This week, the Mozilla Board of Directors announced that Brendan Eich is the new Mozilla CEO. Brendan has courted controversy in the past by donating money in support of California Proposition 81. This appointment has proven equally difficult, causing a great deal of concern and leading many, both inside and outside the organisation, to ask if this was the best decision for Mozilla.
Now, I will defend any person’s right to have their beliefs and opinions, whether they align with mine or not. And equally I extend that to being able to donate to whatever political cause they so desire.2 I don’t know what Brendan’s current thoughts are on marriage equality – he’s yet to really talk about that (which is itself problematic) – but whatever they are, he’s allowed to have them. And he can distribute his money in any way he sees fit. None of this affects his ability to do his job. He’s clearly an intelligent person, and Brendan has been an extraordinarily successful CTO having co-founded Mozilla over 15 years ago.
But as CEO – a prominent and visible position to say the least – where his job involves the direction of Mozilla, and the inclusion of an entire community into that, it makes me wonder if he’s really the best candidate. On paper, Brendan might be ideal for the job, but in reality the question seems to be, “Can we really trust him to fight for the inclusion of everyone on the inside when he’s actively campaigning against them on the outside?” He may have publicly declared his support for all Mozilla employees, but his actions seem somewhat contrary to our participation guidelines. Ultimately, I am but a single person, and I must trust that the board knows what they’re doing. But I can’t help but feel that they got this one wrong.
I missed almost all of the internal discussion around this following an enforced hiatus from the Internet, so I didn’t realise that, almost Foundation-wide, feelings were so strong on the issue. Indeed, I was somewhat surprised when I returned to find that several of my close colleagues and friends were calling for Brendan to resign, and my already-torn feelings on the matter were further exacerbated. But after a lot of too-ing and fro-ing, I realised that it was a sentiment I really couldn’t get behind.
Firstly, asking Brendan to step down is not, to me at least, a one-sided ultimatum. By making such a strong request, I feel I would be declaring my inability to work under him3. While this may be true, what would I do if he declined? Would I be able to take the same stance as my colleague Paula and walk away? Much as I would like to say yes, I know deep down that this just wouldn’t be the case. I could talk about how I need to support my wife and child, but jobs in London are abundant, and I know enough people that finding a good one wouldn’t be too hard, so that’s irrelevant. I could bring up the atmosphere. Or the exposure. Or the travel. Or the many other perks and benefits. But they’re not exclusive to Mozilla.
Ultimately, I don’t want just any job. I want to be a Mozillian. All day, every day. I want to be part of this amazing mission, making the most of the fantastic opportunity I have to change the Internet, and the world around it, in any way I can, no matter how small. With all due respect to my past colleagues (and I’ve had the privilege of working with some amazing people), this is the best job I’ve ever had. It’s like someone designed it just for me.
More importantly though, Mozilla is an amazing community of people, from all sorts of backgrounds and cultures. From the outside, it may seem like any other corporation, but it is not and cannot be embodied by just one person. By asking Brendan to step aside, it feels to me like I would be acknowledging that he represents me, my colleagues, our community, and the hard work that we do every day. He doesn’t, and #MyMozilla is so much more than anything he as an individual could possibly personify.
No matter what Brendan stands for, I know that the amazing people I work with every day – both employees and wider community members – will continue to do the amazing work they have been doing since the beginning. And when things happen that they don’t see as aligning with our mission, they’ll say something about it. As our executive director Mark Surman says:
Our culture of openness extends to letting our staff and community be candid about their views on Mozilla’s direction. We’re proud of that inclusiveness and how it distinguishes Mozilla from most organizations. We expect and encourage Mozillians to speak up when they disagree with management decisions, and carefully weigh all input to ensure our actions are advancing the project’s mission.
We’re nothing if not a vocal bunch, and I feel proud and grateful to work for an organisation that allows me to publicly have an opinion on where it goes, how it gets there, and who we get to do it with.
- A proposition and a state constitutional amendment passed in November 2008 elections essentially banning same-sex marriage in the state of California.
- Of course, that’s not to say that I won’t fight all the harder if those beliefs are so diametrically opposed to my own.
- Probably worth noting that, as a Foundation employee, of which the Corporation is a wholly owned subsidiary, I don’t, regardless of how this works out.