Onboarding 2016 Mozilla Fellows

At Mozilla, “onboarding” is a term to describe meeting together to introduce new members of our community to our practices, programs, and protocols for operation; it’s loosely a way for everyone new to get to know everyone else as they build connections with each other, and it’s an important part of our culture: inclusion and conversation to build community. As we recently introduced our 2016 Mozilla Fellows, our first step in their 10-month fellowship journey was to “onboard” them, with a maximum of support from our sister programs in Advocacy, and the rest of the Mozilla Leadership Network (MLN). The fellowships are one of MLN’s flagship initiatives, investing in leaders in our networks, working to further advance open Internet issues.

This past week, the Mozilla Science Lab team and 2016 Fellows for Science traveled to Toronto for our joint-onboarding with the Mozilla Advocacy Network’s Open Web Fellows. Read on to learn about the places we traveled, the people we connected with and program elements that you can re-use for your next onboarding adventure!

Welcome to Toronto

Welcome to Toronto!


Most of the week’s activities took place in the Mozilla Toronto office, which features expansive community space and some open rooms with tech setup for remote participation. Though we had 10 fellows joining us, it was important to accommodate two of our fellows who needed to join us remotely over video, Steffania from Brazil, and Suchana from New York. The seats were circle-oriented around 2 large screens for remote participants, and we used a microphone foam cube to make sure everyone could hear speakers, and to best coordinate the conversation.

The week also included field trips to Citizen Lab, Escape the Room – Toronto, and to a special TIFF-inspired screening of the Snowden film. Together, our fellows created their own programs for peer-learning, set goals for safety and norms in collaborative space, planned presentations for Mozfest and upcoming conferences together and created a collaborative calendar for the next 10 months.

Calendar together

Fellows collaborating on the core-calendar for their next 10 months


For this onboarding, we invited our fabulous fellows from two programs at the Mozilla Foundation: the 2016 Fellows for Science and the 2016 Open Web Fellows. Our disciplinary focus and some of the details of each fellowship are distinct, but in general, our goal is to build both fellowship programs into a shared cohort, part of the broader Mozilla Leadership Network. What we found in practice, is that there are many shared challenges and goals for the open web that blend into the privacy, cybersecurity, policy, advocacy and scientific research space, and our fellows had the opportunity to observe and build on those connections this week.


To complement both groups and their shared work, we introduced them to Mark Surman, CEO of the Mozilla Foundation, and Kaitlin Thaney, Director of Mozilla Leadership Networks, and brought in supporting stakeholders from the Ford Foundation’s Advocacy wing. Likewise, we introduced the fellows to other Mozilla Foundation and Corporation employees, and encouraged them to meet and share a meal with fellow-Mozillians during our hour-long lunch break every day. We also brought our alumni fellow from the 2015 Science cohort, Joey K. Lee, to give perspective on his experience, share tips for a great fellowship year, and act as our resident photographer for the duration of the week (see his photos throughout this blog and on our Flickr, thanks Joey!).




As part of the week-long program of activities, we planned group-work and discussion-based exercises to promote a strong understanding of opportunity and goal-driven planning for the 10-months ahead. Our agenda was fairly active from 10:00am to 3:00pm and then we would break for questions and conversations, a review of the day and a short planning session for the following one. Many of the planned activities inspired open conversations throughout the evening, over dinners and outings.


All-hands in for our onboarding workweek!

These included:

* Goal-setting: involving identifying “heros”, modeling their behavior, designing plans for the next 10-months of activities

Speed-dating: getting fellows together for short 3-minute sprint interviews with eachother over the course of an hour

* Open Canvas: designed and adapted from the Lean Canvas by our own Abby Cabunoc-Mayes, this activity helped them compartmentalize their goals and break down blockers and ally networks to build toward “success”

* Teaching/Learning Brainstorm: documenting skills and knowledge that the fellows can share across cohorts over the next 10 months

* Making Zines: in the lead-up to Mozfest, our fellows will be working on short personal magazines where they teach or document something relevant to their work, for the wider-web world. We’ll distribute them at Mozfest and online.

* SPAAAACE: for side-conversations and collaborations around open data, shared squad goals, open conferences/events, and open skill shares, like lockpicking? yes

Our goals with this joint-onboarding were to invite collaboration between our fellows, build connections with their Mozilla Leadership Network partners and collaborators, train them in goal-setting, program planning and movement building that are so essential to our mission supporting a free and open web! Stay tuned for follow-ups and future editions from all our fellows!