IMG_3886Dear Amelia,

We’ve been married for 15 years today.

I thought about finding a mariachi band to celebrate. I thought about looking at homes and having the realtor tell me I have commitment issues. I thought about going to an orchid show with you.

I even thought about arguing over which dishes to buy.

But none of that felt right. Instead, I wrote this.

15 years ago we started on a path that has led us through three cities, four homes, five cars, two children, one dog (!) and more memories than I can fit in a Facebook post.


15 years ago – in front of 400 people – I shared this story:

troopers-hands-in-handsIn 1848, gold was found at Sutter’s Mill. By 1849, people were flocking to California in search of treasure. “Eureka!” they shouted when the found their treasure.

In 1996 I came to California in search of my treasure. Three years later I met you. 


Man, it’s a hot one
Like seven inches from the midday sun
Well, I hear you whisper and the words melt everyone
But you stay so cool

SmoothMy muñequita,
My Spanish Harlem Mona Lisa
You’re my reason for reason
The step in my groove, yeah.

And if you said, “This life ain’t good enough.”
I would give my world to lift you up
I could change my life to better suit your mood
Because you’re so smooth

~ “Smooth“, Santana feat. Rob Thomas

IMG_388915 years, 5 months and 9 days ago we decided we wanted a future together. A future that might be filled with ups, might be filled with downs, might be more of one than the other. But we wanted to dream our dream and do it together.

And 15 years later we continue to stare up into the stars, hold hands, and dream of our future together.

on authenticity

Non-authentic is a virus in anything you do in life.  Non-authentic is not benign. It metastasizes like a tumor. ~ @cookflix

Upside down. Authentic.When I first started people managing, I was given some simple advise: always find one personal thing from each person’s life and remember to ask them about it every week.

I’ve always remembered that.  I don’t recall how much I put it into practice but as I’m learning how to lean into my strengths, I keep coming back to that.

I’m a little embarrassed but it was probably a forced exercise back then. I was new to world of people managing and near clueless on coaching.

Contrast that to today where I still reach back out to those I used to work with – my Tribe. Except that it isn’t forced.

Authenticity builds trust.  Authenticity builds connections.

au·then·tic [aw-then-tik]
adjective: not false or copied;

True leaders come from a place of authenticity. They may look like a heretic or a crazy dancing guy but they are always coming from an Authentic Place.

As I delve into leadership – and really coaching those I work with – I try to always come from that place. Its easy to say this is part of my brand. I’m not sure it always was but my time at Mozilla helped me focus on being as open and transparent as possible.

trust [trəst]
noun: assured reliance on character, ability, strength; one in which confidence is placed

And then you have this trust thing.  And here’s the deal. If you come from an Authentic Place, you generate trust.

Kate Stull (@katestull) says it best in her blog post “Death to top-down leadership models“,

“Teams are no longer content to accept the overarching pronouncements from a shadowy boss figure that they never see, let alone speak to. Instead, people want to be led by someone they know. Someone they trust.”

There’s that word. Trust. I can’t get to that place of trust without being authentic. I can’t build a connection with you if I’m not authentic.

Otherwise you’re just a virus.


the grapefruit (pound cake ed.)

Citrus × paradisi

The Grapefruit is one of my favorite fruits, second only to The Strawberry and tied with The Gelato (which, for the sake of this argument, I’ll consider a fruit). The Grapefruit also has the distinction of holding the title of My Favorite French Word: Pampelmuse.
Le Pampelmuse
Perhaps it’s those memories of The Grapefruit for breakfast ~ a gorgeous half Pampelmuse sprinkled with sugar (and “sprinkled” is likely an under exaggeration), it’s flesh liberated with that funky, curved, doubled-edged serrated Grapefruit knife.

Or perhaps it’s the bitter, tangy, sweet taste of The Grapefruit Juice.

Or perhaps it’s my version of an Arnold Palmer with The Grapefruit instead of lemonade (which I guess is called a Leland Palmer?).

