A Marvelous Night For A Moondance

Van, The Man.

Van, The Man.

There is something innately special about the thought of seeing a favorite artist or band play their hometown. Dylan in Minnesota. Bruce in Jersey. Wilco in Chicago. To see these guys perform where it all began, before all the hype and celebrity nearly guarantees a unique and powerful performance unlike any other.

Van Morrison, having long been revered amongst the extended Kane and Fitzpatrick family, would easily fit in this camp. I have fond memories of listening to “Wild Night” on repeat while drinking Tahitian Treat by the case load and battling my brothers in NHL ’95 over and over again at my dad’s house nearly 20 years ago. He has since stayed on my short list of favorites through the years; with a more recent highlight being able to witness, along with 100,000+ of our closest friends, Morrison deliver a blistering set to close out the 2010 New Orleans Jazz Fest.

So last week when I discovered Van was playing an intimate show in his hometown of Belfast, it was a no brainer: I was hopping a bus and heading north. What made this gig even more compelling was the venue of choice, the historic Europa Hotel. Known as the most bombed hotel in the world after suffering nearly 30 attacks during The Troubles, it has persevered through the years and is now a main tourist destination and top hotel for Belfast City. President and First Lady Clinton stayed here in 1995 and 1998 while working on the peace process in Northern Ireland. NOTE: I unsuccessfully tried to book into the Clinton Suite for my stay on Saturday night, although the fine folks at the front desk did put me just down the hall on the 10th floor.

Maybe next time I'll gain access to the Presidential Suite.

Maybe next time I’ll gain access to the Presidential Suite.

After a five-hour journey with connecting busses from Galway to Dublin and Dublin to Belfast, I arrived at the Europa Hotel Saturday evening just in time for the pre show ballroom dinner. Yes, when you book a ticket to see Van Morrison in a 300-person room in the most famous hotel in his hometown, you get a full course meal and all you can drink wine before the show. Who says Van is a total curmudgeon?

At my table were a great group from Belfast who had all seen similar shows from Van at least four or five times previously. They were pleasantly surprised to hear my story of why an American living in the West of Ireland decided to travel north for the night to see the show (when it was established that no one at the table was familiar with Pearl Jam or Wilco I decided to hold off on describing any of my other previous rock n roll pilgrimages) and remarked how they were fascinated by the amount of people they have met who travel from all over the world for a chance to see the legend play his hometown.

The most bombed hotel in the world, the Europa

The most bombed hotel in the world, the Europa.

Moments after the final plate was cleared the band took the stage, launching into the instrumental “Celtic Swing,” with Van leading the way with his signature sax.

What struck me most about Morrison last night was his effortless skill as a bandleader. Directing his seven-piece group with both a casual persona as well as a striking professionalism of someone who has been at the top of his game for over five decades. He truly appeared to be enjoying himself on stage too, remarking halfway through his set, “Hey I’ve finally got a pulse tonight!”

Whether it was because it was a hometown show or just a lucky Saturday night, the crowd was treated to two hours of amazing music from one of the greatest musicians the world has ever known. With a songbook as rich as his to pull from, there was no sign of the massive chart topping hits that are played at karaoke bars every night the world over, and I don’t think the crowd would’ve had it any other way. If you told me some 20 years ago that one day I’d witness Van The Man perform in such an intimate and historic venue right in his own backyard, the word “surreal” would immediately come to mind. Last night confirmed it, a night I will not soon forget.

Until next time.

MLK

P.S. For you history buffs out there (looking at you Kev Murph and Dan Fitz) check out this BBC documentary on the history of the Europa Hotel during The Troubles. Fascinating stuff.

Fall is here

8 October 2014

Hello friends,

We are officially past the incredible spell of September weather and into October. I woke up this morning to thunder, lighting, and a flood watch for Galway City. No matter what we are dealt over the next few months it won’t change the fact that the last six weeks have been absolutely gorgeous. Stunning weather for the beginning of fall in the west of Ireland.

recent sunset in the city centre

–recent sunset in the city centre

Here are a few updates on what we’ve been up to in Galway over the last month or so. I hope you and yours are enjoying the fall season, no matter where you are in the world.

