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Why I am leaving SmartBear

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My life both personally and professionally has always been defined by achieving goals and milestones. Whether it was playing college basketball in Boston, paying off student loans, or living and working in Europe, I have always been charged up by setting ever-evolving targets and challenging myself to achieve them.

2008, the same year my mother traded in Minnesota winters by joining our west coast family for the California sunshine, I was a year out of college and joined a small tech company 30 minutes north of Boston that helped software pro’s become more efficient at their jobs. Eight years later, in the winter of 2016 as my two-year expat assignment wraps up I am stepping down from my position as head of Europe for SmartBear.

My time at SmartBear has been nothing short of amazing, and now it is time to write a new chapter. This spring I am packing my bags for California. I will deeply miss the charm and buzz of Galway and its people but I can’t wait to spend more time with family, enjoy some sunshine, finally learn to surf in Manhattan Beach and dive into the exciting and daunting west coast tech universe.

Over the last eight years I’ve been fortunate to serve in several different sales leadership roles for SmartBear, each more challenging and rewarding than the last, culminating with the last two years building and scaling a new EMEA HQ in Ireland. We profitably grew revenues 15X during this period, acquired several game changing technologies along the way and today count millions of users worldwide who depend on SmartBear tools to get their job done daily. More important than these achievements though are the people I’ve been able to share these experiences with. Close relationships from all over the US and Europe I will cherish the rest of my life. No matter how much money you are making or how cool your technology is, without the right people along for the ride it isn’t worth it. If I find a company for my next gig that is half as fun and successful as SmartBear I will be sitting pretty.

My advice for any budding sales pros in Boston or Galway: fight like hell to get a job at SmartBear. Not only will you get a crash course in professional selling, you will also learn a tremendous amount about how modern software is built, a critical skill for anyone looking to build a successful career in tech. Tell Gerry I sent you.

To my team in Galway, you’ve heard it already but it bears repeating: thank you for playing an integral part of making this dream of mine a reality. Years ago when I first started thinking about working overseas I never could have imagined I would get as lucky as I did to be paired up with such a fun, talented and loyal bunch of people. You made me excited to come into the office every day. You challenged me in the best ways possible. There simply aren’t enough words to describe how proud I am of each of you and how lucky I feel to have gotten to spend this time together. I look forward to our final night out in a few weeks. First round is on me at Neachtain’s.

The Galway Original 6

The Galway Original 6

Lastly, thanks to all my family and friends for your encouragement and for following my travels the last few years in Ireland and across Europe. Dream come true sounds cliché but it couldn’t be more spot on. Sometimes in life all you need is someone to open the door for you. Thanks to Jim McD for taking a chance on me all those years ago. What fun it has been, and it is only just the beginning.

To quote Mr. Springsteen (seriously, did you expect anything less?) “I’ll meet you further on up the road.”

MLK

January ‘16

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Positivity matters in Q4

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We are officially in the throes of Q4. Sales teams across the globe are scrambling to hit yearend targets and maximize the value of their cherished comp plans. Business leaders are trying to juggle the demands of a big yearend while simultaneously finding time to strategically plan 2016 growth initiatives. This can be a stressful time for all involved (including the supportive families outside of work). At SmartBear we recently completed a fantastic leadership development training course around the topic of “taking charge of your success.” The idea is very simple, yet extremely powerful. Taking accountability for one’s output and maintaining a positive outlook no matter what comes your way is critical to the future success of any individual or company.

I sent the below email to my team after the session which I felt compelled to share with a wider audience. Cheers to a successful yearend for any sales pro currently grinding away at what appears to be a massive target. We will get there together!

#seekglory #staypositive

 

From: Miles Kane 

Sent: 07 October 2015 19:10

To: Staff-Galway

Subject: Positivity matters in Q4

Team,

Thank you for your time and attention today during the leadership development training course around the topic of “taking charge of your success.” As we look to scale our business towards yearend 2015 and into 2016 this message will continue to resonate with all of us. A positive, team first approach will drive us towards continued success and growth for many quarters to come.

In the heat of Q4 there will be many opportunities to apply this principle. Over the next several weeks I am confident in saying that the following three things will happen to all of us at least once:

-You will have a bad day due to something outside of your control this quarter

-You will lose a deal that is in your current pipeline for the quarter

-You will be pissed off by a customer or co-worker at some stage of the quarter

Our success will be defined not by these events, but by how we respond. We often don’t choose what happens to us, but we always choose how we think about it. Maintaining a positive outlook through the highs and lows of any given quarter has been a hallmark of our team so far that we will continue to strive for. With the players we have assembled, there is no stopping us.

