After 7 years at Mozilla I am now looking for a new job. 70 of us were laid off in mid-January. I tweeted about it on the day of the layoff; my tweet was quoted in the tech press and some newspapers. For a few days, this got a lot of attention. Meanwhile, also on the day of the layoffs, we started a Slack channel for mutual aid, and a spreadsheet with our names, contact info, job titles, and links to resumes or LinkedIn profiles. From the tweet getting the attention, a lot of recruiters and hiring managers looked at our spreadsheet. And, awesomely, I found out later that when Wayfair laid off 500+ people, they copied our spreadsheet format for their own organizing! This, for me, put a healthy spin on the layoff. The solidarity we expressed was and is very cheering. The story was now about our teamwork and support for each other.
Big layoffs at @Mozilla today. Anyone want a badass senior release manager, experienced in F/LOSS? Bay Area/Remote. I'm so proud of my work at Mozilla, shipping Firefox to hundreds of millions of people around the world. https://t.co/WoNGqwmmxk <3
— Liz Henry (@lizhenry) January 15, 2020
As I looked into open release manager positions it became clear that the closest role to it was Technical Program Manager, and you can think of release management as a specialty of being a TPM.
Initially I was keeping notes on what I applied for in the Mac Notes app, but that got clunky. So, I created a project board in GitHub to manage all the applications I was sending out. Each job listing became a GitHub issue, and the project board has columns for “Interested”, “Applied”, “Interviewing”, “On-site”, and “Nope”. As my applications move through these stages I simply move its card. Within the columns, it’s also useful to me to have colored labels for “Waiting for a response”, “Scheduling in progress”, “Interview scheduled” and “Study needed”. Each issue contains the job listing, a link to the listing, names of people who I’ve talked with and their contact info. And, every interview or email I have for that job gets its own comment on the issue.
Sharing that project board didn’t work as easily as I would like. I made a generic version of the repo, with blank cards and an explanation of a way to use it, but when you fork a public repo, you can’t then make it private. The project boards also don’t fork – they have to be copied separately.
So, I made the same job hunting board in Trello and have shared it for anyone to use.
It’s very helpful to have an organized system like this — it lets you apply to many jobs at once and keep all the details readily at hand.
I am actually enjoying the interviews and studying for them. To study, I read about the company, maybe looking up all the tech in the stack they use or reading about the general space they’re in, their competitors, etc. For someone like me who enjoys diving into endless Wikipedia ratholes this is a pleasure. I try to write out what I’ve learned, sometimes more than once to synthesize the information in different ways.
Another way to study and prepare is to write out my answers to various common questions. For a program or release manager role, this seems to be focused on describing situations you’ve been in and what you’ve done. For example, describe a technically complex project you worked on and how you managed it. Describe a time when you got negative feedback and how you responded. Tell about a time when you had to balance many different projects and what tools you used and describe the result. So, here I tried to reflect on things I’d done at Mozilla that I was particularly proud of and could remember well enough to describe! Writing them out in paragraphs and then as bullet points means that I won’t get stuck for answers to questions about my own experiences.
Another type of question that needs study is the “system design” problem. So, say you are starting out on a project to create a photo sharing app. WHAT DO YOU DO. Fun! At least I think so. There’s plenty of guides on thinking through problems of this sort, some general and some specific. Here’s one I really liked, Vasanth’s System Design Cheatsheet. You can take this general structure and work through some specific situations like a photo sharing app or a messaging app.
Anyway, I miss Mozilla, and working on Firefox, but I’m learning a lot and keeping my spirits up. I have plenty of interviews. Wherever I end up I’ll learn some new skills and advance in my career. Going into Mozilla, I wanted to work as part of a large collaboration alongside many other engineers. I definitely got that — I learned so much and am grateful for all the opportunities I had there and fabulous people I got to meet.