Reflections on Mozilla’s Whistler Work Week

Last Friday marked the end of Mozilla’s 2015 mid-year work week and I have to say, it was one of the best one’s I’ve ever attended. I’ve only attended one other workweek (Portland, December 2014), but it’s been awesome. Before I go into the details, I want to applaud Mozilla on their exceptional effort to involve community in events like this. Never in a million years would I have imagined myself sitting in meetings and attending sessions with a team at such an amazing company, and the fact that I, a 17-year-old contributor, am able to attend such events. I would also like to thank everyone involved in organizing and planning this event. It ran so smoothly, and was very enjoyable, for me at least.

Day 0 – Travel

I’m not sure whether it was my fault for procrastinating, or a lack of in policy flights from Mozilla that led to this, but my dad and I ended up on a flight that left DFW (Dallas, Texas) at 6:15 pm, landing in Phoenix 2 hours later, then take a 5 hour flight to Vancouver. After landing in Phoenix, we ran to our connection, worried our bags wouldn’t meet the same one. We landed in Vancouver sometime around 11:15, standing at the baggage claim hoping to see our bags. We did (fortunately). Instead of taking the shuttle, we decided to rent a car, which would allow us to drive to Seattle after the work week. With a lack of cellular data or WiFi, navigating Vancouver became difficult after we lost sight of the signs directing us towards Highway 99, the road towards Whistler. We pulled out a paper map and ended up getting back on our way towards Whistler, arriving at our hotel around 2:00 am.

Day 1

The first day was filled with excitement. The first event on the calendar was the all-hands meeting. This is where all 1200 people at the event come together at the conference center and watch keynote presentations, socialize (and network), as well as lay out the expectations for the week.

As part of the LEGO keynote, 100 of us were randomly selected to attempt to build a duck out of LEGOs in 60 seconds or left. I think I failed.
As part of the LEGO keynote, 100 of us were randomly selected to attempt to build a duck out of LEGOs in 60 seconds or left. I think I failed.

During this all-hands meeting, there was a fabulous presentation by David Robertson, a professor at Wharton Business School (University of Pennsylvania), and author of Brick by Brick, a book about how LEGO overcame its struggle as what was once a failing business model and “rewrote the rules of innovation.” Based on his talk, we learned a lot about how to grow Mozilla and reach more people. Just by listening to his talk or reading his book, I have learned so much about business and innovation. If that doesn’t make me want to go to business school I don’t know what will.

Mitchell Baker also laid out Mozilla’s goal and set the reality that if we want to reach greater heights and explore new frontiers, we must revitalize and rethink how we approach each of our missions. The way she conveyed this idea? Space. So before too much chatter gets out, no, The Verge, TNW, and CNET, Mozilla’s not actually going to space. We just really like metaphors. I think…

My dad, Emin, and me, on the summit of Whistler Mountain.
My dad, Emin, and me, on the summit of Whistler Mountain.

To wrap up the day, my dad and I were asked to go on a hike to help film a video as a way to portray Mozilla’s goal for the work week, which would be aired on the last all-hands of the work week. Unfortunately, I am not able to publicly post the video due to copyright restrictions, but I can show some pretty cool pictures from the mountain. Along with us was Emin, a volunteer from Azerbaijan who helps contribute to localization efforts (L10n).

Day 2

The second day was filled with training sessions for Zed Attack Proxy, a tool to help us test security against our sites. I won’t go into the details here because I don’t think I’ll explain it correctly. Also, someone’s probably already done a better blog post at explaining it. However, you can read more about it here if you’d like.

My dad and me zip-lining through Blackcomb Mountain and Whistler Mountain.
My dad and me zip-lining through Blackcomb Mountain and Whistler Mountain.

One of my favorite parts of this day was zip-lining with my dad. Mozilla was able to receive a few discounts from excursions around Whistler, so we chose to do something exciting since we didn’t do anything in Portland. Plus, you never know when you’ll be back in Canada, so why not? We chose ZipTrek tours which was a great decision. Their zip lines were quick, smooth, and surprisingly gentle on the braking, and since it was all automated or controlled by the guides, we didn’t have to worry about anything. In fact, the only instructions we received were to sit back, don’t touch anything, and enjoy the ride. The zip-lines went between Blackcomb Mountain and Whistler Mountain, so we were able to appreciate the river running hundreds of feet below us, as well as the gorgeous scenery in the valley.

S'more station, complete with 3 different types of marshmallows, crackers, and chocolate.
S’more station, complete with 3 different types of marshmallows, crackers, and chocolate.

To wrap up the night, Mozilla hosted a dinner at the cultural center which included live music and exhibits from native peoples. Following the dinner dessert time, where we were directed to part of the village which was fenced off, exclusive for Mozilla only. It was complete with a s’more buffet, a live band made up of Mozillians (which was fantastic by the way), and great opportunities to socialize with my team and other colleagues.

Day 3

I really enjoyed the third day, mainly because I got to spend so much time with the team. The entire afternoon was dedicated to meetings within our team, and hacking sessions where I could work with my mentor on our project.

The Mozilla Web QA Team from left to right: Bob Silverberg, Justin Potts, Dave Hunt, Matt Brandt, Stephen Donner, Krupa Raj.
The Mozilla Web QA Team from left to right: Bob Silverberg, Justin Potts, Dave Hunt, Matt Brandt, Stephen Donner, Krupa Raj.

The morning was filled up with great keynotes during the all-hands, including the CEO of Spiegel Online, and a former developer of Etsy.

Day 4 – Travel

Technically Day 5 was the official travel day, but I had to leave early to go to Seattle for a cruise. First thing in the morning, my two mentors (Matt Brandt and Dave Hunt), and I went for a hike, with what was arguably the greatest setting I’ve ever experienced: Mid 60 degrees, cool breeze, sunrise, and a beautiful village below.

My mentors, from left to right: Matt Brandt, Dave Hunt.
My mentors, from left to right: Matt Brandt, Dave Hunt.

I spent the rest of the morning with the team tying up loose ends on my project, then departed for the 5 hour drive to Seattle.

In conclusion… it was really extraordinary. I learned so much, met some really great people, said hi to some old friends, and talked to some people for the first time in real life. I always come back from these work weeks feeling a bit more passionate about what I do at Mozilla, as well as furthering Mozilla’s mission, and this one was no different.

So until Orlando, have a good one, Mozilla.

Actually I’ll probably jump online tomorrow morning, but that doesn’t sound as romantic.

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Reflections on Mozilla’s Whistler Work Week

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