On the Passing of Dan Kohn

We’ve had a tragic loss in the cloud native community. Last weekend we lost Dan Kohn. Dan Kohn is the former Executive Director of Cloud Native Computing Foundation and was leading up COVID-19 response for the Linux Foundation. He passed away after losing his battle with stage four colon cancer. Dan’s passing happened far too soon. I knew Dan was battling something, but we hadn’t been in the same place for quite some time. It’s not one of those things you necessarily want to initiate a conversation about either. I did not know of Dan’s blog about it until he was gone. I would encourage all of us to look at our physical ailments as we age (perhaps more rapidly because of 2020) to take care of ourselves.

To Dan’s family and his kids, we are here. I’m very sorry for your loss. Our condolences go out to you on behalf of the cloud native community. We are very sorry, and we’re here to let you know that we will be there as you need us. Please do not hesitate to reach out, reach out to me if you need anything at all.

Dan and I didn’t always see eye to eye on things. That was probably a healthy thing for the community and maybe not so much our relationship. But, Dan Kohn (along with CNCF) saved my career in 2017. I was coming out of a role I left due to several reasons. The day before Thanksgiving, the company I was starting with the coming Monday rescinded their offer after a fairly long courtship. Jobless, as the sole breadwinner in your household, is never where you want to be. I knew I needed to be at KubeCon the following week to job hunt and network. After naively asking on Twitter how I could somehow procure a ticket. Dan DM’d me for details, made sure I had what I needed once I got to Austin, and covered the hotel so I could actively job hunt and network without the guilt of leaving the family behind. That trip lead to me becoming a CNCF Ambassador (thank you goes to Jorge Castro for telling me to apply).

Dan stuck up for Ambassadors too, even in the face of enormous pressure. We are humans; we aren’t robots. If we shared opinions about Docker, yes, we might get a phone call one day from the head of CNCF while we’re both at airports (I was at Logan, he was at Kennedy and we were both outside getting into cabs, if memory serves) asking to put a disclaimer at the top. But, CNCF members have fundamental human rights; Dan was never going to censor an ambassador. That let me know I was in the right place. I needed to put even more effort into this community. To give back for helping my family and me in our time of need. We don’t forget things like Dan getting me into KubeCon Austin 2017 or telling Docker people can share their opinions.

Dan was one of the folks out there trying to take the skills and talents they had to try to make the world a better place. Agree or disagree on anything, sure. But, I respect the hell out of someone like Dan. His impact has been made. Dan Kohn’s legacy is a sea change in the technology landscape like the world hadn’t seen since the introduction of the Linux kernel. Dan will truly be missed.

This was used in the intro to DevOps’ish 191 and a portion of this article was used here as well.


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