Monday, December 24, 2007

CEO democracies

So, non-industry candidates chosen to lead software companies grow. Here’s the latest from Dan Farber. When former Delta Airlines chief operating officer James Whitehurst takes over as CEO of Red Hat (vendors of Open source software/servers) on New Year’s Day he’ll face the worst kind of doubters–the quiet ones. At least, No analyst is going to question the Whitehurst move amid a great third quarter.

But Farber believes Whitehurst could very well take Red Hat to the next level. He quotes the example of Lou Gerstner. “Before we pooh pooh Whitehurst we should remember Lou Gerstner. Remember him? Oh yeah, he’s the guy that transformed IBM into a services juggernaut. The funny part of the story: Before IBM Gerstner was CEO of RJR Nabisco. Before RJR, Gerstner was at American Express. What did Gerstner know about mainframes? Probably nothing, this was the point of the hire in the first place.”

Well, that’s fine. But here’s Red Hat’s outgoing CEO Matthew J. Szulik on why he thinks Whitehurst has a geek streak - “In my first meeting with Jim Whitehurst, we discussed the four Linux distributions that he was running on his home personal network. He was running Fedora Core 6 and Fedora Core 7 at home. He was running Slackware at home and he was an experienced software developer up until the time that he was at BCG (Boston Consulting Group). So we are getting a technically savvy executive who happens to have strong operational, financial, and strategic skills and it was in my view that in comparison to his peers that were finalists for the job, that he stood head and shoulders above, in light of all of the qualities that we were looking for in my successor.”

I just hope he is right. Let Whitehurst lead Red Hat to greater glories. All the very best. Why should anyone worry?

I am just glad it’s not the other way round. Imagine Delta picking up Matt Szulik to fly its plane because he’s flown some kites during his school days…:)

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