The Love of Linux
The untold, behind the scenes story of the commercialization of Linux and the principles that drove its success.
The Love of Linux
Chapter 1: The Foundation
Chapter 2: The Business Plan
Chapter 3: The Birth Of A Company
Chapter 4: In Spite Of The Set Backs
Chapter 5: Technology Innovations
Chapter 6: Taking The Company Public
Chapter 7: The Python Swallowing The Elephant
Chapter 8: Do The Right Thing At The Right Time For The Right Reason
Chapter 9: The Love Of Linux — A Lesson For Business
Chapter 10: The Open Company — Using Councils To Manage
Chapter 11: The Business Model — How Do You Make Money On Linux?
Chapter 12: The Formation Of Standards And United Linux
Chapter 13: The Attack Of The BORG/Board
Chapter 14: So What About The SCO Suit?
Chapter 15: Lessons Learned
Chapter 1: The Foundation
It is said that the side that wins the war writes the history books. Learning the perspective of the person writing the history is almost as important as the history itself. When relating a history, it is helpful to understand the perspective from which the events described were experienced or perceived. In this case, you will understand better the history and insights in the following chapters if you first know a little bit about my life before Linux and the lessons that helped shape my outlook.
Part of my reasoning in telling you more about myself is that this is not just a “business book,” because Linux is not just another business. Linux and open source software development have fundamentally changed the face of the most prominent industries in the world — including many outside of information technology. This happened because Linux introduced many people to new principles — principles that had not previously been applied to business. Now the Linux technology and open source methodologies are being used by huge multi-national corporations and by start-up technology companies; by software firms and by manufacturing firms and by service firms.
But the principles behind the success of Linux may be far more valuable to the corporate world than inexpensive server software or a new way of developing software. However, before principals can be acted on in an organization, principles must begin as personal insights — insights that drive people to act in ways they would not have previously considered viable. And so I’ve chosen to begin this story by describing the principles and values that I started with when first encountering Linux. These experiences — and the life lessons that I describe — guided me though the trials and adventures of the commercialization of Linux and helped me see more clearly the value of the principals behind the success of Linux; I hope they will also provide insights to you as you consider your own challenges and opportunities and consider the value of these concepts.
I was born the last of seven children in Seattle, Washington. When I was still an infant, we moved to Portland, Oregon, where we spent five years. My older brother, Mark, is more than four years older than I am, so I have very few memories of the entire family being together. I cannot remember when my oldest sister Loretta was not married to her husband, Val. For me, Val has always been part of our family. One of my earliest memories is of Val and Loretta coming to visit and Val having completed what he said was a very successful hunting trip. He had shot one of the biggest two point bucks he had ever seen. He spent several minutes telling us all the incredible details and then led us to the back of his Volvo in the rain and opened the trunk. As the whole family looked in, what we saw was a tiny, skinned, dead rabbit.
Lesson Learned: I started learning the basics of marketing from my brother-in-law. Much depends in how the story is told. However, a good story can only go so far. Sooner or later you will have to open the trunk. To truly be effective in business and life, the story must be true. In many ways, Linux and open source opened the trunk for the computer industry, exposing inefficiencies and corporate issues to the light of day by showing that there was a better way.
My father accepted a civil engineering position at Davis Monthon Air Force base in Tucson, Arizona. At that time, Davis Monthon was the largest aircraft storage area for the United States Air Force. They had acres and acres of old planes in various stages of readiness. My father had served in World War II, but had contracted polio, which left him with only 70% use of one leg and only 30% use of the other. Though the doctors had predicted he would never walk again, he persisted, even designing a device that could act as a walker, until after many months of rehabilitation he was able to walk with the use of braces and crutches.
After his discharge from the Army in about 1945 there were very few employers willing to hire handicapped veterans. My father had nearly lost all hope of having a career when a dear friend of the family told him about the new civil service program for veterans. Dad applied and was accepted into the program. Because of his success in that program, he enjoyed a very distinguished career as an architectural and environmental engineer.
