In his few short years as a developer, 19-year-old Sam Kottler has racked up what seems like a decade’s worth of Linux experience.
After starting a small web consultancy building Drupal sites as a high school student in Connecticut, he dabbled in systems administration for Drupal, worked in hosting engineering at Acquia, then joined mobile payment startup Venmo as a one-man systems engineering group where he worked on scaling up their data stores and performance tuning.
That company was sold this summer for $26 million and Kottler started working full time in the virtualization R&D group at Red Hat. Meanwhile, the sophomore at Wheaton College in Norton, Massachusetts is pursuing a double major in political science and computer science. On the side, he contributes to Fedora and volunteers a few hours each month for the New York group of Technology for Obama.
How does he possibly have time for all of this?
“It’s a very interesting experiment in concurrency, for sure,” Kottler said with a slight laugh. It helps that the team he works with is based in Scotland, he said, so he works in the morning and very late at night.
“Red Hat has a solid work-life balance,” he said. “The weekends are mine and I do almost all my school stuff then.”
Still, most of his energy and effort goes into his Red Hat project, “The Foreman,” a lifecycle management tool for servers that works with Puppet. His job is “to make it awesome,” he said, by adding features to the point at which it’s ready to be included upstream in the company’s CloudForms product.
That also means tirelessly evangelizing the project to grow the community of contributors. He’ll speak at more than a dozen events this year and writes papers and blog posts for the project.
This devotion to problem solving is a common trait among Linux enthusiasts, he says, citing the kernel developers profiled each week in Linux.com’s “30 Developers in 30 Weeks” series. Like them, Kottler originally got involved with Linux to fix bugs in his favorite tools, he said. And like them, he now finds himself absorbed by that work.
“It fits in somewhere between work and passion project,” he said.