I am proud to be a part of the greatest EMEA HQ in the world. Let’s go get em.

MLK

 

“We see what we look for. My experience is what I agree to attend to.” – William James

 P.S – for our fellow road warrior teammates who were unable to join today, the slides and recording will be on the wiki shortly. Please carve out a few hours over the course of the next week to review the material. You will not be disappointed.

SmartBear gone racin’ 2015

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The SmartBear team is back in action today after celebrating our summer outing yesterday at the world famous Galway Races. For one week in July each year thousands descend upon the wild west of Ireland for a week of horse racing, joy and merriment. For our American readers, picture the greatest Kentucky Derby party you have ever been to, multiply times 10 and stretch it seven days long. It is just one of the many reasons Galway is truly one of the most vibrant cities in the world.

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A blustery but beautiful day at the Races

It was a great day had by all. The ladies of the office looked stunning and the men pulled together a few decent suits at the last minute to fit in with the crowd. Special shout out to our man Rory Gaughan for successfully picking the winning horse on five of six races, leading to some record breaking team bonding after everyone learned quickly to jump on his picks.

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Some of the crew getting ready to cheer on their picks

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The ladies of SmartBear Galway

A gentleman's embrace after another winning Gaughan pic

A gentleman’s embrace after another winning Gaughan pic

The Man, The Myth, The Gaughan

The Man, The Myth, The Gaughan, rooting on one of his many winning horses

A team night out would not be complete without "one for the road" at Neachtains

A team night out would not be complete without “one for the road” at Neachtains

 

From England to Ireland (via America)

20 July 2015 – SmartBear Galway lands key sales leader on a transfer from Boston HQ due to record growth in API business unit

As we continue to grow and scale our European business through 2015 and into 2016 I am thrilled to welcome Sam Jones to our Galway team as EMEA Sales Manager focused on our API products. Sam comes to us from our Boston office where he has been a high performing sales leader since joining the company in 2011. Sam recently sat down with the team at mlkinire.com to discuss what its been like relocating along with his wife and two young daughters to Ireland. The following is an abridged version of our conversation, edited for clarity.

  • So you have been in Galway a few weeks now, how’s the family settling in?

We’ve got a great house on the outskirts of Galway in a town called Oranmore, next door to cows and horses, soaking in the country air, which our kids absolutely love. Aside from a quick trip to hospital and getting used to the Irish “summer” the Jones family are settling in very well.

  • Can you tell us a little more about what you were up to at SmartBear the last few years in Boston?

For the previous 18 months I led the North America API sales team, responsible for driving the growth of our API testing platform from a new perspective as we transitioned from a single point product to an end to end solution. Prior to managing and growing the team I began my SmartBear career as a sales rep, and had the good fortune of selling the same product line that my team in Galway now sells.

  • And you are from England, correct?

That’s right, originally from the south east of England before meeting my wife and shipping off to Boston in 2010.

  • And what about your family connections to Ireland?

You wouldn’t know it with a name like Jones but the entire family are Irish. My parents moved to England in the early 80s but Grandparents, Aunties, Uncles, cousins etc. are all still here. Growing up I couldn’t wait for our yearly visits to Cork, where the majority of my family still live. I can still remember being astonished at around 9 or 10 years old watching my first hurling game. Two decades later and I still list standing in Croke Park watching the All-Ireland Hurling final at the #1 spot on my bucket list. I’m hoping a few of the lads in the office can pull through for tickets (no pressure Mr Berry) and I can cross this off my list come September.

  • What will you be working on in the Galway office?

As I mentioned earlier I sold our API testing product line as a sales rep before transitioning into management. This hands-on experience has enabled me to take on more of a manager/coach role. My sole focus is to work together with each rep on my team to maximize their success. I live by the simple mantra that the more successful each rep becomes the more success the team achieves. Fundamentally I believe that success in sales is achieved through a high number of quality conversations which genuinely add value to your customers and prospects.

  • Outside of working for an outstanding boss what was the biggest reason you were interested in the transfer from Boston to Galway?

Miles – you were the only reason for the move. But if I have to pretend there were others; during the last two years my team in Boston has been solely focused on North America. This transfer has given me the opportunity to better understand our customers approach to achieving maximum software quality across EMEA and how they evaluate, select and purchase software.

