Photo: Red Hat
What does it feel like to be the CEO of a super-hot company as it crests the billion-dollar-revenue mark and grows to 5,000 employees?Red Hat CEO Jim Whitehurst says that it’s hard to notice the changes. Then something happens to make you realise you are the boss of a very big place.
“It creeps up on you,” says Whitehurst with a laugh. “It’s a little like boiling a frog in water. If you heat it up slowly, it never jumps out.”
It’s been a big year for Red Hat. It became the first open-source company to hit a billion dollars in annual revenues. Consequently, it’s hiring like crazy, adding more than a thousand employees this year alone. It’s slowly moving into fabulous new digs in downtown Raleigh, North Carolina, to accommodate everyone.
While some employees are already in the new building, Whitehurst isn’t, yet. The building is being finished floor by floor, so he won’t be in until March.
“The growth hit me recently,” said Whitehurst. “I had gone to the new headquarters building downtown. I was supposed to film a public-service ad, advocating for public transportation. I got there 10 minutes early, so I’m standing in front of the new building. The people I was meeting arrived and said, ‘Let’s not film here, there’s too much road noise.'”
So they all walked away to a quieter spot. But employees who’d spotted Whitehurst waiting outside wondered what was going on.
“Three weeks later, I hear this rampant rumour that I was hanging out down there because the security guard wouldn’t let me up and I had him fired,” Whitehurst laughs. “Anyone that knows me knows that story is ridiculous.”
The story spread because it had a grain of truth: It’s now become impossible for all Red Hat employees to know each other—even the CEO—by sight.
“Sometime over last couple of years, we’ve gotten big,” he says. Those types of rumours are bound to happen.