New role at Mozilla: DevTools PM

Yesterday, I got back to work after a nice vacation, stepping into a new role after about a year as Manager of Developer Tools.

I’ve had a lot of fun this past year and learned quite a bit along the way. A year ago, I knew very little indeed about Firefox development. I’ve come to have a good handle on the process, which has changed dramatically along the way, and a decent grasp of the technology used in Firefox and how it all fits together.

The team has been fantastic: Rob Campbell and David Dahl got things rolling before a DevTools team even existed. My Bespin partners-in-crime Joe Walker, Patrick Walton and intern Julian Viereck joined the effort. New intern (now full-time) Mihai Sucan was characteristically sanguine about being told he was going to work on Bespin only to find out just before starting that he’d be working on Firefox. We worked hard on the Web Console and Inspector tools for Firefox 4, with the Web Console making the cut and shipping in March along with Firefox 4.

Along the way, Julian left for the university and Patrick moved to working on Rust.

We knew we wanted to go a lot further. Jan Odvarko, who is one of the lead developers of Firebug, officially joined the team. Dave Camp, a long time Mozillian, returned in February with a desire to make developing for the web better. In April, we were joined by Cedric Vivier, Kyle Simpson, Mike Ratcliffe and Panagiotis Astithas. In June, Paul Rouget joined the team, bringing his considerable insight and experience as a longtime developer evangelist at Mozilla. We’ve also been joined by Nick Fitzgerald as an intern for the summer and Victor Porof who is working on a Google Summer of Code project for developers.

This is an awesome team of people and I’m very proud to be working with them.

This blog post is not one of those “it’s time to move on to bigger and better things” posts. Web developer tools is an area with a lot of work to do and boundless opportunity. Taking care of the team and the projects as we’ve grown is easily a full time job and, in May, I raised my hand and told my manager that there’s work that needs to be done that I don’t have time to do.

Luckily, we had someone willing and able to take over the work I was doing in managing the engineering team: Dave Camp. Dave is a sharp engineer and is excellent at helping people lay out a path from point A (nothin’) to point B (working feature). He’s also got a very good sense for Mozilla and working out in the open.

Product Manager, Developer Tools

Which finally brings me to my new position: Product Manager for Developer Tools. Product management is one of those roles that shows up in different places in different organizations. At Mozilla, we have a dedicated product team led by Jay Sullivan. As part of this team, I’ll be able to do the work that I have had little time to do over the past few months, but is necessary for our success.

My responsibility as product manager is to represent the interests of web developers in designing and prioritizing features that will help them build better sites and applications more easily. I’ll do this by taking input from a great many sources (in no particular order):

  • Mozilla’s developer engagement and market research teams,
  • the developer tools engineering team,
  • web developers I talk with directly, and
  • things I read (and I read a fair bit)

With that input in hand, I’ll boil it down to roadmaps and ready-to-build feature specs. Dave Camp and the engineering team will take it from there to iterate on the features and get them to users. And we do all of this out in the open, ready for feedback and help all along the way. Mozilla really is an open organization and community. New product development is among the most secretive parts of most organizations, but not for Mozilla.

I also see communicating about what Mozilla is doing in developer tools as an important part of my job, so you can expect to see more blogging from me here and on the official devtools blog.

Now, onward to the new challenges!

Update: holy cow! I forgot to mention the three most recent additions to the devtools team (sorry Paul, Nick and Victor!) That’s what I get for blogging quickly while I’m still digging out after getting back from vacation.