Ode to Morgamic

Mike Morgan – morgamic – was my boss for nearly six years. Friday was his last day working at Mozilla. I wanted to write something to memorialize his departure, in the same way he did for others. Of course, this blog post will not be as eloquent as if he had written it, but I will do my best.

There are two things that stand out about Morgamic: his leadership, and his passion for the Mozilla and the Open Web.

Morgamic is that rare leader who, rather than rallying the troops from the front, leads from beside you, encouraging you every step of the way. Morgamic is an introvert. Never let anyone tell you introverts can’t lead. He excels at leadership because of his special talents for introspection, reflection and the ability and willingness to listen.

He taught me, by example, and by teaching me to ask the right questions, three important things about leadership:

Enable autonomy by quiet leadership. In six years, I don’t think he ever really told me to do anything. Like Confucius, he simply asked questions that helped me figure it out for myself.

Trust people. I can get really mad about things being done in a way I consider wrong. He always encouraged me to ask myself why someone might be doing it that way, and to trust that they were doing the best they could.

Reframe problems. Mike sees problems as complex and nuanced. It’s never black or white: you just have to zoom out a little to see a million solutions to a problem that you might not have seen before.

We certainly had disagreements over the last few years, but we always managed to resolve them in a constructive way, and that might be the greatest lesson of all. As a technical leader, he goes out of his way to hire people that he is confident are smarter than him, and he never gets insecure about it. (In my case, I’m not sure he was right. He certainly outdoes me in wisdom.) He coaches those people into excellence. Morgamic is a force multiplier. Not only that, but he cares about his people, and will go out of his way to help them develop into the best and happiest versions of themselves.

Virtually every website you use at Mozilla was made with Morgamic’s hands, Morgamic’s help, or Morgamic’s leadership. We still use code from the first web app he ever built for Mozilla, when he was a volunteer: Every time you update or download Firefox, you can do that because of Morgamic.

Morgamic also has a vision and a passion for the Mozilla Mission and the Open Web. If you’ve ever talked with him about it, you’ll know exactly what I mean. With Mike, it always came back to two questions: How does this move the mission forward? How does this benefit the Open Web?

He also manages to bring humor and humanity into every action: whether it’s org charts with Care Bears, photoshopping your head onto a meerkat, or presenting interns with trophies at the end of the summer. Once, when I had a sick pet and he knew I was really upset, he sent me a giant bunch of flowers (‘From the webdev team’). That made me cry, quite a lot, but in a good way, I swear. I still have that card on my desk, and I tear up every time I look at it.

I’m not the only one with stories. Here are some from other people who have had the pleasure and privilege of working with Morgamic:

