Last Day at Mozilla

I’ve always been bad at leaving.

Today’s my last day at Mozilla (as a full time employee — I’ll continue to be on the Board of Directors), so I wanted to write down a bit of what I’m feeling as I get ready to go in to work. I’m writing this partly so that I can remember what it feels like — I’m finding that it’s quite an emotional time for me — and partly because I haven’t seen much like this around the web, on other people’s blogs.

Schrep likes to joke that of all job skills, I’m worst at quitting, and he always feels bad when he makes that joke, but he’s absolutely right, of course. It takes me a long time to transition. At Reactivity, I transitioned out over 4 months at the end of 2004; at Mozilla, it’s been very nearly a year since I first talked with Mitchell about moving on.

There are reasons for that, of course — it took a bit of time to organize our plans and the organization to be able to get through a transition, and we did a retained search in a relatively speedy 5 1/2 months.

But for me it was a basic equation: I really, really care about Mozilla, and, given the context that I was ready to move to my next thing, I wanted to do whatever I could to make sure that we’d get through the transition stronger than ever. I’ve been extremely fortunate to have the support and patience of both Mozilla and Greylock during this period — and it’s let us change in a way that I think has been very stable and should be good for the future.

It’s already obvious that Gary’s going to be an ouststanding CEO and team member for Mozilla — he’s already a great culture fit, asking questions that cut to the heart of things, and providing clear insights. He’s going to be great. Firefox 4, which is right around the corner, is an incredibly terrific product, both on desktop and mobile, that I think it validates our slow transition approach for the year. And we’ve got so many things coming from our product groups and labs that I’m certain next year will be transformative for the project, the organization, and the whole web.

As you might imagine, hiring a replacement for yourself is a particularly self-centered and self-reflective experience. For me, it caused me to spend a lot of time thinking about what I did well, what I screwed up, how the organization had changed over the years, how I’d changed over the years. It’s taught me a bunch about myself and what I care about, and how I want to live my work life in the future.

I wrote about leaving back when we first announced the CEO search, and all of that is even truer now. I’m proud of what we’ve done together at Mozilla, proud of how we’ve changed the world. I’ve got a deep gratitude to the whole community that let me come in and gave me the support to make my own mark on the project. And I’m really, really excited to watch the whole project change the world in new and amazing ways in the years to come.

20 comments

  1. Mozilla as Hotel California?

    Your mark on the project, the company, and the people involved will be indelible. Thanks for sharing so much of yourself while here – it’s been, I think, a big reason why we are what we are. Speaking personally, I can’t think of a colleague who’s had a deeper or more fundamental effect on who I am as a person as well as an employee. If you ever need bail money, call me. I owe you.

    I’m looking forward to hearing more about your future life, experiences and insights, and to not ever fully losing touch in this massively connected world we’ve built for ourselves.

  2. John – I’ve admired your leadership at Mozilla and I’m sad to see you go. Mozilla is an extremely important organization to me, one that I spend a lot of time and energy thinking about. I can’t wait for Firefox 4 and I am excited for what the future holds for the open web. Good luck at Greylock and thank you for everything you’ve done for Mozilla.

    Matt

  3. It has been an honor to work within range of your understated awesome, sir. Mozilla has been very fortunate to have you, and I wish you nothing but the best in your next endeavors!

  4. John –
    I’m incredibly impressed with the progress Mozilla has made both for its own browser and for browsing for everyone, by prying open the avenues for innovation on the web.

    I use firefox every day on my mac. I and my team use it every day to debug web interfaces. And we barely scratch the surface of what it can do.

    But again, it is as much about the impact on the whole business ecosystem that depends on healthy, stable, speedy browsers… mozilla has delivered the web as a platform that folks like Google and facebook can develop to.

    Good luck with the next mission, John, and thanks to you and the Mozilla team for many years of great product.

    scott
    ps – I still can’t listen to counting crows. we both know why.

  5. I’m thankful for the opportunity to work under your leadership and direction you’ve provided for Mozilla. Each time you speak, I listen. Not because you’re the boss, but because your incredibly insightful with a comical edge to it. Will always take your career encouragement words to heart. Thanks for being out fearless leaders all these years. And of course, the best to you and your family.

  6. John,

    Thanks for everything you’ve done for Mozilla. You’ve taken us from a tiny little startup that everyone predicted would fail to a stable company that’s competing way above its weight class and having a huge impact on the internet. We’ll miss you, but I think we’re in good hands with Gary.

  7. John,

    I won’t compete with my colleagues to describe what you have brought to Mozilla. There is too much to say. In short, it was a pleasure and an honor to work with you, and you’ve taught me a few things that will be helpful for all my work life, I’m sure.

    On the other hand, I’d argue with your statement about “being bad at quitting”. It’s actually just the opposite: you’re leaving the organization at the right pace, with the right person at the helm – Gary – with everything in place so that the transition happens smoothly and efficiently.