Whatever the reason, my heart fluttered and skipped a beat when I saw Deb Perelman’s Grapefruit Olive Oil Pound Cake recipe in her book.

“Must make”, I thought to my self.


grapefruit olive oil pound cake with grapefruit glaze

The recipe I used came from Deb’s “The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook” (p 241) [Note:I swapped out the buttermilk for my wife’s homemade yogurt].


You should get the book, of course, or use this version of the recipe from her website.


OpenBadges, badg.us & Community IT

I’m very excited to announce that the Badg.us website has fully transitioned over to Community IT Ops infrastructure!

Badg.us is a site where anyone can create a series of Open Badges to recognize skills, achievements and interests. This platform is available for free and intended to provide an easy option for issuing interoperable badges that align with the Open Badges metadata standard.

This took a lot of effort from the team but I specifically want to acknowledge Edmund Wong.

We are leveraging our HP Cloud OpenStack infrastructure as best as we can, including HP’s DBaaS and LBaaS. This allowed us to focus on the website & app and let the “cloud” handle the rest of the infrastructure. Edmund documented our setup, should you want to spin up your own version of Badg.us.

One of the core tenants of Community IT Ops is education. In fact, the Mission Statement even says so:

How we do it
Teaching and education are core to our mission and values. We mentor and teach today’s skills and help put those skills to practical use by hosting and running production sites and services. We use OpenBadges to acknowledge skills and accomplishments.

I’m extremely excited – and happy – that this is the first service that Community IT Ops stood up.

A big thanks to everyone involved.

ps. Maybe you want to get involved?

Expect the unexpected

Embrace the unexpected.  It might be the best experience ever.

Back in December I was at a leadership retreat. I had the chance to stand in front of a group of people and practice story telling. Somewhere in the middle of telling that story, the ending changed.

Expect the unexpected.
This was the story of my 2011 trip to Budapest when I lost my passport.

maxthesaxI took my first solo trip to Europe and made my way to Budapest with a friend over the weekend to see Parov Stelar at Boloton Sound. Excellent concert marred only by the fact that the night before I had lost my passport. On a Friday night and the US Embassy didn’t open until Monday morning. My flight was Sunday morning.

The story was supposed to be about how utterly horrible it is to lose your passport. About what a major inconvenience it was. About how I hated Budapest.

But the story changed.

I had all of Sunday to myself and if you’ve never been to Budapest in July I’ll tell you it’s one, if not the, hottest & most humid place on earth. I spent all day Sunday, miserable, hopping from one air conditioned coffee shop to another. Something to drink & free wifi.

As I shared my story I remembered that every coffee shop I visited played music.

Music tells a story
budapestbridgeAs I wrote back in March, at some point I learned that life without music is a waste. It often bookmarks points in time. It was the sound track to family vacations.

As I wandered around Budapest on that budapest-trainshot Sunday, I built a playlist of music – a soundtrack of my Sunday in Budapest – I heard while in random coffee shops. Some I had heard, some was new to me.

My story changed
As I tried to wrap up my story and how terrible it was to lose a passport, as I told my story of walking around picking up new music, suddenly the end of my story changed.

The play list of music I collected that Sunday is still on my phone. I listen to that playlist and it takes me back – instantly – to that Sunday.

My story telling ended with me realizing that that one day in Budapest on my own sits firmly in the list of top life events. Despite the heat. Despite the inconvenience.

Expect the unexpected.

developing my brand (week 4) ~ LinkedIn & story telling

[This is fourth in a series I started three weeks ago on creating my personal brand. I missed my own publishing deadline for this past week and I apologize for that. I started a new job this week at Lookout and as any first week can do, shifted my learning priorities.]

Creating Your Personal Brand – Week 4

mrz-linkedinMy social media channels largely revolve around Twitter and Facebook. LinkedIn wasn’t something I spent too much time cultivating.

That is, until this past August when I started interviewing. I completely understand the importance of LinkedIn but since, for the past seven years, I wasn’t job searching, it didn’t feel important.

Week 4 came at a good time.

