One year at Mozilla

As of June 6th 2012, I have officially been a Mozilla employee for one whole year. In this post I round up what has happened during those 12 short months, as well as my plans for the next year.

Holy crap the past year went fast!

Seriously, I cannot believe that a whole 12 months have passed between me starting at Mozilla and the writing of this. Where did the time go?!

My girlfriend's famous Firefox pie
My girlfriend's famous Firefox pie

June 2011 — one year ago

This time last year was pretty hectic for me; I had just published my book on HTML5 canvas, I was a week-old graduate from university, and I had just started my job as a Technical Evangelist for Mozilla.

Graduating with a First
Graduating with a First

I really had no idea what to expect from the coming year, and boy would I never have guessed what kind of stuff was going to happen!

June 2012 — one year on

What's funny is that looking back at my thoughts after that first week on the job, I'm glad to see that I did have one thing sussed out…

Just trust me on this one, Bugzilla makes the world go round here.

…which any Mozillian will appreciate.

Apart from that, everything else was just guesswork. I'd never experienced a role like this before and I had never worked in a company like this either. Little did I know that the following year was going to simultaneously blow my mind and nearly kill me at the same time.

I've been toying with how to structure this entry for a while now and I've decided to just outline a few of my observations from the past year.

Holy shit-balls mom!

That was my general reaction to everything that has happened recently. I'm not going to lie, this job is freaking awesome and I'm never going to forget how fortunate I am to have it.

Each and every day I'm being constantly blown away by the things I see and the work that's happening at Mozilla. There really aren't many companies in the world that are working on such awesome shit and I'm just happy to work for one of the ones that do.

Mozilla is one of a kind

Aside from working on crazy-insane-mental-awesome stuff, one of the other things that I've enjoyed about Mozilla is that they are truly a one-of-a-kind company.

Firefox banner at the Mozilla office in London
Firefox banner at the Mozilla office in London

I'll start with the word company. Mozilla isn't really a company, it's a loosely-organised community of like-minded people who all share the same beliefs (geeky ones, not godly ones) and work together to make them happen.

I have a manager, but I don't feel like I'm at the bottom of a long chain of command. And I don't feel like everyone is in dry 'work mode.' Far from it! I feel like everyone at Mozilla is a friend, even the ones I haven't met yet. Which sounds weird, but it's really true. I'd have no problem reaching out to anyone within Mozilla, saying hi and asking them for help — I know that they'd be happy to.

Mozilla Games work week in Toronto
Mozilla Games work week in Toronto

What I love about Mozilla is that aside from being a non-profit, they are open in everything that they do. Well, just about everything. Unfortunately, there are some things that we simply can't be open about due to matters outside our control (usually NDAs and legal copyright stuff). Everything else is open though; from discussions, to the internals of Firefox and our other products.

It's the openness and community that sets Mozilla out from the crowd — it really is a one-of-a-kind company. The way Mozilla works allows it and the people who work for it to do things that other companies and employees could never do (due to profits, secrecy, or general douchebaggery).

Mozilla is growing, fast

When I joined, Mozilla had roughly 400 employees. In just a few months that number was nearer 600. Now? I literally have no idea how big we are. This epic growth has been painful in some regards but amazing in others.

Beautiful view from the Mozilla office in San Francisco
Beautiful view from the Mozilla office in San Francisco

What I always find funny about the times when the whole company get together is that I always see a new crowd of people that I've never seen before. In fact, it's always funny asking someone at Mozilla when they joined because the majority will give you an answer of less than a year.

I travel too much

Since the beginning of 2011, I have travelled over 180,000 miles — that's over 7 times around the world, or nearly a one-way trip to the moon! I've travelled to 21 cities in 11 countries, which is crazy for someone who had barely been anywhere but France until last year.

Stunning view of Sydney Harbour
Stunning view of Sydney Harbour

All that travel sounds amazing (I'm constantly being told how lucky I am) but it's not as fun as it sounds, trust me. Yes, I get to visit places all over the globe. Yes, I don't have to pay for it. And yes, it's an amazing experience. But no, it's not a holiday. And no, I don't enjoy it as much as you may think.

I've probably been away from home for half of my time at Mozilla so far. That isn't healthy.

Moscone Center at night
Moscone Center at night

The thing with all the travel is that the majority of the time I'm either planning for a talk, stressing about minute transportation details, being bored at an airport, trying to sleep on a plane full of screaming babies, trying to sleep in a hotel room, or sitting in a window-less conference venue. It's rare to get enough time and energy to actually go and explore the places that I'm visiting.

Panoramic view of San Francisco airport
Panoramic view of San Francisco airport

It's really just business travel, not a vacation…

Becoming a better speaker

One of the things I'm glad that I've done is improve at public speaking, and boy have I dropped myself in the deep end with this job. Since I joined, I've spoken at over 24 different events (that's 2 a month, on average), with nearly 75,000 views on Slideshare.

