Red Hat’s EVP of Strategy and Marketing Discusses Diversity and Inclusion at Politik’s Interzone

Jackie Yeaney, Red Hat’s EVP of Strategy and Marketing, is speaking on Interzone’s opening panel in a couple of weeks with Bill McDermott, CEO of SAP, Ryan Holmes, CEO of Hootsuite and Jessie Adcock, Chief Digital Officer at the City of Vancouver.

Year Zero is a rapid-fire discussion about the rapid consumerization of enterprise technology and the all-encompassing convergence of business and consumer. Politik CEO and Interzone Conference Chair Robert Brennan Hart recently asked Jackie to share her views on how diversity is creating a competitive advantage for Red Hat; the world’s leading open source leader and first $2 billion open source company.

How is Red Hat supporting enhancing diversity and inclusion in the IT industry?

Red Hat is committed to diversity and inclusion because data and evidence illustrates that the best ideas come from having lots of people looking at the same problem from different lenses. Being agile in technology and solving problems quickly is of the utmost importance, that’s why Red Hat values having a more diverse workforce, especially in IT.  In Canada, women still only represent 24 percent of all workers in the IT industry where labour shortages continue to loom, according to the Information and Communications Technology Council (ICTC). If the Canadian IT sector wants to continue to be a key driver of Canadian innovation, they need to leverage the talents of our diverse culture.

Some examples of how we support diversity and inclusion are our many trainings on Open Decision Making models to help promote meritocracy and transparency in our culture – giving everyone a voice.  Additionally, we have Women in Open Source awards, a continued presence at the Grace Hopper foundation events and an internal women’s community to empower women in our culture and foster collaboration within Red Hat.

How are you attracting more women to open source?

We created the Red Hat Women in Open Source award, a new award program now in its second year, dedicated to recognizing women’s contributions to open source and inspiring future generations of women to get involved. There are talented women in open source. There just aren’t as many as we need. We need role models in technology, especially in open source, to celebrate and inspire others to want to participate. According to industry experts, only 11 percent of open source participants are women. Red Hat wants to help raise this number and inspire a new generation to join the open source movement.   We also continue to find ways to support our major partner events on diversity and inclusion, like Cisco’s Women of Impact.

What else are you doing to promote diversity and inclusion?

We sponsor the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing Conference and their Open Source Day. This conference is the world’s largest gathering of women technologists and is produced by the Anita Borg Institute and presented in partnership with the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM). Participation in diversity-related career fairs and outreach programs, including The University of North Carolina Diverse Reverse Fair, the National Black Society of Black Engineers and Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers Career Fair at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, North Carolina A&T’s Extreme IT Day, and Pearl Hacks. We have expanded our Women’s Leadership Community, which provides a forum for women at Red Hat to exchange ideas and experiences, network, participate in educational and cultural programs, grow as leaders and decision makers, and make a positive contribution to the next generation of women leaders in open source.

Why is Red Hat a good career choice for women?

Red Hat is a meritocracy where good ideas can come from anywhere.  We are endeavoring to create a welcoming environment for women, minorities, and all associates who want to make a difference. We want Red Hat to be a company where associates earn respect by their work, not their job title. Everyone can forge their own path to success by sharing great ideas that contribute to the success of their team. For instance, we have an open online forum, called memo-list where associates can post ideas and receive instant feedback. It’s a lively forum and has given rise to many ideas that have been implemented. Last year, our CEO Jim Whitehurst published a book called The Open Organization: Igniting Passion and Performance to describe Red Hat’s unique culture where we challenge command and control – the old ways of doing business with the top-down hierarchical approach – and encourage, solicit and embrace the unique contribution of all of our associates.

We also have great female leaders that have been recognized through the Stevie awards and that serve as strong influencers and mentors within Red Hat.  Through these women leaders, they have set a high bar for how to create boundaries and find a work life balance through our flexible remote working policies.

What advice would you provide women and minorities who want to enter the IT industry?

I started out my career as a captain in the U.S. Air Force developing and deploying intelligence systems during Operation Desert Storm. I thought I was headed towards completing a PhD in electrical engineering but I changed my mind after that assignment and moved into business. I think the business world is a great area for women to make a difference at a time of transformative change so I only have these pieces of advice that I have learned.

We need to remember to stick to who we are  – don’t change to fit into the organization.  If you feel like you are bending your values or doing things that don’t feel right to you, then you probably aren’t in the right organization and you need to know that is ok.  Finding the right place that is aligned with your values takes time, especially as those values change from when you start your career to when you finish it.

Remember careers are long so this is a marathon not a sprint.  If you need to sit out a race or two, that is ok as well.  There are so many different career paths today so don’t limit yourself to just one possibility.

Patience is key when trying to drive change and foster new behaviors and mindsets – remember that anything worth doing is worth waiting for, especially in the IT industry where external change happens at great pace and sometimes distracts from the internal changes that need to happen.

Lastly, you can’t “have it all, all at the same time.”  Find the right path for you. Set your boundaries and have transparent conversations with your partner or your loved ones about what the priorities of “right now” should be.  Make sure to constantly reevaluate the tradeoffs you are making and ensure those decisions are aligned with your needs, your family’s needs and where you want to go in the future.

Interzone, a Politik production, is being held at the Sheraton Wall Center in downtown Vancouver on April 11 and 12.  The event is Canada’s very first gender balanced mainstream technology conference. 

Register now for Interzone at 25% off the regular price. Use the promo code TECHVIBES25 at checkout.