Mozilla

May 14, 2010 9 comments

In 2005 I was trapped in the world of IE. Running spyware programs and dealing with endless pop-ups. I knew no better. John Lilly invited me to come talk to this small 30 person startup in Mountain View and my life has never been the same. As a community, we truly transformed the world. We made a monopolistic technology company change its behavior and embrace the web. Which I might add is still an ongoing process. We’ve touched users in every country and made web experiences better for all netizens, regardless of their browser choice. We built a company based on the needs of the user, not profits. We shipped in 70+ languages, all by volunteers, and created an intimate relationship between people and their browser. We amassed 400,000,000+ users and built a vibrant and thriving community. It’s pretty awesome.

Today is my last day at Mozilla. It’s been the most amazing 5 years of my professional life and I can’t say enough about the group of people we’ve managed to bring together. Mozilla gave me the opportunity to grow, lead and influence. I will forever be grateful for the experience. It is truly an amazing place to work. There is no other technology company in the world that gives individuals as much freedom, autonomy and opportunity for impact. We’ve focused on building leaders and creating an environment where people are free to express their thoughts and concerns. As great as companies like Facebook, Google and Apple are, they can’t touch it. They can’t even come close. Culture has become a buzzword for most companies, you can really feel it at Mozilla.

I know this a bit grammy-ish there are few people that have made me experience especially special.

*carsten, aka tomcat, aka the Berlin wall, aka monster. I’ve never seen someone work so hard and shun repeated inbound requests from the Goog. You make me feel lazy.
*Johnathan, you have become an amazingly influential leader and deliverer of awesomeness.
*Morgamic, you are a surly SOB. But you’re one of the most caring people I’ve had the opportunity to work with and an amazing manager.
*Justin, you get shit done and you love shots, shots, shots, shots!
*Julie, you run an amazing intern program and I was just pretending when I didn’t understand what you were saying.
*Bret, you’ve become on of my best friends and one of the top recruiters in technology.
*Deb, you’ve been awesome to manage and I know you’ll keep Mozilla true to itself and to the people it supports.
*Mike Beltzner, you are the epitome of dedication and I’ll be crashing at your place when I’m in Toronto, thanks.
*Shaver, you’re a pain in the ass. But you’re great to work and an inspirational leader.
*Lucas, you made me love security.
*Christian, thank you for coming to Mozilla and broadening your horizons.
*Damon, you are the coolest guy in technology and your team f’ing loves you.
*Karen, you make this place work.
*Jim Cook, you’re an amazing friend, teacher and brilliant CFO. I’ll need advice as I try to do this on my own.
*Erica, is there anything you can’t do?
*Chris Lyon, you are a bad mother….

Most importantly John Lilly. Thank you for giving me this opportunity and for running with my crazy ideas. For letting me kill performance reviews. For teaching me what it truly means to lead. You have been the single most influential person in my career and I can’t thank you enough. It’s because of you that I believe people can change the world and that I have the courage to try. You’re great, even when you’re in one of your “moods.”

In a few days I’ll be starting at Rypple. I’ll be taking the things I’ve learned at Mozilla to help make work meaningful for everyone. We are creating software that makes people better, helps them invest in their own development and creates good patterns of behavior. We will revolutionize the way people approach work and their careers. Lot of work to follow, but I’m excited.

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Emulating Good Behavior

March 17, 2010 Leave a comment

I’ve been lucky through my career and have had the opportunity to work with excellent managers. I’ve tried to emulate some of their behaviors and have developed my own. I have some bad habits, but mostly I try and understand point of view before taking action. I encourage the people I influence to do the same.

If you manage people, you have to think about how your actions will effect their future interactions with peers and direct reports. If they see you treat others with respect and consideration, they will do the same. If you hold yourself accountable for mistakes, it will tell teach them how to handle a crisis. As leaders we should all be aware of our actions and the lasting effects they have on others.

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Questionable Recruiting Practices

February 24, 2010 Leave a comment

Today I found that an agency took our Worldwide Payroll Manager job description and reposted it to the local chapter of the American Payroll Association without our consent. They lifted the JD from Craigslist and pawned it as there’s. Their intent was to troll for candidates and submit them to us at a 20% fee. As an agency you take easy hires where you can get them, but this hardly seems like recruiting to me. Needless to say, Mozilla won’t be working with this company. There’s a reason I only work with a small list of reputable agencies.

