Summarizing a recent trip to Mozilla’s Toronto Office
Yesterday a handful of Seneca students and myself had the opportunity to sit down with Mike Hoye, Community Engineering Manager, at the Mozilla Toronto office (MoTo) to hear his take on what software is and more importantly, where we as individuals and students fit into the bigger picture.
The discussion was extremely insightful and provoked all 9 of us to think about our future and the world that we will have to shape — whether we want to or not. To be completely honest, I didn’t know what to expect since the whole thing was originally for me to meet a few faces but when we left MoTo’s doors at 1:30 pm, everyone was thanking me for organizing such an event.
One friend in particular was not expecting the interesting chat we had:
Arriving at MoTo
Toronto’s weather is nothing short of crazy — it was actually snowing in Downtown Toronto yesterday morning which caused a delay for most of us taking the TTC:
At 10:10 am, with 5 of us waiting outside in the cold, we decided to head on up to the 5th floor where Mike was waiting for us.
After signing in and receiving our name tags (that were printed on the spot), we made our way into the “Community Area” where group activities are held. I have to say that I was impressed with the setup— there were multiple TV’s, couches, tables, refrigerators and more neat stuff that made it feel and look like a collaborative space. Even the colour scheme of the furniture and walls resembled the fiery orange and the sea blue of the Firefox logo!
As everyone slowly started to make their way into the area, we began our discussion for what unknowingly would last a few hours.
A New Perspective
Disclaimer: These are my personal interpretations of our group discussion. They are by no means exact quotes and/or reflections of Mike Hoye or any individual at Mozilla.
I don’t want to regurgitate a full 10 page transcript of what was discussed so here are some key points of interest:
“Software is a machine” — Mike asked us “What is Software?” I responded that I see it as a “physical form of Intellectual Property”. He thought for a second and challenged me on whether or not it was really physical (maybe I should have described it was a manifestation instead?). He continued on to say that it can be considered as a “machine made of our values, priorities and politics.” It can even be a “machine” made of somebody else’s choices!
“Privacy” — What do you value as far as your privacy is concerned? This is a big question especially in wake of the recent events at Facebook. For me, I value the privacy of myself and my family very highly — I put trust into the services that I use in hopes of them securing my data from any breaches.
“How do you want the world to be different, because you were in it?” — This was a question that I thought about a lot during Mike’s speech. Do I really want to work at Facebook in Silicon Valley making $150k USD out of school but not be able to sleep at night over their data breach? For some people, they can say “Sure Sean! That doesn’t bother me” but for others it’s a big no-go. He urged us to think twice about what our impact in the world will be and how measurable it will be when we’re retired 40 years from now.
“What’s your theory of change?” — Where do you place your value? Religion, politics, money? Is money a proxy for you to something greater like allowing you to fulfill your aspirations? This point emphasizes the necessity to rethink what impact we’ll make in the world and more importantly, how we’ll accomplish just that.
“The future belongs to everyone” — This is why OSS matters because if we abolish it, then it suggests that we aren’t in control of our life but only what corporations are willing us to do — ultimately we’d be at their mercy.
Traits of a Mozillian
In the latter part of our discussion, we talked about key traits that make up a potential Mozillian during the hiring process:
- What technical decisions occurred during a project you worked on? Was there any tradeoffs and if so, why? Be ready to talk about those in great detail!
- How do different technical solutions restrict your options? They want to see if the candidate understands the context of the problem that they’re solving and discuss the pros/cons of their choice(s)!
- Can the candidate discuss the larger problem that existed with their work and why it was solved as so? (Hint: It takes a great level of humility to understand that perfect doesn’t always get shipped)
- Individuals who can show pride at how their role played to the greater success of their team — own your work!
- Individuals who can observe and understand the piece of the puzzle that they’re working on from every technical aspect. They need to consider how their piece contributes to the overall success of the product, team and/or organization. (Hint: Can you can draw a straight line from your work to the success conditions?)
- For potential managers, does everyone on the team understand what success looks like? Does the potential manager know what everyone else on the team needs in order to produce great work? Can they come up with a plan for their team to use when help is needed?
Exploring the Office
After a long chat, we stretched for a second and then got a quick tour of MoTo before Mike had to let us go. Key highlights were the massive Firefox logo made out of Lego in the UX room, a vending machine that had computer parts for sale and board rooms that had each of the TTC subway stops marked on their door — super cool!! 🤯🤩
After leaving MoTo, a handful of us went to Korean BBQ just around the corner to satisfy our enormous appetite. During our lunch, I was reflecting on the whole experience and in particular, I was disappointed that we didn’t get to chat with anyone else apart from the secretary and Mike. However, I didn’t reach out to enough teams a few days before our visit to give them a heads up about our presence. I’ll make sure to keep this is mind for future group trips.
All in all, it was refreshing to chat with an experienced individual like Mike who provoked us to think more about our impact in the world. I hope that this won’t be the last visit to MoTo as the group wants to go back and visit pretty soon 😄
Until next time,