I woke up this morning in a hotel in Amsterdam, Holland. Over the last twenty years I’ve woken up literally a thousand times or more in hotels somewhere. The loyalty points and cards from airlines and hotel chains stacked up and rarely used, the continental breakfasts consumed and the amount of uncomfortable and comfortable beds are anyones guess. Why is this relevant to a technical cloud blog you ask ?
Well let me explain. I was stood in front of the bathroom mirror in my suite this morning and I looked at my tired 40 year old face and realised a salutory fact. I am still a roadwarrior, still fighting the same battles, and still even at my dotage trying to enable technical change.
Why is this relevant to my ongoing activities at Red Hat ?
I am the old man of Red Hat Europe. Fact.
Before Red Hat Europe existed, before Colin Tenwick was hired by Bob Young as the first general manager in the European region Red Hat’s business needs and engagement was met by Linuxcare in San Francisco on an informal basis. I was the Tech GM of Linuxcare in Europe working under Dave Sifry, Art Tyde, Dave LaDuke and briefly Chris Di Bona (who I would later be hired by at VA Software / VA Linux up the road in Fremont CA).
So the first two client engagement and meetings that “Red Hat Europe” had were in Amsterdam. I remember waking up in a very small, rather grubby but cheap room in a Novotel here in town and making my way to a government building and sitting and talking about Linux and free software and making the business case for Red Hat to replace HP UX. Then taking a train to Utrecht and sitting in HP’s datacentre and R&D centre and having the same conversation with them about Red Hat on Intel. Nobody had really heard of Red Hat, this was long pre IPO. The first ever meetings Red Hat had to place boxed Red Hat product in retail environments are still very fresh in my memory, the concept of having to get my head round trying to explain to the US that Red Hat would have to pay to place Red Hat 5.1 / 5.2 in PC World’s and retail environments alongside SuSE and Caldera Linux boxes.
So this pre-dates the formation of Red Hat UK and Red Hat Munich by a number of years, Red Hat Guildford (now Farnborough) wasn’t even a distant dream. I now walk into each of the Red Hat Europe and global offices full of happy busy people, all working on a common goal and pinch myself. Remembering very clearly that the first ever Red Hat client engagements outside of North America which consisted of me – backed up by Tom Peters of the LPI and Rene de Wit of Linuxcare in Amsterdam talking to the likes of Kvaerner in Norway, Mott Macdonald, Bechtel, Jaguar, Woolworths, Interoute and the Swedish Health Ministry in a cold and frozen Uppsala in Sweden. I am still very grateful and mindful of the career guidance and advice afforded to me by Red Hat’s first CFO Kevin Thompson, himself part of the team that guided the creation of the company we work for today. I’ve tried to use that advice on an actual literal basis a lot over my working career.
Red Hat globally now has 5,500+ staff. When I first worked with Red Hat it had about 7 or 8 staff. In fact employee number 7 Kit Cosper is still one of my closest friends who I talk to almost daily and our families are very close. The relationships that you hear on the podcasts I put out are very real and those loyalties and those common shared experiences from the dot.com times are still very fresh. Salutory lessons about how to realise actual business rather than virtual pipeline business. We may now talk cloud but back in the day we talked the birth of Linux virtual machines, the conception and design of the first high availability services built around Linux with the likes of Akamai. The birth and the angst and infighting of Samba and the first ever usable Linux desktops and evolution of X server technology. I am exceptionally proud to have been around since before this business in Europe was incepted. It makes me do my job that little bit better because I know whats at stake, without having to justify my position or my role to anyone other than you my reader / listener.
I still wear a Red Hat with pride, no blue pill swallowed, no kool aid gargled. One thing has changed though in those intervening years. Being involved so early in the lifecycle and birth of this company affords me a very different perspective. This is not a job for me, it’s a responsibility to do it right and to try and help you deliver safe effective change and to do that with my personal guarantee that I will be here to find you the resources and the capabilities to make that a structured journey of discovery and realisation.
Next time you listen in to a podcast and I sound tired, cut me some slack, I’m the granddaddy round here, got married in my Red Hat, can’t imagine for a nanosecond working anywhere else. Just need to keep doing this right and evolving the services that help you consume technology that helps you grow.