Education had always been a very important value to my father; while he worked, he also studied four years on his post graduate degree in Law and Literature and later passed the architectural exams. He became a big fan of Don Quixote and enjoyed the play based on that book, “Man of La Mancha.” Later in life I truly came to appreciate this story as well. Although many people thought him to be a failure as he pursued his dreams, Don Quixote forever changed the lives of those around him by the way he treated them. For example, during the course of the novel, Don Quixote’s dutiful man servant Sancho, changed from something of a naysayer, lamenting Quixote’s actions, into one who was willing to fight his master’s battles for justice, even when they seemed unlikely to prevail. In many ways, my father was like Don Quixote.
Lesson Learned: One of the greatest principles I learned from my father was to keep pursuing your dreams. Don’t give up on your dreams, in spite of how difficult the way may seem; you never know what positive effects the pursuit of a worthy dream will have on you or on those around you. As The Man of La Mancha sings, you must “dream the impossible dream.”
My mother was the one who would work alongside her sons. She could work harder than any of us and still does, though she’s now in her early nineties. I learned to work hard from my mother.
I remember as a twelve-year-old, when my brothers and I were asked to get up for chores or a family project, we would want to linger in the warmth of our beds. When we would hear the clicking of Dad’s crutches at the end of the hall, we would jump out of bed and get dressed quickly. If we were too slow, and Dad reached us while we were still in bed, he would swing his crutch over and smack us. It did not hurt too bad, but the thought of it was a definite motivator.
Though my father was handicapped, our family did not shy away from work projects. Nearly every home we lived in required major modifications to accommodate our large family. My father would direct the work, often pointing to things that needed to be done with his crutch or even assisting in holding up beams or supports while we would nail them in place. My mother would work alongside us. When materials were needed, dad would go off and get them and my mother would stay and continue
Lesson Learned: From my parents I learned that few things in life are exactly what you want and life can change in an instant, but with vision and a lot of work, you can overcome obstacles, truly change your circumstances, and make a difference.
As a kid, I spent much of my time with one my best friends, Ken Shepherd. My mother worked as a schoolteacher, so after school I would go home with Ken, and Mrs. Shepherd would watch me until mom came home. I loved it because Ken lived on 5 acres of land and had horses, chickens, pigs, and a cow. Ken was in charge of milking the cow every day. He hated it but it was really quite fun for me. Ken’s dad had ridden bulls in the rodeo and his mother had participated in several horse riding events.
Lesson Learned: Spending time with the Shepherd family taught me to love the values, honesty, and character of those who make their living from the soil. Also about many true principles that were evident every day on a farm. Things like “you sow what you reap” and “don’t judge a book by its cover” really are unchangeable truths that are sometimes lost in today’s sophisticated environment, where the consequences of actions can sometimes be temporarily hidden.
The Shepherd family was very active in 4 H and helped me raise some rabbits and chickens when we lived in the suburbs. Later, when we moved farther out to some land close to them, I raised several blue-ribbon pigs and won the showmanship trophy in the senior novice class at the Pima County Fair. My wife claims that on our first date, I told her I wanted to take her home to see “Mama.” She of course thought I meant my mother, but it was my 750 lb sow that was going to have piglets. Ken also talked me into riding a few bulls with him. I managed to stay healthy until I fell off of one and it stepped on my chest. I was quite short of breath but I did not feel much pain. Someone drove me home in my truck. That evening, the pain became so severe that my parents took me to the hospital. After the x-ray, the emergency room technician told me nothing was wrong, so I went to high school the next day. Near the last bell, an office worker came running into my gym class and said I had an urgent message in the office. The hospital had called. When the doctor had arrived in the morning and reviewed my x-rays from the night before, he immediately called my mother and told her I had a broken rib and punctured lung. Nothing could be done but to wait for my body to heal.
Lesson Learned: The key principle I learned from riding bulls is that life is precious, and sometimes fragile. I was not invincible. Never assume that the price of a momentary thrill or of doing something just to be accepted by others is worth the cost.
When we moved out from the suburbs by the Shepherds, we had a small 10 acre farm. I was about 14 years old at the time and my older siblings were married or at school, so the responsibility for running the farm fell principally on me. At one point, we had 14 heifers to feed. One-year-old heifers can be pretty obnoxious. I was constantly chasing cows and mending fences to keep them fenced in. Some animals — like most people — do not want to be fenced in.
