Bruce Lawson's personal site

Leaving Wix Engineering

There’s a great song on Michelle Shocked’s first album called The Secret to A Long Life is Knowing When It’s Time To Go.

And I’ve followed Ms Shocked’s advice through much of my career, sometimes out of self-preservation, but mostly because I like starting things up and then passing on the baton before I become the crusty old-timer in the corner saying “We don’t do it like that here”. That’s why I left Amnuay Silpa school in Bangkok four years after we set it up, once we became profitable; likewise, I left the Solicitors Regulation Authority after we established a new, standards-based website, a sane editorial policy and I recruited and trained my successors.

And now, after 15 months, I’m finishing my consultancy at Wix Engineering. They bought me in to help them with a project they’d been working on. We radically simplified it, then made sure that Stylable (as called it) adhered to the rules and spirit of CSS. Then it was time to tell people about it, firstly through a music video, then through conference talks.

That’s done; as one of the Product Managers at Wix R&D, Arnon Kehat, said

I was part of the team that hired Bruce to help us make our open source contribution stand-out, and reach the right people. I cannot imagine how we would have done it without him… He guided us where we hadn’t a clue, and helped us make some really complex discussions into fun ones. He helped us understand our audience better, and to make sure we approach them the right way.

And I’m happy to say that the first components made with Stylable are now running in production, available for the 120 million Wix users to add to their sites.

In some ways, Wix was like working for Opera – both had very strong consumer brands, and fiercely loyal users, but weren’t well known as places of engineering excellence. At Opera, I worked to show web developers how our engineers made a browser run on low-specced devices, to serve its millions of customers in the developing world. At Wix, I reported directly to Nadav, one of the founders – but he doesn’t wander around in a shiny suit of synergies, smoking caviar; he writes JavaScript all day in the Stylable team. It’s a very engineering-led company; over 50% of the workforce are engineers.

I’m not too proud to admit that when I was at Opera I had a somewhat naive view of how websites get made in ‘industry’. Working with a company that has so many people making sites on the Wix platform has taught me a great deal about building the web at scale, about kind of infrastructure behind the scenes, performance and where the rubber meets the road in terms of standards.

It was great fun to work with the Stylable team who are lovely people and brilliant coders who really, really care about the Web, and with groovy cats in wider-Wix such as Dan Shappir, Danielle Kanish, Maya Alon, Mor Gilad, Morad Stern, and Sergey Bolshchikov. Kisses to all of them.

Next: off to Asia for a while to meditate and make music before the next career adventure.

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