Oon’s story starts with the dotcom bust in 2001 when he became a “burned-out chief technology officer in the city.” Married and a father of two, he had just lost his high-flying, five-figure-salary job.
In despair, he searched his feelings and realised that “I actually hated my job. It was meeting after meeting, day in and day out, and I felt straitjacketed in a coat and tie,” said the 47-year-old.
His worsening financial situation brought on by the loss of his job eventually drove him to move his family to the two-acre farm in Kuang. He rented the place to hide and recover financially, and to regain his heart and soul.
He found it a pleasant change from his previous time in the city and his family soon embraced the idyllic lifestyle of living in the countryside.
“I learned how to catch fish from the pond, plant taugeh (bean sprouts) and did my own plumbing and wiring for the house,” Oon said.
He and his wife Fatimah, and their his two young kids Naguib and Mira (who are now 14 and 18 years respectively), lived on a shoestring budget.
“Money was so tight my kids had to sell nasi lemak in school to help us get by,” said Oon.
Oon couldn’t get another job after the dotcom bust. “There was no demand for technology workers at that time,” he said.
He started his 20-year career as a programmer, writing in Cobol, or Common Business-Oriented Language. “But I ended up giving tuition in Maths and English to secondary school students to eke out a living,” he said.
“And then I also began breeding tilapia fish.”
But Oon was just as unlucky with fish breeding. A mud slide wiped out his pond and any dreams he had of becoming a successful commercial fish breeder about a year into the endeavour.
OPEN-SOURCE evangelists seem to be everywhere these days. But you’d still never expect to find one on a farm in Kuang, on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur.
Redhuan Oon certainly looks the part of an evangelist, working intently on his notebook amidst fruit trees swaying to a cacophony of goats, cows and chickens.
But don’t let the rustic simplicity fool you. Oon is a giant in the open-source community and proof that the Internet enables people to work from anywhere.
He leads some of the most savvy and cutting-edge open-source practitioners in the world as they push the envelope of distributed collaboration and the concept of software designed and supported by volunteers.
“Not just an evangelist. He’s better, he’s also an open-source expert,” said Datuk Badlisham Ghazali, chief executive officer of the Multimedia Development Corporation (MDeC), singing Oon’s praises.
“He has helped put Malaysia on the world technology map thanks to his community developed and supported enterprise resource planning (ERP) open-source effort,” he said.
“This proves to the world that Malaysians can not only embrace technology but also lead in improving, even building new technology.”
I have actually only posted swatches of the report. Read the whole piece here.
Redhuan Oon is well and truly one of MDeC's greatest success stories. His tale is intriguing and inspiring at so many levels that I really needed to put this post up.
First, this is someone who went into very adverse conditions and stuck it out.
Then, it's about innovating on open source technology to become a world leader in the field.
It's also got a wonderful work-life balance angle. Working from a farm and, yet, imposing a presence globally.
Let's not forget the private-public collaboration between MDeC and Redhuan's team.
It's the stuff that we need to ingest. It's Malaysia Boleh free from any cynicism.