Although I was born and raised in England, I wasn’t long out of University before I was whisked off to Boston by my wonderful wife and joined SmartBear. My software experience has so far been shaped from an American perspective. Europe, Middle East and Africa make up nearly 30% of our global revenue and we’re driving towards increasing that percentage to 40%+ over the next 12-18 months. Joining a team within such a strategic region and with high growth targets was a no brainer.

Believe it or not “strategy and growth targets” however aren’t something my wife cares as much about so I had to build a compelling case including relinquishing my argument that getting a dog isn’t a good idea. I grew up experiencing the wonders of Ireland and the move will allow my wife and two daughters ….and new dog to do the same. If anyone reading this knows where we can get a Labradoodle please get in touch, apparently that is the dog we want.

  • What are you most looking forward to about living back in Europe?

We hope to travel as much as possible during our time here both within Ireland and Europe. Having been in Boston for the last five years it’s been challenging getting back to the motherland for weddings and family events. This move gives us a great chance to spend as much time as possible with the Jones side of the family.

I’m a big Arsenal fan so getting over to the Emirates once or twice with a few of the lads in the office is on the to-do list. Although I diplomatically endured American sports to win the approval of my father-in-law, it won’t come as a shock to anyone that real football, the one you kick with your foot for 99% of the match, holds precedence.

  • Any Irish culture you’ve experienced so far you care to share?

I could go on for hours already but three quick ones that are my favorites:

1) When asked “how ye keepin” the Irish truly mean it. Recent example: while at the grocery store I watched a family of four run into an old fella they must not have seen in a while. After the father asked how the guy was keeping, and I went about my business filling up our shopping cart, 40 minutes later the fella was still talking.

2) Five minutes in town and already welcomed like family. Recent example: the morning we landed, fresh off the red-eye from Shannon we take the kids for a walk to meet our new neighbors (horses and cows). Our actual next door neighbor spots us and shephards us immediately into her house for tea. After offering an entire table of sweets she goes to the fridge for a chalice of freshly milked milk. Straight from the cow in her front yard! Still wish I had my camera ready to capture the look on my wife’s face when presented with the milk that was just a bit too warm due to how fresh it was.

3) Directions: everywhere in Ireland is 10 minutes up the road. Even the GPS is programmed to say, no matter where you are, “oh sure yea just 10 minutes up the road you’ll be grand.”

  • What’s been your biggest takeaway working with your new team so far?

The Irish are 10X better at rapport building than I will ever be. The team is talented, focused and understand its not every day you get the chance to sell a globally recognized technology that provides genuine value to it’s customers. This is a once and a lifetime opportunity for me and my family and we are going to make the most of it.

 

The Jones clan outside their new estate, summer 2015.

Outside the new Jones estate, summer 2015.

On behalf of the entire team we officially welcome the Jones clan to Ireland and the SmartBear Galway family!

-mlk

I got my MBA from Twitter

never stop learning

I was recently invited to co-chair a panel at NUI Galway with a group of MBA students visiting from Fordham University in NYC. The topic was around creating a startup in Ireland (last minute addition to the panel was Ireland’s famous entrepreneur Padraig O’Ceidigh; to say I was punching above my weight in sharing the stage with Padraig is a massive understatement). It was an engaging group of students who were interested in learning how I went from age 23 as a broke bartender living month to month in Boston to age 29 relocating to Ireland to run Europe for a multi-million dollar software company. The group had a lot of great questions and the panel could’ve stretched on for several hours. The short answer to how I got to where I am today is there is no silver bullet or substitute for dedication and hard work. There were however three topics covered that have helped me along the way that I felt would be worthwhile sharing.

Two-year job sprints: I first joined SmartBear in a junior business development sales role with zero prior industry experience. The thought of cold calling QA engineers to pitch them new software tools wasn’t the most exciting proposition, but I was broke and needed to pay rent. So I said I’d give it two years and see what happens (I originally chose two years because at the time it was the longest I could picture myself sitting in a dull cubicle in suburban Massachusetts making 100 calls a day). Along the way I sketched out what success would look like both professionally and financially with the help of a few mentors who were consistently coaching on areas to focus on. After the initial two–year run was up I realized the roadmap exercise was very effective at keeping me motivated and focused on the areas I needed to improve to continue growing in my career. It is a process I still use today and highly recommend. Typically year one is formulating your ideas on what is needed for success and testing out various approaches. Year two is all execution. No matter what role you are in, map out a two-year roadmap for what you would like to achieve and work against it, constantly seeking performance feedback along the way. I listened to an interview with Matt Mazzeo from Lowercase Capital recently where he and Mark Suster from Upfront Ventures spoke at length about the power of continuing to seek feedback. Matt went so far as to sit Mark down frequently and say, “Go ahead. Beat the shit out of me. What could I be doing better?” I love the passion and honesty.

