Alexis Monville (en)

Exploring Leadership and Open Source with Maria Bracho

In the latest episode of Le Podcast on Emerging Leadership, I had the privilege of speaking with Maria Bracho, the Chief Technology Officer for LATAM at Red Hat. With over 20 years of experience directing strategy and delivering innovative solutions across multiple industries, Maria shares her invaluable insights on leadership, open source, and building high-performing teams.

Key Highlights from the Episode

  • Introduction to Open Source and Red Hat Maria provides an engaging and unique story about open source and Red Hat, shedding light on aspects many listeners might not have encountered before.
  • Leadership Across Geographies Maria’s experiences leading teams in the US, Japan, and LATAM offer a diverse perspective on how cultural differences influence leadership styles and strategies.
  • Simplifying Complexity Maria discusses her knack for breaking down complex concepts into simple, understandable terms, a skill that has proven invaluable in her leadership journey.
  • Building Effective Teams Strategies for hiring and fostering team cohesion are central to Maria’s approach, emphasizing the importance of finding the right fit and cultivating a supportive environment.
  • Navigating High-Level Roles as a Minority While Maria prefers not to focus on being a woman in tech, she acknowledges the challenges and shares her experiences of maintaining influence and support in high-level roles.

Why Listen?

Maria Bracho’s episode is a treasure trove of insights for anyone interested in technology, leadership, and team building. Her ability to explain complex ideas simply and her diverse experience across different geographies makes this episode particularly enlightening.

Don’t Miss Out!

Tune in to this episode to hear Maria Bracho’s full story and learn how you can apply her leadership strategies in your own career. Whether you are a seasoned leader or just starting your journey, there’s something valuable in this episode for everyone.

Listen now and get inspired by Maria’s remarkable journey and insightful stories!

References for you!

Here is the Transcript!

Alexis: Welcome to another episode of Le Podcast on Emerging Leadership. I’m your host, Alexis Monville, and today I’m thrilled to welcome Maria Bracho, Chief Technology Officer at Red Hat LATAM. Maria brings over two decades of experience in steering multinational technology initiatives and mastering the art of leveraging cutting edge technology to drive business growth. Maria, it’s wonderful to have you here. Could you start by sharing how you typically introduce yourself in professional settings?

Maria: Hi, Alexis. It’s a pleasure to be in your podcast. I am Maria Bracho. My role at Red Hat is as Chief Technology Officer for Latin America. And I partner with our customers, communities, and our teams to create better experiences. And shape the vision of Red Hat both [00:01:00] in as our technology, but also with communities and move the world forward, hopefully with open source technologies.

Alexis: Hmm, Maria, for many, Red Hat is synonymous with open source, but there are also many in our audience who may not be familiar with either open source or Red Hat. Could you explain what open source is and perhaps share a bit about Red Hat?

Maria: Sure. Absolutely. In the context of software, open source not only means having your code available for others, but it means sharing it in a way that others can also use, modify depending on open source licenses, but also create it with open source communities for open collaboration and definition of the goals that you want to pursue together And, and also be able to listen to multiple ideas that move the technology [00:02:00] forward.

Alexis: Would you have something to explain that in more, I don’t know, more tangible way for our audience? Thank you.

Maria: Yes, absolutely. So I have a few examples from personal experience, as you know, I have lived in different places, but I’ve also worked in these different countries that I’ve lived. And more recently I lived in Japan for the last four years. And. It’s fascinating to me to going to a new place, but also live, work, share the customs especially the food as well.

And I came across this example by going to the Cup of Noodle Museum in Yokohama. That’s the city I lived in. And this was one of like the highest rated places. Places to go for newcomers and visitors. And of course we never went because we just thought it was a tourist trap and we didn’t feel like tourists, but we had time for a family to come visit.

[00:03:00] And we went there as I was listening to the story of ramen, it really felt very familiar the way we. Talk about open source software. Have you ever had ramen? Alexis,

Alexis: I had some, yeah, of course. And yeah, I’m, I’m very curious about how, how some sort of noodles would speak about open source, the way you spoke about open source just before. So yeah, yeah. Enlighten me, please.

Maria: so I’m not talking about the ramen. So you go sit at a fancy restaurant and they come in hot and ready for you. I’m talking about the workhorse of ramen. The ramen that are hard and that are essential. staple for university students, anybody with an end of the day or after party snack, middle of the night hunger pangs, et cetera.