“One of the biggest reasons to have a great personal brand is that when it comes to getting a job, having a well-defined, well-known version of your awesome professional self is extremely helpful. So that’s why today is all about taking your personal brand and using it to whip your tired old LinkedIn profile into shape! ~ @popforms

Building a LinkedIn Profile

As a hiring manager myself, LinkedIn was where I’d go to read someone’s story before I interviewed them.

I looked at my LinkedIn profile page – my story – as three parts:

  1. About me
  2. Where I’ve worked
  3. What matters to me

About me

I happened to be refreshing and moving my blog at the same time as I was updating my résumé/CV. Updating my LinkedIn profile went hand-in-hand with this. I focused first on my “about” page and then rolled that into versions I felt went best with LinkedIn or on a CV.

You should know what makes me me and who mrz is after reading this.

Where I’ve worked

This has always felt like a very tactical, bullet point-ish section but also an essential part of my story. I think a bulleted list is important but why not start off with a story?

For my role at Mozilla, I told a very short story in two sentences:

As Mozilla’s first Network Engineer, it was my responsibility to build Mozilla’s initial data center presence in San Jose, including building a network from scratch. In 2008 I took over management of a seven person IT/Ops team, including Desktop Support and over saw the build out of two international data center locations and eventually grew IT/Operations to a team of over 65 distributed around the globe.

I followed this with a short bullet list of highlights that every hiring manager – myself included – likes to look at.

What matters to me

I have to give an overdue hat tip to my wife. Her CV focused nearly entirely on her volunteer work at the grade school and other local groups. That inspired me.

Outside of my family and work there are a number of other things I do that matter to me. Without these, I am not me.

Reflecting on this actually made me edit my about page to include Causes that are dear to me.

One last thought

In Jake Wood’s article, “5 Lessons On How to Build High Impact Teams“, he mentions that one of the key areas to building a team is to build a brand that inspires.

That shouldn’t be limited to just teams. My personal brand should tell my story. It should inspire.

You can judge for yourself how well I did.

happy birthday son


A decade ago you entered my life. A decade ago you fundamentally changed me. I thank you for that.

A decade ago you turned one horrific date – September 11 – into a celebration. I thank you for that.

You make me realize every day that I am a father first and everything else is secondary. I thank you for that.

I try my best to be the best for you. Sometimes I’m sure I falter but you appear more forgiving than I am. I thank you for that.

You’ve allowed me to share all my passions with you – biking, computers, baseball, movies. I thank you for that.

I see the way your mind works, the way you create and invent and I stare in awe. Utter awe, even if it means I have to clean up a seemingly endless pile of Legos. And even then, I thank you.

I was so excited to see you that, on the morning you were born, I raced home from the hospital to shave! I wanted to look my very best for my boy.

In fact, I was so excited to see you that shortly after you were born at 5:11p I wrote this short story to add to your website:


Mommy started having contractions Wednesday night around 5pm. An hour later Daddy took us to the hospital and Mommy got comfortable for a long night ahead of her. Nurse Wendy said it was a full moon! Grandpa and Grandma Toosky stopped for a short visit.

On Thursday, after a lot of hard work (and several visits from my new family), I was born! Daddy helped cut my umbilical cord while Nurse Sue checked me over. Daddy says I was very well behaved and very alert – I didn’t cry at all until Nurse Sue gave me a quick bath. But I really liked when she washed my hair! Daddy said I had to get all fancy for Mommy.

At night, I slept, Mommy tried to sleep and Daddy kept watch over his new family.

In the last decade I’ve seen you crawl. I’ve seen you fall. I’ve seen you try. I’ve seen you cry, smile, laugh and bring joy to those around you. I’ve see you take your first steps (on the kitchen island!), your first train, your first plane, your first everything.

I’ve woken in the middle of the night to comfort you and not thought twice about it. And you’ve rewarded me by reading to me, by holding me, by telling me “Dad, you made me happy today.”

Son: You make me happy every single day. And for that I say thank you and wish you a happy 10th.

~ Dad