Alumni Issue: Out of the Batcave

Friday, October 7th, 2016 at 12:29 PM
Alumni Issue: Out of the Batcave by Britton Rozzelle

It was a room full of complex machines. 

Dark. The dull hum of computers in a dormant state. 

This was the “batcave,” or so it was called, a home away from home for computer science major, Chris More. It was a place for him, in the late ’90s, to toil away and work on projects and programs not included in the general curriculum. 

More is several years into a whirlwind career at Firefox, spanning jobs in the computer science field — from web development to user growth. But before that, he was just a student here at Edinboro University. He was someone with a desire to learn and explore new options in the then-fresh field of computer science and the internet. 

“At the time there were options,” More said. “There was a computer lab and a computer hacking lab where it was just open for the students to do what they wanted.”  

With newfound freedom and the ability to fiddle with technology that not all students had access to, More, along with his fellow students at the time, were able to learn valuable lessons at Edinboro they may not have been able to elsewhere.

It started in the batcave. 

“The batcave was just a bunch of linux hardware and computer stuff set up, and we got additional access to things that the general students didn’t get access to,” More said. 

“The technologies they were teaching were not 100 percent applicable to what we would be using in the real world right off the bat, but the access to the technologies and the professors went beyond that, if you had the desire to,” More explained. “I had the desire to do that.” 

The ability to go beyond the book is something that has been a driving force for More — and plenty of current students across all departments since — and remains a key tenet of several programs at the university. 

“If I had some crazy idea I could easily just grab one of the professors in one of their offices and sit down and talk about my ideas, get some feedback from them and go try it,” More explained. “I think having the batcave, a place with the hardware and software to experiment with, helped me a lot too.” 

“I found that getting that hands-on experience and going beyond the classroom helped me learn.” 

After honing his skills behind the scenes, More was able to secure a job in his junior year — generally ahead of other people in the field — working roughly 30 hours a week at a company called Erie.Net.

“The CEO asked me in a meeting if I knew anything about websites, and I go, ‘well I built up two of my own personal websites and that’s about it.’ [And he responded] ‘You have two weeks to learn how to make a classifieds and job postings website.’” 

And with that he was off, learning all he could about managing and making efficient websites, with a task to create, in essence, the Erie-based Craigslist of 1998. 

“That basically got me from the computer science area to focusing on web and internet technologies,” he said. 

“Eventually, that transitioned to the next job in my career,” More continued. “I was the webmaster for a telecommunications company in State College, Pennsylvania. It was a 1,000-person company and I was almost the only person who knew anything about the internet. Literally, I did everything (laughs).” 

Having to do everything in a telecommunications company provided More with a wide array of skills, on top of those already established in his time at Edinboro.  These skills set him up with a strong foundation for when moving into the next phase of his career — restructuring Penn State’s web technology. This task wasn’t all smooth sailing, though.

“I focused on developing a framework for how we could unify the entire university into a single web platform. I laid out this big plan and everything,” he said. “It was completely rejected. From there, I had to switch my strategy.” 

After working with the faculty of the university to bring them the change they requested, More got experience working with a diverse assortment of people: from developers, to shareholders and faculty — something that launched him into his current position at Mozilla. More’s web proposal at Penn State was successful after he took the same approach the faculty members used for their research — the scientific method.

“They (Mozilla) were interested in me because of all the technical skills I acquired in my career, my ability to work with all different kinds of folks at different levels, [my ability to] get them on the same page, and [my ability to] establish a plan everyone can get behind.” 

From establishing Firefox account growth and spearheading change, to how the company thought about acquiring new users, More has seen plenty of success with the company that doesn’t seem to be slowing, partly because of his personal dogma — the growth mindset — something with ties all the way back to his hours spent in the batcave. 

“It’s such a powerful thing [the growth mindset] that we can apply to literally every field and it allows you to look at failures as positive experiences because hopefully you learned something,” he explained. “It allows you to look at everything as an experience to learn, to try, to do something different. Even something that would be considered a failure like getting a bad grade in school can be an opportunity to look at the situation differently or ask ourselves what we can do differently. 

“Once you start looking through that growth mindset lens, everything feels different. Like it leads to something. That’s the biggest piece of advice I’d give to people.” 

From Edinboro, to the top of the totem pole at Mozilla, Chris More has managed to continuously stay on top of trends and technologies while maintaining a positive outlook of the future. 

It’s a long way from the batcave.

Britton Rozelle is the Executive Editor for The Spectator. He can be reached at edinboro.spectator@gmail.com

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