These are the flash [00:04:00] fried. Ramen noodles that you can then rehydrate using hot water. So it’s the simplest form of, of cooking a super delicious and satisfying meal. Again, not necessarily the Michelin star experience, although there are some Michelin star ramen cup of noodles in Japan. So anyway, the story starts with Momofuku Ando who like post war Japan was sitting in with many looking at lines and lines of people trying to get this hot cup off of ramen and understanding that in the provinces or inside of the country, it was hard to get access to food.

And wheat had become one of the new crops to come into Japan. So noodles was a new thing that, that was coming. But access to food was problematic. So he didn’t want people to sort of stand in line hours to get food. He wanted to devise a method to preserve the noodles, to have those [00:05:00] noodles be more accessible.

And here’s the part where the invention may have come from him or may have come from someone else. But he was sharing this problem with his wife as she was cooking tempura shrimp. So she was flash frying the battered shrimp to come up with a delicious meal. She told him that what happens with when you flash fry Shrimps is that it takes out all the moisture from the batter, and then it makes it a little bit more shelf stable.

So she was able to get the shrimps ready and then get them, let them last for hours, if not days. And then you put the flash fried tempura noodle. back into a soup, it will reabsorb some of the water and rehydrate and made it delicious to eat. Obviously, if you let it soak for a long time, it won’t be delicious.

But anyway, the whole point was this flash frying method. And after trying many other methods to [00:06:00] preserve the noodles some of that were not effective causing some stomach intoxication and food poisoning because they wouldn’t. Last that long, Momofuku Ando try this particular method, and he was very, very effective with it.

So he noticed that this allowed the noodles to remain shape shelf stable for months, and it would preserve them and all you have to do then later before eating was to rehydrate it with hot water. So access to hot water was a lot easier than just to have an entire kitchen to to prepare meals. So this game this gaming clutch, he started being very, very famous for it, his business started to grow.

There was a lot of interest and then he was looking at his competitors. And seeing them sort of stumble into problem after problem to try to get to the perfect way of preserving the noodles. And he had this, this thought that [00:07:00] it wasn’t just about him or his business, but it was more about Japan and saving the people and helping feed the country.

So what he did next was sort of an odd move even for a collective thought society like Japan. So he met with all his competitors and started sharing the recipe. He said, Hey, this is how you should preserve the noodles. Japan is huge on on food regulation and sanitary procedures to preserve food as well as other multiple processes.

So they were sort of eager to get this new method going and they would still compete on the flavor that you add to the soup, but sharing how to preserve the noodle. was something that helped them all move forward. It also helped them standardize on other partners and vendors that would help bring more flavor [00:08:00] to the cup.

So they would partner with a company that made the size of the cup. So regardless of the noodle that you were selling, everybody had the same cup. So the cups became cheaper to acquire and then to resell. And then. It also made it possible for vendors that would serve other packet flavorings and MSG and other you know dried shrimps are added or dried corn or other toppings that are added to the mix.

So all of that lower the price and increase the accessibility to the point that you can find this type of ramen. anywhere in the world. So even though his ambitions were for the collective of Japan, it ended up

influencing it globally to the point where you can have the same noodles today and they are curry flavored.

They have specific flavors for different regions. If you go to Thailand, you’ll find them with like lemongrass and other things. So the idea was starting small, thinking about the [00:09:00] good and the collective and moving a whole industry forward and then seeing where you can get. So I guess Momofuku Ando

Alexis: last

Maria: didn’t even think that that he was going to be able to, to influence so widely and his influence lasted even to NASA because the space program also has these noodles in space.

So that made me think about. Our influence in the work that Red Hat has done with Linux. And it was a little bit about not just the improvement or moving one company or one technology, but it was more about being the right way to share and think about the collective and the power of what can we all accomplish together and and move us forward.

You know, we have RHEL now in space as well. So right along with the noodles. So that’s what made me think about parallelisms with open source and the places that I’ve traveled.

Alexis: That’s a very beautiful way [00:10:00] to explain open source and explain the benefits of it. And explain also why competitors can collaborate on something that even becomes a standard like Linux that can run everywhere, even at Microsoft. And, that’s something very exciting for people.

So I hope it will help people understand role of open source. in an ecosystem and why competitors can absolutely cooperate on building the community, the future standard, but still compete on the toppings. Maybe even a little bit more of that. So Maria, you are, you have an impressive background with leadership role in different geographies, and you said it, Japan, but you worked in the U.

