Becoming a Mozilla Technical Evangelist

A round-up of the past few months, relating to my recent news that I’m now a Technical Evangelist for Mozilla.

Six months ago I was screwing around with Web technologies and talking about them for fun. Fast forward to today and I'm still screwing around with Web technologies and talking about them for fun. The difference is that in those six months, which have flown by, I've written an entire book on HTML5 canvas (pre-order it, I dare you), talked at a variety of great events, and have accepted a freaking awesome job to fall into after university. It's that job that I want to talk to you about today.

Rob Hawkes: Mozilla Technical Evangelist

After two long months of application, interviews, travelling, more interviews, and nail biting; I can officially announce that I'm now a Mozilla Technical Evangelist. I don't start for a while yet, as I have a university degree to finish in the meantime, but rest assured that in just a month or so I'll be flying the flag for Mozilla and really sinking my teeth into the role. I can't wait! Oh, and for the record, I'll be based at my home in Bournemouth in the UK, not Mountain View.

What is a Technical Evangelist?

My role, and that of the other Technical Evangelists at Mozilla, is a varying one; from constructing cool demos of the latest Web technologies, to helping with the Mozilla Developer Network, to promoting and evangelising Web technologies (including the tools that Mozilla create to make them easy to use), to representing Mozilla at events by speaking or just helping out. There is much more to the role, but I hope that gives you the gist of what it means.

All in all, it's a very exciting job. I still can't quite believe that I'm going to be working for Mozilla, let alone that I'll be paid to do what I enjoy most. I'm also really chuffed to be working alongside an awesome team, including (in no particular order); Stormy Peters, Christian Hellmann, Paul Rouget, Janet Swisher, Louis-Rémi Babé, Jay Patel, Eric Shepherd (Sheppy), and fellow new hire Robert Nyman. That's not even including all the other cool people at Mozilla that I can't wait to work with!

Why Mozilla?

So why did I choose Mozilla? It's simple really – the job description and their manifesto spoke to me. I don't mean that in a weird "Rob, are you mental?" kind of way, more so that the role of a Technical Evangelist and the vision of Mozilla tied in with that I want to do on a personal level. In essence, making the Web a better and more open place.

Another reason is that Mozilla is a fairly unique company, in that decisions aren't dictated by the need to make shit loads of money, or to please the shareholders. This was a massively contributing factor in my decision to work for them – there's just something about knowing that the company you work for is doing stuff for reasons beyond money that brings a smile to my face.

Want to know more?

So with the announcements out of the way, I thought I'd give those who care an insight into the last few months of my life. Read on if you're interested.

Where it all began

Back in December of last year I asked if I could talk about Rawkets at the Mozilla Game On event in London. Little did I know how integral this event would be in the shaping of my future.

Dees Chinniah is a Mozilla Firestarter, and was one of the organisers behind the Game On event. It was talking to Dees at the event that really started to peak my interest in Mozilla as an employment opportunity, which was cemented by him passing the Technical Evangelist job under my nose. I took one look at the job description and immediately sent in my application. I had nothing to lose; I was 100% guaranteed to not get the job if I didn't try! (Dees: I owe you for this)

Just a few days after submitting my application, I was contacted by a friendly Mozilla recruiter called Reggie who wanting to organise a time to speak the following week.

The process

From this point onward things started to get interesting. I spoke to Reggie on the phone, which gave me a chance to ask any questions about the job, and gave Mozilla the chance to check that I wasn't a weirdo (I still don't know how I passed that check). Next up was an interview with Christian Heilmann, Principal Evangelist at Mozilla, which was interesting considering I had just done a video interview with him the day before for his People of HTML5 series. This was a fantastic opportunity for me because it allowed me to really find out about the position from one of the people who actually does it. It was at this point that I knew this was the job for me – who doesn't want to experiment with new technologies and go around talking about it?

Traveling to America

The next stage of the process was pretty intense for a university student. Did I want to fly out to Mountain View, California for an interview? This was as easy to answer as being asked whether I have an unhealthy obsession with HTML5 canvas (in short: yes).

Before I knew it I was on a plane out of Heathrow on my way to San Francisco via Zurich, Switzerland, but I didn't mind that as the views were spectacular.

Switzerland is pretty from the air.

Someone should tell the pilot that his plane has been graffitied!

English tea is hard to come by

Once I arrived in San Francisco I was taken to my hotel and I immediately proceeded to collapse on my bed under the pressure of jet lag (more on that in a moment). The following day I made my way to the Mozilla offices in Mountain View and waited in the reception area, albeit after waiting around outside of a door that I failed to realise was unlocked (doh). It was at this point that I realised America is a very different place to the UK – English tea is freaking hard to come by! Needless to say, I got the English tea and it was good, although I still don't fully understand what "Half and Half" is.

Interviewing and brown-bagging

The rest of the day was spent interviewing with some pretty amazing people in Mozilla, like Stormy, Chris Blizzard, Tantek Çelik, Melissa Shapiro, and Pascal Finette. Needless to say, these guys left me massively inspired – I could literally have talked about the Web and related stuff for hours with them all. So much fun.

Come lunch I was asked to put on a brown bag talk in the lunch room at Mozilla. For the record, brown bags are talks that Mozilla employees and other people put on at lunch to make announcements, or just to generally talk about something interesting. Mine was the latter – I did it on Twitter sentiment analysis. Unfortunately, I didn't finish making the slides for my talk until about 4am that morning (due to the evil jet lag), which meant that I overshot the allotted time at lunch a little bit and missed out on the delicious pizza for lunch. Whoops!

Jet lag waking me up at 4am wasn't the best thing ever.

Taking it all in

As I travelled home the following day, the immensity and awesomeness of the past few weeks began to sink in. A few days ago I was in my house in Bournemouth hacking away on my dissertation, and today I'm 35,000 feet in the air flying back after a couple of days interviewing with Mozilla in California. Either this blew my mind, or I was extremely tired, but the next thing I know I was waking up over Ireland after a 9 hour sleep – I was nearly home.

I caught this beautiful sunset over London as I flew home.

Accepting the offer

A few weeks after arriving back in the UK, after a few more interviews, and wondering if I actually did fly out to California, or whether I dreamt it, I heard the news that I so very much had been hoping for – I got the job. I honestly still can't comprehend quite how mental this all is, but I sure hope it sinks in before I start in a month or so!

The future

So that's the story of the past few months of my life, and that's not even including all the other crazy shit that's been going on outside of the Mozilla process, like my university work, the book, and various speaking gigs. It's literally been an insane part of my life, and it doesn't seem to be quietening down any time soon.

I caught some time with the Firefox at State of the Browser in London last weekend.

So what now? Well, nothing new I hope! I basically plan to keep doing what I do until I start full time with Mozilla. I want to get my university degree out of the way, and also get my book printed and out of my hands. From then on I'll be devoting my life between my work at Mozilla, as well as my usual crazy projects, writing, and, of course, my beautiful girlfriend, Lizzy (who has been amazingly patient and supportive).

Needless to say, I'll be tweeting and blogging about my adventures as they happen, so watch this space!

Dees managed to catch me looking vaguely profound during my talk at State of the Browser.

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