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Asking for Feedback

November 3, 2009 Leave a comment

Consistently I hear from people that they don’t get enough feedback from their manager or team regarding their performance. When’s the last time you asked? What’s stopping you from asking now?

1:1s are the easiest and most private way to ask for feedback, but it doesn’t always have to be in a formal setting. Our daily interactions give us plenty of opportunities to ask for input. After meetings or discussions I often like to pull people aside to ask them their thoughts on the content or how I could have structured the interaction better. When I want a larger sampling, I use Rypple. It’s anonymous, which has its pluses and minuses. I’ve had mixed results with internal forums. The feedback, while helpful, has a strong negative bias. People are quick to point out what’s wrong in a situation without providing useful solutions. It has useful for figuring out pain points, both real and perceived.

Who to ask for feedback?
It’s important to reach out to people who have a vested interest in your development. Close friends may bias positive, as to not hurt your feelings. I find that team members, people on adjoining projects and managers give the best feedback. They have the most to gain from you performing well.

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Guest Blogger Geoff Meisner-Lymphoma Survivor

May 20, 2009 Leave a comment

My name is Geoff Meisner. I’m a Lymphoma survivor and I’ve been in remission for 2 years. Getting diagnosed and going through cancer treatment always seemed like a deeply personal thing to me, and it’s never easy to tell my story, but I’m happy Dan gave me the opportunity to share my experience with you, because one thing I’ve learned while going through treatment is that there is a real sense of community surrounding this disease, and it feels great to get involved. So, here it goes…

During the spring of 2006 I started feeling sort of…off. I was being woken up with excruciating headaches every morning. I had a cough. I was run down. I just felt sick. I went to my school’s health clinic and was prescribed some cough medicine, and told to come back in three days for X-Rays.

So, three days later, on May 5th (my wife’s birthday, back then she was still my girlfriend), I went in for X-Rays, and they found what they thought to be a collapsed lung. They told me it wasn’t too uncommon in tall, slender guys my age, and sent me to the ER at UCSF. So, we canceled our birthday plans, and I ended up in intensive care. After they ran some tests, I was told I didn’t have a collapsed lung.

Instead, I was told my left lung was nearly full of fluid. At this point I had no idea what was going on. My doctor came back later – and I’ll never forget what he said – he said, “I have to tell you something, and it’s going to change your life”. And he was right.

I was told I had a lemon-sized tumor between my heart and my lung, and two smaller masses in my abdomen. I was diagnosed with Acute T-Cell Lymphoblastic Lymphoma, which they told me wasn’t too uncommon in tall, slender guys my age. The first thing that needed to be done was to remove the fluid from my lung. They had to stick a needle that was about as long as my forearm (I’m serious, the thing looked like it was from a cartoon) through my back and into my lung. It hurt…a lot, and would only be the first of many excruciating procedures over the next ten months, including spinal taps (which also hurt…a lot) and chemotherapy. After that the rest of the day is pretty blurry, as my world really did seem to completely flip upside down.

I started chemotherapy two days later. Three weeks after that, I was released from the hospital, bald – everywhere, and about ten pounds lighter on my birthday. I was turning 26 years old…not what I expected it to be like.

My parents had flown out from Detroit the same day I entered the ER, and had been staying in San Francisco. Since it was my birthday, my Mom wanted to bake me her famous chocolate cake, which I wasn’t about to turn down.

Unfortunately, due to an allergy from a certain drug I was on, that cake plus everything else I was eating combined to spike my blood sugar to 796. I was seriously about a bowl of pasta away from a diabetic coma. So, instead of a week away from the hospital, I was right back in.

I was in and out of UCSF hospital for the next ten months, during which time I experienced all sorts of crazy and trying side effects from chemotherapy; like, neuropathy (numbing of your fingers and toes), and kidney stones. Passing those was almost worse than cancer. Honestly, I’d take a month of chemotherapy before I took 5 minutes of trying to pass a stone.

After almost a year of intense therapy, I was told in March 2007 that I was in remission, but that I’d have to continue chemotherapy treatments for the next two and a half years. I will take my last treatment this September, and I can’t tell you how excited I am about that.

Since March 2007, I got married last August to my beautiful wife Michelle, who was by my bed every difficult day, and finished my bachelor’s degree at San Francisco State University this January. Obviously my timing was horrible for trying to enter the job market, but what can you do? I blame cancer.

