When Disaster Strikes, You Can Learn a Lot

My first week at Mozilla was relatively uneventful. I spent it at the Mountain View office, meeting people in person, having a few meetings, and actually doing a few tasks in addition to all of the setup and overhead that comes with being a new employee.

After traveling back home to Boston, my second week of work was a bit more eventful. We had a RAID array fail when we went to replace a disk. The RAID array held all of our e-mail, so until we could restore a backup and work on getting as much post-backup data we could out of corrupt databases (LDAP and MySQL), nobody had e-mail.

E-mail is a very big deal in any company, and Mozilla, with around 600 employees, is no exception. It was fascinating to watch my new coworkers deal with a crisis of this magnitude. A person’s true self is brought out under pressure, and I got to see how everyone acted and reacted.

Folks who wanted to help but could not stepped aside to let those with the requisite knowledge/experience fix things. Higher-ups asked for statuses. Employees found ways to communicate without e-mail.

I watched this all unfold with an observant eye – especially within my team. I am happy to learn that my coworkers (including my boss) are smart, helpful, know when to jump in and when to stay out of the way, sensitive to those who are under pressure, do not spend time rat-holing on the past, and avoid the blame game.

Of course, as Tim Callaghan pointed out at the December Boston MySQL User Group on Monday evening, what would I have done if I found out that my team was a bunch of finger-pointers, my boss was a jerk, and everyone complained selfishly? Luckily, that’s not a scenario I have to worry about.

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