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 …
Thanks Patrick, welcome to a not very exclusive but all too secret club! Fabulous to see you. Welcome out.
So delighted you are joining Harry and Ted.
I always suspected this was an important topic to cover. I have bouts of mildish-depression. I had no idea about ADHD though. Knowing this might be an issue for me (I have never had any diagnosis and always assumed everything I see and think is ‘normal’). The problem with knowing is that I haven’t been able to borrow a ‘normal’ brain to run any sort of control experiment.
Thank you for sharing this. The more people I look up to and admire that feel able to talk about this, the better for everyone. It actually takes HUGE courage. My god it feels good when it happens though.
I have to say, I didn’t have any inkling when I was at college studying geography and anthropology that the proudest moment of my professional life would be when I was involved in running a software conference where geeks came out and talked about depression and mental illness.
Good luck. X
Very cool. We’ll see where this leads! Thank you again, Mark, for everything.
Many thanks for writing up the conference and good luck with the new job.
Was hoping to see you there again this year … next year?!? Hope you are well …
I need to read this in more detail, but thanks, always, for sharing so much of yourself.
Everything you’ve done and experienced makes you who you are today.