A highlight of last month, and really my entire time in Ireland thus far was having lunch with Boston Mayor Marty Walsh. I was fortunate enough to be invited by the IDA and NUI-Galway to help welcome the Mayor back to his parent’s hometown. Both from Connemara, about an hour outside Galway, Walsh’s parents immigrated separately to the States in the 1950s before meeting in the dance halls of Dorchester and getting married in Boston. Mayor Walsh was back in town to visit family and friends as well as take the opportunity to promote and discuss ways that Boston and Galway can collaborate more in today’s global tech economy. When asked what’s the biggest difference of coming back to Galway now as Mayor compared to the years coming over to visit family, the Mayor replied “It seems I have even more cousins now than I ever remember. Oh and people seem to want to take more pictures with me.” He also spent time with a group of BC college students who are on a semester abroad trip at NUIG. Unofficially dubbed “Galway’s Son” he couldn’t have been nicer and more engaging. I look forward to following his progress as the new leader of Boston over the next generation.

-editor in chief of mlkinire.com, welcoming Boston’s Mayor Marty Walsh back to Galway.

–editor in chief of mlkinire.com, welcoming Boston’s Mayor Marty Walsh back to Galway.

At SmartBear EMEA HQ we are pressing forward towards some aggressive Q4 growth targets after finishing up our first quarter together as a team. Summer holiday season is officially over and our expanding customer base has joined us on the mad dash towards yearend.

Amongst our growing team I am fascinated on a daily basis by an unintended dynamic. Something I didn’t foresee when hiring our first group was the unique cultural differences/rivalries between the different parts of Ireland. Of our current roster of 12 we list the following as birthplaces across the island: Galway (x4), Belfast, Mayo, and Limerick (in addition to Moscow, London, Stillwater, Glasgow, and Bangalore). Suffice it to say we are truly an international sales team, and there is a fair bit of “slagging” that goes on between the lads from Galway/Limerick/Mayo. Being a Minnesotan who survived six years in a Boston office, I can relate.

Those of us “blow ins” have also been getting a crash course in the finer points of the Irish vernacular. Some of my recent favorites:

Yer man – direct translation would be “that guy”. Example: “Do you see yer man over there, he was quite pissed.” I was thoroughly confused the first few times I heard it used in a sentence, and now catch myself using it frequently.

G’won (go on)– best translation would be “step up” or “all you” in American slang. Used frequently went attempting to coax someone into a bet or a dare.

Fair play to you– meaning well done, or nice work. Example: When one of my reps closes a deal with a difficult customer, it would be common to here a teammate shout, “eh fair play to you on that deal lad.”

Played a blinder of a game – American version would be “crushed it.” Saw this in an email today describing our new sales engineer’s first external presentation in front of 100+ software testers in Spain. Google told me he did well!

Bye, bye, bye – quite simply, Irish don’t just say goodbye to finish a phone call. They say it a minimum of three times, and aren’t afraid to go for five or six if the situation calls for it.

Lastly, here is your weekly dose of why Galway is one of the most incredible places on earth, shot during the International Oyster Festival last month by local filmmaker Hugh Sweeney. In case you were wondering, the offices of SmartBear are a two minute walk from where this video was shot. We are living the good life on Ireland’s west coast.

 

Until next time.

MLK

 

A Smart Bear Makes All The Difference

*Editors note: thanks to all who have viewed, liked, shared, or commented on my previous post titled The Graveyard of Ambition. We are currently at 40,000+ views over the last 2 weeks and counting. More importantly I’ve received 50+ resumes from the post, a testament to Galwegians across the globe and how strongly they feel about their hometown.

 

SmartBear – that is a quirky/confusing/fun/stupid name, how on earth did you guys come up with that?

That is a quirky/confusing/fun/stupid name, how on earth did you guys come up with that?

Earlier this week I was out to dinner with a team of executives from a US based software company evaluating Galway as a potential location to expand their presence internationally. We had a very engaging conversation around the pros and cons of the various locations they were reviewing (I tried my best to limit my overwhelming enthusiasm towards Galway so they didn’t think I was pulling the hard sell). Towards the end of the meal their CEO looked at me, somewhat puzzled, and out of nowhere asked, “How did you come up with the name SmartBear?” Thankfully in my time at the company I’ve been asked that same question, with various levels of confusion, approximately 62,476 times at last count. After rattling off my response he looked much more enthusiastic and said, “That is such a great story, it must be on your website right?” While we have a great About Us page, it does leave out a few of the more interesting pieces of the story. But look no farther inquiring minds, I’ve decided to post the story here. The following is your history lesson in the name behind SmartBear.

