Another New Beginning

Wow, it looks like it’s been about 3.5 years since I last wrote a blog post. And, in fact, the last post I wrote was also about a big life event. Maybe that’s what this blog is for, documenting every time my life moves in a different direction.

Anyway, today’s news is that I have made a work related change that sees me move away from mobile after 6 years and towards something new.

I moved into mobile after 8 years of working almost exclusively deep in the background of applications. I became weary of working on software that no one ever realised they were using and wanted to get into something that allowed me to see the pleasure of peoples faces when they used something I made. I chose mobile because alongside allowing me to learn about user interface development and building products, I was able to utilise my existing multi-threaded, networking and database experience to good effect.

There was another reason I chose to make the move when I did. At the time, I was experiencing month 12 of a seemingly never ending crunch period at the company I was working in. You know the ones, every release is going to be the end of crunch, but somehow several weeks later you’re still there, with no end to the cycle in sight. Fundamentally, it broke me. I didn’t realise it at the time – that took about 4 years – and I thought all I needed was a fresh start. Something new to get my teeth into. So I quit my job, taught myself Android and iOS development and set out on my new life as a mobile freelancer.

4 years later, with one failed startup, a move back to permanent employment and a whole bunch of bad jobs choices behind me, I was finally diagnosed with depression, got some treatment and started on the long road back to me. I hadn’t even realised I had lost me for most of that time. Finding my way back was tough, but I did it.

Starting working in the mobile team at Mozilla played a huge part in that process. It came at a time when I had recovered enough to remember what being confident professionally, and personally, felt like. But I needed a safe space to  finish the journey. I knew that it wouldn’t take much to send me hurtling back down into that pit, but I also needed to feel like I was doing something beneficial and useful.

My team at Mozilla is awesome. In 15 years in this industry, I have only rarely worked with a bunch of people for whom I have had this much respect and also liked this much. Firefox for iOS is a great product to work on and the flexible remote working structures of the organisation helped massively in allowing me to control my time and my work life balance. I was able to concentrate more on my hobbies and still feel fulfilled during working hours.

And the team was supportive and welcoming and inclusive. I gradually learned that I could speak my mind without fear. That my opinions mattered, as did everyone’s. That no question was stupid. I could not have asked for a more perfect place to be when putting myself back together again.

However, after 2 years on the mobile team, it became clear to me that, as I recovered, I was demanding more from the work that I was doing. As my confidence increased, I realised that I was still protecting myself. And part of that was my continued work in mobile. I have been doing mobile for 6 years. It has done me well in that time, but I started down the mobile road at the same time as my depression started. I was depressed for the vast majority of my time in mobile. I needed a different challenge. One that was new. One that had no stain on it, and one that would force me to move out of the protectionist habits that I had gotten into during my recovery. I needed to scare the living crap out of myself and see if I survived.

So, I asked around. My primary goal was to remain at Mozilla. To be completely honest, I cannot imagine wanting to work for another organisation.  So I inquired about possibilities of moving to a new team inside Mozilla.

It was a hard decision. The mobile team is so great that I didn’t really want to leave them, but my desire to grow technically and challenge myself was greater. I found another team, the Browser Futures Group, and they were happy to take me. And so I moved. That was 6 weeks ago.

So, I now do something pretty different. I am learning Rust. I haven’t touched Xcode for nearly 5 weeks. I am working on a new embedded knowledge store called Mentat. I am certainly getting what I wanted. It’s hard. But it’s also rewarding and fun.

And despite some pretty challenging moments, there has been no sign of the darkness returning. My new team is pretty great too. I’m the stupidest person in the room – but in the right way. I am learning so much every day. And I continue to enjoy the kind of support that I have had since joining this company. I am really happy with my decision, and I am very happy that Mozilla has allowed me to make a significant career change without me having to find a new org to make that change to.

So, thank you Mozilla Mobile team for being awesome. And hello Browser Futures.