If you've been with an organization for a significant duration, the perspective and understanding is often sharply different than what outsiders have. I've been at #RedHat
for the greater part of 11 years and as is usually expected, faced the "How is it to work at Red Hat?" question a number of times.
The question is simple and perhaps the audience demands a pithy response. The truth is that such an answer is pretty much impossible to craft. How do you begin to explain a company that has as its mission statement the line "To be the catalyst in communities of customers, contributors, and partners creating better technology the open source way." (cf. https://redhat.sc.hodesdigital.com/life-at-red-hat/our-culture/
When I joined, it was truly a "small" company (cf. https://www.redhat.com/cms/public/red_hat_history.png
). A year or so before that date almost the entire company assembled for a form of "all hands". And that's pretty much the only/last time it happened. I joined a Red Hat that allowed a somewhat rank newcomer to absorb and assimilate information at a rate that was (at least for me) truly drinking from a firehose. The mailing lists had epic conversations around technology (one would either have Subhendu asking about a tricky implementation or, providing a concise response to a somewhat hand-wavy set of queries) and general things (memo list email threads from Rik, Arjan, Mike Harris, Alan Cox and Tiemann were a given). It was the Red Hat where the then CEO went up on stage (was it Linuxworld?) to talk about patents/IP and cite "Britney and her clones" in his spiel. It was also the company where the intranet had a page from James Morris that had the most click-bait-y title one could ever think of.
And locally, the then-JV which I joined was taking large inroads into the business landscape of the country. A decade later, sitting back and thinking about the "good old days", it is incredibly satisfying to see how things have changed. The "enterprise Linux" company which always punched above its weight now has a footprint that puts it right out there with infrastructure plays across nearly all aspects of a modern enterprise IT set up.
Anyway, the point is, that to an extent, the "What is Red Hat and how is it" side of the question was often answered through innovations in technology, spectacular work in upstream communities and good solid hard work. In some form, the absence of a canon, so to speak, enabled a lot of commentators to write about the company and shape the narrative. While reading through Jim Whitehurst's book (cf. http://www.amazon.com/Open-Organization-Igniting-Passion-Performance/dp/1625275277
) I realized that this would perhaps be the first step in developing the narrative from the perspective of an insider. And including the points of view of individuals I've seen, known or, met within the company. And that's why it is a great read.
Any narrative about Red Hat tends to work around the theme of "enterprise open source company" with typical emphasis on the "open source" parts of how things might work. While this is largely true, the very notion that an agile organization structure can be created drawing upon the fundamental principles is something this book provides a number of citations about. It is not easy work and the surprises which Jim tripped into are well narrated. The part I did like is eschewing the "Red Hat is special" construct of an argument. Instead, it draws upon numerous experiments (successful and failures), conversations, incidents to demonstrate that there are a set of basic guidelines which emerge. A template which can be consciously or, deliberately adopted.
The principle that leadership can and will emerge often from the unlikeliest instances and individuals can come together to make a difference is a powerful one. That arc is a strong complement to the values of the company as well as the singular aspect of an open source community - collaboration. The book does well to curate and collate such instances which the (non-RHT) readers can relate well to. But, for the associates (and alumni) there are daily reminders of such events and the fact that this is "just how we get things done".
The book weaves in the values (Freedom, Courage, Commitment, Accountability) as a practice and provides the scaffolding to the various decisions which have been made by Jim and his leadership team. However, the part I like most is that it provides a basis to create a well thought answer to the "How is it like to work there?" question. And with the material being generally available, the top tier talent seeking to join the company will have a well defined perspective to their choice. That's a fantastic thing!