Friday, March 7, 2014

DRAFT I'm applying for a position with Mozilla, part 3

For background on this, see Part 1 and Part 2


And here's the final page of notes. This has been a pretty refreshing experience, actually. Now I just have to tweak my CV/résumé. (Yes, there are two accents. Attention to detail: check.) 

My current résumé is largely focused on project management, so I don't think I'll have to make many changes.


I like how plain looking my résumé is, but I sometimes wonder about how I could improve its appearance. More white space? Will consider. 

Header/contact info

Remember to switch email to reidcomms. 

Just in case: brentonwalters (at) gmail (dot) com

Highlights of qualifications
A bit too generic. Specify:

  • What kind of project management?
  • What scale? 


I operate somewhere between being a contractor and a consultant. I am in the process of incorporating, but haven't had to yet. 

I am also in the process of developing a website for my work, but it's about halfway done right now. I am therefore limited to a résumé, which I worry doesn't quite convey appropriately my experience over the past several years.

I should also have an accurate LinkedIn profile, but as yet have not seen any utility there. 

Do I include a link to my bog-standard placeholder WordPress site? (In the end, I did.) 

I would normally pare down my various experiences. I usually delete the Logistics Coordinator one - after all, it was working in a produce warehouse. But it was a warehouse that moved millions of dollars of produce that I ran, managing staff and coordinating the work between the warehouse, sales and transportation departments. 


I went to the Social Change Institute. It's a bit of a cross between a conference and training. With a bunch of networking. Meh, I don't know. Feels significant right now. 

(This is a bit of a workaround vanity line...) I removed my "Best Undergraduate Essay in Political Science" award. Felt a too high school. For anyone wondering, it was a piece on Aristotelian ethics and foreign aid. 

I'm applying for a position with Mozilla, part 2

Below are my notes for the actual application for the project management position with the Mozilla Foundation. See Part 1 for background. 

Part 2

The Mozilla world feels very similar to the political world:
  • Working with disparate groups
  • Tight deadlines
  • Focus on financial sustainability
  • Idealism supported by strong pragmatism
  • An absolute need to get shit done
Campaigns are projects or with a different name, and managing them requires the exact same skills, experience and mindset.

I love political campaigns, a lot. But it feels good to be looking outside of politics into an area that will be both comfortable and challenging.

My process

I'm taking a fairly simple approach to this:

  1. Learn about organization
  2. Learn about the position
  3. Figure out how my experience and skills will fit
  4. Strengthen areas of weakness and highlight areas of strength
  5. Write, re-write, edit, re-edit and proof the application
  6. Hit Submit/Send - there is always some uncertainty 

Learn about the organization

There are some aspects of the organization that I feel I should be more familiar with, as prompted by the position description and a friend who is familiar with the org:

I'm fairly familiar with the open web movement, and have a general understanding about the advocacy work that Mozilla does. I have done more reading, and (warning: shameless plug ahead) made my first donation to keep the web open. And I feel confident in my understanding of (though not my level of comfort with) the work open concept.

 But I started poking around a bit more, and before too long had filed a few bugs on Bugzilla (see herehere and here). They are just grammar issues from the main and Bugzilla sites, but the job description says "Be at peace with Bugzilla", so I tested it out. (And one of the bugs was a grammar mistake in the org brand guide - kind of important.)

Aside: I'd like to file a bug on the process itself, but perhaps I'll save that for later.

Aside to that aside: Does "Be at peace" imply get to know or does it imply learn to appreciate it despite its faults? How many bugs have been filed about Bugzilla itself? No matter, the original aside stands.

It's an amazing system for trouble-shooting. I can only imagine how difficult it is to manage across a massive volunteer-driven organization, especially when it comes to coding.

I also looked into Webmaker and Open Badges, both of which are very interesting programs/ideas aimed at improving digital literacy, with some focus on how kids interact with and on the web. With a 2-year-old daughter, this is a particularly important issue for me. I dread the time Sylvie first uses the internet, with all the shit that is out there and the stories about cyber-bullying, etc. 

Monday meetings - This is partly important for understanding the work open concept, but also for getting a sense of what the org is like. There is maybe no better indicator of how an organization functions than sitting through a general meeting.

The above three projects are indicative, it seems, of the work that the organization is doing. 

So, some of the organizational research is done. (If I had a wiki, I would make a table and insert check marks beside the above bullets.)

Learn about the position/Figure out how I fit

Beyond the position description, I asked a few friends that have some familiarity with the org, and they had some pretty valuable insight. I'll get to that below - for now, the description and how I could fit in it.

Position responsibilities

The first eleven responsibilities are project management-focused: Work with disparate groups, manage tight deadlines, ensure everyone knows what everyone else is doing, develop tracking mechanisms, etc. As I read them I felt entirely comfortable. The scale of the projects may be bigger than much of what I've done, but it's all scalable. This is what I've done for the past five years, this is what I love doing, and where I've had my biggest successes.