I was also responsible for plowing, planting, and harvesting the fields with oats and barley. One day, I borrowed a machine from a neighbor to cut the hay. To use the machine, I pulled it behind an old Ford tractor. It had one very long blade with metal teeth riveted onto a steel plate and a seat that someone could sit on to raise and lower the blade at the end of a row. As I plowed, I broke some teeth off of the steel plate. I had some teeth from another broken blade that I planned to use to replace those teeth that had broken off. To use them, I planned to just remove the rivets, extract the teeth, and move them to the other blade. That was the plan. But after breaking off the teeth from the first blade, I spent the rest of the day trying to scrape the rivets off to extract the replacement teeth I needed from the second blade. Finally, I went across the street to a very gruff, old farmer named Cecil Stevens, Ken Shepherd’s grandfather. As a child, he scared me to death, but I had grown to really admire him because of his practical knowledge around the farm. He never said much, he just kind of grunted at you. When I took the blade to him, he did not say anything, but walked over to a concrete block, put the edge of the broken blade on the concrete and then gently tapped the back edge of the teeth. Miraculously, the teeth just popped off. I was able to put the teeth on the blade with new rivets and finish cutting the field.
Lesson Learned: Seemingly complex problems are often solved with a fresh perspective and a gentle tap in the right place.
I found the love of my life during high school. She was dating one of my good friends but he was too scared to talk with her. I did not think she would even be interested in me so we would talk and tease to fill up the time. Our friendship blossomed so I finally built up the courage at the end of our junior year and asked her out. She said yes, but then found out that she had a conflict in her schedule. When a girl tells a guy that asked her out that she has “another commitment” it can really deflate a guys hopes. In his mind he runs through all the excuses girls give guys they don’t want to go out with, such as, “I have to wash my hair that night”. Needless to say, I felt like hers fell under that category so that was that for the time being, but the next school year we ended up with several classes together. I finally asked her out again and we began to date steadily. My wife is beautiful and was always an incredible athlete. She played volleyball, softball and track in school. Much of her success in athletics came from following her intuitions. It was as though she could feel what the play needed to be. Following those intuitions also led to academic success. She has always been true to her intuitions.
Lesson Learned: From my wife I learned how important it is to listen to your feelings. Impressions come to everyone, but they are not of any value to you or anyone else unless you are willing to listen for them and then have enough confidence in yourself to follow through with them.
I had always loved basketball. As a freshman in high school, I tried out for the team and made the final cut, but the coach required us to practice on Saturdays. We had just moved out to the 10 acres and were remodeling the house, putting in sprinkler systems, and literally transforming our patch of Arizona desert into a farm. Of the seven children, only my older brother Mark and I remained at home. Because of my Dad’s handicap, Mark and I had to do most of the work. I told the coach I could not make it to Saturday practices. He replied that I better not stay on the team, so that ended my first year of basketball.
I did not go out again for the basketball team until my senior year. The football coach tried to convince me that I should play football because no one ever made the basketball team if they had not played previously. The coach felt that all you needed to succeed on the football team was desire — technique was less important. My brother Mark had played football for him. According to the coach, Mark did everything wrong but always got the job done because he had heart. But my dream was playing basketball, so I went to work. (Being the youngest of seven children, I tend to get more motivated when people tell me something cannot be done.) Over the summer I played with some of the kids who had been on the basketball team the year before. Nothing was as organized as it is now. In the fall, as my senior year began, I signed up for the basketball conditioning class. I ran my heart out. When basketball season came, I not only made the team but I started the majority of the games that season and was even the team captain several games. We were a good team. We won more than we lost, though we did not win any championships. However, I had won personally. I had achieved what so many had thought was impossible.
Lesson Learned: You cannot allow others to define your dreams. Even when others tell you something is impossible, if you know your dream is realistic, you can reach it if you put forth the effort.
My family was all raised as members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (The LDS Church). We would go to church every Sunday and learn from the Bible and Book of Mormon. I remember that when I was around 15, I really wanted to know if I was going to church because my parents wanted me to or because I wanted to. I found out for myself that I wanted to go to church. I decided that I wanted to go on a mission when I was old enough. Young men in the LDS Church can choose to serve as missionaries for two years when they reach 19. Young women who choose to serve as missionaries may do so when they reach 21 — they serve for 18 months. Recently, the age for both young men and young women has changed. Young men can now serve at 18 and young women can serve at 19. A person sends in an application and receives a reply — a call — that may send him or her anywhere in the world. Currently there are 405 separate geographic missions that a person could be assigned to, from Orlando, Florida and Portland, Oregon, to Micronesia, Nigeria, and Sicily. A volunteer president oversees each area, watching over between 80 and 300 young men and women.
