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A Tribute to Dan Kohn

By November 3, 2020November 1st, 2023Blog, Staff
photo of Dan Kohn's Keynote at KubeCon/CloudNativeCon Europe 2018

I met Dr Julie Pullen before I met Dan. We were both at our first Kubecon in Copenhagen. We connected at the EmpowHER Reception, both appreciating what a haven it was away from the rest of the busy conference. It would take me a day or two to connect that Julie was Dan’s spouse. I remember being fascinated as she told me about her work in climate risk as an earth scientist. 

The next day the main conference kicked off with Dan Kohn taking to the keynote stage first. He did an amazing job sharing industry context and setting a great tone for the event. The keynote heavily featured Continuous Integration as a key part of the cloud-native journey and one that generates the most value. The keynote left a strong impression on me in many different ways. 

Roughly a year later I would help launch the Continuous Delivery Foundation (CDF) as the new foundation to drive forward the adoption of continuous integration, continuous delivery and all related practices. We were inspired by all that CNCF had done to achieve dramatic growth and aimed to emulate that model wherever we could, including creating our own Continuous Delivery interactive landscape

The CNCF landscape, affectionately known as the hellscape, was Dan’s baby. When we at CDF wanted to put together our own landscape, he made time to meet with me and talk me through its architecture and design. I learned it had many more features than I had previously appreciated. Once we covered the technical aspects, he also took time to share what it was like when he first created it, including managing the politics around it. He was pretty cheerful and upbeat recanting tales of how folks would complain about one thing or another as he persisted to bring his vision to life. That would be another thing I learned from Dan that would stick with me. 

Another year or so after that I made the decision to take on the executive director leadership role at the CDF. Dan, as the long time executive director for the CNCF, was part of my mental model for leading an open*source community, especially one focused on bringing about real change when it comes to diversity and inclusion. Dan Kohn was also one of the folks I was excited to learn more from on joining the Linux Foundation. However in the week after the world mourned Chadwick Boseman’s early passing from complications related to colon cancer, I would come to learn that Dan was also battling colon cancer. 

The news of Dan’s passing this week was a punch to the gut. I am devastated for Julie and their boys. My deepest condolences to his family, friends, and his loving wife Julie. I will share information on the scholarship fund the Linux Foundation will set up for Dan’s children and take tiny consolation that the open-source community will come together to offer up our full love and support. 

Dan was an inspiration and I will be ever grateful for all I have learned from him. Every time I see the CDF landscape or any of the landscapes he inspired it will bring a smile to my face and a reminder to be persistent in pursuing your vision. We are all charged by his work with open source, and many of us by his presence. His legacy will live on through all our work and whenever we put the desire to help others first.