“The Mozilla Incident”

I’ve had some knockdowns in my time, but never quite anything like the one I had this week just gone.

After a couple of months of interviews, and a trip to the other side of the world, I got the call I’d been waiting for. A verbal offer from Mozilla. I accepted it, of course; I’d just been offered the job of my dreams.

But it was not meant to be. On Monday, a call to say there’d been a problem.

No degree

I don’t have a degree. It’s a constant annoyance. Fact is, without wanting to go all emo, when I was younger I didn’t have the greatest of environments to grow up in, and I couldn’t afford it. Sucks, but I’ve always got around that by being passionate and working hard; I’ve done extremely well for myself, have lots of experience, and I’ve seen a lot of friends get a degree and not achieve half the stuff I have.

I made it clear to them that I didn’t have one from the start; the advertisement said they required one. The first question to the first person I spoke to was, “is it a problem?” – and the answer was no. My experience was enough, and the visa requirement did not affect me – because I don’t need one.

The interview process

I have to say, I enjoyed it. They gave me a hard time, sure, but I was interviewing for a great job; I welcomed the challenge.

It started back in January, my first was a conversation about my experience, my expectations, and the process. I spoke to designers, developers, front end developers; none of them were ‘easy’, but it got easier. There’s a very particular type of person that works at Mozilla. Everyone I met has been knowledgable and passionate, something I can (hopefully) relate to. Especially the passion. If you love Open Source as much as I do, the other ‘requirements’ tend to be there by proxy.

All my Skype interviews (of which there were many) went well. I gained a few ‘friends’, people I had new-found respect for, some would follow on Twitter, GitHub etc; people I knew I would get on well with, and did interesting work. If we were at a bar together, we’d no doubt have a drink together, common interests, common goals. Given the opportunity to work together, we’d no doubt make some amazing stuff.

And so they invited me to an on-site interview. They paid for my flights over; picked me up in a car; put me up in a great hotel. I had the most wonderful time.

The on-site was great, some technical questions sure but I felt I got on with everyone, and that was the most important thing for me. In the evening, I went to a great restaurant with some of the guys that work there, got to meet their families, it was epic. I got to try alligator, ostrich and bison for christ’s sake.

Alas; it was not to be

And so, two months later, I’m denied. Employing me would ‘devalue the role, to one that does not require a degree’. Thus, anyone in a similar role is not entitled to their visas anymore. I’m selfish but not enough to expect other people to lose their place in the US on my behalf!

The message I got (and the reason) can be seen here. http://twitpic.com/c9nx21.

No hard feelings

I’d like to say, on record, that I have absolutely no hard feelings against Mozilla, or anyone involved in my application. I spoke to the person who was dealing with my application many times over Skype; you could see in their eyes that they were as disappointed and as surprised as I am. When I was lucky enough to be invited to an on-site interview, the way I was treated was above and beyond well. They treat their on-site interviewees better than a lot of companies treat their staff. It was a great experience and I had so much fun.

My ire is purely towards the US visa system. Of course, I’ll feel aggrieved; but, in the cold light of day, it makes sense, I guess? Here in the UK, with the EU laws, there’s not a week goes by without a discussion on Question Time about immigration law here. I think the most galling part of it, is that I didn’t even need a visa; it’s the effect it has on people that need it. That’s hard to take.

So what will I do?

Well, like I said, I’ve had some knockdowns over the years. One of the first was me not being able to afford to go to University! But it’s never stopped me, and neither will this.

As a JavaScript developer, I’m blessed. I’ll get a job, no problem. What shape that job takes, is less sure. Will I look for money? Experience? Open Source? The people, the environment, the culture? Mozilla had all of the above in spades, and it looks like I’ll have to take something which only has some of those attributes, but I’m sure I’ll find something good.

One thing is for sure. I’m going to study in my spare time; I’m going to get that degree I couldn’t afford when I was younger. If that piece of paper is what it takes, that’s what I’m going to get. I’ve enough friends with computing degrees that haven’t achieved half of what I have, so I’ve confidence in myself to achieve that. It just takes time (which I have in abundance) and some money (which I’m lucky to now have) and if those are the steps I need to take to get where I want to be, so be it.

On I go

It’s been a huge rollercoaster. Mainly ups, and the down was hugely disappointing.

But I now know I’m good enough for Mozilla. That’s huge. In the same way as I never felt I needed a degree on my CV, to have had the possibility of working at such a great company means a lot to me. I’m going to try some freelance work, get some variety on my CV; study hard; and when I go back to get a job at Mozilla in a few years time, instead of being good, with no degree, I’ll be great, and with a degree.

When you’re as passionate about something as I am, you can achieve anything you put your mind to. I want to put that statement to the test. I’ll be back Mozilla; I’ll be back.

A new challenge

So, the time has come for me to leave my current employer, and look for a new job.

Hard to believe I joined Abacus 5 years ago (!) as a junior Front End developer; since then I’ve learnt so much, worked on so many different kinds of projects, been lucky enough to work with so many incredible people. It was an incredibly tough decision, and I’ll miss everyone there.

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Litany against trolls

I must not feed the trolls.
Trolls are the mind-killer.
Trolls are the little-death that brings total obliteration.
I will face my trolls.
I will permit them to pass over me and through me.
And when they have gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path.
Where the trolling has gone there will be nothing.
Only I will remain.

Embedding videos a different way

I’m starting a new project for a client over the coming weeks and one of the things I want to do during the project is make some improvements to the templates we use as the basis for most of our work.

One of the things that I really wanted to change is the way we deal with embedding videos. I was looking to get rid of the dependency on JavaScript (SwfObject). But in order to do that I’d have to solve two problems first.

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Cross-browser CSS gradients

Firefox 3.6 is very close to release (it’s currently in its first release candidate) and once it lands every browser (even IE) has support for gradients in pure CSS.

This will be incredibly useful. As we add more and more JavaScript and rich media to web pages, performance is affected. One easy way we can mitigate the effect this has is to leverage the power of CSS to reduce the number of background images we use; for instance for rounded corners and gradients. Border-radius is still not implemented in IE (rumoured to be included in IE12 when it’s out in 2043) but gradients are, and we should all start using them now.

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.NET development in OSX

I’ve recently split my working week between two jobs and one of the perks is that I am now the proud owner of a Macbook Pro. However, both companies I work for use .NET. This means that I need to be able to run the websites I’m working on locally; and that requires me to use Windows, so I can run IIS.

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A rough guide to upgrading from MooTools 1.1

Before you read this – please read the <a href=”http://mootools.net/blog/2009/12/31/mootools-1-1-upgrade-layer-beta/”>post on the official MooTools site</a>.
Before you read this – please read the post on the official MooTools site.

I’ve recently been working on the upgrade layer for MooTools, that allows users of MooTools 1.1 to easily upgrade to the latest version of our favourite framework. If you have a complex site, the following may not be relevant, but hopefully following the steps below will help the majority of users to update their code.

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