After I turned 19 and submitted an application to serve as a missionary, I received a call to go to the Viña del Mar mission in Chile. Viña del Mar is a coastal city of about 300,000 people located an hour north of Santiago, the capital of Chile. At the time, I knew next to nothing of Chile, and leaving as a missionary required that I leave the girl that meant everything to me for what seemed like an eternity, two years. But we said goodbye and I set off for Provo, Utah for 2 months of preliminary training that all missionaries attend when they are learning a second language.
After my training, I arrived in Chile and soon managed well enough in Spanish to communicate with the people. I quickly realized how very poor the people were. They were wonderful, bright, talented, and incredibly hard working, but they just did not have any opportunity to better themselves. I actually asked the president of my mission if my assignment could be changed from a teaching mission to a health services mission, in which I would focus on providing humanitarian service. In time I learned, however, that teaching people to live correct principles did far more to help people lift themselves than anything else I could have done for them. As a Christian missionary I learned this powerful couplet: “the world could take people out of the slums if it chose to, but only Christ can take the slums out of people, which then empowers them to take themselves out of the slums.”
I actually experienced this quite vividly while in Chile. The government had built a number of apartment complexes and homes for the people. The very poor would tap into the electrical power and run a line out to a series of card board shanties they had assembled. These shanties would have dirt floors and one or two rooms that the families lived in. Each would have a single light bulb. There was no plumbing. Sewage would often run down the middle of the dirt path that separated these cardboard homes. We taught a young family that lived in this shanty town about true Christian principles; they accepted them and began to live them. Just a year later I was able to go back to this same area. Somehow this same family had moved into a three bedroom brick home.
I cannot begin to express what I learned about myself, about others, and about God during my two-years in Chile. Needless to say, it left me with a desire to do whatever I could to help others who did not have the same opportunities that I have had.
Lesson Learned: Vision and hard work alone are not always sufficient for success. Sometimes you need the opportunity, and sometimes the opportunity comes as a helping hand from someone else.
The girl I left behind, Nyla Stein, was still single when I returned from Chile. Right before leaving Chile, my mission president, Gerald Day, called me in and asked me what my plans were after I arrived back home, and if my plans included marriage to the girl I had left behind. I told him that Nyla and I were just friends and I was not planning on marriage right away. But within days of returning home, we were engaged. I was working multiple jobs and we were both going to school at the University of Arizona and barely making ends meet. Since we were not planning on marriage, Nyla had applied for a highly sought-after study abroad program in London. She was among only six women to be selected for the program from the Western United States. So in the space of one week, I returned home from two years in South America, became engaged to my girl, and sent her off to London for a semester. Though we had grown apart in many ways while I was in Chile, we both knew marriage was the right thing for us. When she returned, we were married and both continued our education at the University of Arizona. Once again I was working two jobs to make ends meet. My wife was told she would not likely be able to have children but we knew we wanted a family. Though the future didn’t seem very secure at the time, we pressed forward with faith that life would turn out for us. Nine months later, we had our first son. We now have seven children and will have been happily together for over 26 years.
Lesson Learned: The greatest blessings in my life, my wife and children, have come from following my heart even when everything else, including logic, seemed against it.
To pay for the baby, we decided to take a break from school and move to Houston, Texas where Nyla had met a few friends the previous summer when she had worked there. I interviewed with several companies and finally found work in the education and support department of CPT of Houston. They were an exclusive dealer for CPT dedicated word processors. These large, expensive office automation computers had a very simple programming language. In time, I became quite skilled at using this programming language and began going with the salesman to install systems and automate the report processes for new clients. The word processing systems also ran the CP/M operating system, for which we sold a set of accounting packages. CPT of Houston sent me to CPT headquarters in Minneapolis for training. While there, I met the owners of the CPT dealership in Fairbanks, Alaska.