  • “I’m not sure I consistently hear more praise for any other manager at Mozilla as I do about Morgamic. That includes me hearing myself talk about how pleased I’ve been over the past two years to have him mentor me — and our entire team. I feel pushed to do great work because of him, but in a way unique to him and Fred (who I have to think he mentored well, given their similar management styles) — constantly encouraged and pushed but with amazing empathy and reason for pushing me. He also encouraged us all to get along with each other and all of Mozilla, taken what seems to me as the sanest growth plan in Mozilla, and strived to build an awesome team instead of just a big one. He encouraged us to reach out and include “former” colleagues and constantly bring potentials into the webdev world.”
  • “Mike Morgan brought me to Mozilla, a move I had always wanted and was appreciative of. It wasn’t until I had to opportunity to really work with Mike and see him in action that I realized how much of a compliment it was to have him seek me. Mike invests so much into each of his developers that they can’t help but strive for greatness to repay the favor. Morgamic fought hard for his developers and made sure they were working on something they were passionate about. I’m proud to have worked with and for Mike Morgan and I’m already jealous of the next set of developers he’ll lead. Mozilla wont be the same without him. Legend.”
  • “Like many of us on the web development team, I came to Mozilla through Mike. I’ve worked closely with him for 7 years and watched him grow from a volunteer developer into a well respected leader. I watched a team of two turn into a team of fifty with his expertise and guidance. He is magnetic – someone who naturally acts as a hub, of people, of information, and of value. He strived to be a better leader, reading books, studying role models, and speaking with experts about how to encourage excellence on his team. People who have worked with him will understand how short “he’ll be missed” falls – we’re all fortunate to have worked with him for this long, and really, I guess we’ve been greedy, it’s only fair to let the rest of the world have a chance too. “
  • “Even when we disagreed he trusted me. He could have ordered me to do something else, or ordered my boss to order me. Instead he’d take me for coffee and try to convince me of another way. Usually he succeeded, but when he didn’t he would go out of his way to support my decision. Our products were a byproduct of his relentless focus on the team — hiring the right people and trusting them to make the right decisions.”
  • “Morgamic embodied Mozilla in so many ways. He was a continual positive influence in everything we did in WebDev, always believing in people and trying to get them to improve themselves. But he went far beyond the boundaries of the team and influenced so many others. His legacy at Mozilla will continue on from those lucky enough to have worked with him.”
  • “Soon after I switched from the Webdev team to the Engagement team, Morgamic walked by the glass walls of a meeting room I was doing a video conference in. He walked away, came back with a whiteboard marker, drew a heart, and left.
    I’d follow that man to Hades.”
  • “He helped me feel good at Mozilla very quickly. I like how he can be totally not serious sometimes, but efficient when he needs to. He gathered an impressive team of wonderful, excellent, incredible Web devs (except me, of course, but every team has its weakness 🙂 ). We were the first interns to win the Annual Employees VS Interns Basketball match!”
  • “Morgamic exemplified Mozilla for me. Openness, transparency, and just plain fight-for-the-user awesomeness. Morgamic was one of the few managers I’ve had who was less my superior and more my facilitator. He often acted like a Mozilla concierge – ensuring I had what I needed, intervening where I was blocked, and making sure I was happy and headed in the right direction. I don’t think I ever disagreed with his strategic decisions, which often had included my input or had at least been communicated to me early & often. Not that my agreement is needed to run the company, but it at least felt like he always had my back and we were doing things the right way.”
  • “I’ve known and worked with Mike for ten years. On meeting him, I knew immediately that I had met one of those rare personalities that one encounters only only a few times in life. I watched Mike mature over the years in both his personal and professional life. One Mozilla cantina night, I recall sitting with Shaver and, possibly, Schrep: the conversation was about finding good engineering management. I remember pointing across the room to Mike, who likely at that moment was doing something very silly/dangerous will alcohol and fire. ‘There is your man, promote from within and you’ll see amazing things from him.’ I think I nailed it.”

The words “he will be missed” are so far from adequate it’s not even funny.

His legacy at Mozilla will live on, in the projects he built, in the people he mentored, through every Open Source project that comes out of Webdev, in the Mozilla mission, and in the hearts of all of us. I can’t wait to see what he pulls off next – I’ll be watching, and so should you, because I have no doubt it will be amazing. Remember, too, that being a Mozillian isn’t something that stops just because you change jobs. It’s more like what happens when your best friend moves away. Nothing changes except the logistics.

As for the rest of us, we will miss him, but we will go on working for the Open Web as the better people he helped us to be.

On his last day working at Mozilla, Morgamic said, “Webdev isn’t a job, it’s a movement.” I’ll leave you with that, and with this video, that I know he liked to watch over and over:

Hail, farewell, and mahalo, Mike Morgan, until next time.

DXR: code search and static analysis

I asked Erik Rose from my team to blog about his work on DXR (docs), the code search and static analysis tool for the Firefox codebase.  He did so on the Mozilla Webdev blog, so it would show up on Planet Mozilla. Today, it was pointed out to me that the Webdev blog is not on Planet.

It’s a great post, summarizing all the things he’s done in the last few months.  Go read the article: DXR digests the Firefox codebase.