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Beware Red Hat interviews: You'll pay for coffee, lunch and fuel

Red Hat CEO Jim Whitehurst explains his very odd introduction to the company

Photo of Red Hat CEO Jim Whitehurst at Red Hat Summit 2014
Red Hat CEO Jim Whitehurst

Want a job at Red Hat? If so, prepare to buy your interviewer coffee, lunch and maybe even the petrol needed to drive to the coffee shop.

That's what happened to the company's CEO Jim Whitehurst when he was interviewed by his predecessor Matthew Szulik.

In an extract from his imminent tome “The Open Organization”, Whitehurst explains that Szulik took him to a cafe for their first meeting and, as they rose to leave, said he'd forgotten his wallet and asked Whitehurst to pay.

The chat went well and Szulik suggested they move on to lunch with Red Hat's then-general counsel Michael Cunningham. At the end of that chat, the modest restaurant said its credit card machine was broken and Cunningham said he had no cash. Whitehurst again paid up.

Cunnigham offered Whitehurst a lift to the airport, but ran out of petrol (gas). And wouldn't you know, the service station he pulled up at would only take cash. Whitehurst paid again, but writes “I was starting to wonder whether this was really an interview or some kind of scam.”

Whitehurst eventually took the job, and says “When I look back at that meeting now, I realize that Szulik and Cunningham were just being open and treating me like any other person they may have had coffee or lunch with or got gas with. Yes, it was ironic and funny that they both had no cash. But, for them, it wasn't about the money.”

What was it about? Whitehurst thinks those early meetings proved Red Hat did not have “... a traditional hierarchy and special treatment for leaders, at least not the kind that you might find at most other companies.”

“Put another way, my early experiences with Red Hat introduced me to what the future of leadership looks like.”

Whitehurst's book details that leadership style and philosophy. If that's your sort of thing, the book goes on sale next week and all profits will be funnelled to the EFF. And if you'd like some free coffee, lunch and fuel, you know how to get it and how to justify it. ®

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