When I returned from the training in Minneapolis, I was asked by the dealership in Houston to move into sales and was again sent, back to CPT headquarters for Sales Training, where I competed for the best demonstration award. Coming from the technical side of the business in Houston, I had something of an advantage because I knew the machine’s capabilities so well. Because of this, I won the demonstration award, which boosted my confidence enough that I was able to sell hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of word processing equipment to the Phillips Petroleum legal department, one of the local oil companies in Houston. Within a few months, the dealership in Fairbanks Alaska called me and asked if I was interested in being the computer department manager at their office products store in Fairbanks. I accepted their offer but before leaving Houston, I personally installed all the equipment and trained the personnel at Phillips Petroleum. The Houston dealership required that the equipment be installed before commissions were paid. Unfortunately, even though I had personally installed the equipment and trained the staff, I was never paid any commissions on those sales. Effectively raising this issue while I was 3,300 miles away running the dealership in Fairbanks, Alaska was very difficult; so my “trusted” manager pocketed all of my commissions.
Lesson Learned: Early in my career, I was exposed to the “dark side” of business. I saw that even those who come across as loyal friends are, in a pinch, more loyal to their own financial self-interest. I have watched, time and again, so many choose this path, but I remain convinced that no financial benefit is worth sacrificing your integrity or peace of mind.
After working in Alaska for a time, we decided that I had to finish my education. We packed everything we owned into a 4 x 6 foot U-Haul trailer and loaded our two children, into our two-door Chevy Citation. It was the middle of December and the average temperature on the Alaskan Highway had been running about 20–40 degrees below zero. Most of our friends thought we were crazy to even attempt the trip.
The day before we left Fairbanks, a Chinook wind came through and the temperature went from 30 below to 20 above. This lasted the duration of the first five-day leg of trip to Montana. Just after we reached Montana, the temperature dropped once again to 30 below. When I called my father to tell him that we had made it back to the “lower 48,” he explained that he had run into an old family friend who worked for IBM and who was heading up an Education Software Testing facility in Provo, Utah. My father mentioned that I was moving my family to Provo to go back to school. He told my dad to have me give him a call when I arrived in town. I interviewed with him and was promptly hired with responsibility to run several testing teams.
Lesson Learned: Sometimes you have to take a few steps into the darkness before the path to accomplishing your dreams becomes clear.
After finishing my college degree in Provo, Utah, I went to work for a company called Sanyo Icon. Sanyo Icon was a manufacturer of mini-computers running UNIX and the PICK database. Although this was my first exposure to UNIX, I had been hired to teach people UNIX, so I had to learn quickly. Sanyo had designed a hardware architecture based on the Motorola 68000 family of microprocessors. They later migrated to the 88000 family. The Sanyo system was divided into three major subsystems, each with master and slave processors. One of these was a hard disk subsystem.
In the process of becoming familiar with UNIX and with the Sanyo architecture and UNIX customizations, I realized that UNIX could manage multiple types of file systems. The Sanyo disk subsystem typically used a standard UNIX file system, but others could also be used, including PC-DOS file systems. While in Alaska, I had learned about recent developments in PC networking and local area networks (LANs), including the products of then-market leader, Novell. Now at Sanyo, I recognized that Novell ran on a DOS file system. Sales of Novell’s NetWare networking software were growing rapidly, but few of the specialized hardware components we take for granted today were available at a price point consistent with the needs of Novell’s customers. With this understanding, I convinced Sanyo’s Vice President of Marketing to focus on selling the Sanyo disk subsystem as an intelligent disk cache for a Novell network. It was the right idea at the right time. Sales of disk subsystems soon accounted for nearly 50% of Sanyo Icon’s revenues.
Lesson Learned: As an employee, it is important to speak up and share ideas. A single idea can have a significant impact on a company — and on the direction of your life.
While at Sanyo, I decided to return to school in the evening and complete a graduate degree through the Executive MBA program at Brigham Young University. This was an intensive two-year program. I attended classes for three hours, twice each week; I also had classes on many Saturdays, including several all-day case studies or seminars. Because I had to travel quite often as part of my work at Sanyo, I had to drop-out during one semester because I had missed so many classes. Consequently, I could not complete my graduate degree until the next year when the class I had dropped was offered again. During the three years I was completing my MBA, our fourth and fifth children arrived; I also had heavy responsibilities in our Church congregation. It was a very hard time personally and for my family.