It all started with Insight Venture Partners, a group of super smart bankers in New York. Well, sort of. It actually began with a group of super smart Russian developers. Well, that’s not really true either. The name SmartBear truly started in Austin, Texas by the super smart entrepreneur Jason Cohen (who has a fantastic blog titled http://blog.asmartbear.com/). But before we get to Jason we need the New York bankers and Russian developers first.

In 1999, AutomatedQA was formed in Tula, Russia. Makers of the test automation tool TestComplete. Fast forward to 2007 when the company was seeing fast growth and increased market penetration against the likes of HP and IBM, and the group of super smart bankers from New York acquired AQA as an investment to further penetrate the software quality market.

Just a few months later the same group of super smart bankers in New York came across the company SmartBear out of Austin, Texas. Founded by Jason Cohen, his team built a first of its kind peer code review tool called Collaborator. Realizing the two companies were very complementary in the software quality space, Insight decided to pair them together and recruited a new CEO in Boston to take over and ramp growth through building an inside sales team and leveraging next generation inbound marketing techniques.

About 18 months later, in 2009, the group of super smart bankers (yes there is a theme developing here, bankers in New York are smart) bought Pragmatic Software out of Denver, Colorado, makers of the test management tool QAComplete, and folded it in with AutomatedQA and SmartBear.

At this point our executive team realized we had a problem. Internally we were one company, selling the idea of ridding the world of buggy software through the various products we had acquired over the previous few years. But to the outside world we were three different companies with three different websites, brands, etc.

Through an extensive market study it was decided we would rebrand all three under the name SmartBear, and in the summer of 2010 the company was re-launched. From the three choices it was decided that SmartBear was the least product/industry specific, but also had a fun/quirky/memorable ring to it. (But the name itself SmartBear, where exactly did that actually come from you ask? Jason was a fan of John Irving’s novel Hotel New Hampshire, where the reader is told repeatedly towards the end of the story that “a smart bear makes all the difference.” Not what you were expecting was it?) For the extended story behind the name SmartBear check out Jason’s blog here, http://blog.asmartbear.com/pick-company-name-brand.html

By combining all three companies into one name not only did we firm up our brand but we also created a platform where we could fold in future acquisitions (the bankers in New York have not stopped working).

In 2011 we added two more companies: eviware out of Stockholm, makers of the API testing tool SoapUI, and AlertSite out of Florida, makers of the industry leading web monitoring platform. And most recently at the end of 2013 we acquired Lucierna out of Barcelona, makers of an industry leading APM solution.

So there you have it: AutomatedQA + SmartBear + Pragmatic + eviware + AlertSite + Lucierna = SmartBear, the leading provider of user centric application quality and performance management tools for software professionals. We are obsessed about software quality and helping the world build better apps.

If you take one thing away from this brief history lesson, it’s to read more John Irving and make friends with a group of super smart New York bankers. Who knows what the future could bring for you.

It is now September 2014, and the new supercharged SmartBear Software is poised better than ever to completely disrupt the world of software quality forever. Did I mention the new EMEA HQ we opened over the summer where we are currently building the next great inside sales team to capitalize on this momentum? If you fit the mold of the below job description, give me a call. We have exciting things going on in the west of Ireland.

http://smartbear.com/about-us/careers/current-opportunities/sales/galway/account-executive/

MLK

 

Galway, The Graveyard of Ambition

A place this beautiful couldn't have such a dark nickname, right?

A place this beautiful couldn’t have such an ominous nickname, right?

The following exchange took place last week between a local shop owner and myself on Quay Street:

Shop owner: “Hey lad, how long you been in town?”

Me: “Just about 6 months.”

Shop owner: “Ah yes, I showed up to Galway for 6 months as well. That was 17 years ago.”

