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Putting a face to open source

Putting a face to open source

Red Hat channel manager, Paul Barge.

Red Hat channel manager, Paul Barge, built up a solid business resume in the UK before landing in Australia. He talks to ARN about being a child model, sports and Red Hat's market strategy.

What was your first job?
When I was six months old my mother discovered she could make money out of me as a child model so for the next four years my face was on things like mail order catalogues and knitwear brochures. I also did one of those major nationwide newspaper campaigns advertising Australian margarine in the UK.

How did you end up in the IT industry?
When I left school I took a year off before going to college. I always planned to do a sports science degree but one of the jobs I got during that year off was as a marketing assistant to an IT company. There I was exposed to the 1980s PC industry and was seduced by the buzz, glamour and money involved. I decided perhaps sports science wasn't the course for me.

How did you progress to where you are today?
When I left college with my business studies qualifications I worked in telephone pre-sales for a company called Ashton Tate, which was one of the early leading lights in software IT. Through a number of acquisitions I ended up working with a company called Fox Software, which was then taken over by Microsoft as its first venture into the database market. I worked with Microsoft for 12 years then decided to leave and join Creative Labs as the European OEM account manager. My wife then had the opportunity to take a job in Australia and as we had always had an ambition to work abroad, and specifically Australia, we decided to move.

What do you like about your current job?
With every medium to large organization looking at an open source strategy, we're in the perfect position to offer not only the operating systems solution but the software stack right up to the SOA solution. That means our partners are in a great position to offer our subscription model to their customers as well as related services. I think the timing for me moving to Red Hat is great, and I see a lot of opportunity out there for our channel partners.

What is the biggest achievement of your career?
When I was working for Microsoft we ran a channel growth incentive across Europe and I actually came out on top. The prize was to host a number of our leading solution providers at the 2000 Sydney Olympics. I got to take 10 of our best customers to the Sydney Olympics. I got to see Cathy Freeman win that classic gold medal and witnessed (British rower) Steven Redgrave get his fifth gold medal. It was an unbelievable experience.

What was your favourite Olympic event?
Certainly Redgrave getting his fifth gold medal. It was such a close race. To be in the crowd watching that event live, knowing that the whole of the UK was watching it back home, was amazing.

What do you dislike most about the IT industry?
Since coming to Red Hat three months ago I've seen the light as far as vendor lock-in is concerned. Vendor lock-in means customers have a very expensive solution that is inflexible and allows them very little time and resources to actually innovate.

What will be the next big thing in the industry?
I think it's the continued development of open source. If you look at our operating system in the last few years, Red Hat has worked with the whole ecosystem of open source development teams out there - not only the large IT organisations but the smaller software developers - and it's expanding through the whole software stack.

What is the focus for the company in the New Year?
To take advantage of this strategy and move through the aforementioned stack. Customer demand is there, and it's my job as channel manager to make sure the channel can take advantage of it. So it's about skilling up the channel and enabling our partners to offer services and take advantage of the demand.

What do you do when you're not at work?
Four years ago, I would have said I played golf, squash, tennis and cooked gourmet food, but having since my wife has had two children in the last four years I spend more time at aquariums and zoos and that horrible thing that fills all parents with dread - the soft play areas of Sydney. I'm getting used to being able to balance that and hopefully we'll start to play a lot more golf now that we've got the kids sorted out with various activities.

What is your golfing handicap?
It was 14. It's probably about 32 now since I've played about four times in the last four years.

Do you like gadgets?
I love gadgets. I'd be lost without my sat nav TomTom, which helps me visit the partners I need to see at the moment. I've also gone through the early adoption of watches with cameras and PDAs, much to the hilarity of my friends.

What did you want to be when you were younger?
Because I was a loud, boisterous child at school, I was always put in the lead part in school plays, so for a time I wanted to be an actor. But then I found sports, and that took up my spare time. I harboured a dream of playing for England at rugby.

What is your biggest ambition?
I'd love to see my two boys play for England, and see them in the Rugby World Cup playing against Australia.


Company Snapshot


• Red Hat was founded in 1993, and provides open source solutions to the enterprise.
• It has over 2000 staff in 50 locations worldwide.
• The company listed on the New York Stock Exchange in 1999.
• It acquired open source middleware vendor, JBoss, in 2006 for $US350 million.
• Flagship products include the Red Hat Enterprise Linux, Application Server and Global File System.

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