Leaving Mozilla

I'll be leaving my job at Mozilla on Friday July 19th, 2024. I'm going to take some time off before looking at where I'll work next.

What a great job

I've enjoyed working at Mozilla so much, it's hard to enumerate all the reasons.

Mozilla was the first non-profit I worked for, having spent the previous 16 years of my career at for profit companies. When I joined, I didn't anticipate how broadly the non-profit nature of the company would impact my experience in the job but it's been very significant. I've liked how I get to make choices in my day to day based on the Mozilla mission, which I also support just as a user of the internet. I deeply support what Mozilla's trying to achieve.

I imagine most everyone identifies that the people they work with are a big part of their enjoyment of their job. I'm no different and have gotten a lot of happiness from my friends and colleagues at work. I really like the type of people that choose to work at Mozilla. In my experience they seem to be committed to doing good in the world which is a great group of people to spend your days with.

I've worked at Mozilla long enough now that I just assume that everything I build should be done in the open. I definitely prefer working in this context. I imagine it will take some adjustment wherever I end up next, assuming that working in public and open sourcing everything won't be the norm.

Some background

I started at Mozilla 12 years ago in 2012. I joined as a Cloud Operations Engineer doing DevOps work on various services. I got to work on cool products like Persona which I ported to run in AWS, Firefox Sync and Firefox Accounts which is the identity system that sits behind Mozilla's products. I also got to join the Identity team for about 6 months in that window and continue working with them on Persona.

After 2 years, I joined the Operations Security team in 2014 as a Security Engineer. I'd worked on security as a part of my past roles in operations and DevOps but this was the first time I got to focus exclusively on security. In the security team I got to work on security incident response, developing security tooling and risk analysis. I also worked on certificate transparency monitoring and building certificate management tooling.

In 2016 my colleagues and I, along with members of the Participation Systems team, began designing and building Mozilla's identity and access management system. The goal was to enable Mozilla staff and community members to be able to access Mozilla services and web sites through a single login. We designed and built a great system that really changed how everything at Mozilla was accessed and secured. I'm very proud of what we built and the impact it had on users of Mozilla's systems.

In 2017 I developed and began delivering the new hire security training for all Mozillians joining the company. This was great to get to meet all the new Mozillians and influence security practices across such a large cohort.

In 2019 Andrew Krug and I continued our work on Mozilla's Security Information and Event Monitoring (SIEM) system, MozDef, by rendering it into a product customers could buy in the AWS Marketplace. This was a lot of fun. I also built the AWS single sign on tools mozilla-aws-cli and federated-aws-rp with my colleagues that enabled Mozillians to access AWS.

In 2020 I created Mozilla's Risk Management team. We focussed on helping Mozillians understand the risks that they held and tried to enable them to make more risk informed choices. 2020 was a challenging year for security at Mozilla as we went from a team of 14 to a team of 3 due to team members leaving and a layoff of 25% of the company. Thankfully since then we merged with another security team and have hired fantastic folks to rebuild security capabilities.

In 2022 we hired an awesome manager for the team and I got to go back to engineering. I continued working in Risk Management and then in 2023 moved into Mozilla's newly formed Infrastructure Security team.

What's next

I'm going to take time off and hopefully get to work on the various efforts that I normally fit in around work. The Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 2nd Edition game that I run twice a month will have its 10th anniversary this fall. I'm looking forward to potentially getting to dedicate more time to the game and to gaming in general. There's deferred work that I want to do on the open source support ticketing system I made, Birch Girder, as well as other open source projects that I contribute to. I'm hoping to help out at IO Cooperative a bit more. Revelle and I have been enjoying bicycle riding together which I'm hoping to do more of with her. She's also been getting into writing Python and some Javascript. It'll be good to be more available to answer her questions and help out. I'm looking forward to getting to spend a bit more time with my parents and siblings up in Seattle. I haven't brewed much beer anytime recently and would like to do more brewing.

Knowing how things go at Mozilla, it's very possible I'll end up doing the Mozilla Boomerang down the road and end up contributing again to Mozilla in some way, who knows.

I'm so thankful for getting to be part of Mozilla for so long and for getting to work with so many kind, intelligent and talented people.

Here are some photos from over the years https://www.flickr.com/photos/gene_wood/albums/72177720318439161/

No Treatment Needed At This Time

I met with my oncologist this morning and got some really good news. Based on the staging of the cancer (Stage 2a) which was based on the pathology that I got on September 16th that came from the surgery on August 27th I don't need to begin any therapy (e.g. chemo or immunotherapy). As someone who has had melanoma, I'm now at a higher likelihood to get melanoma again in the future and as a result I'll need to get checked by a dermatologist every 6 months for the rest of my life.

