Ben Cotton, the Fedora Program Manager, has been let go as part of Red Hat’s announced round of layoffs.
Fedora is the Linux distribution (distro) that serves as the upstream distro for Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL). As a result, while Fedora is a community distro, it is heavily supported by Red Hat, with Red Hat personnel holding key positions within the project.
Ben Cotton served as Fedora Program Manager, but he revealed in a blog post that he was one of the ones impacted by Red Hat’s layoffs.
On 24 April 2023, Red Hat announced a 4% reduction in global staff. As a member of that 4%, today is my last day at Red Hat.
Cotton makes clear that he won’t stop contributing to Fedora, even if it’s not in the capacity of Program Manager.
While I won’t be contributing as the Fedora Program Manager anymore, I was a Fedora contributor long before I joined Red Hat, and I’m not letting them take that away from me. I’ll still be around Fedora in ways that spark joy, although perhaps not much at first as I let my wounds heal.
Cotton says he has worked hard to make sure that the project will go on without him, much as his predecessors set the stage for their successors, including him.
I’ve told folks that if Fedora falls off the rails, then I have failed. I’m working with Matthew, Justin, and others to ensure coverage of the core job duties one way or another. I’ve worked hard over the years to automate tasks that can be automated. The documentation is far more comprehensive than what I inherited.
No doubt there are gaps in what I’ve left for my successors. However, my goal is that in a few months, nobody will notice that I’m gone. That’s my measure of success. The only reason I’ve been successful in my role is because of the work done by my predecessors: John, Robyn, Jaroslav, and Jan.
Interestingly, Cotton acknowledges that his job being cut does raise some questions about Fedora’s future, questions many are likely to have in the wake of the news.
As to what the broader implication behind the loss of my position might be, I don’t know. There’s no indication that my role was targeted specifically. There are definitely people in Red Hat who continue to view Fedora as strategically important. I wish I had a clearer understanding of how they chose people/roles to cut, but I’ll probably never know the process. What I do know is that I fully intend to still be participating in the Fedora community when my account hits the 20-year mark in May 2029.
Cotton’s job being cut is certainly an interesting development in the Linux world, and for Fedora specifically. Conspiracy theorists will no doubt fear this spells the beginning of the end for the distro — especially after the way Red Hat treated CentOS — although there’s no reason to jump to that conclusion just yet.