Allow myself to introduce, er, myself. I’m Lawrence Mandel (lmandel) one of about 200 recent additions to the Mozilla Corporation (MoCo) team. After close to a decade (read 8.5 years) with IBM, I have joined the Firefox engineering team as a program manager.
What does a Firefox program manager do? Well, until roughly a year ago, nothing. The first Firefox program manager, Sheila Mooney, was brought on board in late 2010. Recently Erin Lancaster, Martin Best, and myself have joined Sheila, significantly increasing the size of this team. But, I digress. Back to what it is that we do.
Firefox is a complex software system (front end, platform, mobile, services, etc.) made to appear simple by the tremendous efforts of the Mozilla community. The community is very good at adding new features and fixing specific bugs. These work items map nicely to bugzilla bugs and generally are contained within the scope of a specific engineering team. What doesn’t get perhaps as much attention as is required are programs that cross engineering and other teams (QA, security, engagement, product management). I’m referring to programs like CrashKill, Elecrolysis, MemShrink, silent update, and Telemetry.
The program management team manages these initiatives by working with the various stakeholders to get buy in to the program and make progress to complete the related projects. Program managers have a unique skill set in a technical organization. We are connectors and facilitators. A Firefox program manager must be able to have both high level conversations with the likes of product management and engagement and have the broad technical knowledge of the entire browser and Mozilla services to participate in technical discussions with engineering, releng, and quality assurance. We run meetings, track status, and workout solutions to unblock team members when required.
In my first three weeks I have engaged in some pretty critical programs: silent update, Electrolysis, and Telemetry. I have also reached out to additional teams to discuss initiatives for which the program management team may be able to help. There is clearly a lot for us to do.
One of the core principles of open source is transparency. Mozilla, being an open source community, relies on transparency to ensure that walls are not built between MoCo employees and the volunteer portion of the community. To support transparency for the program management team I have created a wiki page that details our team members, exploits, and goals. Want to get more involved or find out more about what we do? Have an initiative that you want to discuss? You can find us on irc channel #pm. I’m lmandel.