I am not advocating job hopping at the end of every two-year sprint. However this approach will serve well to keep you driving towards success in your current role and put you in a good place to either move up within an organization or take on a new exciting project that is more mentally stimulating when opportunities arise. As a manager I always try and hire candidates who are driven to eventually want my job. The two-year sprint approach lends itself nicely to these types of people.

Build your personal Board of Directors: This was one of many great tips shared by Padraig O’Ceidigh and something I’ve followed the last several years. The idea is to assemble a circle of people who act as mentors and provide guidance throughout your career. These people can come from three different areas:

  • Former bosses you admire and keep in touch with.
  • Personal friends who might not be in your same industry but are equally driven to career growth and success.
  • People who you don’t personally know yet their advice is very compelling, as they’ve achieved crazy amounts of success in their own careers. For those who listen to podcasts I can’t recommend Tim Ferriss or Brian Koppelman high enough in this regard.

Create your own circle and check in with these people frequently. It is amazing how much knowledge and advice they are all willing to share at a moment’s notice.

Always be learning: Sounds basic, but Twitter makes it so easy to curate the type of info I like to consume on a daily basis. I commit to at least one hour each day of reading from industry thought leaders on various topics. Successful entrepreneurs like Brad Feld, Fred Wilson, Mark Suster and Dharmesh Shah write so frequently on what it takes to build and lead a successful tech company that I don’t think it is far fetched to say I’ve been exposed to an entire MBA curriculum simply by following their blogs closely the last 5-6 years. And without the six figure price tag or two year opportunity cost.

Like I mentioned earlier the discussion was wide ranging and thought provoking and hopefully the idea behind two-year job sprints, personal BOD’s and commitment to following industry thought leaders online will be helpful takeaways, no matter where you are in your career journey.

Thanks again to Dr Drury – Grogan for inviting me to speak to your class. Hopefully they enjoyed it as much as I did. And Mr O’Ceidigh if you are reading this, I am definitely taking you up on the follow up coffee offer this summer in Galway City!

Fair play to ye lad, onto the next one now!

EDITORS NOTE: the following post originally ran in the American Business Magazine Summer 2015 series put on through the Irish Times, on the topic of similarities and differences between running a business in the US and Ireland.

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When I think about the differences between doing business in Ireland vs the US, I’m struck at first by how many similarities there are. When I first relocated from Boston to Galway in early 2014 to build SmartBear’s new EMEA HQ I was expecting a much bigger culture shock than I experienced.

When recruiting new team members, no matter the location we are maniacally focused on hiring super talented, driven people and providing all the resources required to achieve success in their careers. And from a go to market perspective, whether Sante Fe or Serbia our sole mission is to help our customers build, test and deliver the world’s greatest applications. To date we have software pros using our tools in 194 countries (yes that is all but two countries in the world. Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan we are coming for you.) It is a connected world we live in and for our company mission (maximizing software quality) the message is truly a global one.

However there have certainly been a few areas I’ve noticed in terms of cultural differences between the U.S. and Ireland:

A sales office in the US has a much more “high fiving, gong ringing” culture to it. When a big deal closes in Boston it is common to hear drum beating and plenty of congratulatory shouts across the floor. In Ireland one of my reps closes a six figure deal and the team gives her a “fair play to ye lad, onto the next one now” response and goes about their business. I remember trying to high five a team member once after closing a tricky deal and he thought I was coming over to attack him. Lesson learned.

US sales people have a more confident / cocky nature to them, which doesn’t always come across well trying to do business in Europe. We sell into over 60 countries in the EMEA region, all of which have their own distinct culture, language, and customs. The great thing about employing an Irish sales force for this market is the Irish sales person is far more understated in their approach which lends itself much better in communicating cross culturally. As the “resident Yank” in the office it has been a fascinating learning experience to see this approach be so successful. Turns out the louder someone shouts on the phone doesn’t always translate into happy, successful customers.

