on starting @ lookout

Lookout

Those who don’t follow me on Facebook or LinkedIn probably don’t know this.

I have a new job.

That’s right. I’m joining the team at Lookout on Monday, September 9.

I can’t be more excited!

Getting ready

For the past two weeks I’ve been reading books and putting thought into my “First 100 Days” (and learned to blame FDR for this 100 day notion).

I’ve met with with my mentors (you all have mentors, right?), with my friends, and importantly, with my new co-workers. I’ve had breakfast with some, lunch with others and a baseball game with yet others. (My wife’s helped too!)

(I’ve also spent a little time learning chef & OpenStack.)

What I have right now is a very rough agenda. Not really a 100-day plan but an outline knowing that the first month or so will be immersed learning. Learning a new culture and a new dialect with its own set of acronyms and cadence.

But.

I. can. not. wait. to. start.

Why Lookout?

In “You’re in Charge–Now What?: The 8 Point Plan“, Neff & Citron suggest that as people begin to size me up and figure out who I am, I should find a way to share the reasons I took this job. So,

I started talking to Lookout nearly 5 weeks ago over a cup of coffee and throughout the interview process, I was struck by this common sense of passion. Struck by a sense of passion and excitement that started from that very first cup of coffee.

Struck that every interview felt like a conversation and not merely an interview.

Lookout, Fort KnoxStruck with the complexity of the technology and the essential question – how do you secure mobile devices? –  while knowing that the next billion users won’t be desktop users but mobile, knowing that users have content on mobile devices that define their life, content that would be better stored in Fort Knox than in someone else’s hands.

And somewhere in the middle I distinctly recall knowing that these are people I want to work with.

What am I going to be doing?

At my core, I’m an Operations guy. Always have been. I love building systems that scale. Systems that break but don’t wake me up because they broke.

I also love building and helping lead excellent teams. I love seeing people do amazing things.

I pour my heart and mind into figuring out how to scale infrastructure (and teams!) to help grow to hundreds of millions billions of users.

So I join Lookout as Director of Operations because these are the challenges that make me tick.

thank you marie

I never had a lot of friends in high school.

Senior year was somehow different. I don’t know why but by graduation I knew and was known by those I considered the “in” crowd.

I’m a believer in recognizing those who do good and as I read George Saunder’s convocation speech – and his realization that his life’s regrets were all failures of kindness – I was instantly brought back 22 years ago to my senior year and a very specific project I was working on with one classmate in particular.

I can’t at all remember what it was. It’s not important anymore. The thing that I still remember 22 years later, the thing that I still think about was how “Marie” treated me.

Marie and I were undoubtedly in many classes together. There just weren’t that many different AP classes to be in that didn’t overlap. But this was high school and “class distinctions” were a thing – cool kids didn’t spend time with the socially awkward nerds.

So while we knew each other we never spent any time with each other.

be-kindExcept for some class project or something senior year where she treated this shy, Myers & Briggs INTJ type as anyone else; as just a normal classmate & friend. And this was very meaningful to the person I was then.

We even kept in touch for a short time in college and reconnected through Facebook.

You showed me kindness in a way that has left an indelible mark on me. An impact that, 22 years later, I still often think about and have never forgotten.

Thank you Marie.

managing or leading?

“People want to be led by someone they know. Someone they trust.” ~ https://popforms.com/death-to-top-down-leadership/

More than five years ago I started managing a team. Five years later I wasn’t so much as managing a team of 60 as I was leading a team of 60.

There’s a big difference between the two words managing & leading. One is much harder than the other. One is tactical. A means to an end. Book knowledge.


Leader

lead·er [ˈlēdər]
noun: someone who knows where they’d like to go, but understands that they can’t get there without their tribe, without giving those they lead the tools to make something happen; takes responsibility

Manager

man·ag·er [ˈmanijər]
noun: someone who works to get their employees to do what they did yesterday, but a little faster and a little cheaper; wants authority


The other is empowering. It is a way of mentoring and teaching. It is about inspiring others to follow into the unknown. To take risks. To accept failure. To require failure.

