How could I possibly follow-up my incredible years spent with the very special Engineers Without Borders Canada? That was the central question hanging in the back of my mind, even as I promised myself ‘no pressure, take your time’ over the past 5-months traveling the world with my partner Sari and our delightful now-9-month-old daughter Aliyah.
Reflection and spending time in other organizations has helped me see just how special EWB is — there’s a greater concentration of world class people (smarts, skills and dedication) in EWB than I’ve seen anywhere else, and the organization is pushing the leading edge in a way that is courageous and necessary. What would come next professionally? What was a must have and what was a want to have?
My big realization was that I would be most fulfilled by joining another organization with a change-the-world sized mission. Another organization that cares not just about ‘what’ they are doing, but is also pioneering new models on ‘how’ we organize our companies and public benefit institutions. Another organization that builds communities and mobilizes people to unleash their potential.
I also wanted a broad set of responsibilities, but not another CEO or co-founder role right now. I wanted to be working alongside highly motivated people who I can learn from. And I wanted a sector that moves fast, that isn’t “stuck” in the ways that international development can get stuck.
Believe it or not, there was a role and organizational combination out there that fit like a glove! I’m really excited to be joining Mozilla.
Most people know Mozilla for our web-browser Firefox. Some people might even know that Firefox is an open-source project, with thousands of volunteer contributors alongside staff. Fewer people know that Mozilla is a mission-driven, change the world, non-profit. We are promoters and protectors of an internet that is open and free, a hotbed of innovation, a platform for economic and social development, for bettering humanity.
Practically, we build great products and technologies (some that you see like Firefox, and some that you don’t, like the standards that allow you to watch a video in your web-browser) that embed the values of Mozilla. For example, when you’re using Firefox, you’re not uploading your personal information like when you use Chrome — privacy and user agency are values we care about and are native to our products.
Beyond products, we also build educational resources and courses (for high skill and early web learners), do policy advocacy, help support people making technology for news organizations, help support people who are trying to bring open standards to science, develop tools and alliances and products to bring the web to the “bottom 2 billion”, etc. Lots and lots!
This is a cool video that explains more:
So, what am I doing here? I got to create my own title and I’ve chosen “Participation Sherpa” (clearly a descriptive title versus hierarchical one): I think I’m beginning to know what that means!
As you can glean, there’s a lot going on at Mozilla. With roughly 20,000 volunteers; another ~1+ million people participating in our education networks, developer networks, fellowships and advocacy work; and ~300 million product users, there are a lot of people involved. This interaction of people and impact is beautifully messy and has developed rather organically. But it’s creaking in places. People are not getting as much value as they could from their interactions with Mozilla, and the mission is not benefiting as much as it could from their participation.
My role is to help Mozilla evolve this participation relationship by leading the architecture of a strategy, a new team and the cultural and structural elements that supports this. It means working on strategy and operations, working with people around the organization to run experiments, helping staff and volunteers optimize the way they are working (building communities, building participation opportunities), and learning from all the activity already going on. The exciting part is that I’m reaching into and implicated in literally every part of Mozilla.
Logistically I’m based in Toronto, for now! And it’s a 6-month contract, for now!
I’m fired up and found a great first answer to “how do I follow-up my incredible years spent with the very special Engineers Without Borders Canada”!