Lesson Learned: Reaching dreams requires real sacrifice and there are no shortcuts.
The highlight of my MBA program was the final class. This class consisted of a three week trip to Asia to see how businesses operated there and talk with various business leaders. We visited Korea, Japan, Hong Kong, and mainland China. Along the way, the business leaders we met discussed their philosophies on business and showed us their facilities. This trip was a true tutorial.
In Korea, the management at the Daihatsu plant told us how hard they were working their employees. Employees were required to work 12 to 15 hour days, six days a week. Management was determined to overtake their Japanese competitors by dint of hard work. After our discussions, we toured the Daihatsu automobile factory. Walking on the catwalks above the assembly lines, we dared not touch the railings because they were filthy. Card tables with games were set up at each rest station along the assembly lines and elsewhere in the factory. Several seconds before the buzzer sounded to announce each scheduled break, workers were headed to the game tables. There the workers’ enthusiasm and intensity was really displayed. Several seconds after each break, the employees — both players and spectators around each table — linger for a few moments to see how the end of the game would turn out.
In marked contrast, we next visited Japan and had the opportunity to tour Toyota City. The management team with spoke with explained that they received 2003 suggestions from their employees during the past year. All but three of these had been implemented. When we toured the automobile factory, the catwalks were spotless; they had even been decorated with potted plants. There were no game tables. Several seconds after the buzzer rang for each break, workers would finish their tasks on the line before taking their break. The Toyota Corolla was being manufactured on parallel assembly lines with a smaller Lexus model, using exactly the same quality checks.
It was clear to me after these visits that the Korean manufacturer could not really compete with what I saw in Japan. An edict from management can never generate the loyalty and quality that truly motivated employees are capable of. Employees must be empowered, not controlled.
Lesson Learned: When you engage the hearts and minds of the people, they do incredible things because they feel valued and empowered but no amount of prodding or dictation by management will realize a dream if the dream is not shared by the employees.
The next stop on our Asian MBA tour was Hong Kong, which was still under British control. We met with two different companies who were doing business in mainland China. One company was manufacturing portable stereos for many of the low end electronics manufacturers. The management of this company boasted to us that with only two hours notice of any an attempt to nationalize by the Chinese government; they could be out of the country without suffering any losses. Their employees I China were principally girls aged 14 to 21. Each was paid $1.00 per day for 12 to 15 hours of work. A person from our group asked what would become of these employees if the company suddenly left China. The response: the girls were better off now than if they had stayed on a farm in rural China. The implication was clearly that the girls had things good at the moment and so shouldn’t be too disappointed if it all evaporated overnight.
The second company we spoke with in Hong Kong was a joint venture between Continental Grain and a Southeast Asian grain company. They were producing Swine and Poultry feed in China. All the ingredients for their products came from China except a small portion that was not available in China at that time. By using the feed produced by this joint venture, Chinese farmers could double their food production. This company sought to hire multiple members of the same family as employees and to encourage loyalty to the company. The relationships they had established over time had enabled them to vertically integrate into the swine and poultry farming.
While both of the Hong Kong companies we visited were highly successful, I felt strongly that one was taking from China and the other was investing in its future. I admired Continental Grains’ commitment to ethical business principles even when it required taking a greater risk. Since that trip years ago, I have learned that the CEO of Continental Grain, after he retired from the company, was able to work directly with the Chinese government to facilitate several non-profit projects in China. That opportunity was open to him because of the respect that Chinese officials gained for him as a businessman.
Along these lines, a story was told by Abraham Lincoln’s law partner. They took on a case that involved a demented woman. The woman’s brother had agreed to pay Lincoln and his partner $250 for their services. As it happened, the case only lasted 20 minutes, with the matter resolved in favor of the woman. The brother happily paid Lincoln’s partner the agreed upon sum and left. Lincoln later asked his partner how much he had been paid. When he heard the answer, he demanded that his partner give the man back half of the fee, stating that it was not right to take money from a demented woman. The partner conceded and returned half of the money to a very surprised client. Business morality of the past is vanishing in today sophisticated world, but one person’s commitment to the principles will rally others to the cause.
