During June and July, I was out in Mountain View, CA, at the Mozilla Corporation (and Foundation) headquarters, learning all I could about the process of creating Mozilla products. In June of this year, I chose to leave General Dynamics Advanced Information Systems to take a position as a Platform Engineer at Mozilla. I’ve been looking for a different position for a while now, as I’ve felt that defense contracting just doesn’t suit me. With my love of free and open source software, Mozilla seemed like it could be a dream come true. So far, it seems to be exceeding even my wildest dreams.
Imagine a place where the smartest people get together to discuss and work on issues about which they are passionate, coaxing thoughtful insight and comment from one another to create new things that previously could never have been imagined. Academia, you say? Perhaps. But now imagine that place where the things you build are used by 500 million people worldwide, and where the politics are minimalistic compared to Academia. Mozilla fits this bill. There are quirks, for sure, no company or organization is completely without politics and difficulties. But, everyone in the company is so driven to make the user front and center that it’s difficult to imagine a product coming out of this environment that wasn’t absolutely awesome.
Probably the burning question on your mind is… ‘What’s it like working for Mozilla?’ It’s fantastic, that’s for sure. Other than that, it’s difficult to describe, so I thought I’d show some pictures. The first thing I noticed (when I originally came for the interview) was the cool dinosaur statue in the main lobby of the office (pictured to the left). Now, if you’re wondering why the dinosaur statue is there at all, you should probably be advised that the dinosaur logo has been used by Mozilla long before it was an open source company (hint: Firefox actually used to be called by the name ‘Netscape Navigator’). The dinosaur logo came about after the Netscape team chose the name ‘Mozilla’, a concatenation of ‘Mosaic’ (the leading browser at the time) and ‘Killer’, as a codename for the Netscape Navigator browser. The dinosaur was used as part of a logo because of the similarity of the name ‘Mozilla’ and ‘Godzilla’. Unfortunately, this has led to some less-than-informed commentary on Mozilla being ‘The Godzilla of Search Engines’ – see Jono’s Blog post about this if you’d like a laugh.
I have to say, the office in Mountain View is pretty cool. Mozilla runs part of the 2nd floor, all of the 3rd floor, and half of the 4th floor. All of the conference rooms on the 3rd floor are named alphabetically after internet memes, such as ‘Get to Da Choppa’, ‘Rickroll’, ‘ICANHAZCHEEZBURGER’ or ‘Keyboard Cat’.
The major conference rooms are named after rooms in the Starship Enterprise: Warp Core, Sickbay, and The Bridge being some of these. This may seem pretty geeky to you, but how many people can say they are going to have a meeting in the Warp Core, or The Bridge?
Then there’s my all-time favorite, probably the favorite of many others as well, the lounge. Sticking with the Star Trek theme, the large room toward the front of the office space is aptly named ‘Ten Forward’. The coolest part about this particular room is not that it’s named after a Star Trek lounge (see Memory Alpha for an explanation of Ten Forward, if you don’t know what it is), but that it actually looks a lot like Ten Forward from Star Trek: The Next Generation. I know it’s difficult to tell, given that I took an image from the left side facing toward the bar, whereas the image on the right is from the right side facing the bar, but I definitely got the feeling while I was there that this layout was entirely meant to remind one of the Starship Enterprise.
There’s definitely an atmosphere of fun. I’ve never before seen so many Firefox logos. There’s even one made from Legos!
All throughout the office space, there’s the feeling that you’re in a place where cool things happen. There’s a lot of pride taken in the end product, and in the fact that the users are front and center when designing the product. I can honestly say I’ve never seen so many people (outside of Google or Walmart, but those are different stories) who are genuinely excited to be in the office working. I really got the impression that the folks at Mozilla are dedicated to furthering the web, whether it be through the development of a stable, user-friendly, feature-rich, free (as in freedom) browser or email client, or simply through furthering the knowledge that one has gained in technical endeavors and relaying that to others. I am excited to be a part of this world, and hopefully someday I’ll be able to describe to younger generations of software developers just what it was like to have the freedom to develop in such an environment.