In and of itself the above banter wouldn’t be anything outside the norm, given the various types of characters that line Galway’s main street on any given day. What made me laugh however was the overarching theme that it touches on.

Galway, The Graveyard of Ambition.

I will never forget when I first heard the term. I was maybe 3 days in town, minding my own business at a favorite local pub enjoying a pint. I got to chatting with the bartender as he finished his shift, and after giving my backstory he closed the conversation with, “Best of luck to you lad, and welcome to Galway, the Graveyard of Ambition.” He then proceeded to walk away. My immediate reaction upon hearing this statement was a mixture of confusion, anxiety and amazement. What exactly did he mean? Was this a generally accepted term, or just a case of a local pint puller taking the piss out of a yank? I continued on my night without thinking much of it.

A few days later I met a fellow software industry leader for coffee. In fact, in my first 3 months in town I set more than 20 coffee meetings. Everyone from potential new hires, to various service providers, partner companies, IT leaders, lawyers, and bankers. I wanted to get acclimated to the local business climate as quick as possible. I can’t say enough about how warm of reception I received from everyone I’ve met to date. Everything from offering tips on where to pursue top talent, to where I should be golfing on the weekends, the community has been fantastic. However, nearly every conversation also included reference at some point to this term, “Galway, the graveyard of ambition.” Even more surprising than the consistent use of the term was the apparent understated pride that locals would show when speaking to it.

Most times I would walk back to my apartment after the meeting(s) thinking, wow that was a very nice, helpful person, but what is the deal with this graveyard of ambition talk? Did anyone on my team know this before we selected this town as our new EMEA HQ? How are we going to create and hire 100 jobs in a place with no drive or passion? Surely execs at companies like Cisco, HP, SAP, and Fidelity knew about this before opening their offices here, right? Right?

Like any great Irish term there had to be a story behind it, and I needed to find out quickly or I knew my trip across the pond was to be a short one.

A few weeks passed and I finally got an answer, and some much needed relief. In speaking to the head of one of the Big Four tax firms in town, he explained that the term dates back to the 1950s when describing the career path of a banker in Ireland. Legend has it that an aspiring banker would typically start out in their hometown, and then promotions would mean you get transferred to another location, and then another, and so on. The more cities you were seen moving through was a sign of “climbing the corporate ladder.” So someone might start his or her career in Limerick, move to Cork, then onto Galway, and hopefully someday get called up to HQ and the big city of Dublin.

But a funny thing kept happening: once the employee landed for their stint in Galway, no matter if it was the 2nd or 5th stop on their path, they didn’t want to leave. They loved the town so much that they would actually forego future career potential for the love of the Galway and the culture of the west of Ireland. Yes I’ve only been a “blow in” for 6 months, but count me as one that is officially drinking the local Kool-Aid. Here is a teaser for those who haven’t booked a flight to visit yet:

 

No we are not Dublin, London, or Amsterdam. We are Galway, and damn happy about it. And if you are reading this and interested in “burying your career” in the rugged west of Ireland, give me a call. We are hiring.

http://smartbear.com/about-us/careers/current-opportunities/sales/galway/account-executive/

MLK

Key traits of a committed sales pro

*editors note*: After an extended summer holiday the crack writing team of mlkinire.com is back! The last several weeks has been a fantastic blur of trips to Boston, the Galway Arts Fest, a week of utter mayhem better know as Race Week in Galway, weddings, and ice buckets! I am back to a bit more normal schedule as of late and am committed to updating you on all things Galway and MLK this fall. I hope you’ve had a great summer, wherever you are in the world. The post below is an idea that has been kicking around in my head for sometime. And for more info on getting involved in the push to strike out ALS please check out this link-

 http://www.petefrates.com/about_ALS.html

 

1 September 2014

A former CEO of mine was once quoted as saying, “A sign of a committed sales leader is that the last thought on their mind before falling asleep and the first thought on their mind when waking up is where they are in relation to their quarterly/annual target and what they are working on to close the gap / achieve success.” A bit extreme yes, but spend one day with a driven sales leader and you will quickly find that numbers rule the better part of our lives. For fellow sales pros reading, it’s ok, we know the career chose us and not the other way around. For what would life be like without the thrill / potential heartbreak of a quarter end chase?

