Red Hat CEO: Employees 'Often Call Me An Idiot To My Face'

Business Insider

Red Hat, the first and only open-source software maker to crack $1 billion a year in revenues, is growing like mad.

One key reason: the software engineers working for Red Hat almost never leave.

The company has about 5,700 employees now, hiring about 1,000 workers in 2012. It will hire another 600 to 800 in 2013, CEO Jim Whitehurst told Business Insider.

Top engineering talent is scarce, open-source development know-how is in demand, and Red Hat is the most visible company in the space. Its engineers are the constant target of would-be poachers.

"Everyone is looking for open-source talent and when they ask, 'Where is the talent?', our company comes up," Whitehurst said.

Yet the attrition rate of his R&D group—the company's biggest group of engineers—is only 1.5%, compared to an industry average of about 5%, he said.

Whitehurst says it's not the pay or perks, both of which are good, but comparable. It's the free-spirited open-source culture.

Open-source software is written by a community of people and it tends to create meritocracies, where leaders emerge because of their skill, not their position. Even with nearly 6,000 employees, the same is still true at Red Hat.

"We built our culture to match open source's [culture]," Whitehurst says. "The chaotic nature, the fact that people can call me up whenever and often call me an idiot to my face. We yell and we debate and we have these things out. Our culture matches the culture around open source, so the people who want to be involved in open source feel at home."



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