Diane’s an awesome lady who’s currently working in San Francisco for Mozilla’s WebFWD Innovation Accelerator helping people to come closer to realizing their ideas. And this is what she told us about herself.
How did you become involved in IT?
I have a non-technical background - I studied history in college and my first office type of job was at a venture-capital firm and they were investing in startups. So my job was to go to events and to figure out which IT startups were doing interesting things.
The change from history to business - how did that happen?
The reason I went to study history was purely to be educated. It wasn’t with any kind of goal about career in mind whatsoever. But I’m happy I did that. I like to say that it taught me how to think as opposed to taught me how to do, so I learnt the doing part later. It was helpful as it helped me to evaluate different companies, and I look the transition into technology just as learning a language. You just have to learn the terms. The liberal arts education gives you the framework to learn new languages, new frameworks and context. It was a hard transition in that the terms were foreign, but if you can apply yourself to learn the language you can transfer to different things.
What is the most interesting part of your work?
I do love to learn in general. The web is always changing and the last thing it is, is boring and static. I love that everything is changing and that it is so global. The fact that I can sit here, right now in this room with you and we can talk about this, although you live on the other side of the world from me, is super exciting. I feel it’s such a unifier in a way. And being a part of a global organization, whose mission has such a social impact. If the web is open, so many people benefit in so many countries and so many different ways. It’s so exciting to be a part of something that is not about just increasing the profits, some numerical goal, which is not really meaningful. Being part of an organization that you really believe is making the world better is such a privilege.
Is it a full-time job for you or are you involved in some other projects, too?
I feel like more and more people do at least five things at the same time, so the whole idea of having a one job is kind of gone. But I personally am on staff. Mozilla is a community of many people who contribute. Some of them are paid and some aren’t, because some people do a bit more. I’m on the pay, so for me this is a full time position. Hm… am I involved with anything else? I think I’m also on the board of a non-profit, so I do that on the side and I also teach fitness.
Do you feel you have combined your hobby, love and work?
Yeah, I do feel very fortunate to be able to do that. I think most people at Mozilla feel that way. Even though they pay competitively because our mission is to drive innovation and we want to hire the best engineers, no one joins Mozilla for the money. I think that’s why people love working there, It’s always about the mission.
What it the biggest challenge you have come across at your job?
The hardest part is when you have legacy systems. I used to work at a large financial services firm. Many financial services firms are early adopters of technology, but because of that they always have these legacy systems and to try to do anything new is so difficult, because you have to integrate this spaghetti of systems that you have to make it work together. So any time you have to work in a big company with legacy system, it is by definition frustrating.
What is the most memorable situation you have been in?
Gosh… I’ve worked for a long time. I think one of the coolest things I did and I’m doing it again at this trip is when I go overseas with Mozilla and I see the community and how this common mission translates into so many different environments, whether it’s Estonia or Indonesia or Romania. And seeing people I would never see otherwise, but because of this common mission, they are working together and there’s this shared understanding. It’s kind of like modern day Catholic church or something. But it’s really amazing to see how all these people in these different contexts rally around a mission. So that’s pretty cool. That’s very memorable to go to Indonesia and see people care about Firefox.
What is the most important thing you learned during the last year and how did you learn it?
I think one of the things that is very important is being precise when you are working with people who are remote or distributed. It’s not like a sexy learning but I think it is really important that the more clear you are about your expectations and what you are trying to do and achieve, the more people will rise to it. Don’t be afraid, don’t feel like you have to please people by giving them lots of flexibility. Flexibility is good in some cases, but in other cases when you are not physically with people, it is good to have structure. So, I think this was a really good learning for our programs specifically.
What characteristics have helped you in succeeding in the tech world?
Willingness to learn and curiosity. Willingness to share information, too. It is so important because as things change, you can’t be an expert in everything, you can’t read every blog, so share with other people and they will share with you. I guess that’s kind of a networking skill. And asking is important. It is surprising how people are willing to help. I think especially women are afraid to ask for things. There are all these studies about salaries and why women tend to make less money than men, and they say it’s not as much as you would think tied to pregnancy or getting out of the work force, a lot of it is literally about women being afraid to ask more pay.
How do you see the future of the web and what role does open source play in it?
I think it’s increasingly open source. We were just talking yesterday how Microsoft is doing so much around open source now. Who would have thought that Microsoft would be embracing open source? It’s increasingly a part of the typical way that most people use technology. So much of it has come from open source or derived from open source. I’d say it’s becoming more common. The marriage of hardware and software is also exciting and I think there will be more ties to that - the whole internet of things and what does that look like.
It seems the community part of open source is being also embraced in the web in general. People have the possibility to get more directly involved in making things and helping to get things made.
And at the same time as we become increasingly connected through the web, I see that real in-person events are becoming more important. It’s almost counterintuitive, because you think - oh, you have all these ways to connect, why do you have to meet. But because you have all those ways to connect, people don’t work physically together anymore. So the actual real events are getting more important. Where I’m working at, there are always events and meetups and I think the frequency is increasing, because people still need that in-person contact. You always need that.
Start-ups, apps, projects you recommend to follow.
sketchfab.com - for publishing 3D content online.
www.triv.io - helping to access data sets without having to know what happens in the database.
You can read more about her visit to Estonia from WebFWD’s blog here.