True to form, this morning I hopped out of bed, shocked that it was actually September 1st, held momentarily in contempt my US colleagues who would no doubt be sleeping in and enjoying their final day of summer (somehow in Ireland we skipped from spring right into fall weather without warning) and immediately started thinking about where we were as a team Quarter to Date against our target and what we needed to do to close the gap for what is always a challenging time of year for our business.

This got me thinking about what other key numbers as sales leaders we are maniacally focused on, as well as unique personality traits of top performers. Through the years at SmartBear I’ve found the best reps showcase the following:

-At any given point in their day they can be stopped and asked, “How’s it going?” (Irish versions being “How ya keeping?” / “How ya getting on?” / “What’s the craic?”) and the first response is an update on where they are in relation to their given monthly/quarterly/year quota. Personal life answers to the question are secondary.

-They know exactly how many deals it will take for them to achieve and exceed their monthly/quarterly/yearly target.

-They immediately know their average sales price and are actively trying different ways to more effectively increase by upsell and cross sell.

-They always have at least 2-3 deals they are working on “in the background” that they won’t bring up publicly yet to avoid the potential jinx of a monster sized deal.

-They immediately can rattle off who their top 3 customers are and can effectively package up their success stories when speaking to prospects in similar industries.

-They know who their 3 key competitors are and can effectively speak to our competitive advantages.

These are the six that came to mind recently. I would love to hear from other sales leaders what key figures / traits they see in their teams on a daily basis. And if you are reading this in the west of Ireland and share similar commitment to software sales success, we’ve recently completed our first round of recruiting and are already staffing for expansion into 2015. Shoot me an email to discuss – miles kane@smartbear.com

Until next time.

-MLK

Street party with the Booka Brass Band as part of the Arts Festival.

Street party with the Booka Brass Band as part of the Arts Festival.

 

P.S – it has been a while since I’ve plugged any music; currently can’t stop listening to Ryan Adams latest –

http://www.npr.org/2014/08/31/343973366/first-listen-ryan-adams-ryan-adams?autoplay=true

 

 

3,000 miles from Newport Folk

28 July 2014

nffsticker

19 weeks. That’s how long it took since moving to Galway to have a genuine “I miss the good ol USA” moment. Of course since moving to Ireland I’ve missed friends and family, but with how connected we are to technology for the most part I don’t feel that far away. No, it took this past weekend’s Newport Folk Fest to really supply my first true #FOMO moment since picking up and moving across the pond this past spring.

For the last several years I’ve travelled down to Newport, RI with friends on the last weekend of July to the little festival by the sea to join 10,000 other likeminded music lovers in a one of a kind festival. Through the years I’ve been able to witness incredible sets from Wilco, Alabama Shakes, My Morning Jacket, Dawes and so many more. And I didn’t even mention my favorite all time set (Middle Brother 2011) or the legendary Deer Tick after party shows. As great as Galway is this time of year with the collision of the renowned Arts Festival and raucous Race week festivities beginning today, there is one thing Galway was not last weekend: Newport, Rhode Island.

For those who’ve never experienced Newport Folk it’s tough to describe or compare to any other music fest. Thanks to producer Jay Sweet’s never-ending commitment towards one upping himself, year over year the line-up just keeps getting better and better. I laugh when friends make the comment that the fest must be pretty boring if it’s “banjos and hippies strummin’ folk music all weekend.” Tell that to Gary Clark Jr, Jack White or Trombone Shorty. It’s a music lover’s heaven with one-of-a-kind collaborations that take place all across Fort Adams.

The last few years I’ve had the good fortune of running into Newport’s producer Jay Sweet at different shows throughout New England. Our brief conversations usually involve me thanking him immensely for the job he does year in and year out, I end up sounding like a teenage super-fan meeting One Direction and we both go on our separate ways. Here is a great recent interview Jay did where he discusses all things Newport leading up to last weekend- Jay Sweet talks Newport Folk

By all accounts it appears the 2014 edition was one of the best weekends yet in the storied Newport history. Mavis Staples popping up all over the place for her 75th birthday celebrations, Tweedy’s solo project, and yes, more Deer Tick after parties. Mitch Miskified’s Instagram feed says it all: Mitch’s Insta Feed. Thankfully for those off who missed out this year our friends at NPR have a few of the shows available to stream online; this Ryan Adams set sounds pretty damn good!