This past month, as I felt this disease continuing to get further behind me, my father-in-law’s cousin, whom Michelle and I are both very close to was diagnosed with Follicular Lymphoma. It’s a terminal diagnosis. For him, it’s not if, but when, and that’s really hard to take. But, the more people like Dan get involved in organizations like the LLS, campaigns like the Man & Woman of the Year, the closer we get to finding a cure for ALL blood cancers; as well as being able to continue funding the research that lead to the excellent care that saved my life.

I’d also like to say that although money is important, it is really family and friends that help patients through the treatment and healing process. Without my wife, Michelle, my parents, my brother and sister, my in-laws, and my friends, my fight would have felt a million times harder than it already was. That being said, the money is pretty important. My mom had to quit her job to stay out here with me, and the $500 in financial aid we got from the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society to help with prescriptions, gas, parking and other expenses really meant a lot. And obviously, these days every dollar counts.

So, thank you all very much for your time and your interest. Dan, keep up the great work. You have no idea how many people appreciate it.

All the best,

Geoff Meisner
2 years in remission!

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Making Decisions and Committing

May 11, 2009 Leave a comment

As I was heading to church with my mother today we spoke about a difficult decision that I was facing. Given two fantastic options, how does a person decide which decision to make? My mother told me to ask God. She says things like this often. I tend to smile and nod. I don’t consider myself a terribly religious person and when forced with a difficult decision there are only a few people whose counsel I seek and God is not one of them.

While I was sitting in church, three amazing things happened. The Priest was Father Jeff who I hadn’t seen in 10 years. He was instrumental in my Catholic education and had spent many hours talking to me about God and the importance that he plays in our lives. The second was the gospel passage and the homily. Father Jeff asked if anyone was a gardener; I most certainly am not, but the analogy wasn’t lost on me. Our lives are in constant development and in order for us to reach our potential we must water and feed ourselves and those around us. We must prune away the distractions and obstacles that prevent us from doing great things. His words and the passage made my decision an easy one. I want to spend my time investing in people and organizations that I believe truly make a difference. So I guess sometimes God answers your question even if you don’t ask directly.

The third and most moving part of the experience was that two pews over there was a little girl of no more than 4 years old. Pretty little girl, very well-behaved, yet light-hearted and content. She had obviously been through chemotherapy as her hair had just begun to grow back. She was so full of life and you could see how happy her mother was to be sitting next to her. For the past 7 weeks I have been heavily involved with the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society as a nominee for the San Francisco Man of the Year. I’ve spent most of my time putting together an event at City Hall called Monte Carlo Night. My friends and family have been extremely supportive and engaged by helping find donations, corporate sponsors and silent auction items. I hate asking for things; I’d much rather provide something I feel is of value and have people feel like they’ve received something in return. I need to get over that. I can’t let pride get in the way of the cause. That little girl is alive because the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society has been active for 60 years providing much needed patient services, education and acting as advocates for patients in Washington by securing the money needed for research.

We are given precious few opportunities to do great things. The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society has blessed me with the honor and responsibility of raising funds for the essential services they provide. I’ve been continually impressed by the people who work for LLS and have given so much of their time and energy to such a worthy cause. I know the economic climate is challenging and that we are clouded in uncertainty and fear. It doesn’t matter if you donate $5, $50 or $5000, it only matters that you donate. I know a number of people have already donated, and I thank you from the bottom of my heart. The campaign is over on May 28th, that’s only a little over two weeks away. Thank you for your consideration.

To donate please go to :
http://gsf.llsevent.org/dportillo

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Update on Man & Woman of the Year Campaign

April 21, 2009 Leave a comment

Rajinder Dua held a fundraiser at Bin38 last night for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.  It was a great turnout.  By far the most touching part of the evening was when Geoff Meisner and Tina Saladino shared their experiences dealing with blood cancer.  I don’t think it’s my place to retell their experiences here, but needless to say it was heart wrenching and a true testament to the human spirit.  If you have time, please watch a brief documentary called Project Michelle.  It chronicles her struggle with cancer and efforts to help locate bone marrow donors for her and other cancer patients.

Listening to the speakers last night and watching the documentary got me thinking.  So far I have rasied $11,355, $2555 through my website and the rest in checks sitting on my dresser at home. I applaud everyone for donating, but it’s not nearly enough.  The cost of going through treatments is so expensive, and not to mention invasive, that $11k will not go very far.  Monte Carlo Night at City Hall on May 14th will do very well, I’m expecting that we’ll be able to raise upwards of $80K, but I also want to work hard to get donations through the site.  I can’t stress enough how great of an organization LLS is and how important of a cause they support.  Please donate today!

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