The power of the open source way, an intern's story

the open source way
Image credits: opensource.com
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Before I came to Red Hat as a Social Media Marketing intern, I didn’t know a thing about open source. During the application process, I did some research into what Red Hat does and what this company is all about. I found all sorts of information about Linux, software, technology, and more.

However, my eyes were not opened to the open source way until New Hire Orientation where this idea was stressed by every speaker. I quickly realized that this is a pillar of how Red Hat does business.

I’ll admit... I was a little uneasy at the idea of all of this collaboration. Most people have had a terrible group project experience in college where it was impossible to get a hold of a group member, someone didn't contribute at all, and you just wished you could get the whole thing done on your own. But, what I am discovering now, at the midpoint of my internship this summer, is just how empowering the open source way can be. 

On the second day of my internship, I was invited to sit in on a meeting with one of Red Hat's vice presidents. During my second week, all of the interns had lunch with our CEO, Jim Whitehurst, and were given the opportunity to ask him anything in a laid-back and open setting. How many interns can say that? I quickly realized that the open source way starts with a culture of approachability. One of my coworkers spent the first week introducing me to what seemed like just about everyone in the entire office. It was great to meet a variety of interesting people, but sometimes I would think, "What does what I do have to do with their job?" Or, "Why am I being invited to a meeting about that?"

What I've learned is that most problems, tasks, and projects don't fall exactly within a particular division or department. This is where the power of the open source way shines through. For instance, last week I sent out an email to employees located in South America, Europe, and Asia without thinking twice. I have also been contacting some of those coworkers in my office that I thought had nothing to do with me. Similarly, interns in other departments have been reaching out to me to ask questions about our team. This culture of collaboration makes the knowledge base for any project considerably stronger. It also provides a fresh perspective and different opinions. In such a big company, it’s easy to get tunnel vision and focus only on your team’s direction. But open collaboration ensures that all perspectives are analyzed and that things work more seamlessly between departments.

The second thing that was surprising about Red Hat’s open source culture is the level of meritocracy. I of course expected to be doing meaningful work during my internship, but was surprised by the initial amount of trust and confidence my team placed in me from the start. Just a couple weeks ago, our team was discussing a major strategic decision for some of our social media channels. My boss basically told me to create a proposal of whatever I thought was best and be ready to present ideas to people outside of our team the following week. My team values my input and treats me with respect. They have great expectations of me but also confidence that I will deliver. My boss gives me a lot of flexibility in my hours and order of projects as long as I complete my tasks. At the same time, my team is always happy to provide guidance and has a genuine interest in my progress. Isn’t that the way it should be? It’s not the clothes you wear or the title that you have that is important here, it’s what you do.

Social media is inherently open and community based. Engaging others and sharing information are two of the primary goals of our team’s social efforts, which correlates well to the open source way. I am excited to be a part of the unique culture here at Red Hat and to be able to put these values directly into my work this summer. Thanks to everyone in my team for a great experience so far, and to everyone at Red Hat as well. Here’s to a great rest of the summer!

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3 Comments

robinmuilwijk's picture
Open Source Sensei

Thanks for sharing your story with the rest of us Adam. If you ask me, you could not have found a better place for an internship. The sharing, collaboration and meritocracy you describe are what I love in open source. Enjoy the rest of your internship!

Oh, and don't rule out any open source companies to build a career at ;)

pragmanaut's picture
Community Member

A story worth reading as a genuine instance of a paradigm shift.

Long ago I came across an inspiring opensource.com image depicting a dilemma: "to compete or collaborate". It probably sums up Adam's state of mind before the internship.

Once immersed in an open culture of inclusion and trust, community practice leads the way... "truth happens".

holmja's picture
Open Source Champion

I'm always impressed when I read about Red Hat's corporate culture. It is wonderful to hear that Red Hat respects and values the input of everyone, even (or, especially) the interns. And does any other company have their CEO take support calls? ;-)

But to any Red Hatters out there, is there is any way to get any of the stuff from the Red Hat Cool Stuff Store without the crazy shipping prices? I kinda want a sheet of the stickers, which cost $0.77, but the shipping on just that is $9.90! (And padding out my order with a few other items doesn't do much to offset the shipping costs.)