A Brief Primer to Mozilla

Originally posted on blog.mozilla.org/ladamski on August 14, 2012

I’ve had the privilege of introducing a fair number of people to Mozilla between my time running various security teams here, so I figured maybe I could provide some simple perspective on how to thrive here.

Mozilla is based upon the fundamental principle of meritocracy, but not in the clipboard-wielding sort of way. What does that mean? It means nobody is going around handing out assignments and grading exams. Mozilla may seem like a warm-and-fuzzy fusion of academia and start-up, but looks can be deceiving.

Success at Mozilla is fundamentally measured by impact, and impact is by its nature is a subjective thing. Your impact may be great or it may be small. It may be positive or negative. Or all the above, depending on whom you ask.

Thus you should focus on making a large positive, tangible impact, as broadly as possible (magnitude * reach).

Sounds simple, but this has some profound implications. First of all, nobody is going to hand your impact to you. Its something you need to figure out. Then you need to make people aware of it. Its not sucking up, its communicating.

Preferably this also involves actually doing some awesome, highly impactful stuff.

As with most important things, focus is necessary. The hardest thing for most new (and many veteran) Mozilla contributors and employees is simply the plethora of opportunities to engage and relative lack of boundaries to prevent you from doing so. That’s great, except that results SQUIRREL! in an experience akin to Dug the dog.


Don’t expect the management chain at Mozilla to provide any of this for you. Its best thought of as a resource for getting you what you need to get great stuff done, assuming you have a plan in mind. Whenever you get stuck, ask yourself “am I truly stuck?” If you look around you, you’ll probably find all the help you need.

Finally, a note about silos. Mozilla’s core strength is our ability to engage the community. If there’s a single pattern I’ve noticed among teams and projects here, is that success is strongly correlated to willingness to do so (and failure inversely correlated). Communicating broadly early and frequently is 2/3rds the battle.

Disclaimer: Any advice taken to an extreme tends to result in failure.

Author: Lucas Adamski

20+ years in the bay area, with a diverse experience of leading hybrid software/hardware products, security, web platforms, devops and helping drive product. Diverse background from tiny startups to large corporations, lots of experience with distributed teams and building high trust cultures (and occasionally, failing to).

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