Our founder and CEO, Cillian Kieran, shares the story of how Ethyca’s mission patches came to be, and why they’re an important part of the trust-building work we do together.
A few weeks ago, when I was speaking at PyCon (thank you again for having me!) I was asked about the patches I was wearing on my hoodie. So, I thought it was time to write publicly about Ethyca’s mission patches and how they connect to our team and the journey we’re on to achieve our mission and vision for the tech community.
If we’ve met IRL, more often than not you’ve seen me wearing Ethyca’s #PrivacyAsCode hoodie. If you look more carefully you’ll notice patches on the sleeves — the result is kind of a cross between a boy scout and a gamer. Now, while the hoodie is something we share with members of the Fides open-source community, the patches are much rarer. Here’s their story and purpose.
The inspiration for this Ethyca tradition was of course NASA’s mission patches. I’ve written a brief history of them below, but here’s a great podcast from NASA on the genesis of their mission patches.
The mission patches at Nasa have existed since the Gemini 5 flight of Gordon Cooper and Pete Conrad. In response to no longer being able to name the flight capsule, astronaut Gordon Cooper proposed a mission patch for his and Pete Conrad’s suit. The original patch has the slogan “8 Days or Bust,” which was a reference to the expected length of the mission. NASA approved the design but James Webb, the then administrator, insisted the slogan be removed from the official patch.
Since Gemini 5, every crewed NASA mission has had a patch and most uncrewed initiatives such as satellite and rocket work have patches.
The concept for each mission patch is created by the team that works on the mission and is then brought to life by a designer.
As these patches are only given to that mission team, they are a unique representation of the mission, its team, and the unique culture that forms around a group of people assembled to solve one goal together.
It’s easy to look at these patches and assume they’re geeky fanart homages to NASA missions, but to do so would, in our opinion at Ethyca, be missing the point.
In the 1960’s, Nasa was given an almost impossible task — to take humanity to the moon in under a decade. That’s about as audacious a ten year vision as you could set for any team. The average age of the team assembled to work on Apollo 11 was just 28 years old. There was no blueprint for success, there was no map of how to get to the moon. Software and hardware engineering at the time were ill-equipped to achieve such an unimaginable task.
And yet this young, inexperienced team came together around one objective. They took humanity to the moon and back to Earth again in less than ten years.
In doing so, they coalesced all of humanity’s goodwill around what appeared to be an insurmountable challenge, and they conquered it. Not as individuals, but as a team with one mission.
For me, NASA’s mission patches represent the very best of humanity — when a team comes together with a singular purpose and achieves it, despite all technical, social, or other obstacles. These patches are the most private manifestation of that team’s focus on their singular mission.
These patches are about teamwork.
At Ethyca we’re on a mission to make Trust, Respect, and Privacy a default feature of every tech stack. We believe the problem we’re attempting to solve is one of the most important facing the internet, society, and tech companies globally.
We’re also under no illusion about the cultural and technical challenges of accomplishing this, so it requires a tight-knit team that’s committed to tackling what appear to be an unsolvable problem.
One of our core values is that we’re endlessly optimistic in the face of new challenges. So at Ethyca, as we work on the mission we’ve set for ourselves as a company and in our teams, we create patches that memorialize the specific objective a team is working towards.
The result of course is that no two members of Ethyca have the same badges. Our journeys are unique and our outcomes may be different, but each patch is a shared part of the history of the company, as well as a unique milestone in the challenges a specific team member has overcome.
Patches are intentionally meant to reflect the personality of the team that worked on the mission, so there is increasing variety in their designs. The only consistent element is that each patch has a Latin slogan that relates to the specific mission a team is striving towards.
Here are just a few of the patches.
Welcome to Ethyca
In Omnia Paratus — Ready for Anything
This is the only patch that every Ethycan receives in their first week at Ethyca for the mission they are about to embark on as part of the team. It is accompanied with a welcome letter and a personal note related to the importance of Ethyca’s mission.
Ethyca Pro Launch
Per Audacia Ad Astra — To the stars through boldness
These were given to the team members responsible for the designing, developing, testing, and releasing Ethyca Pro in March 2020. This was Ethyca’s first platform — the very start of our journey as a company with customers using Ethyca’s technology to solve the privacy challenges of millions of users globally.
Ego Confido — I Trust
This patch was created for the Fides open-source privacy engineering platform team, who worked to deliver the landmark release of Fides in November 2021 — a groundbreaking, open-source privacy engineering platform and set of developer tools to make privacy a default feature of every technology system.The patch features the Roman goddess of Trust, Fides, which the platform is named after.
At the core, Ethyca’s vision is to build the most trusted technology company in the world. Our purpose is to provide developers with tools that make it possible to build safer, respectful, and more trustworthy technologies for everyone. To accomplish this, we ourselves must first build trust.
We’ve plotted a course for our open-source community and platform that requires us to work closely as a team to solve some of the most difficult cultural and technical challenges facing internet-scale technology companies. We can only accomplish this as a team, and our mission patches are a reflection of the unique journey each of us takes as an Ethycan, or within our specialized teams.
If you’d like to learn more about how we work as a team, or have the optimism and spirit of team work necessary to help us solve these deeply important challenges, message me directly or check out our job openings. I would love to hear from you, and I hope that in future you might be wearing a patch you’ve designed that represents your mission at Ethyca!
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