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Red Hat Case Study: Building Career Relationships through Coaching

Client Red Hat

Key takeaways

  • Red Hat wanted to create career development that strengthened their open inclusive culture and drove career satisfaction, retention and mobility.
  • Using internal and external research they launched a suite of global career development programmes.
  • They partnered with The Career Innovation Company to design and deliver an evidence-based, certified and scalable career coaching programme.

Context and Challenge

Red Hat is the world’s leading provider of enterprise open-source software solutions, with 22,000 associates in over 100 locations and 40 countries worldwide. The organisation prides itself on its values of freedom, courage, commitment and accountability. This fits with how it wants to help associates to build career relationships that enable them to be their best, aligning personal talents and passions with organisational needs.

The Red Hat Career Center was set up in 2021, aimed at facilitating and communicating career development opportunities for its associates, that also drive business goals. Following earlier successful initiatives, the team turned to The Career Innovation Company to widen the reach of their career coaching offer throughout the organisation. Red Hat felt that a new global career coaching community would give associates the personalised one-to-one careers support that they needed.

The existing Red Hat coaching community of practice was a natural first port of call to recruit new career coaches, as it included many highly experienced and skilled associates (who helped define what career coaching could look like at Red Hat). The vast majority, however, did not have career coaching experience. In addition, there were many without coaching qualifications, who were nevertheless keen to be part of this exciting new initiative.

The Red Hat Career Center team wanted to launch the new network of career coaches as soon as possible, though the diverse starting points of would-be coaches meant it was imperative that:

  • The programme was capable of developing and stretching both new and existing coaches, whilst still drawing on significant pre-existing Red Hat experience.
  • The new cadre of career coaches were professionally trained and internally certified as ‘fit to practice’, whatever their starting level of coaching skills.
  • There was a clear and balanced definition of scope of the career coach role

The career coaching programme has been the most valuable series of meetings I’ve ever had about personal development. The space they gave to focus on what I’m doing and to consider where I can make a difference and how to develop has been invaluable.

Workshop participant

The programme provided me with a new mindset to take ownership and control of my career. It opened my eyes to understand past career choices and how they may or may not have played a part in the career I have today.

Workshop participant


Red Hat’s initiative was to encourage its people to become “career supporters” to associates. The use of career supporters aligned with both the Red Hat career strategy and associate career needs, identified from internal data and listening. The Red Hat culture of collaboration, associate engagement around mentoring, making new connections and helping also provided a strong foundation for the career supporter solution.

External research also complemented Red Hat findings on associate career development needs. For example, those with career supporters are both twice as likely to feel engaged and recommend their organisation as a great place to work. Other research showed that career support had a wellbeing dividend. One study had found that four in five employees felt lonely at work, with nearly half feeling lonelier than they had prior to the pandemic.

Through the Career Center, Red Hat is developing a number of enterprise programmes to cater for every associate’s career development needs. These include:

  • Internal Gigs. Associates are matched with on-the-job short-term development opportunities to grow skills, gain exposure, and experience job shadowing, working on stretch assignments and projects.
  • Associates are partnered with a mentor, who offers advice, guidance, and knowledge to support a mentee’s career growth.
  • They can also work with a sponsor, who uses their influence and social capital to provide advocacy, exposure, and career opportunities to accelerate career progression.
  • Career Coaching. Here, associates work with a Red Hat career coach who uses open-ended questions and a discovery-based approach to help drive the associate’s career.

The last of these programmes, Career Coaching, emerged from associate insights on career development challenges and existing smaller scale coaching solutions.

Career Coaching

In May 2022, Red Hat started working with The Career Innovation Company on their Career Coaching programme. This consisted of:

  • A voluntary partnership between two associates, with a coachee seeking support for a career challenge or goal, with the help of an internally certified Red Hat career coach.
  • Defined roles, competencies and curriculum. Together, they developed a comprehensive career coach role profile, tailored coaching competencies, and a curriculum that would prepare volunteer associates to take on the role.
  • Personalised and solutions-focused initiatives. Red Hat career coaches understand the Red Hat approach to careers and use their new career coaching skills and tools to empower associates to generate their own strategies for achieving their goals.
  • An expanded support team, where coaches build on the role that managers play in developing associates through career conversations.

These formed the basis for the initial self-selection of new career coaches. A streamlined selection process then involved a skills self-assessment and a chance for the Career Center team to learn more about the motivations of the potential coaches.

A number of key principles underpinned the design of the orientation session and subsequent training workshops. These included:

  • The introduction and use of The Career Innovation Company’s ‘Explore, Focus, Act’ coaching model throughout the training. This provided a solid framework for novices and ensured consistency of approach for more experienced coaches.
  • Specific career theory and career development input, which provided not only essential context and new perspectives, but also a career ‘lens’ through which to develop coaching practice.
  • The use of five Career Innovation Company career tools corresponding with different stages of the coaching model. The tools aligned well with the Red Hat career development strategy and tools, driving consistency in how associates across the globe experience career coaching support.
  • Plenty of practice time, in carefully matched coaching pairs, to try out new skills and receive feedback.

In 2022 and 2023 there were two cohorts of around 50 coaches. Each has attended two three-hour virtual workshops, timed to cover all geographies, followed by practice with their partner between workshops.

A carefully planned coaching practice followed on from the last workshop, where coaches were paired with volunteer Red Hat coachees for two virtual coaching sessions. A self-reflection exercise also supported learning and growth and helped The Career Innovation Company understand each person’s approach to coaching. The trainee coaches then submitted one of the coaching recordings for certification by The Career Innovation Company.

A robust certification process, focussed on development, was essential. And so, the Career Innovation Company provided detailed feedback to each coach in the form of their ratings against:

  • The Red Hat career coach competencies.
  • Their current coaching level (foundational, emerging or performing).
  • Specific individualised feedback with suggestions for further development.


The Red Hat Career Coaching Program has been a clear success, not least in the view of associates.

  • There were high levels of interest in career coaching, even with limited programme promotions.
  • There was enthusiasm for – and commitment to – internal career coach certification.
  • There have been over 100 coaching partnerships completed since March 2023.

The Red Hat Career Center support for their coaches did not end here. The Career Innovation Company partnered with them to deliver 3 tailored CPD sessions for each cohort, providing ongoing support and development.

Learnings and future challenges

From the career coaching programme, Red Hat have identified some key learnings:

  • The structure and tools in the programme supported rapid action and presented opportunities for the programme to evolve.
  • Coaching relationships have created a safe space, centred on the associate.
  • Coaching skills enabled career self-efficacy and self-agency.

Red Hat have also acknowledged the future challenges for career coaching, including:

  • A high demand for career coaching services is driving a need to scale quickly.
  • A big appetite for continuous learning by the career coaches requires investment in educating and growing the skills of the network of coaches.
  • The importance of helping associates understand the different types of support – between coaching and mentoring, for example – and different types of career supporter.
  • Maintaining and improving the quality of delivery of a successful programme as it develops.

To find out more about the solutions that have helped to deliver these changes please contact us.

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