For those who on paper I manage, it is more than simply a means to an end.

It’s about me focusing on you – my tribe – and only on you.

It’s about me being authentic & vulnerable. It’s about me trusting you.

It’s me helping you grow. It’s you helping us grow.

And in the process we get stuff done.

Rebooting Community IT, Part 3

[After Part 1 & Part 2 I thought I was done. But the more I reflected on what Community IT could be I realized there’s a Part 3 where I’ll share some of the thinking we came up with that resulted in a Draft Proposal.]

The CSA

This past January I started working with my former colleague @thunder (currently at Creative Commons) and my friend and then current colleague @solarce (Mozilla Webops) on what it would be like to have an organization comprised of volunteer SysAdmins who would lend their time to help manage infrastructure & systems for open source and public benefit organizations. Not too unlike the Open Source Lab but extending to not just open source projects but organizations like Creative Commons or Mozilla.

We called this Community SysAdmins or CSA.

Some of the thinking that went into the January draft was based on our collective experiences at Mozilla, especially around organizational governance – modules and module owners, for example.

My thoughts around this continued and I began to think more about reasons why Community IT within Mozilla hadn’t taken off. Or why it had taken off very slowly.

I started to see a model where it could work and it was not unlike the Mozilla Reps model.

ReMo structure (draft)

ReMo structure (draft)

  • CSA Advisory Board Leadership Council (~ ReMo council)
  • Core group of Community SysAdmin Mentors (~ Mozilla Reps)
  • Community IT/SysAdmin/Ops volunteers (~ Mozilla contributors)

Rebooting Community IT with CSA

As we start thinking about what it means to Reboot Community IT, I want to share the draft CSA proposal we created and re-ask these modified five questions I asked in Part 2:

  1. What impact does this group want to have on open source projects and public benefit organizations?
  2. How do we become a force multiplier for your organization?
  3. What are our 9-12 month goals and objectives?
  4. How do we do it?
  5. How do we work with your existing IT Operations as partners?

And ask one more:

  1. How do we create the CSA to support organizations like Mozilla or Creative Commons, for example?

Continue reading

Rebooting Community IT, Part 2

[This is Part 2. In Part 1 I wrote about where we started from and where we are today. In this post I’ll share where I want us to go.]

From 2011 to 2013, Mozilla IT’s impact on the Mozilla Community lead to Air Mozilla and Community Website/Email Hosting.

CSAimageThe holy grail was something more. Something where volunteer contributors were running or helping run websites and working with Mozilla IT Operations.

Something where there is a “talented group of volunteer SysAdmins who want to devote some of their time to help the open source and open communities with non-profit organizations that work to create open source and a better, open Web.”

[I blatantly lifted that off communitysysadmins.org – an effort I started with a small cohort of people early in 2013.]

Mozilla & Community IT Operations
There hasn’t ever been a Community IT Operations anything at Mozilla.

Throughout my tenure at Mozilla we’d occasionally spin up servers or services that would be managed by someone in the community. We’d even support whole projects that were related to Mozilla but largely independent projects (Camino & SeaMonkey, for instance).

But unfortunately this felt very ad-hoc. These where difficult to support within Mozilla IT Operations.

What’s Next?
With my Mozilla contributor hat on, I want to build a new movement.

I want to start with a focus on Mozilla and build a Community IT / SysAdmin / Operations movement.

And I know we can do it.

We will be fierce. No one will build into the Internet the kinds of things we want to build.

Community IT Operations Kick Off Meeting
I want to invite you to join my movement and our kick off meeting. We’re still sorting out then when (scheduling is hard – check out this Doodle to help me find a time).

In the mean time, think about how you’d answer these questions:

  • What impact does this group want to have on the Mozilla project?
  • How do we become a force multiplier for Mozilla?
  • What are our 9-12 month goals and objectives?
  • How do we do it?
  • How do we work with Mozilla IT Operations as partners?

