Twelve months ago this week I quit my job at Mozilla. Herewith a few reflections on my 25 years in tech.
When in my senior year of college I decided that I would not apply to Ph.D. programs in ancient philosophy, I had very little idea about what I would do in the real world. I started out in corporate training for several years and then got hooked on the early Internet (circa 1995). Those were the heady days before Big Tech, when everything seemed possible. At my first few tech jobs we got paid a decent salary but not the ridiculous sums doled out to tech workers nowadays – that kind of funny money didn’t become common until five or ten years ago. Clearly, however, through a program of aggressive savings I did well enough financially because I was able to leave the tech industry in my mid-50s and thus pursue a more contemplative existence later in life.
Seeing and experiencing the relentless centralization – I might even say corruption – of the Internet has been disheartening. In my work on Jabber and many other technologies, I strove to build things that protected personal autonomy and preserved the decentralized foundations of the Internet. Yet all too often, tech companies big and small care about neither of those principles, as I discovered up close while working on the privacy technologies we made at Mozilla to safeguard Firefox users from ubiquitous tracking. It saddens me that a transformational technology that began with such promise and idealism has devolved into a machine for surveillance and manipulation. Indeed, to my mind it’s a legitimate question whether, on balance, the Internet has been good for humanity. Ponder that a while and see what you conclude.
On a more positive note, I cherish the opportunities I had to work with hundreds of great colleagues. Even in the toxic companies I had the misfortune to encounter, I made wonderful friends and learned so much about people, teamwork, and organizations. I’m now endeavoring to “give back” by incorporating many of the lessons I learned into the training seminar that my wife Elisa and I are developing for managers, team leaders, and team members.
2 thoughts on “Career Reflections”
I’m thankful to have met you and that our paths crossed at Mozilla! I also wonder sometimes if the Internet has been good for humanity — even though I work for the Internet.
Hi Betsy, it’s good to hear from you and thanks for saying hi! As with any major technology, if you work on it and you never wonder about its affects on people, then it seems to me you’re not living an examined life. So kudos to you. :-)