Today’s Role Model is Aurelia Moser. As a library science and art history student, Aurelia fell in love with open source projects that made information more accessible. She built her technical skills and helped developed interactive maps, metadata schemas, and training tools for users. For the past two years, Aurelia has served as the Program Manager for the Mozilla Foundation’s Open Science team. In her spare time, Aurelia leads the NYC chapter of Girl Develop It and teaches at NYU and SVA.
What’s your official title and how long have you been in this role?
I’ve been a Program Manager at the Mozilla Foundation for about a year and a half. We fluctuate often between titles like Community/Developer Relations Manager, Project and Program Manager. The skill sets required for competence in all of these roles blend a bit. At least in the non-profit and open source fields, you often wear many hats and transition between projects and positions as your workload evolves.
What attracted you to this program manager role?
I’ve always loved learning and started my “career” as a techie librarian and educator, so anything involving open source and intellectual social work interested me. The opportunity to engage with creative and clever folks who build technology because they love it and want to grow communities on the web will always be attractive, and persistently engaging.
Walk me through a typical day in your role. What activities do you engage in? What types of meetings do you join? When’s lunch?
I work remotely in New York, so my typical day starts early and involves yoga and coffee. Many of my collaborators are on different timezones (from CET to PST) so there’s always something to work on, prep, or respond to no matter when I start. My meetings usually begin around 10:30, so I try to book some time for autonomous productivity early in the day before my Pacific Coast colleagues logon.
If I have particularly pressing deadlines I’ll block my calendar and “in-flow” status-change my Slack to avoid disruptions and notifications. I sometimes skip lunch or eat while working, usually chasing it with a coffee. My eating hours shift around my meeting times, and since many meetings block mid-day for me, I have light meals before and after to compensate.
What skills/technologies help you to succeed?
Between working at Mozilla, teaching at SVA and ITP, volunteering at Girl Develop It, and trying to keep up with a yoga practice, I find that there’s a lot of absolute decisions and accommodations I’ve needed to adopt. These decisions ensure that none of my required obligations is slighted and my peers in whatever venue feel valued and heard. Technologies and platforms deprecate quickly so I would say, for posterity, the most valuable technologies and skills for success are the following:
- Try (where possible) to be direct and say “no.” Be honest with yourself and the people you collaborate with. Good things come to those who set clear boundaries.
- Find a podcast or music source that can punctuate your day with bursts of brilliance and creativity.
- Quit social media. It’s hard, but I quit Facebook a few years ago and it really maximized my productivity.
What’s the most fun or creative part of your role?
People are curious creatures. The more you work with and listen to them, the more creative your work becomes. I’m inspired by my friends and collaborators daily, and I think making sure that you crowdsource your ideas, plans, approaches, and program designs with other people will ensure you always keep things popping and fun.
What are the biggest challenges you face in this program manager role?
People are also challenging creatures. Program/project management roles sound like they’re about managing things, but they’re really more about managing people’s skills, constraints, questions, concerns, insecurities, and lives outside of work.
What teams/individuals do you work with cross-functionally? Can you give an example of a time when you collaborated with another group/individual?
At Mozilla, we’re fiercely collaborative, sometimes to a productivity fault, but we really value consensus and consistent input from peers across the community and organization. Everything from a document, to a GitHub issue, to a meeting agenda, to a group email is often the collaborative work of several folks conducted in the embarrassingly transparent venues of open source. It can be intimidating but definitely helps you vet, iterate, argue openly, and ultimately, grow.
What’s an area where you’re trying to grow in your program manager role?
I’m growing toward more strategic and management roles, but I believe this is often the beaten trajectory of folks in the industry. Personally, I value learning and am a voraciously productive person, so I’ll always be closer to implementation than broader strategic roles allow. To each her own.
Aside from technical skills, what personality traits/characteristics make for an ideal candidate in your role?
Empathy is key. It’s a soft but necessary skill to collaborate passionately and openly in the tech industry. Its absence is the root of a lot of strife.
What skills (tech/non-tech) have you improved as a result of working in this program manager role?
I’m a better (and briefer) communicator, and quicker to adapt and learn new technologies through experience and practice.
In your role, what metrics define success?
Thoughtful communications, generous/realistic timeline estimations, defense of collaborators’ interests, a thorough understanding of stakeholders’ positions and willingness to define a path forward with them and not for them.
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