So Long and Thanks for All the Krill

A little over five years ago, I had just passed my tenth year working at Red Hat. I loved the company, and I loved my job. But something happens when you love your work. You spend a lot of time doing it and start getting good at it. Over time, you may get so good at it, it no longer feels satisfying. That’s what happened to me at Red Hat. I had become complacent, and a bit depressed. I needed something new. A new challenge to reset my life. At the 2016 Linux Plumbers Conference, I let it be known that I was looking to make a move. I was approached by people who represented different companies, but they all offered me the same thing I was doing at Red Hat, and I didn’t see a new opportunity that would get me out of my rut. Then Dirk Hohndel approached me and said he started a new job, assigned to the task of helping the company become a good open source citizen and asked me if I would join him in the mission. I thought to myself, “I have no idea how to do this,” and quickly answered “YES!”

That company was obviously VMware. And now that I have been here for five years, I can honestly say “MISSION ACCOMPLISHED.” Although there’s still a lot more that needs to be done, the first phase has been completed, and now I feel the need to start a new mission. Unfortunately, that new mission will be somewhere else.

Several people have asked me what specifically has been done in this first phase of the transformation. One of the most important accomplishments our team has made was to convince the company not only to consider a project’s license from a legal view, but to take a hard look at its intent. Most companies worry about lawsuits and make sure that their interactions with such licenses are to the letter of the law. But that misses out on the human factor. Open source is more about the community than code, and the community is made up of humans. If a company only uses the legal aspect of a license to decide how to use an open source project, that can lead to the company abusing its use. But by considering both aspects – legal and intent — you are less likely to abuse the project and there is a better chance of becoming a member of that project.

Over the past five years, VMware has become much more visible in the open source communities. When considering making updates to an open source project, not only does VMware look at how to make changes to accomplish its needs, but how to make those changes in a generic way that can also be useful for others in the community. In other words, VMware tries to give back as much as it receives.

My future mission still includes me being the Linux kernel ftrace maintainer, as well as the trace-cmd and libraries maintainer. I’ll still be involved with the real-time folks. I will continue to give talks around the world as I had been pre-pandemic and carrying on my job as the 2022 Linux Plumbers Chair. I made many friends at VMware, and I expect to still interact with them moving forward. The beauty about working in open source, is that you work with the same people, even when changing companies.

It’s been a fun five years. VMware is a great company, has a lot of good people, and has treated me well. As VMware is now an active open source contributor, I can say, “farewell, but not goodbye,” and I look forward to seeing many of my colleagues at open source events in the months ahead.

So long everyone and thanks for all the krill!


3 comments have been added so far

  1. Hey Steven, thanks for all the Linux chats on slack. The terrible thing is that I didn’t know your history lol. Although that didn’t matter really.
    Thanks tho and best of luck in your future endeavours


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