Hi, Red Hat Developers!  I’m new to the Red Hat Developers blog and wanted to give you a quick introduction before diving into the Innovators Program and how you can use some of the theories and processes in your day to day.  I’m a Red Hatter and I specialize in UX and knowledge management for internal support at Red Hat.  Basically, I make sure Red Hat employees and the teams that support them get everything they need out of our internal support portal.  This ranges from customer surveys to web form design to knowledge management.  Most recently, I took a three-month hiatus from this role to participate in the Raleigh Innovators Program.

While participating in the program, I got to learn a new sprint process, collaborate with new peers from across the company, and work in a different department.  First, let’s dig into the background on the Innovators Program, how it works, and what I’ve gained from the experience.

The Innovators Program

The Innovators Program gives an edge to promising startups through a guided twelve-week program. Startup teams get a $10,000 grant, formal training, and one-on-one expert guidance.  The program emphasizes the Google Ventures five-day sprint process, an accelerated approach to solving problems, as the methodology that will take startup products to a new level.

The Five-Day Sprint

The idea of the five-day sprint is to develop creative solutions and get direct feedback from users. It’s about prototyping, not development. Sprint: How to Solve Big Problems and Test New Ideas in Just Five Days prescribes the schedule, activities, team roles, and even environmental factors required for a successful sprint. The process is an intense balance of individual and collaborative activities that push the bounds of your creative thinking. It guides you from a high-level problem to very specific solutions that can ratify your product.  

Corporate Participates Alongside Startups

Red Hat and Citrix Systems co-sponsored Raleigh’s 2016 Innovators program. While fostering the startups, both companies also got the opportunity to have internal teams participate in the program.  The internal teams reaped the benefits of the program on projects of our own. Red Hat’s two project teams re-imagined our employee referral process and annual performance review process. The Innovators Program structure gave us a focused opportunity to make rapid innovation in these spaces.

My Team’s Project

I was on the team that reworked performance management and development (aka annual reviews). Simply say the words “annual review” and most people get sweaty palms and visions of sitting in a hot seat absorbing an uninterrupted list of shortcomings from their manager. That outdated stereotype is not quite what we’d been doing at Red Hat, yet we had the opportunity to build on the strengths of our existing program to better meet the needs of the organization. Our team’s purpose was to:

create a culture of open, ongoing conversations that connect, develop, and reward associates to be at their best every day.

As a team, we were excited to reuse the existing program’s strengths while exploring innovative solutions to fill in the gaps.  

Unlike the startups, our Innovators Program product wouldn’t be a new tool or app; instead, we delivered a new process and a list of technical requirements that would bring our vision to life. This sounds easy. Just draw a new map, right? Nope. We are researching industry trends and weighing them against Red Hat’s culture. Just because everyone else is doing it doesn’t guarantee success for our project. Red Hatters, after all, aren’t like everyone else. We conducted surveys, prototype testing, and external interviews. Our decisions were both data-driven and rooted in the Open Decision-Making Framework. Not only that, we planned to accommodate a diverse and rapidly growing workforce with our solution.

The complexity of this project is why it was a great topic choice for the Raleigh Innovators Program. Early on, I could see the value that the five-day sprint process would bring to our project. We additionally benefited from some of the entrepreneurial-focused classes and cross-team conversation.  It was a privilege to be part of something outside of my normal discipline, which will support all Red Hatters and contribute to the continued success of our fast-growing company. In this series I will cover:

The Red Hat portfolio of products empowers professional developers to be more productive and build great solutions.

Last updated: September 19, 2023