I've definitely improved over time, and I've definitely gotten better at keeping control of the nerves.

My collection of event badges
My collection of event badges

While I'm at it, let me dispel a myth about public speaking. Whoever said that professional public speakers don't get nervous is an idiot. Let me tell you right now that even the most famous public speakers get nervous, all the time!

One of the things that I've noticed while being involved in the speaking scene is that they are really just normal people who happen to be good at what they do and happen to be standing on a stage with a microphone. It's actually the community that make a big deal out of things and elevate these people to emotionally-indestructible, god-like status. Stop doing that, please.

Trying not to kill myself

In my naive desire to please everyone else I completely forgot to look after myself, and by November I was fast approaching burn-out. Something had to be done.

In the end, I decided to simply take a week off and do nothing apart from chill out on my sofa and play Battlefield 3 on the xBox (if you play, here is my profile). It worked.

I wasn't fully fixed after that impromptu break but I was certainly feeling a lot better… better enough to knuckle down at least.

Me grinning like a loon, by Paul Clarke
Me grinning like a loon, by Paul Clarke

Want a tip? Don't be afraid to take a break from work once in a while, even if you enjoy it and don't think of it as work. One person I spoke to about this was proud of the fact they hadn't had a break in 10 years. Don't be an idiot like them, you'll probably die. Ok you probably won't die, but you will do some serious and potentially irreversible damage to your mental state. Do you really want to risk hating the job you currently love?

Working at home is fucking hard

I love working from home, I really do. But it's fucking hard, and I'll tell you why in 3 simple words…

You're. In. Control.

Yes, I can go out whenever I want. Yes, I can wake up whenever I want. Yes, I can wear whatever I want. Yes, my commute is a tiring 10-second walk from my bedroom. It sounds amazing to be in control of your working life, but it can really suck sometimes.

How can it suck? Well, a few reasons…

  • It gets lonely, which can make you slightly crazy
  • You can get under your partner's feet
    • I guarantee that work-at-home couples argue more than those who commute
  • No one is going to stop you from wearing your pyjamas and not showering once in a while
    • Sounds great, but it's easy to get lazy without a 'work' routine
  • No one is going to tell you when to switch off
    • This is probably my biggest issue
    • I love my work and don't see it as work, which can be very bad
    • You'll often find me working into the evenings and weekends without realising
  • You forget what the outdoors is like
    • I've definitely gone over a week once without going out the house

Email is the bane of my life

Just like the excitement you get when post comes through the letterbox, I remember a time in my life when I wished for more email. I think I must have been off my head when I thought that.

The problem with a distributed company like Mozilla is that practically all communication is performed via email. It's a hideous communication tool and I wish it would die, horribly.

I'll often go to sleep at night and wake up with 50 new emails, on top of the others that I didn't get to the day before, and the ones from the day before that.

I hate email, I really do. Yet it's all we've got right now and it seems to do the job.

I wish there was a way to automatically filter out the emails that are important and deserve my attention from the ones that don't. I just don't have the time to do it myself!

Meeting amazing people

Aside from the friends I've made at Mozilla, I'm so glad to have been able to attend events all around the world and meet some amazing people.

Don't mess with Robert 'Vader' Nyman
Don't mess with Robert 'Vader' Nyman

I never would have imagined meeting and having dinner with some of the people that I've looked up to for years. It's incredible being a part of this community and having the opportunity to talk to people that I would otherwise have never met.

What I love the most is how inspired I feel after these moments. I can definitely see why conferences are so popular now — it's the chance to meet new friends, not just hear them talk.

Starting to specialise

When I joined, I really didn't know which direction I would be headed at Mozilla. I knew I was a Technical Evangelist, but what does that really mean? The role is pretty flexible.

Rawket Scientist
Rawket Scientist

About 6 months into the job I noticed that I was starting to focus more and more on things like HTML5 games and Mozilla's Boot to Gecko project. The only reason for the focus was because they were the things that interested me the most and I was subconsciously doing stuff related to them.

48-hour Game Hack event
48-hour Game Hack event

As of today, I'm the only guy in my team who is focussed on games. I suppose you could call me the Mozilla Technical Evangelist for Games, but that isn't my job title… yet. I'm looking forward to refining what that means.

Plans for the next year

So it's safe to say that the past year has been pretty cool. I've learnt a tonne and honestly can't comprehend how I managed to do so much stuff in such a short period of time (though I suppose I did nearly die).

I cannot wait to get cracking with my next year at Mozilla. Here are a few of the things that I'll be doing…

  • Travelling less — I actually won't be travelling anywhere unless I have a really good reason to be there.
  • Speaking less — like travel, I need to cut down on speaking so I can focus my efforts elsewhere
  • Refining my aims for games and B2G — there is plenty more for me to do in these areas
  • Working on fewer, but bigger projects — I can reach so many more people if I focus my efforts

Here's hoping it's another good one!

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