S. and now Latin America. How have these experiences shaped your leadership style and what unique challenges and insights could you share with us? ,


Maria: Yeah, I also spend time in France. [00:11:00] So well, some of the things unintentionally, my career has sort of been that way. I have found that not only being in different geos, but actually living there understanding the language, the culture, the way of work. Also. It has influenced myself.

So I also think that have left a mark on me.

Alexis: wait, wait, wait. You lived four years in Japan and you’re telling us that you speak Japanese?

Maria: I am not by any approach of the imagination fluent in Japanese. No way, even though I have given it my best efforts. I’m absolutely not fluent, but there’s a lot more of the culture that is. That is the language. And if you think of, I mean, coming, from Latin America where it’s a different way of communicating or sharing information, of collaborating it in itself is very direct and open and exciting and somewhat loud in Japan [00:12:00] is very more.

Very much more. It’s quiet. It’s subtle. It is a lot more thinking about the collective rather than the individual. And that has been a great sort of compare and contrast and two different two different forms of the spectrum. And then in North America, that’s really where the bulk of my career has been.

So corporate America has been sort of the staple of how I have moved. Working at Red Hat has been the space where we think more global in terms of community and collaboration and the power of open source. So that’s how I feel much more at home at Red Hat with open source communities because it does think about the The power and the good of the collective but also being very direct at proposing ideas and also sort of challenge each other and, and challenge the status quo.

That may be [00:13:00] very French with et cetera. And and so, so I find that that that has been a great, a great space to use all of all of what I have learned in different spaces. And yeah, I’m very, very happy to be here. Sort of back in Latin America, where where I started my my career and my preparation in a region that is growing sort of year after year, not just for Red Hat, but for many other companies, a region that can benefit very much so from open source and the innovation that happens elsewhere, but also that happens in LATAM.

A geo that has many challenges, both political economical challenges, but has a lot of people willing and able to try. A lot of the spirit of the underdog and a lot of the spirit of trying new things and not being afraid and sort of like there’s nothing to lose kind of way. So I love being in that space.

If you think about it, [00:14:00] Latin America is sort of the startup of the, the rest of the GEOs, where, where North America and Europe would be like the most established. And, and then APAC comes in with very niche offerings and then take over spirit of taking over the rest. Latam is very much the startup where, or incubator where many ideas happen.

Alexis: It’s very interesting. I’ve observed you working on topics that probably nobody wanted to take. Nobody wanted to take that challenges. And and it seems after sometimes people were realizing that, yeah, you were doing really great. Can you explain how it works? Can you explain how you are doing those things?

Maria: Well, I have, I have been for a long time with an attitude of both being naive to the challenge, but also I’m just happy to be here. So I started my career in Venezuela very much a third world country [00:15:00] where it was really, really hard to get into, into very competitive university and have access to collaboration with.

Research into institutes all over the world. So I was very lucky to be in one of those. And then anytime that I look back to, to where I was and the place where I’m from, no longer exists as I knew it. So I think anything extra is, is gain. So I usually do take on the hard, difficult assignments because I have found so much The reward of getting something done that was very hard or complicated.

There’s nothing like it. So I’m usually chasing that that thing or that same feeling of, wow, we moved, we really moved the needle. We really made an imprint here and we changed it for the better, left it better than [00:16:00] when I did it. Came in and then I also selfishly I learned a lot. I learned a lot and I learned that I could do it.

So I’m more emboldened the next time. So, and I’m still naive to the next challenges that I that I take. So, but I know that persistence and hard work. And collaboration and, and the spirit of learning from others really moved, moved me forward. So I’m happy to do that.

Alexis: Yeah, but there’s something with that idea of being naive that I have trouble to understand. Can you tell me more? What, what happens to people that they start really working with each other, collaborating really well that’s not, I have trouble connecting that, connecting that with being naive. So tell me more about that.

Maria: Well, maybe the, the exact word is not just naive, but it’s not letting the big challenge stop you. Because, and not [00:17:00] letting, not seeing the full picture also stop you, but understanding that And this is very true with open source. Understanding that if you influence And collaborate with a collective and you continue to move forward, you can help shape the innovation.

You can help shape the future. And that is that is very consistent, even if the beginning, you don’t know exactly how hard it’s going to be or how long it’s going to take or how difficult the challenges, the external challenges are going are going to be. But understanding that through being open and persistent and open to learning and growing and changing direction, pivoting as well.

Hard work pays off.