Join communityit@mozilla.org and watch https://wiki.mozilla.org/IT/Community for updates.

Join me?

We will be fierce. No one will build into the Internet the kinds of things we want to build.

Rebooting Community IT, Part 1

It’s been awhile since I talked about (Mozilla) Community IT.

In Part 1 I want to recap where we started from and where we are today. In Part 2 I’ll talk about What’s Next.

In October 2011 I asked the following question:

“How can Mozilla IT impact the Mozilla Community?”

Within Mozilla IT I helped focus our efforts around three pillars:

  1. Community IT
  2. Community/Volunteer Sysadmins
  3. Air Mozilla

I was even so bold to call out three specific goals for the end of 2012:

  1. to have 5-10 volunteer Community Sysadmins actively helping run Mozilla’s network and servers.
  2. to have a vibrant Community IT group…
  3. to have a premiere source for open source video technology, a site where the Mozilla Community can find, share and create video content

I feel that I generally failed. Or rather, I did not meet the goals I set out.

But I’ve talked about failure before and the Mozilla IT I left is not the same that it was in 2011. In fact, on behalf of my former team, I’ll claim the following two successes:

  1. Air Mozilla.

    In 2011 this wasn’t a thing. No one cared about it.

    Nearly a year later we were discussing specific policies on what we’d stream (public? internal?). A year later it was assumed everything we did would be streamed.

    Air Mozilla became one of the primary communication tools at Mozilla.

  2. Created infrastructure for Community Website/Email Hosting.

    Through Mozilla Reps, Mozilla IT worked to provide Email hosting for 13 communities and Website hosting for more than 29 hosted sites.

Essentially, Mozilla IT literally empowered the Mozilla Community to promote the Mozilla Mission.

Ironically, that was the over arching goal I called out in the third paragraph October 2011.

So maybe I didn’t fail as much as I thought?

books & summer vacation

I set a goal for myself during the past nineteen days while we were all on vacation: Read a bunch of books.

And while I didn’t hit my goal of 9, which, let’s be honest, was pretty aggressive, I did finish four books and am half way through Hemmingway.

Here’s a rundown of what I did read:

Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent and Lead, Brene Brown

“Sometimes the bravest and most important thing you can do is just show up.”

Life altering might be an over exaggeration but I was moved enough that I gifted copies of this book to several people.

I will continually ask myself, “What’s worth doing even if I fail?”

I will continually ask for the “courage to show up and let myself be seen.

Bossypants, Tina Fey

This has been on my list for some time and after my wife finished reading Sheryl Sandberg’s “Lean In“, we co-read Fey’s book.

Super simple read. I’ll leave with two highlights:

  1. “In most cases being a good boss means hiring talented people and then getting out of their way.”
  2. When dealing with people who are critical, ask yourself the following question: “Is this person in between me and what I want to do?” If the answer is no, ignore it and move on.
The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable“, Patrick M. Lencioni

This was as easy a read as “The Phoenix Project” was. Told in a narrative format, reading about how teams work or don’t work.

I fundamentally believe that at the root of everything must be trust. Trust and authenticity.  I was taken by this:

“trust is the confidence among team members that their peers’ intentions are good, and that there is no reason to be protective or careful around the group.”

and,

“By building trust, a team makes conflict possible because team members do not hesitate to engage in passionate and sometimes emotional debate, knowing that they will not be punished for saying something that might otherwise be interpreted as destructive or critical.”

How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character“, Paul Tough

Through Year Up the biggest skills I see as important to tomorrow are the ability to learn, the ability to be more than you are today.

Paul calls this Grit.

“The problem, as Randolph has realized, is that the best way for a young person to build character is for him to attempt something where there is a real and serious possibility of failure.”

A Farewell to Arms“, Earnest Hemmingway

I’m not actually done with this but since I read it back in high school, I’ll count it.

This was my favorite book in high school, even better than Thomas Pynchon’s “Crying of Lot 49” but I can’t remember exactly why.

Figured a second read might be a good idea.