Ryan Adams Newport Folk Fest 2014

Thank you Newport Folk for reminding me how beautiful the red, white and blue really is. Here’s hoping schedules and stars align and I will be right back where I belong next July, front row with the Folk Family.

Until next time.

MLK

p.s – a few memorable shots from previous years, found while stalking various #newportfolk feeds over the weekend:

Jim James soundcheck 2012

Jim James soundcheck 2012

Wilco 2012

Wilco 2012

Matt Vasquez and Taylor Goldsmith from Middle Brother, 2011.

Matt Vasquez and Taylor Goldsmith, Middle Brother 2011.

Deer Tick after party, 2013

Deer Tick after party, 2013

Recruiting Sales Talent in Galway

27 July 2014

Ask any software sales leader what their biggest challenge is and it’s fair to say recruiting top talent is at or near the top of the list. We are all constantly seeking to find and retain the next great sales rock star. A few years ago I read a post from Mark Roberge @ Hubspot that nicely boils down the top 3 characteristics to look for that has helped immensely during the interview process:

1) Coachable: no matter if you were a 10X President’s Club award winner at Oracle or fresh out of B School, every company has it’s own process and way of doing things to ensure the best chance at success. Yes bringing bits and pieces from your background that translate is great however showing up day one with an “I got this” mentality is a near guaranteed death sentence. Check your ego at the door and take time to learn from your peers, whether they are in the business two years or 20. The investment will return itself back several times over.

2) Curious: any new sales job can be daunting with how much info the new hire needs to soak in immediately. Product info, market research, competition, customer pain points, the list goes on. You need individuals who have an insatiable interest in continued learning. A new hire of mine just last week brought in a stack of books from his previous gig to share with the new team. New hires that commit to consistent prolonged learning have a distinct advantage on future success over their peers.

3) Competitive: it’s sales. If the recruit doesn’t give off an overwhelming desire to compete during the phone screen how will that person adapt once they are live on the phones? Ask for specific numbers from their previous roles as well to document prior achievement. I’m always shocked when I find a candidate with several years of supposed great success that struggles to tell me what their previous quarterly number was.

Since moving to Galway this spring a majority of my time has been focused on recruiting SmartBear’s first international based sales team. Coupled with finding talented reps who meet the above 3 C’s criteria I’ve also fielded the following question quite often: “How are you attracting top inside sales talent in Galway, isn’t the concentration of candidates in Dublin?” On paper it is true that larger major cities like Dublin, London or Amsterdam hold the advantage of having larger populations to pull talent from. For the last several years a lot of the major tech players (Google, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Hubspot) have chosen Dublin as a preferred choice for their European HQ, which has created a tremendous talent pool. It has also created one that is extremely competitive, where it seems like every week a new hot Silicon Valley company lands in town boasting of millions in recent VC funding and outrageous perks to entice people to join.

We chose to set up shop in Galway for precisely that reason, to be the next great alternative to Dublin. With companies like Cisco, HP and SAP there is already a great tech cluster in town as John Breslin describes in this article- Galway Is The San Francisco To Dublin

In addition, Galway boasts the unique position of having arguably the best quality of life all across Ireland. Seriously, I’ve yet to meet someone who doesn’t say that Galway is his or her favorite place in Ireland. It hasn’t happened. Take a quick look at my Instagram feed and you will see I’ve been drinking the Galway Kool-Aid since day one.

Because of this dynamic there are plenty of native Galwegians living in Dublin at the moment who were career driven and quick to get some great experience on their CV’s and now would love nothing more than to move back west (to my US peeps, convincing someone to move across the country in Ireland is much easier when it’s only a two-hour drive coast to coast).

SmartBear is here to capitalize on this migration and we are thrilled to be creating a new exciting ecosystem of inside sales talent in Galway. If you fit the 3 C’s criteria, are a Galway native and currently slinging software for a major tech firm in Dublin, let’s talk. We have some exciting things planned on the west coast – miles.kane@smartbear.com

Until next time.

MLK