Since 2019, I've been a member of the Red Hat Accelerators program, a global community of IT professionals who wish to share and exchange their knowledge and passion for Red Hat products and open source projects. As a member, I'm able to exchange ideas with Red Hat customers, partners, and IT experts from a wide range of industries, as well as Red Hat employees and leaders.
The Accelerators program offers many benefits for members, which I will describe below. Before I begin: This article reflects my opinions on the Red Hat Accelerators program and may or may not be the same as Red Hat's view.
In short, the Red Hat Accelerators are a Slack channel full of interesting people. They come from a wide variety of industries, including healthcare, automotive, insurance, and banking. A number of "Red Hatters" are involved in the community, including technical account managers (TAMs), employees from various product teams, and the community managers, Andi Fisher and Lili Mihaila.
A degree of operational blindness can set in when you communicate only with your colleagues at the company where you've worked for many years. The Red Hat Accelerators allow you to interact with colleagues from other industries, exchanging ideas that enable you to think outside the box and counteract operational blindness.
Along the way, you learn about new use cases for well-known or less well-known products. The same applies to errors or problems with these products. For example, spontaneous working groups often form in the chat to address issues in the latest version of a product. Here, people help each other. And, if there is still no solution, one of the TAMs or the "Almighty Moderator" offers advice.
More than once, these exchanges opened up new perspectives for me, which provided new solutions—even beyond Red Hat products.
Access to product teams and future releases
This is the most significant benefit I get from the Red Hat Accelerators program. I have the opportunity to gain early knowledge about (planned) innovations in Red Hat products and influence product development through qualified contributions.
The product teams present their ideas and plans in joint videoconferences and discuss use cases and the pros and cons of planned changes with us.
This form of communication has advantages for Red Hat and its customers. Red Hat learns from customers about their business cases. And customers learn about planned developments and ideas at an early stage and have the ability to influence them to a certain extent. The three main ways this happens are through surveys, product presentations, and focus groups.
Periodically, the program conducts surveys the Accellerators about Red Hat products and IT topics that affect many of us in our day-to-day work. Surveys are conducted as web-based forms or as live interviews with product teams.
Red Hat uses these questions to understand its customers better. Based on the results, the company schedules further meetings with smaller working groups to discuss individual points.
A product team presents planned innovations, changes, or new functions and asks for feedback and criticism from the Accelerators. They take care to ensure that criticism stays constructive. A simple "That's terrible" or "I think that's stupid" is not welcome. A constructive "I would wish for this or that for the following reasons" is much appreciated and gladly accepted.
As an Accelerator, I can communicate my wishes during these sessions. There is no guarantee and no claim that they will consider my ideas. However, Red Hat naturally has an interest in keeping its customers happy. A happy customer likes to buy again, while an unhappy customer probably tries something new.
However there can sometimes be disappointment for Red Hat, such as when a large majority rejects a design draft, saying "we really don't like this and would like it to be as follows").
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In the focus groups, selected Accelerators have the opportunity to work closely with a Red Hat product team.
For example, in summer 2020, I participated in the Insights focus group led by Mohit Goyal (senior principal product manager, Red Hat). There I had the opportunity to represent and raise awareness of specific requirements for deploying a solution in Germany and in my organization specifically. Due to feedback from several Red Hat Accelerators, Red Hat indefinitely postponed its planned automatic registration of RHEL systems in Red Hat Insights.
I have never had so much influence on active product development with any other company. I would like to see significantly more of it from other companies.
What are the benefits for Red Hat?
Of course, Red Hat also benefits from the Accelerators program. The company gets valuable feedback from trusted customers in the field. In addition, the Accelerators are ready to test and validate new products and check them in their own environment before they get released. This means that Red Hat can take countermeasures quickly in the event of problems.
The program helps Red Hat better understand its customers and their needs so that it can align its products with those needs.
Finally, the Accelerators provide Red Hat an army of enthusiasts who carry the open source message out into the world. Word-of-mouth is the most effective form of advertising.
What do other Accelerators like about the program?
Here are some things other members of the Red Hat Accelerators tell me they like about the program.
"It took me aback when Red Hat approached me to become an Accelerator. As a site with a pretty small Red Hat footprint (approximately 35 servers), I wouldn't have expected my viewpoint to be something they would be interested in. It is a mark of how invested Red Hat is in the quality of the Accelerators program that they don't just look for members from large clients.
"The ability to let Red Hat program teams know the pain points that I experience and to have them seek my feedback on the direction of new development is a priceless experience. I'm particularly proud of the interactions with the Insights focus group. As a fellow Accelerator commented, seeing suggestions we made in the focus group show up in the product and relatively short order is another mark of the value Red Hat places on the Accelerators community's feedback."
—Rick Greene, founding member, Community Captain 2018-2022, left the Accelerators at the end of 2021 to become a Red Hatter
"When Red Hat invited me to interview for the Accelerators program, I had the feeling that the program might be similar to other vendors' ambassadorship programs. Over time, I see it is really different. Besides being introduced to new Red Hat products, the program also invests in developing other personal soft skills such as communication and presentation skills.
"The program allows you to present what you know related to Red Hat products to a group of highly skilled experts, together with a podcast and blogging club hosting that sharpens your soft skills."
—Ashraf Hassan, member since 2018
"I was surprised in 2017-2018 when Red Hat initially considered me to join the Amplifier's program, which later became the Accelerator program. What struck me was Red Hat's desire to get a collection of experienced professionals together to help not just Red Hat's product development but to allow us to help each other. I deal with multiple vendors, and I've never seen this kind of facilitation of openness in the community by any other vendor.
"I'd been helping the Customer Portal community since 2014 as a Community Leader in the Red Hat Discussion forums, from where they recruited me and a few other Accelerators. As I have experience dealing with customer security configurations, I was a panel member speaker at a Red Hat Summit where we all fielded questions on Red Hat Satellite.
"It is refreshing to see Red Hat gather a professional collection of people and let us work together. As an example, I was asked to help with security-related discussions of products during development which was quite an honor. Red Hat listens to the Accelerator members and allows us to help each other. This, in turn, allows Red Hat to improve their products and the service they provide to their direct and indirect customers."
—RJ Hinton, founding member, 2018-present
"Red Hat considered me joining the Amplifier's program like RJ. I have a background as a Customer Portal community leader too. I now understand that the first Dutch members were ambassadors for the program, and the local Red Hat employees had not heard of it until we came to a conference—all wearing our T-shirts with pride.
"What does the program bring me? I like the presentations about new product features. I also like the focus groups around specific products. I especially love the Insights focus group.
"I am not a fan of surveys unless they are used to find candidates for an interview. I love it when the interviewers are not just asking questions about the subject but also save a little time to chat. The chats give you the feeling of belonging to a community instead of having a pure customer-vendor relationship."
—Jan Gerrit Kootstra, early EMEA member 2018, Captain since 2021
How to become a member?
If you are already a Red Hat customer, perhaps you'd like to join the Red Hat Accelerators. If so, you can apply for the program today. Please read the program terms and conditions before applying.
By the way, I am not allowed to accept any gifts from Red Hat or the Accelerators program. So if you put my name in the last field of the application form, I am assured of nothing more and nothing less than the thanks of the community managers, Andi and Lili.
If you would like to ask some questions before you apply, please reach out to Andi, Lili, or me. Or you can email the Accelerators program to ask questions.