On leaving Mozilla

In this entry I announce my departure from Mozilla, explain my decision, and talk a little about my plans for the future.

My last day at Mozilla will be the 25th of January.

Wow, that was hard to say…

So yeah, I'm leaving Mozilla. 5 weeks from today. It's been by far the most difficult decision of my life, probably ever!

I'm Rob Hawkes, I used to be from Mozilla
I'm Rob Hawkes, I used to be from Mozilla


At this point you either a) don't give a shit, or b) are wondering what kind of craziness I'm on and where you can get some. I can't help with the lack of giving a shit, nor can I help with location of my craziness, but I can try and explain why this is happening.

Why should I explain myself? Because I know I'm going to get asked about it a lot and I'd rather point people to a carefully-worded post than repeat myself a million and one times.

Keep in mind that although these reasons may come across as negative, I've truly enjoyed my time at Mozilla. This is purely an insight into why I decided to leave, not any sort of exposé on how things really are within Mozilla.

Burning out

For the past few months I've been burnt out. I'm not really sure what triggered it, all I know is that I'm pretty sure that's what I'm feeling at the moment – excessively tired, unmotivated, etc. It's just not me; I'm the guy with the bottomless pit of ideas that's constantly learning and trying new things, not the guy who can't even find the energy to attempt something new.

I've only been burnt out a couple times in my life, and each time it was a massive wake up call that something was wrong… I just hadn't realised it yet. This occasion is no different and it's one of the major reasons why I decided to explore new horizons – I need to look after myself.

I liken my current situation to the spark within me going out, a little like the AllSpark in Transformers. Without it, I'm just a mind and body doing stuff. I'm not useless but I'm also not me – I'm not happy. I need to get that spark back, and it's not going to be at Mozilla.

Inability to switch off

One of the best things about the job has been that I've been able to work from home in a very flexible manner. Unfortunately, that's also been one of the worst things about it too.

Working from home is great, so long as you have firm control over when you're 'working' and when you're not working. Normally that's pretty manageable, with this job it has not been quite so easily manageable. It's a result of numerous things, though the biggest culprit is the time-zone difference between the UK and HQ in California. Meetings at 6pm in the evening aren't out of the ordinary, and then when you're trying to relax later in the evening you're constantly bombarded by emails from the US (for whom it's early afternoon). Sure, these are easily averted by not attending meetings and turning my email off, but I don't want to do that.

At its core, this job is quite a unique one in which I'm not only working from home, but I'm also sort of expected to be available all day every day. Not by Mozilla, but as a result of the role – I'm effectively the interface between the developer community and Mozilla, and the developer community never sleeps. Should I therefore ignore them when contacted 'out of hours', like on a weekend?

Needing a new challenge

While I've enjoyed my role at Mozilla, I've been finding myself wanting to explore avenues that either don't fit within my role, or don't sit well with Mozilla's mission. This makes things rather tricky sometimes.

For example, I'm pretty keen to explore native technologies and other areas beyond the Web (I can hear the collective gasps from here) – game development, physical computing, data visualisation, etc. I don't want to do these things on top of a Web-related job, I want them to be a part of what I do each and every day.

I also want to go back to basics a bit. I've had fun being a community guy, but now I want to go back to my true passion of programming and creating things.

Needing a fresh start

I could probably find a role within Mozilla that fits the things that I mention above, I've no doubt about that. However, does that solve everything? In this case, no.

I'm in the mindset that a fresh start every once in a while can be a good thing. In fact, I believe that a fresh start is imperative if you want to stay sane and keep expanding your experience and knowledge.

For me, a fresh start in this regard means going somewhere other than Mozilla, trying something completely different and seeing where it takes me. It might fail. I might not enjoy it. The awesome thing is that's part of trying something new, that's what's exciting about it!

Different directions

Something relatively disconnected from my role that affected my decision has been the direction Mozilla has headed since I joined (I know, it's totally my fault). I won't spend too much time on this one, but it's worth mentioning as it might explain a few things to those who know me.

Basically, Mozilla has changed as an organisation quite dramatically within the past year and a half. This isn't to say that it's a bad change, but it's a big change. We're very much a product- and business-focussed company now, where as when I joined we really weren't. And you can't blame Mozilla for that; after all, they do create products.

What has become clear is that this new focus grates with some of the reasons why I joined in the first place; to evangelise Web technologies, not Mozilla technologies, and to be a developer, not a business guy. Don't get me wrong, I'm not forced to tell people that Firefox is the best browser and that they shouldn't use anything else (far from it). It's more a shift in general focus and expectation within the organisation. I'd like to do something else.

Letting people down

The hardest part about deciding to leave has been about letting people down, both my colleagues and the community that I serve.

I know that they'll understand, but I hate leaving people in difficult situations and I'm not the best at saying goodbyes. I don't cry or anything, I would just rather not say anything and pretend nothing has happened. After all, it's not like I died… we'll still be in touch and part of the same community.

Robert 'Vader' Nyman
Robert 'Vader' Nyman

Thank you, Mozilla

I may be leaving but Mozilla will always have a special place in my heart. I'm still hugely excited about the projects that are happening there and I'm looking forward to seeing them flourish, I just won't directly be a part of it any longer.

Mozilla put huge trust in me as a young, relatively inexperienced chap. For that, I am truly grateful. Without this opportunity I would not be where I am today, and I would not have met all the awesome people that I have in the past year and a half.

Visiting Sydney this year was amazing
Visiting Sydney this year was amazing

I'm going to miss the company. I'm going to miss my team. I'm going to miss the job!

So, farewell Mozilla. It's been a fun ride.

Now what?

Changing direction slightly, where do you go after working at one of the best and biggest companies on the Internet? Honestly? I've absolutely no idea, but it's exciting!

I'm currently exploring a few options, mainly revolving around some key things that I'm looking for…

  • More programming – making more things
  • Less public responsibility – I want to focus on me for a bit
  • Working on smaller projects and seeing them to completion
  • Perhaps something in an office – helps with the 'switching off' thing
  • More time to work on personal projects and experiments – this is essential

Hopefully I'll find something that works around that. In fact, I'm sure I will.

People tell me it's a big risk to quit a decent job without having something else lined up. I'm not so sure. Perhaps I'm crazy, but I'd rather be jobless and happy than in a job I don't enjoy because I feel like I have no other choice.

Here's to the future!

Got something to say?

Just want to share this article?