Meet Christian Horn - Red Hatter of the Week!

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This week's featured Red Hatter is TAM Christian Horn.

In his own words:

"Hi all, this is Christian, and I am a Technical Account Manager/TAM. I was born in east germany, coming into contact with some good and bad sides of a socialist nation. While I was in school the wall was taken down. I had the option to become an electrician and stay in my house there, but one should choose work that is interesting and challenging! So I focused on Linux/UNIX and moved to Munich, working for 10 years as an Admin/Engineer at an IT corporation. Having a Linux background when starting to work, I took the 'fast track' training week with RHCE exam for Red Hat Linux 7.2. That week seeded my idea to work at Red Hat.

At that time, working as an Engineer, I had a Red Hat TAM who helped me solve my problems, got an understanding of my business, and was a voice for my needs inside Red Hat. For the last 2 years I have been glad to be one of the TAMs. As a TAM, I familiarize myself with the business of my customers to help them in the best way I can when issues come up. By knowing the customer I can also provide help proactively to prevent issues before they actually happen. I am the voice of the customer inside Red Hat and bring forward new functions to be implemented. TAMs investigate issues in wide areas and cover many specialized areas. I specialized in the area of Authentication/Identity Management and hardware certification.

At Red Hat I enjoy beeing in contact with great people every day. I get into touch with new technology and learn new things. At Red Hat, decisions are openly discussed and questioned among employees. This makes it so great to work here.

Previously I lived and worked in Japan for 3 months and I came back with an affinity for Japanese culture, people and cuisine. Since then I have had a passion to learn Japanese. Also, I often use my bicycle to commute back
to my house in east germany every now and then."


Stay tuned for more from Christian throughout the week.


GSS Red Hatter of the Week Christian Horn had a moment to give us some insight into some of the questions he gets most often as well as the innerworkings of Red Hat. We are excited to share the following with you:


== Question: When you are approached with an issue, how are you trying to solve it?

Christian: "We can solve the issue in the fastest way if something similar has come up before.  Thus as a first step we try to relate the issue to multiple knowledge databases.  For new issues, entries in the knowledge base get generated and new information regarding the issue becomes available to all actual cases in the customer portal where the issue occurred.  This is part of an approach known as Knowledge Centered Support (KCS).  Once solutions become available the information gets published, so not only GSS employees but all customers can directly see it. The whole principle, of having information as free as possible, reminds me of the open source principles. Solving new issues is what keeps our jobs in Support interesting. While there is a degree of luck to it, most of the time it's a matter of following a structured troubleshooting process (as described e.g. at and communicating clearly and effectively with specialists - this is part of what we call 'speciality based routing'."

== Question: What tools are you using to understand and solve issues?

Christian: "Besides documentation and communication with colleagues, it is good to reproduce situations and issues by oneself.  The tools for this are mostly part of RHEL.  I reproduce to a big extent with virtual machines using KVM.  Using virt-install and kickstart new systems are spawned in minutes.  Technology like lvm snapshots helps to run multiple equal systems, lvm thin provisioning helps to keep the storage requirements down.  Nested KVM (so running virtual machines inside of virtual machines) also allows interesting new things: one could setup a complete RHEV environment inside of a single virtual machine on the host system."

== Question: But you deal not only with pure RHEL issues, what about reproducing application issues?

Christian: "We also use the product documentation to setup applications.  Often we develop streamlined versions, just installing the bare minimum of an application.  Those can then be cut'n'pasted into fresh deployed virtual machines. For application deployment I also look into puppet and implement the deployment of OpenLDAP, setup of a openssl PKI, generation and signing of the certificate to run OpenLDAP secure, and finally populate the LDAP with some example user objects. This can then also be used to investigate i.e. LDAP client problems - but IdM/IPA is also easy to setup for these uses."

== Question: Are such how-tos publicly available?

Christian: "Yes, in almost all cases.  They go into product documentation in the customer center, or are published as Kbase articles and thus directly available for customers."

== Question: These kbase documents handle complex topics sometimes, are they easy to understand for non native English speakers?

Christian: "Many of us working on these documents are not native English speakers either.  We are experienced by training and accessing much documentation for ourself to create content that is usable.  While the world and our documentation relies on English as default language we are also extending localization.  Much product documentation is localized, including Kbase articles.  One of the most interesting languages here for me are the Japanese translations - here my passion to learn Japanese gets involved :) "

== Question: Do you actually come into contact with Japanese at Red Hat?

Christian: "Just sometimes.  I have a bit of contact to my Japanese colleagues and last year I worked for a week from the Tokyo office."

== Question: What was it like working from the Tokyo office?

Christian: "It is fantastic to see Japanese characteristics like the quest for perfection applied to at work, getting to know colleagues, being surrounded by Japanese all day.  I was working for European customers and talking to my customers was interesting thanks to a 7h time-shift. There were even local colleagues still working when I left the office after midnight."

== Question: How do the Red Hat offices differ around the world?

Christian: "I have not seen too many actually.  The local variations include rich variations of tea for the UK office I know, and the employees performing a second breakfast on Fridays aka Elevenses.  Very rich variety of cereals and sweets in the Brno office.  Munich is not special I guess.  Specialties in Tokyo include green tea, variations of local sweets and drinks, as well as a massage chair."