Monthly Archives: October 2013

Business of Software 2013

Another Business of Software conference has come and gone, my 4th year in a row to attend. A month ago, I assumed I wouldn’t be attending (couldn’t justify it as a consultant), but since I met my new employers at the conference 4 years ago, it seemed only fitting to connect at the conference this year and finalize our arrangements. Harry and Ted always attend, and it’s a huge perk of my new job that I’ll get to join them. I look forward to keeping my streak alive for many years.

This year’s conference was great as always, but I found myself in a very different place. I’ve learned so much from BoS in the past – now I’ll finally get to put that learning into practice at Moraware. I was listening to sessions more calmly than in the past and with a keen eye for things I can use right away.

Kathy Sierra’s presentation on making bad ass users was probably my favorite … the density of information she conveys in such an entertaining and interesting way – she is a virtuoso speaker. And oh yeah, her talk described exactly what Moraware wants to do for its users.

Dan Siroker’s talk on A/B testing and Patrick McKenzie’s expansion on similar topics – these defined key tactics and skills I will be learning in my new job. I was pretty damn excited to hear Patrick explain that learning to do these things will make me quite valuable.

Sarah Hatter always talks about making customer support and the whole customer experience great … well, my business card title will probably be either “Customer Support” or “Customer Experience” at my new job, so everything she says is highly relevant to me (and she’s a blast on stage).

Paul Kenny’s personality profile workshop was incredibly timely and relevant. Ted, Harry, and I all compared our profiles over dinner, and it was very useful. I think we’re going to get profiles for the other people in the company, too, and talk about them at our next get-together (the conversation is as important as the profile).

Bob Moesta and Chris Spiek did a great interview of Tyler Rooney’s car-buying saga and showed us how to uncover the Job To Be Done that customers are looking for. I also attended their workshop after the conference, and it was incredible. Harry, Ted, and I are going to be diving into these techniques the first day I start (and in fact we’ll be practicing the techniques before I start).

Even the Lightning Talks were great. Des Traynor’s (cheating) talk was absolutely brilliant, and I look forward to seeing an expanded version next year.

All the other talks were great, but most of the rest were geared toward owners, so they didn’t apply quite as specifically to me.

The most important talk of the conference was by Greg Baugues. Greg shared his battle with depression and ADHD, and it was deeply moving. The main point I think he wanted us to take away is that we need to talk about mental illness more – and GET HELP. The only thing that makes it different from a broken leg is the stigma we place on it. Patrick McKenzie added to this topic at the end of his own talk. I didn’t know Greg before the conference, but Patrick is a hero of mine – there’s nobody I look up to more. It was inconceivable to me that he struggled with depression sometimes as well. I have a hard time holding back tears just thinking about this. After Patrick’s talk, I chatted briefly with another conference friend who cheerfully implied he struggles, too.

I made up my mind then that I would share my own experience with mental illness. The short story is that I experienced a terrifying psychosis when I was 19, while attending the University of Southern California as a music student. I spent time in a psychiatric hospital and was prescribed powerful psychotropic drugs that helped me recover. I got better pretty quickly, but it left a mark, obviously. I don’t think about this episode at all on a day-to-day basis, but I’ve told a few close friends over the years. It’s a hell of a story, so I usually feel comfortable when I tell it (I like holding court), but I’ve never talked about it publicly. I was surprised to discover how hard it was going to be to do so (for a few hours after deciding on this yesterday, I would well up with tears each time I thought about it). My motivation for talking about it casually is simply to further Greg’s goal and to help remove the stigma about mental illness … but I’m curious about how it will affect me personally to talk about it more, too.

It’s going to take me a while to write it down and do the story justice, so I’ll have to leave you with that teaser for now. If you can’t wait, you can read my mom’s account of my mental illness. It’s chapter 2 of a book she’s slowly writing. Chapter 1 is about her own mental illness. If you want to go all the way there, it might make sense just to start at the beginning. (Chapter 3 is my grandmother’s mental illness … spot a pattern?)

Mark Littlewood puts on a hell of a show. I hope to see you there next year …



Another change of direction

This consulting thing didn’t last long. A few weeks ago, my friends Harry and Ted offered me a job with their small, successful software company, Moraware. I wasn’t looking for a job, but I’ve always liked and respected these guys, so I had to listen. In the end, they made me an offer I couldn’t refuse. I’ll be starting to work for Moraware in January.

There were two things that attracted me about this opportunity. The first is that they’re willing to pay me what I’m used to while working for a small company. I didn’t think that was possible – normally, you have to take a near-term pay hit for the long-term upside when working for a startup. That’s not good for me at this point in my life, simply because my son is 10, and his needs are more important than mine right now. I can focus on riskier opportunities when he leaves home, if I still want to.

Moraware was able to offer me an attractive compensation plan because they’re not a startup – they’ve already achieved product/market fit in a small, very specific market (countertop fabricators). And that’s the second, VERY attractive thing about this opportunity. I’m going to learn first-hand how a successful software company works. I’ll have my hands in just about every aspect of the business, and my key goals are simply “make the business better” and “pitch in to make the team’s lives better.” I met Harry and Ted at the Business of Software conference 3 years ago, and we’ve also connected at MicroConf and ISVCon. Together we’ve learned amazing things at these events – my job is to increase the team’s capacity so that we can apply that learning.

I’m going to get paid to learn how to do the stuff Patrick McKenzie teaches. I’m going to get paid to do customer interviews the way the Re-Wired Group teaches. I am SO excited to finally get my hands dirty with these things. And I’ve learned I’m not as effective as I’d like to be on my own … so I’m thrilled to be part of a great team. I can’t wait.

I do have to wait a bit, though … I have consulting commitments that are going to take me a few more weeks to complete. Hopefully I can finish in time to have a restful Christmas and New Year and then hit the ground running.

I’m fond of consulting, but my heart is in the software product business. I am so fortunate and grateful to land this opportunity.

Of course now I have to change my site again. I had a plan to reach out to an audience of CIOs with this blog, but that never got off the ground. If anyone’s reading this, you’re probably a part of the “startup/micropreneur tribe” I belong to (or you’re my friend Francesca … Hi Francesca!). When I get in a writing groove, that’s who I’ll be writing for again.

To a new adventure … Cheers!


Lumia or iPhone?

I crashed my phone last night, my trusty HTC 8X Windows Phone. It’s been a great phone, but it’s time to upgrade …

I’m agonizing over the decision. Now that I don’t work for Microsoft, I can get any phone that I want. Although I love what Android phones bring to the market (waterproof – brilliant! huge – brilliant!), none of them current speaks to me.

The safe, “default” choice these days is an iPhone, and it’s really tempting. I know they’re fine phones, and I have to admit, it really annoys me when I learn about a new app but don’t get to try it … there are lots of great apps on Windows Phone, but most of the “big brand” apps support iPhone first, Android second, and Windows Phone maybe never.

The problem is that I really love Windows Phone. I don’t want an iPhone – I’d rather have a Windows Phone with all the apps. But that’s the tradeoff.

I’m leaning toward the Lumia 928 – if I’m forgetting some killer iPhone app that would change my life, please let me know. I’m going to replace this broken one tonight or tomorrow.

I might even split the difference by getting the small iPad at some point. Then I could run everything.