    There is this rule in the FLOSS world: when you leave a project that you’re leading, your last and only duty is to make sure that you have someone in place to lead after you. You’ve just done this. Rightfully. (icing on the cake: you’re staying on the board of directors!)

    A very warm thank you from Europe,

    –Tristan

  8. John – I’ve really admired and benefited from your leadership here at Mozilla. Your openness as CEO is really inspiring and is a big part of what makes Mozilla such an awesome place to work at.

    Best of luck at Greylock!

  9. Well shit, John. It wasn’t just a big gag, then?

    The problem with creating awesome all the time is that people start to expect it. You gave Mozilla open and approachable leadership unlike any I’ve ever encountered, and most people here have come to just expect that they can ask their CEO any question on any topic at any point. You helped us find our carefully crafted balance of poetry and pragmatism that surrounds and infuses everything we do to such an extent that, most of the time, incredibly, it goes without saying. Mozilla’s debt to you is immense, as is mine personally for the role model you’ve been and the opportunities you’ve helped me find.

    And yet, the problem with creating awesome all the time is that people start to expect it. I *expect* you to be an active and engaged board member for a good long while. I *expect* you to be a passionate advocate for the open web and for enlightened technology policy. I *expect* the companies you develop and mentor to be built for the right reasons, and to be doing work Mozilla would be proud of.

    You don’t owe me any of that, obviously, you don’t owe any of us anything. But because of this unfortunate habit you have of creating awesome all the time, I expect it anyhow.

    Johnathan

  10. One of the things I am proudest about at Mozilla is the quality of people we attract — people who have any number of choices in life but choose Mozilla. People who are not only smart dedicated, and also decent, care about people and act with integrity.

    John you exemplify all these traits. I’m proud and grateful for your association — ongoing indeed — with Mozilla.

  11. John,

    The web and the world owes you a huge debt of gratitude for your contributions over the last 5+ years. I still miss working with you every day and know you’ll kill it at Greylock.

  12. John! Thanks for always listening and fighting for what’s right. I learned a lot from how you approach relationships and tackle problems. Don’t ever lose your sense of humor.

  13. “As you might imagine, hiring a replacement for yourself is a particularly self-centered and self-reflective experience. For me, it caused me to spend a lot of time thinking about what I did well, what I screwed up, how the organization had changed over the years, how I’d changed over the years. It’s taught me a bunch about myself and what I care about, and how I want to live my work life in the future.”

    Some examples here would be *really* interesting :)

  14. Captain John – it was really a pleasure and honor to work with you when you are in China. I really learned a lot from you and am a big fan of you. (Jia from China office)

  15. I remember back in late 2004 or early 2005 (memory dims with age), when cbeard said we were in discussions with “John Lilly”.

    I thought “cool! the dolphin-talking dude who inspired ‘The Day of the Dolphin’ and ‘Altered States’!”

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_C._Lilly

    Imagine my disappointment. :-P

    Actually, cbeard described someone who had great ideas for Mozilla, lots of them. We have tried only a few, with John to lead the hunt.

    Thanks, John — we owe you. We will perservere.

    /be

  16. Daniel Einspanjer

    I developed a nearly instant respect for your business acumen, focus, and clarity. I always enjoyed our conversations and wish there were more of them. I still feel sheepishly ashamed that I insulted your television viewing preferences in such a crass manner.

    I hope I soon hear fantastic things about projects which are under your leadership. While I am looking forward to being at Mozilla for a long time, if any of those projects could ever use any advice from me on data warehousing, business intelligence, or distributed processing, please feel free to drop me a line.

    p.s. please ignore the random text fragments at the end of this message. I’m posting from a Fennec nightly and I just found a bug involving editing in a textarea that I must now go file. :)

    r cloud
    I hope I s hear fantastic things

  17. My thanks to John and some photos of our travels together in Japan and China are posted to my blog.

    http://blog.mozilla.com/gen/2010/11/25/john-lilly-at-mozilla/

  18. Hey John,
    So your tour of duty is up. Don’t feel bad about going “home” so to speak. You should. You’ve contributed tons to many, served the mission, and along the way touched people in ways you’ll never know. It’s been tough accepting that you’re actually leaving. I’ll personally really miss you a lot for a bunch of reasons, among them:

    1. You have a certain intellectual curiousity about things/people/places big and small, mixed in with a certain down home Americana, that makes you a particularly fun person to work with.

    2. Beneath that serious, “embrace the downside” veneer you maintain, there’s a fundamentally sunny personality that’s ins fun to be around.

    3. It’s always good to work with people smarter than you.

    4. It’s a good day when you can talk through some issues with your boss over a game of horse.

    5. You have a moral and ethical compass, with intellectual honesty, which I really respect.

    That should do it for now. Gotta save some for December.

    Have a good holiday and Thank You. Catch you soon.
    /hja

  19. I just wanted to say thank you for all that you’ve done for The Project over the years John, you’ve been a great leader and I know many people in the community appreciate all that you have done over the years, your a good bloke!

    All the very best at Greylock, looking forward to seeing what game changer you direct next :)