Alexis: Yeah, it’s a, it’s, it’s very interesting because I have I’ve, I’ve heard over the years, a lot of product managers [00:18:00] in tech, having troubles to interact with engineering teams and getting what they wanted and and now you work in open source and of course you cannot tell open source or the open source communities to do what you want so it seems that it sounds like a no problem for you so tell me more about that maybe other product managers can use that

Maria: No, that, that was a lesson hard learned. I think that my first few months at Red Hat, so I joined over nine years ago as a product manager, and I was a product manager at another company where I just created PRDs and MRDs and product managers wouldn’t know what that is. But it’s basically a document that says the system shall do X, Y, Z.

And that’s really what I focused on, understanding the market, talking to customers and then I would give that to my engineering team and wait [00:19:00] until they tell me they need any clarifications and just give me a timeline of when it will be done based on a timeline that I gave them. So the ego was quite big Alexi, and then landing in an open source company where, you know, that would be read.

And it’s like, well, this is. This is a nice looking document. Yeah, we’re not doing that right now. You need to go talk to the communities, et cetera, et cetera. So I was like, what I need to, I need to influence outside my own company. You mean these are not, these walls are not really walls. These are more like lines in the sand that I can cross at any time, embed myself into other customer problems, really work with them, co engineer, figure out exactly their use case.

And then also collaborate with competitors and coopetitors To again, together, understand the problem and come up with a solution and then [00:20:00] iterate and iterate on this. That was new for me. It felt like an enormous amount of work. It felt like nothing I had done before. It felt like my ego was nowhere to be seen, and I was just in the mud wrestling to get going.

However, the outcome after that. Is that the piece of code, the design, the documentation, whatever outcome that we had created and co created and co engineered together, went to market kind of right away, it made it to production in that moment. A new sense of, wow, this is the way kind of became upon me and I don’t think I can go back.

I mean, I’m not interested in the ego of thinking that whatever I said goes, because I also frankly had a lot of situations where whatever I said And then I had to pay a third party to [00:21:00] try my product and tell me the feedback. And then even with that feedback that I had to pay to get, it didn’t actually resonate with customers the way that I wanted it to resonate.

So. I’m not ready to have that feeling ever again. That was a huge waste of time. So I, if I have to work hard, iterate with communities, wrestle with competitors, competitors, partners, customers, To to really move technology forward and move entire industries forward. That’s a hard work that I am grateful to have because the outcome and the feeling of accomplishment is It’s, it’s unlike anything I had ever experienced before.

Alexis: I love it. And I can see how it led you to, to, to become a chief technology officer for, for that, that geography you are in because yeah, you’re able to be a very comfortable with the [00:22:00] technology, talking directly with engineers. Inside your company and outside of it, and and really wrestling with different customers or competitors or to finally agree on the size of the cup, the noodle cup.

That’s pretty cool. I love it. Could you share a little bit about Your approach to recruitment and what strategy you find most effective to, for assembling a team.

Maria: Wow. This is, this is great because I just recently had two recent hires that I’m extremely proud of of having found them. I think I take recruiting with, you know, this is my job, not just outsourcing it to the, to the HR team or the talent acquisition team or another recruiting firm or whatnot.

I think that understanding. Where I would like a team to, to be and fit and to see if those folks [00:23:00] are also going to be great fit for the current and existing team and whether they’re also going to come and catalyze the team and sort of bringing new perspectives based on where we want to go is also very, very important.

And so I, I reach out to, I think like anybody else does like to my network. I reach out within the company, outside of the company. And then I usually try to find a diverse group of folks to help me with a, with a strong panel that can not only challenge, the applicants, but also challenge me in, in what they expect my team to be.

So I also try to bring them in, in the recruiting phase. If we’re going to, to be collaborating in the future, because, because of this specific thing that I shared before, like we’re bringing somebody in, we want, we want them to feel valued, but also add value and help them grow. So I, I invite the rest of the team and I was happy to say that I also tasked them with with the opportunity to recruit or just to [00:24:00] bring and help shape the positions that we’re in.

So I take more time than I would want, I think recruiting, but I think it usually pays off. I’m very happy about the team I’m putting together.

Alexis: I hope they will listen to the episode to, to hear that you’re saying it out loud to the world. That’s pretty cool. Looking at what, what are some of the key areas of focus for you and your team at Red Hat.

Maria: I’m in the field. So as a CTO I’m still part of the engineering organization. So what we are looking for are moments to, to co engineer with customers. So beyond just. The products that we have today, the communities of open source that we engage with today, just find and understand use cases of where the industry is going.