This means that of the various potential outcomes that I'd talked about at the end of August this appears to be the best case scenario :

No cancer is found in the lymph nodes. I lose an earlobe and have it reconstructed through the magic of science. I stay vigilant for a few years to see if I detect any change in the skin or lymph nodes around my ear. This ends up being a bullet dodged and hopefully an inspiration in regards to the fleetingness of life.

The only tweaks are that the vigilance will be for a lot longer and for my entire skin, not just head and neck.

What Does The Future Hold

As I said I'll need to get a dermatological checkup every 6 months from now on. This seems fine to me.

The National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN) recommendation for stage 2a (page 39) is to get checked by a dermatologist every 6-12 months for 5 years then annually. Kaiser goes with every 6 months from now on, which seems prudent. The reason for this is that as someone who's had melanoma, I'm statistically at higher risk of getting another one, and they want to notice it quickly when it happens.

I'll also need to be cognizant of any potential changes in lymph nodes. My oncologist characterized this as any nodes (for example in armpits) that are bulging, hard or imobile (though not painful). He said it's unlikely but worth keeping an eye out for.

My oncologist talked about new (within the last week) findings that relate to the benefits of immunotherapy to stage 2b and 2c melanoma patients but that doesn't apply to me as a stage 2a. Related to the publication of these findings, Kaiser is spinning down a similar clinical trial currently. So there are no clinical trials that my oncologist suggested I join.

I did get blood work done which all looked good and based on the staging, I don't need to have any further imaging done (CT/PET scans).


Statistics on survival rates for patients with melanoma are in flux right now due to recent discoveries in the area of immunotherapy. Those statistics as summarized by my oncologist show that people in my situation (having had a T3A  melanoma) have a 5 and 10 year survivability of 95%. He added that those in that 5% would likely today have different survival rates given the success of immunotherapy (which he said are up around 60% to 80%).

In asking if statistically this (melanoma) is what I will end up dying from some day, he said no and that I have a higher risk of other causes of death than this, which is great.

Finally to the question of do I have cancer, my oncologist said they don't use those terms any more (not having cancer, remission, cured) and instead I'm just identified as "No Evidence of Disease (NED)"

Being Prepared

My oncologist said that I should put in effort to get and remain healthy, exercise and reduce body weight. This is so that if I do need immunotherapy in the future, I'll be healthy enough to be eligible to try it. I currently don't exercise and have a BMI over 30.

Is It Hereditary

Based on my family history (no nuclear family members getting cancer under the age of 40) and on my experience (having less than 3 melanomas), Revelle isn't at an elevated risk of cancer.

More Pathology Detail

My oncologist shared that the pathology did find an additional melanoma in situ which I guess is the most surface layer of melanoma. I didn't fully understand but it sounded like something that had spread from the main tumor maybe?

I'll also get an ultrasound in a year or two of my thyroid gland which had some minor oddities, to see if it's changed at all.

In Summary

Good news today. I suspect there won't be a need for further updates on the blog about my health so feel free to unsubscribe from updates if you wish.

I'm not sure how this all will settle out in my mind. I don't feel elated or anything (yet). I imagine it'll take more time to process. Hopefully I'll be able to take both the experience of this ill-defined risk to my life over the past 4 months and the upcoming greater attention to my own mortality, and grow from them, improving my health and living more cognizant of the inarguable finiteness of life.

Cautiously Optimistic

I got the results for the pathology of my melanoma today. My surgeon writes

Great news for you! Margins are clear and all the nodes are negative. Your staging remains a Stage IIA. You do not need more surgery. I will check with our medical oncologist regarding the need for immunotherapy

He has setup a referral to oncology so I'll meet with them next.

So, to break this down :

I don't need further ear surgery because the surgeons got all of the melanoma on the first attempt ("margins are clear"). I may have reconstruction done (a month out from now) to recreate some ear lobe with medical magic. This should go well as I retained a good amount of my ear, providing a good foundation to build from.

I won't need any further lymph nodes removed because all four sentinel lymph nodes that they took did not contain any cancer. Sometimes when they find cancer in the nodes, they may go back and take more nodes.

The staging of the cancer remains the same from when the first biopsy was done. This means that the assessment from the first biopsy (of just the melanoma tumor on the ear lobe) which was based on the type of tumor (T3a), depth of the tumor (2.5mm), the absence of ulceration, the increased mitotic rate,  and other attributes remains the same. The internet has lots of assertions about survivability and most of it looks good based on this, but I'm going to hold until I talk to an oncologist to understand specifically what this means for me in regards to statistical survivability, what treatments come next, and what to expect in the future.

I'm cautiously optimistic, I know this pathology isn't bad news (which I'm very happy about), but I don't yet know to what degree it's good news. I'm looking forward to meeting with an oncologist to find out more.