Lesson Learned: As Jacob Marley states to Scrooge in Dicken’s A Christmas Carol, mankind is our business, not just making money. Responsible business is more than maximizing profits; one must maximize profits to the extent that doing so permits everyone involved to benefit. Real business must be a win, win, win proposition. When parties engage in business transactions can both benefit, their success also benefits their communities. But they must be willing to do the right thing, at the right time, for the right reason.
One of the previous product managers at Sanyo Icon, Willy Donahue, called me in one day and said that Novell was looking for a product manager for the next major release of NetWare after NetWare 4.0. At the time, the product was known as Processor Independent NetWare or PIN, and Novell was looking for a product manager who knew UNIX and RISC architectures. I applied and was hired for the position.
While at Novell, I was responsible for negotiating with Hewlett-Packard, Sun Microsystems, IBM, and Apple to have them port native NetWare to their respective RISC architectures. As part of these negotiations, I spent a lot of time with Novell’s legal department, primarily with the head of the technical legal team, Rob Hicks. I also spent time with some of the developers responsible researching a port of NetWare onto the MACH micro kernel. This research was being done by Bryan Sparks. Both Bryan and Rob had been with Novell for many years but did not know each other. I spent many hours in separate discussions with Bryan and Rob about the issues that Novell was facing in the industry. After some time, I realized the two had much to learn from one another and arranged a lunch meeting.
During lunch, we discussed Novell’s need to make its powerful network services more visible to users — at the desktop. Microsoft’s control of the desktop was continuing to increase. Whether deliberate or not, Microsoft’s product provided less and less access through the desktop to the features that Novell had to offer. As we discussed these points, we talked about putting together a business plan focused on using Linux as a desktop operating system that would expose the networking services of NetWare. We realized that with Novell’s server-driven revenue model, the desktop operating system could even given away if necessary.
It was clear to us that we had a great idea, and that we had the technical background (and, some would say, the hubris) to push forward such an audacious plan. While I had know before that very few things in life happen by chance, this meeting was one of those turning points in my career and in my lie. As we finished our lunch we agreed to discuss our ideas in more detail as soon as possible. The Adventure had begun.
Lesson Learned: Our business associates, and even those we meet casually, are put in our path both to influence us and to be influenced by us. Do not take these relationships for granted or treat them too casually.
I didn’t keep them under glass on my desk like Colin Powell, but some key principles that I had learned and tried to live my life by when I began my Linux adventure were as follows:
- All good stories must be based in truth to be effective.
- Keep going even when it is hard.
- The mere pursuit of your dream usually has a positive effect on you and others, even before you achieve it.
- Simple values of honesty and character may become lost in a sophisticated environment where the consequences of actions are often temporarily hidden.
- Life is precious- the price of a thrill may be too costly.
- Seemingly complex problems are often solved with a fresh perspective or a gentle tap in just the right place.
- Be honest with yourself about your impressions and intuitions; over time, learn to trust yourself and don’t be afraid to act on these impressions.
- Even when others tell you something is impossible, if you know your dream is realistic, you can reach it if you put forth the effort.
- Vision and hard work along may not be enough. Sometimes you need the opportunity, and often the opportunity comes as a helping hand from someone else.
- The greatest blessings in my life, my wife and children, have come from following my heart even when everything else, including logic, seemed against it.
- Don’t allow money to determine your loyalties. No financial benefit is worth sacrificing your integrity or peace of mind. This may be the greatest test in life.
- Sometimes you have to take a few steps into the darkness before the path to accomplishing your dreams becomes clear.
- As an employee, it is important to speak up and share ideas. A single idea can have a significant impact on a company — and on the direction of your life.
- Reaching dreams requires real sacrifice and there are no shortcuts. Simply enduring is an important part of being able to reach your goals.
- When you engage the hearts and minds of the people, they do incredible things because they feel valued and empowered but no amount of prodding or dictation by management will realize a dream if the dream is not shared by the employees.
- Real business must be a win, win, win proposition. Parties should engage in business transactions when both can benefit, and their success also benefits their communities. They must be willing to do the right thing, at the right time, for the right reason.
- Our business associates, and even those we meet casually, are put in our path, both to influence us and to be influenced by us. Do not take these relationships for granted or treat them too casually.