The last two are something different - basically, advance the aims of Mozilla through various outreach efforts (blogging, speaking, community-building). With different goals in mind, this is what I do in the political world. I would definitely need to become more comfortable with the specific subjects, but that's both manageable and something I should do anyway.

I feel quite confident that I will do well in this position. That has given me some confidence as work through this process. 


Right off the bat, I liked this section. "You're passionate and engaged about project management. You consider it your profession."

I've been trying to figure out how to fit in to the work that some organizations do, because I consider myself a generalist in that I am not a comms or fundraising or outreach specialist. I can do all those things, but what I love is organizing all those things. Plus events. Plus HR. Plus etc, etc. Only recently have I embraced that aspect of what I do in name - in practice I've been doing it for years. 

I may be on the low end of their years of experience. 

"Direct experience with large-scale communications and marketing campaigns." - I feel a bit vulnerable here. I have comms and marketing experience, but that "large-scale" might mean a lot. 

Next there are some general project management stuff that I love to see: extremely organized, able to communicate everything well, consensus-driven, capable of herding cats, etc. Solid. Wheelhouse.

Grants and funding cycles - yep. 

Spreadsheets, etc - be still my beating heart. Seriously. (I once wrote "I love to excel, and I love Excel." in a cover letter.) 

Bugzilla - dealt with in part 1. 

Gantt charts - I had to look this one up. I definitely won't be able to rant for hours about why they're evil, but yowzah, they sound evil. Claustrophobic. There is nothing nimble about a Gantt chart. 

"You are comfortable working with diverse colleagues who are capable of brilliance and chaos, often in the same moment" - Welcome to politics. Throw in some awkwardness, some conflict, and some bad coffee and you've got every campaign office ever.

- 30 -

Okay, that feels really good. 

In Part 3 I look at how I will change my résumé and word the application form. 

Thursday, March 6, 2014

I'm applying for a position with Mozilla, part 1


What follow are three posts outlining my thoughts on my application for a project management position with Mozilla. 

Part 1: background
Part 2: application process 
Part 3: résumé and application form

I used a work open approach, and found it refreshing.

The position responsibilities and qualifications are great. I have rarely felt as good about applying for a position.

The organization sounds like it needs someone who can pull together various teams, get everyone working together, and work towards organizational sustainability. This is what I do, and what I love doing. 

Part 1

I'm working on an application for a project management position with the Mozilla Foundation

Having gone over the position description, I am confident this will go well. Every point of responsibility or qualification felt great. 

Part of the Mozilla ethos is "work open", an approach to work that values participation, agility and speed, and transparency. Everything is public, available for all your co-workers (and any interested public) to browse through. Maybe not everything. A lot. Open source, but on an organizational scale.

Here, read this piece that summarizes why the Mozilla Foundation uses this approach.

With that in mind, and with some excitement but some trepidation, I thought that I would use this space to document my application process. My notes, thoughts, and the finished product. Probably.

  • Focuses my thoughts on what is and isn't important.
  • Good practice for what would be a necessary embrace of the work open concept. 
  • Hopefully it stands out from the other applications, something that is explicitly encouraged on the application form.
  • Beyond the gimmickry, there is value in demonstrating a thought process rather than merely handing in a finished product. 

  • It's a bit gimmicky. EDIT: It's outright gimmicky. 
  • Someone else applying for the same position could use this to put themselves in a better position. (Okay, pretty unlikely)
  • It's taking quite a bit of time to plan this and carry it out - I may have to apply with this unfinished.
  • I may not like the work open process. 

Personal trepidation

I'm not very tech-savvy - for evidence of that, look no further than this poor little website that I've been using for many years. Or to my use of "tech-savvy". If I knew how to whip up a wiki page for this, I would. And I get the sense that every other employee at Mozilla could do that on their coffee break.

Mozilla is an organization of software developers. There is a vocabulary (or likely a set of vocabularies) in the organization that is foreign to me. And I struggle at times with more than the nomenclature.

Is there the potential in an interview (assuming I get that far) to be confused by some Mozilla or web terminology? Yes.

I am likely overstating this issue - I'm sure there are plenty of people at Mozilla that aren't radical hackers. Or tubular hackers. *Yah, Barney, bitchin'... 

Anyway, it all feels a bit like uncharted territory for me, which is still intimidating. If anyone has any ideas for how to work through this, please let me know.

Independent of this application I have been working on my own digital literacy, learning about how to work in WordPress, how to host a website, etc. So, there's that...

Working open in the political world

I wanted to write a bit more about the concept of working open, an idea that both fascinates and unnerves me. I work in a world that values proprietary knowledge. The better you can leverage that knowledge, the better you will fare, be it in fundraising, voter contact, or media relations. Lists are difficult to build and maintain, and are closely guarded secrets. 

I'm amazed that the Mozilla 2013 year-end fundraising plan is available online for anyone to read. It's not exactly rocket science, but it's also more than I've seen from any other organization. And Andrea Wood, the lead online fundraiser, plans to make available info about their email fundraising program.

A fascinating approach, and an admirable ethos. I really hope it works for Mozilla. 

So that's the background for this. Part 1, I guess. In part 2 I explore the actual application.