Mark Stephens Mark has been working with Java and PDF since 1999 and is a big NetBeans fan. He enjoys speaking at conferences. He has an MA in Medieval History and a passion for reading.

My 5 highlights from Business of Software Boston 2017

1 min read

My colleagues have already done an excellent job of summing up Day 1 and Days 2/3 of the 2017 Business of Software Conference. Which gives me the chance to write a more reflective article on what big ideas I got out of this year’s conference.

1. Staying healthy.

Over half the speakers talked about some aspect of mental health. This is really refreshing as the tech world has a tendency to encourage over-working and sacrificing your life to the business.

Jason Cohen highlighted the down many founders feel when they sell their company (even though they still feel it is the right thing to do). He explained his shift to regarding the journey as the key part not the outcome. I also loved his advice that founders should be relaxed about delegating because ‘no-one can take it away from you’. You should try to work on just 3 things at any one time.

Dr Sherry Walling’s talk was on Burnout (which is not the same as clinical depression). It is now a recognised medical condition. But it is one which you can identify, prevent and recover from.

2. Regular businesses

Natalie Nagele reminded us that in tech, you do not have to be either a ‘lifestyle company’ or a ‘Unicorn’. There is a regular business – the rest of the Universe is very happy to have this, but we seem to have become too polarised with just these 2 extremes.

Natalie talked about the danger of the Company becoming a beast (with an insatiable desire for time, money, growth), rather than something to serve its founders, employees and customers.

3. Talent and culture

A recurring theme was talent (hiring the best) and culture (creating a healthy working environment). Every speaker actually covered this, and the steps they were taking to implement it.

Bridget Harris took us inside the process of how she was building a successful company.

4. Steve Jobs the Man versus Steve Jobs the Myth

There was one speaker joke that it was compulsory at a technical conference to have at least one Steve Jobs quote each day. He is (rightly) a highly influential figure, but several speakers reminded us we needed to get back to what he really said and represented. Great companies are built by hiring really great people who tell us what to do and then our job is to be an editor.

5. There is a huge amount of expertise on hand if you only want to find it

Jason Cohen reminded us that you never want to be the smartest person in the room. I always feel I have the opposite issue at Business of Software…..

In both the talks and the ‘hallway’ track, there was a huge wealth of talent to tap into (Seth Godin on Marketing, Paul Kenny on Sales, Rita McGrath on inflection points (how to spot the rules have changed), Scott Berkun on how to get ideas, lots of very successful founders and CEOs).

Business of Software is definitely a place to find it (which is why this was my 6th visit).

My summary

Three days of interacting with all these people has left me simultaneously exhausted, exhilarated, fired-up, inspired, encouraged, humbled and with a very clear view on what I need to do in the next 12 months.


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Mark Stephens Mark has been working with Java and PDF since 1999 and is a big NetBeans fan. He enjoys speaking at conferences. He has an MA in Medieval History and a passion for reading.

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