Gratitude Comes in Threes

Tuesday, February 17th, 2015

Today Johnathan Nightingale announced his departure from Mozilla. There are three special people at Mozilla who shaped me into the person I am today, and Johnathan Nightingale is one of them:

Mike Shaver taught me how to be an engineer. I was a full-time musician who happened to be pretty good at writing code and volunteering for Mozilla. There were many people at Mozilla who helped teach me the fine points of programming, and techniques for being a good programmer, but it was shaver who taught me the art of software engineering: to focus on simplicity, to keep the ultimate goal always in mind, when to compromise in order to ship, and when to spend the time to make something impossibly great. Shaver was never my manager, but I credit him with a lot of my engineering success. Shaver left Mozilla a while back to do great things at Facebook, and I still miss him.

Mike Beltzner taught me to care about users. Beltzner was never my manager either, but his single-minded and sometimes pugnacious focus on users and the user experience taught me how to care about users and how to engineer products that people might actually want to use. It’s easy for an engineer to get caught up in the most perfect technology and forget why we’re building any of this at all. Or to get caught up trying to change the world, and forget that you can’t change the world without a great product. Beltzner left Mozilla a while back and is now doing great things at Pinterest.

Perhaps it is just today talking, but I will miss Johnathan Nightingale most of all. He taught me many things, but mostly how to be a leader. I have had the privilege of reporting to Johnathan for several years now. He taught me the nuances of leadership and management; how to support and grow my team and still be comfortable applying my own expertise and leadership. He has been a great and empowering leader, both for me personally and for Firefox as a whole. He also taught me how to edit my own writing and others, and especially never to bury the lede. Now Johnathan will also be leaving Mozilla, and undoubtedly doing great things on his next adventure.

It doesn’t seem coincidental that triumverate were all Torontonians. Early Toronto Mozillians, including my three mentors, built a culture of teaching, leading, mentoring, and Mozilla is better because of it. My new boss isn’t in Toronto, so it’s likely that I will be traveling there less. But I still hold a special place in my heart for it and hope that Mozilla Toronto will continue to serve as a model of mentoring and leadership for Mozilla.

Now I’m a senior leader at Mozilla. Now it’s my job to mentor, teach, and empower Mozilla’s leaders. I hope that I can be nearly as good at it as these wonderful Mozillians have been for me.