Democratizing knowledge: Red Hat CEO Jim Whitehurst
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Democratizing knowledge: Red Hat CEO Jim Whitehurst
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  • 승인 2009.12.02 12:43
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Democratizing and opening knowledge for further investment is the core mission of Red Hat and Jim M. Whitehurst, CEO.

     He has breakfast with his family, lunch with board of directors at Raleigh, North Carolina, dinner with employees in Japan. First thing in the morning, he flies to Korea, holds a vigorous three-hour meeting with other employees and signs a contract with other companies. Such daily routines go on and on. One day is never the same as the next, nor is anyday simple. Jim M. Whitehurst, travels all around the world as the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Red Hat, a leading open source company promoting Linux and its programs.
     As an undergraduate at Rice University, Whitehurst majored in computer science and economics. After completing his academic career at Erlangen Nuremberg University in Germany, London School of Economics and Harvard Business School, he began his professional career as a consultant at the Boston Consulting Group. After working at Delta Air Lines as Chief Operating Officer (COO) he was recruited as the CEO of Red Hat in 2007. Red Hat, since its launch in 1999, has been the leader in the open source industry, primarily developing and promoting Linux, a program that was designed as an alternative Microsoft Windows.  
     Whitehurst is well-known in media and the public for being the “savior” of Delta Air Lines. Delta Air Lines was on the brink of bankruptcy when Whitehurst became the operating officer. “Whitehurst became a very popular figure during the campaign to Keep Delta My Delta, and transparent honesty and genuine affection for the company and its heritage,” explains a biography of Whitehurst on Wikipedia. After pouring every effort in bringing Delta Air Lines back to life, Whitehurst left Delta for Red Hat.
     “When you get old, you realize that you want to do something ‘meaningful’ for the society and yourself. You decide that you want to have a mission and work for that mission,” said Whitehurst during an exclusive interview for the Ewha Voice while at Ewah signing the Memorandum of Unverstanding with the College of Engineering.          “I guess my turning point in moving my career to Red Hat was finding something interesting and fun. And somewhere I can learn new things. When I sought for those criteria, Red Hat is where I put myself.”
Whitehusrt says the job of a CEO is to “direct” which way the company should go, and to “lead” the employees.  “I have given direction to the massive potential I see in our company and made the employees to have a clear focus for what we are doing.”
     Whitehurst is not only successful in leading the company, but he has done one more important thing. He has allowed the company to influence him. “The company has changed me much as well,” said Whitehurst. “I became more passionate in knowledge transportation. Not only that, but Red Hat has also allowed me to see the potential of knowledge transfer around the world. I believe that creative thoughts in many countries are the power to open source as well as Red Hat.”
     As for the desired characteristics of employees at Red Hat, Whitehurst mentioned being “aggressive and willing.” According to Whitehurst, as a 21st century company, Red Hat looks for people who are willing to speak their opinions and question authority.
     “My team often asks me questions that push each other to come up with the best ideas,” said Whitehurst. “I get tons of E-mails from junior employees for comments on an idea. And we have our famous ‘memo-list’ which allows employees to input their ideas and complaints. I am a participant of the ‘memo-list.’ It works, and it encourages people to ask the hard and interesting questions.”
Whitehurst acknowledges the importance of the future generation in developing Red Hat’s and his mission of democratizing and opening knowledge for further investment in knowledge.  He intends to make that happen through open sources.
     “I advise Ewha students to ‘do what you love to do.’ When you find things that you love to do, then you automatically work hard to reach that goal,” said Whitehurst. “After working in three different industries, a consulting firm, an air line company and now an open source company, I have come to the conclusion that you will never be good if you do not love to do it. Manage your career and chase what you love to do with passion. Then the rest will follow.”


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