Working at Red Hat

About two years ago, I was at a conference with a load of GNOME people. I mentioned over drinks to two friendly Red Hat hackers, that I had an idea about a packaging framework. It was just an idea, as I was working for a large defence company, and had precious little time to maintain gnome-power-manager, let alone start anything new.

Nearly a year ago, I was hired by Red Hat to work on power management stuff. Now, my boss is one of those cool bosses that gives you quite a bit of ‘space’ and with his blessing I started to hack on PackageKit. 18 months later PackageKit is feature-complete, and the defacto standard across a dozen or so distributions.

Every week or so, I put up a new screenshot on this blog of cool stuff I’m working on. Every week people critique my ideas, and I go away to fix them up so the next version is that little bit better. Every week a few people say thanks, and tell me I’m doing some cool stuff, which is nice.

I don’t want people to think that PK or DK-p are Red Hat projects, but the simple economics is that they pay me to hack on cool projects. Whilst working at Red Hat I’m working alongside the very best people in the industry, in an environment that rewards innovation and thinking a little bit different.

What I’m trying to say is, most things you see on this blog are possible because of Red Hat. Sometimes I feel Red Hat doesn’t get the credit it deserves. Red Hat Rocks.

Published by


Richard has over 10 years of experience developing open source software. He is the maintainer of GNOME Software, PackageKit, GNOME Packagekit, GNOME Power Manager, GNOME Color Manager, colord, and UPower and also contributes to many other projects and opensource standards. Richard has three main areas of interest on the free desktop, color management, package management, and power management. Richard graduated a few years ago from the University of Surrey with a Masters in Electronics Engineering. He now works for Red Hat in the desktop group, and also manages a company selling open source calibration equipment. Richard's outside interests include taking photos and eating good food.

14 thoughts on “Working at Red Hat”

  1. Since you are in the mood to talk. Here’s a few questions for you.

    As a percentage of your “work time”, however you want to define that, how much of is done hacking on code? I’m sure its not 100%, you’ve got meeting and stuff. And out of that coding time , how much of that is hacking on open source code? 100%?

    What percentage of your “work time” is dedicated to interacting with community about the open projects you hack on? Out of that communication time, how much of that communication time is spent talking on internal Red Hat channels talking with other red hat devs? And how much is done in public forums?


  2. Richard, thank you for your hard work! And thank you Red Hat for letting Richard hack on all his cool stuff!

    Philip: hang in there and take charge. The folks at Red Hat are usually quite busy so take control and contact Jose instead of waiting for him to contact you. Hopefully it will get you the result you desire. Good luck!

  3. I agree fully, Red Hat often doesn’t get credit for all the investments they make that benefit everyone. They continue to open up tools they have developed in-house, they don’t have to, but Red Hat practices what they preach.

    In being part of the Fedora community, I find that one of the greatest joys is getting to interact with all the fantastic people like yourself who make Linux happen. Getting to listen to the concerns of all kinds of use cases and watching the magic happen. I continue to be proud of being part of that (granted a tiny little part), and I will always be grateful to Red Hat for creating the chance for me and everyone else to take part in building something truly great and to steer the Linux platform through innovation and creativity.

  4. IMVVHO, it is too early to say “pk is the facto standard”. I hope it will, but probably Fedora (and deritatives) is the only one shipping it at this moment.
    I’m looking forward the day it will get the facto standard.

    Anyway, RH rocks :-)

  5. >As a percentage of your “work time”, how much of is done hacking on code?

    I would say probably as high as 60% of time. Probably about 25% of the other time is spent on email, and the other 15% on research or testing.

    > how much of that is hacking on open source code? 100%?


    >What percentage of your “work time” is dedicated to interacting with community about the open projects you hack on?

    Well, there’s no company policy, but I try to reserve at least a little part of each day communicating with people. There’s no point trying to develop code in secret.

    > how much of that communication time is spent talking on internal Red Hat channels

    About 1% – but then that’s mostly private stuff like pay or other RH internal stuff. Never development.

    > And how much is done in public forums?

    0% in forums, I don’t seem to get along with the “moderators” very well… 99% of my communication is in public IRC and public mailing lists.

  6. Richard most of your “work time” is taken up eating chocolate biscuits, drinking tea and watching Jeremy Kyle/ Trisha!! :p

  7. Thanks for the answers. I think they dovetail nicely with the story DeHaan is trying to tell with EKG and about driving community development.

    It’s great that Red Hat pays you to hack on stuff. But that’s just the beginning of the real greatness of Red Hat. The real greatness is that Red Hat is folstering a corporate culture that actively grows community around technology advancements.

    That is the biggest hardest challenge facing corporate entities as distinct members of the larger ecosystem. Making corporate business culture and turning its communication outward so company employees are doing the bulk of their development interactions in the public square, even when they are talking to other employees of the same company. I doubt Red Hat is perfect at that, but I think they are really trying as a corporate entity to have that outwardly thinking corporate culture instead of an inwardly thinking one.

    I didn’t mean ‘web forums’ i meant pretty much any public venue. irc, email, webforum, whatever. Anywhere where external community can engage and participate in the development process of that technology. I’m still looking for the best noun which describes that collection of spaces.

    Since you do a lot on irc, do you archive those discussions in an organized manner? The one thing about doing a lot of development work on irc is that it becomes harder to understand how things got from point A to point B when trying to understand design decisions. Mailinglist threads archives while cumbersome, are useful restrospective tools to chart the evolution of developer headspace.


  8. Very true Richard! Red Hat really deserves to be credited for being _the_ greatest contributor to FOSS even on areas which aren’t directly profitable for them like the desktop.

  9. @gpoo: at least another distribution is using PackageKit as an interface to their package manager: Foresight Linux. I even think they were the first to use it officially, even before Fedora did, but I might be wrong on this one. I also think Openmoko uses it, but again I might be wrong.

Comments are closed.