US work culture is much more of a 24/7 always on mentality, whereas the Irish tend to work a more efficient traditional work day, and are much better at creating a healthy work life balance. Last summer one of my reps asked for assistance on an account when I realized the customer had emailed the night before at 7pm, yet he hadn’t responded until the next morning. When asked had he seen the email the night prior, the answer was no. And to my pleasant surprise the world didn’t come to an end because of the next day response, and we still got the deal before the week was over.

So which is better, doing business in the US or Ireland? I don’t think there is a right or wrong answer. Although quite similar at times there are plenty of idiosyncrasies between doing business on each side of the Atlantic. And that isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

Go raibh maith agat as an rath leanúnach idir Éire agus na Stáit Aontaithe agaus tá súil agam go leanfaidh sé ar aghaidh i gcomhair na blianta atá le teacht!

 

Building an international sales team in the west of Ireland

1redballshopst

When I was asked a year and a half ago to relocate to Ireland to help fuel SmartBear’s international expansion strategy, I don’t think the words “Good luck” were out of my CEO’s mouth before I had my flight booked. It was a dream come true to work and live abroad, and as a Fitzpatrick and O’Kane by birth it was extra special to be sent back to “the motherland.”

Beginning last spring we’ve built and scaled an international sales team of 20 people across a variety of roles targeted at growing our customer base throughout Europe, Middle East and Africa, all based in Galway along Ireland’s rugged west coast. We’ve taken a bit of a unique approach to our expansion efforts so I wanted to put down a few thoughts and lessons learned here for wider distribution.

Why Galway: For the last twenty years nearly every US tech company expanding into Europe has set up operations in Dublin, now known as the Silicon Valley of Europe. What this has done is create an amazing tech hub for Ireland and the rest of Europe, however for us we also saw it as a great opportunity to take a slightly alternative approach to our office location and set up in Galway on the west coast of the country. I’ve jokingly referred to our recruiting effort as the “anti-Dublin” approach. The reality is without the tech scene in Dublin there wouldn’t be one in Galway. Because of this Dublin has offered us a complimentary talent pool of people originally from the west who moved to the capital for career opportunities at companies such as Salesforce, Ebay or Sogeti and are now looking to return to what is arguably the most desirable city/region to live in the entire country. SmartBear is to improving the quality of software for its customers as Galway is to improving the quality of life for its residents. The two go well together. Lesson: It’s a connected world we live in and Dublin is a quick two-hour spin up the motorway when needed.

Always be recruiting: I wrote a blog last fall titled, Galway, The Graveyard of Ambition championing why the city has proven to be a great place for us to scale our European operations. What some thought of as a controversial title at first turned into a post that has since generated 30,000+ views, some hilarious comments, and over 30 inbound CVs. One of my current reps had just returned home from a year abroad cutting his teeth in the tech sales world on the mean streets of NYC when his girlfriend happened to come across the post on her Facebook feed and recommended he give me a call. We hired him a week later and he is now one of our top performers. Lesson: Create and market a compelling career opportunity and the candidates will come from anywhere.

Cross cultural team building: In addition to attracting local Galwegians (as well as folks from Dublin, Mayo, Cork, Limerick) we’ve also hired people from the UK, US, Spain and India. With this wide variety of backgrounds we’ve made a conscious effort of continuing to offer group activities outside of work such as tag rugby, film festivals, and Startup Galway events to foster a sense of camaraderie and collaboration. We’ve assembled a team that is seriously productive without taking ourselves too seriously and the time spent together outside the office has proven to be invaluable. Lesson: take the time to integrate a team from around the world. Possibilities are endless when everyone is aligned and working properly together, and having a good time doing so.

Celebrate the small wins (no high fives necessary): although I learned early on the American “gong ringing, rah-rah” office culture is a bit misplaced in Europe, it is still critical to celebrate all the wins early on, both big and small to develop confidence and momentum amongst the team.

"Bad News SmartBears" after a rare victory in our Rugby league.

“Bad News SmartBears” after a rare victory in our Rugby league.

Final thought: Galway is vibrant. Galway is funky. Galway is alive. Galway is the European home of SmartBear Software, the world’s leading provider of software quality tools for the connected world. Interested in joining the fun? We are looking for more talented software sales closers to join our growing team. Shoot me a message and let’s talk.