Whether it’s, I don’t know, telco, FSI financial services, or, or even communities focusing where other, other industries are, are engaging with health and sciences [00:25:00] or insurance companies, et cetera. We try to. Come together and be a trusted partner where this new technologies, they can understand this new technologies and how it can affect or move the needle for their business and then creating spaces or other sometimes they’re competitors, sometimes not competitors, but they’re in the same sort of vertical.

for customers to come together and see how they’re using our technologies and other technologies in addition to that. Because that way they don’t feel so sort of lonely or alone following their own technical trajectories, but they can build a roadmap that aligns, not just with their business, but understanding other adjacent business.

And so, And we help create that community between customers as well. Because we know this is sharing ideas in this way is, is the way to move, to move things forward. And now selfishly that also helps us validate and [00:26:00] understand the, where Red Hat is going, where we should be investing, where we see spaces, where it makes sense for us to invest more maybe or, or ways in where, in which we can, we can be effective to, to other businesses.

Alexis: Hmm. And you are a CTO and will you, will you say anything about AI or, we are in, in the midst of the hype of ai, so there is, there’s nothing you are doing about it.

Maria: I have been planting seeds about that since the very beginning. So even with the ramen story, I, I also planted the seed and made a allusions to, this is pretty much how Linux started. And you know, we made recent announcements just last week. We had Red Hat summit in Denver. We have some of those presentations up in YouTube that release some new, some new cool products and, and others that are in sort of tech preview, but One of the, one of the big announcements was RHEL AI, which [00:27:00] naming a product as a product manager is one of the hardest things to do.

But for us to name RHEL AI, RHEL AI, it could have been another name, right? But for us to call it. Red Hat Enterprise Linux AI and attach AI to that known and trusted brand means that we’re very serious about moving into the AI space. And I think we’re doing it in the most Red Hat way in some in a way that is very authentic to the mission and vision of the company.

Of being catalyst in, in communities of customers, partners, collaborators to, to move it forward using open source. So we also made an announcement around an, a new invention called instruct lab, which helps modify large language models, which is a, which is really a novelty because any other technique to train a model has been done like rag, for example.

at the inference stage, [00:28:00] but having the ability to influence a model itself to change the actual model is something that was not accessible to regular humans. You needed a data scientist to, to be able to do that. So I really love that we’re democratizing the access to, to models were influencing I think in this case, IBM to open sort the granite family of large language models that, that is huge.

And then having a way. For anyone to modify a model a from their computer. Like you have a laptop. You can do this. This is something that if we see the current models available, even if they have open in the name you don’t really know what’s in there. Having the ability to have a models where the code is available Openly cited with the data that it was trained on.

So you know exactly what it was trained on and the ability for you to use it, modify, train it with your data [00:29:00] and keep all of that private is is very, very interesting and compelling. So we’re really hoping to catalyze this industry and really excited to. to what’s to come. Kind of same as the beginning, like Momofuku Ando just trying to preserve a noodle.

We’re starting small and we are eager to see where this can go. Understanding and being not a hundred percent naive, but a little naive to what it would, where that would go, like how far it can go. And all we have going for us is, It’s just the experience that we’ve had with Linux. So that’s really, really exciting, Alexei.

I think we’re at an inflection point here and I’m, and I’m happy to be part of it.

Alexis: I love it, Maria. And that will be my last question. What advice would you give your younger self?

Maria: Wow. [00:30:00] Ah, you know, I have a 16 year old daughter that I give advice to. And she looks just like me and likes things just like me. And sometimes I wish she wasn’t so like me, but the, the advice that I tell her is sort of the same thing that I, that I did is just work hard, continue to be authentic to, to who you are and what you believe and.

And then be open to be open to feedback, open to learning. You will find places where you can continue to, to shine and places where you can continue to learn. And hopefully that will be leading you to a fulfilling and happy life.

Alexis: I love that. I continue to explore. That’s beautiful. Thank you, Maria, for having joined the podcast today.

Maria: Thank you. It’s a pleasure. [00:31:00] 






2 responses to “Exploring Leadership and Open Source with Maria Bracho”

  1. Maria Elena Pacheco Avatar
    Maria Elena Pacheco

    Excelente entrevista.
    Me encantó la comparación con los Noodles en Japón y su origen, algo único y qué buen ejemplo a seguir.
    Interesante entender qué es “open source”.
    Muy interesante entrevista, en general.
    Muchas gracias!

    1. Alexis Avatar

      Thank you Maria Elena!

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