My Mentor and Friend Andi Neeb

9 minute read

00000PORTRAIT_00000_BURST20190626143456891 (2)

Andi Presenting at Ansible Roadshow in June 2019


Andi and I in the lounge on our way back from a sales kickoff in 2016

It has been a few weeks since I learned of the tragic passing of my friend, colleague and mentor Andreas Neeb. I am just now able to gather my thoughts, in an attempt to pass on the lessons I learned from one of the truly great, Red Hatters. First I would like to remember how Andi and I became colleagues and friends.

It was a cold and frosty February 1st, 2015 and my first day at Red Hat. I was greeted at the reception by my new manager Juergen "Buddy" Hoffman and new colleague Andi Neeb. After a quick introduction Andi explained it was also his first day, somehow I thought he was a long-time Red Hatter. He seemed so confident, comfortable and at peace with the situation. I was quite nervous, even terrified. We both were brought to our new desks where our phones and laptops were already awaiting. We both ironically, ordered iPhones and Thinkpad's. We quickly opened our iPhones and then kinda looked at our Thinkpad. Andi said "so you didn't have the courage to order a Macbook either?". I laughed and said "yeah we are so screwed, eating your own dog food is a novel idea until you have to do it". Years later and laptops later Andi and I would continue to use Linux, we just moved from RHEL to Fedora.

Andi and I would go through sales bootcamp together in the following weeks. We competed fiercely yet supported and helped one another at the same time. It was here that our trust and friendship really came to be. From sales bootcamp we decided to go for RHCA (Red Hat Certified Architect). Now this isn't just a test or class, it is seven, highly technical certifications in Red Hat products, where you actually have to know how to do things as the tests are practical. It had never been done in less than a year (in Germany), so we decided to go for 6 months. We studied together and test for test worked at our goal while pushing each other forward. Only together were we able to accomplish such a goal.

Looking back, Andi was really a mentor for me from day 1. When I struggled, didn't have an answer or was contemplating difficult scenarios at work or life, it was Andi Neeb I trusted and confided with. He always had a suggestion, insight or idea that helped me move forward and make sense of the world around me. The greatest mentors I think, are the ones who don't even seem to be mentors. If we stop and think about how we got somewhere, it is quickly realized without them it wouldn't happen. Andi was such a person and mentor for me.

Here are some of the lessons I learned from Andi that I would like to share.

  • Don't be selfish, helping others is more rewarding for you and them
  • If everyone agrees on something, hit the panic button
  • Don't be afraid to challenge anything
  • We win when all points are considered and the best one is chosen
  • Support your family, friends and colleagues, these are life's treasures
  • Be realistic, focus on the next steps while keeping the overall goal in perspective
  • There is a lot of passion in compassion, be humble
  • If it feels right, it is right, follow your heart
  • Value is in the eye of the beholder, finding value is like treasure hunting, it is fun and rewarding
  • Do what you love, follow your dreams, don't burden yourself and other's with work

Red Hat is a place where not only actions matter but also how they are carried out. It is a place where ideas, sharing and teams matter more than the individuals. It's a place where trust, compassion and openness form the bed rock.  Growing up at Red Hat you constantly hear stories of great Red Hatters, not because they were the smartest, the most gifted, had the best idea, but because they were successful at inspiring others to be better people and leave the world a slightly better place than they found it. It's easy to immortalize bravery of people jumping into burning buildings to save others and I am not going to downplay that kind of sacrifice and bravery. There are people however, that do the little things every day to help their families, friends and colleagues. They aren't as concerned about the result but how they got there. Andi was such an everyday hero. He was the best of us, a true Red Hatter and for me, for the rest of my days, someone I will strive to follow and be like.

Life seems so final, it has a beginning and an end. The question for me is really, is it an end or just the start of something else. I know this is where faith comes and what you believe is exactly that, a belief, nobody can deny or confirm it. One thing though I believe in is that we live in each others hearts and memories. Our impact on this world as such goes well beyond our lifespan. Is that immortality? I don't know but it is something more than just an end. Hold your loved ones in your hearts and memories, never forget what they stood for, carry their lessons forward. May Andi's legacy continue on in our hearts, forever.

Rest In Peace Andi