won the innovation debates. Innovation IS open source. But there’s no victory lap for Red Hat, for CIOs, or for open source communities. Because we’re far from done. Open source now solidly drives the innovation industry. So as we have done in the past, let’s help the entire industry thrive in this new normal, and then define and get to the next normal. Whatever it looks like, one thing that I can guarantee it will be built on open source technology. Red Hat will get us there. And so will you.”

I hope these words resonate with you. There will always be a “next normal” that we need to help our customers get to. Right now, that focus is AI. We have the opportunity to help open source be the platform for AI but we can’t rest. We have to keep pushing forward. Let Paul’s words be the rallying cry we remember for years to come.

Please join me on memo-list in thanking Paul for all he has done for Red Hat and congratulating him on his retirement. Also please share your own memories of him.

Thank you for everything, Paul.

-Matt


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.

Prior to joining Red Hat 16 years ago, Hicks served in various roles spanning computer engineering, IT, and consulting. He has worked with Linux and open source for more than 25 years, and his breadth of experience has helped him solve customer and business problems across all areas of IT.

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