Napoleon’s battle plan

Published: August 21, 2011. Filed under: Meta.

So, right up-front, let me just say that May is one damn fine month to quit your job.

As previously noted, I’d been in rather an epic funk, and once my last day was over and all the paperwork was filed, I went on a mission to spend my summer doing anything other than sitting in front of a computer. I traveled a bit, saw friends both old and new, indulged some of my non-tech-related hobbies, read some books and was an all-around lazy bum. But August is growing old, the awesome (unless you’re driving home from the airport in one, as I was the other night) thunderstorms that signal the start of fall have rolled into Kansas, and it’s time to be productive again.

Back when I gave my notice at the Journal-World, I didn’t really have a plan in mind; given the state of the economy, that was perhaps a stupid thing to do, but I knew I needed to move on and I figured that my time there and my involvement with Django meant I’d have at least a few marketable skills. My “plan”, ultimately, was just to show up and see what happened.

And as the days, weeks and eventually months went by, I had a steady trickle of emails pointing out interesting opportunities. I didn’t know quite what it was I wanted to be doing next, but I did know at least a few things that had to happen. I had to keep working in environments full of smart people; I had to keep working with new and interesting tools; and most important, I had to be doing something I felt was worthwhile. Not in the “conversion rate is up 2% over this quarter last year” sense, but in the “I’m helping make a difference for real people” sense. All of which made one of those emails stand out right from the start, because it came from someone at Mozilla.

Today I’m both proud and incredibly happy to announce that that email turned into a conversation, which turned into a series of phone calls, which turned into an in-person interview, which turned into paperwork, which ultimately turned into me spending last week in sunny Mountain View, California, for my first week on the job as the newest member of Mozilla’s web development team.

What I do

Mozilla has a frankly mind-boggling number of web-development projects going on, a fact I began to understand during the interview process when people started listing them off (and which is still sinking in as I page through the official directory, learning names and faces of co-workers to go with their IRC nicknames). Some of them are pretty visible; others just hum along quietly in the background. One in particular that I’ve come to know and love over the years is MDNthe Mozilla Developer Network.

For a good long while now I’ve known that the easiest way to get a quick answer to a question about in-browser technology is simply to head to a search engine, type in whatever word or phrase I’m interested in, and add “mdn” to the end of the query (if you didn’t know this or have never done it before, seriously, try it). MDN is a one-stop shop for everything you need or could ever want to know about the Web works and how to make things for it. There’s documentation, there are demos showing all sorts of crazy awesome things you can do, there are full step-by-step classes teaching key bits of technology… and that’s just the start.

MDN is the kind of thing that doesn’t just make a difference — it makes a huge difference. And now, it’s what I get to work on for a living.

I get to work on it alongside incredibly smart people like Les and Luke, and all the other scary brilliant people who make up the big rollicking family that is Mozilla webdev. I get to work on it using Django (fun fact: make a list of the top five highest-traffic Django deployments in the world, and Mozilla’s going to be in it — I knew there was Django stuff going on before I started working there, but never realized just how much). I get to work on it out in the open (code lives on GitHub). I get to learn stuff pretty much every day, and put tools and ideas to work. I get to do it from right here in Kansas where I already live — Mozilla’s incredibly friendly to remote employees — though I will likely be making trips out to the home store in Mountain View every so often (in fact, I’ll be out there again right after DjangoCon).

In case you haven’t caught on yet, I think this is all pretty awesome. And it’s just getting started.