Thinking back on my time at Red Hat, a few memories stand out. Unveiling Red Hat Enterprise Linux in 2002 and pioneering the open source subscription model. Acquiring JBoss and moving into application development, signaling that we planned to become about much more than Linux in the years that followed. The moment when we rang the opening bell at the New York Stock Exchange in 2006, beginning a new chapter in our history. The excitement and accompanying celebration when we became the first pure play, open source company to reach a billion dollars in revenue, a milestone some speculated may never happen in open source. Launching the Women in Open Source Awards to shine a light on the contributions that women make to open source and inspire the next generation of women to get involved. In 2016, when we launched CO.LAB, part of our Open Source Stories initiative, an immersive learning experience for middle-school girls from underserved communities focused on collaboration, community and open source principles.
They are moments when Red Hat made history or broke new ground. As we approach our 25th anniversary, I’ve been reflecting on our history and looking toward our future.
Red Hat is such a remarkable place. The things that made us unique when we were starting out are still a part of our culture today. Nearly 17 years ago, I joined Red Hat on the legal team when there were around 500 associates. If I had to describe the culture at that time it would be – thriving on change. Although we had just completed our IPO, we were still very much a startup company and we were trying to figure out a sustainable business model. Part of us figuring that out was doing what seemed like everything differently because of our commitment to open source. We were ok with taking risks, making big changes and saying we didn’t have it all figured out. Despite having over 11,000 associates now, I still see that same company, thriving on change, that we were all those years ago.
A common thread throughout our history has been our values – freedom, courage, commitment and accountability. What I have seen shift over the years is how we balance them. Initially, the value of freedom was the most prevalent. We had to take risks and try different things in order to be successful. Because of our open approach we were facing challenges that other companies had not dealt with before. There wasn’t a business model for open source in the enterprise 25 years ago – we had to build it, considering everything from the subscription model and order processing to partner agreements and building a world-class support organization that is vital to our business. There was the freedom to come up with the right solutions to our unique business challenges. It feels different to be a company of more than 11,000 people working to balance freedom, courage, commitment, and accountability, but those values are still what make us Red Hat. What we see now is a need to bring additional weight to the value of accountability.
Today, my biggest focus is maintaining our legacy as a startup charting new territory, and at the same time, scaling our culture as the world’s leading provider of open source solutions. Maintaining the right balance for our values takes continued vigilance. Part of the challenge is attracting the right people and the other part is ensuring once we have the right people in the door, they understand our purpose. In the past, people joined Red Hat because they were mission- and purpose-driven individuals who already understood why we were here. Now, with people from so many different backgrounds, we needed to be more purposeful about what we say we’re here to do. With that in mind, we recently set out to define our purpose. Through company-wide discussions and several rounds of feedback we found that the same spirit that guided us at the beginning is still guiding us today – open unlocks the world’s potential. This purpose is our North Star for all our decisions and it enables us to speak with one voice as to why we’re here.
We’ve always done a great job at telling people what is different about Red Hat, but we didn’t always explain why it’s different. Articulating that our purpose is the reason we approach what we do in an open way is because we know the ways that open can contribute to a better world, will help us as we continue to evolve. We’re not different just to be different, we’re different to support our purpose. The power of open source is where we started, it’s still driving us today, and I’m confident it will be driving us the next 25 years.
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