What Does It Mean to be a Good Place to Work?

This year we have twice been recognized as a good place to work in Massachusetts, second best (mid-sized) by the Boston Business Journal and fifth-best (small) by the Boston Globe. Both were based on employee surveys.

It is easy to point to certain events to explain the survey results. For example, to celebrate our 20th anniversary we flew the entire company to a nice resort in Florida. But I think this misses the point. The Florida trip was a celebration of all that we have achieved, which was influenced by our work environment. In the absence of all else that we do, are and aspire to be, it wouldn’t be any more than a nice weekend, have a lasting effect, or make for a nice workplace.

Here is why I want us to be considered a good place to work. Because we have interesting, challenging work. Because everyone has clear direction, clear goals, a productive work environment, the right resources, regular feedback and feels that they are paid fairly for the work they do. Because we live our values, emphasizing honesty, integrity, diversity and treating people with respect. And because we attract ambitious people who like being around others who are similarly ambitious. Being simply a comfortable place to work is not our goal. We are here to think big and see what we can accomplish. We need to be a place where top people who like that message want to work.

On balance, I think we do a decent job of meeting these objectives. It helps that we recognize that being a good place to work is not binary, and that having been one does not ensure that we will continue to be. There are always ways to improve. As we grow, we will pay even more attention to our workplace with the goal that each Ipswitch employee will appreciate their role and feel supported in helping us achieve our ambitious goals.

It’s The Food, Stupid

Bill Clinton has been in the news for his increased health and reduced waistline. He attributes these changes to a mostly plant-based diet, which he chose in response to his battle with heart disease. One of  Clinton’s major influences was a book called The China Study, by T. Colin Campbell, Ph.D. The China Study was an NIH funded 20 year study of the diet and health of people in China. The research concluded that a plant-based diet was associated with significantly reduced risk of cardiovascular disease. In fact, U.S. citizens have a staggering 1700% increased risk of heart disease as compared to rural Chinese citizens. In nutrition studies a 10-20% increased risk is considered significant.

The China Study attempted to determine the causes of good health. Up until a few years ago, China had much better health than most western countries. What is sad is that in the past 25 years, as wealth has increased and the Chinese adopt a more “western” diet, their rates of diabetes, glucose intolerance and obesity are growing faster than their GDP. This trend is particularly shocking in terms of Chinese school children.

Why am I writing this? Because health care costs are skyrocketing, and that hurts both businesses and employees. We need a new approach, and so far we haven’t seen anything close to what is needed from government, or from the healthcare and insurance industries, which seem to be spending all of their time arguing about how to pay for the increased cost of health care, rather than how to promote good health and avoid getting sick in the first place.

That food is a major cause of our deteriorating health is finally receiving the attention of formal medical researchers. Last month the Lancet published several articles whose conclusions, in summary, say “The simultaneous increases in obesity in almost all countries seem to be driven mainly by changes in the global food system, which is producing more processed… and effectively marketed food than ever before.”

With U.S. healthcare expenditures surpassing 2.5 trillion dollars per year, it is time to focus on the food we consume. Instead of continuing with the “western diet” that harms our health, we should use the lessons from nutrition science to reverse our own obesity epidemic.


Two Ipswitch-Atlanta families represent $1k commitment to Down syndrome research/education

Awoke family

Alex Awoke and family, with son, Kaleb, in stroller

Story and photos contributed by Dan Pitre and Alex Awoke

ATLANTA – Marking an increased commitment to Down syndrome education and research, two Ipswitch-team families took part last month in a four-hour, half-mile “Buddy Walk” around Centennial Olympic Park which raised more than $172,000.

October in Atlanta is a wonderful time of the year; the leaves turn, color bursting in vibrant reds and yellows under clear blue skies. It was in this idyllic setting that the Down Syndrome Society of Atlanta (DSAA) held its largest annual fundraiser.  Among walkers enjoying live music, entertainment, clowns and bounce houses were Dan Pitre’s family, walking with son Jacob, and Alex Awoke’s family walking with son Kaleb. Both Dan and Alex work with network management in Atlanta. Dan’s a technical product manager and writer; Alex does quality assurance.

Ipswitch has in the past had individually sponsored employees and their families who participated in the DSAA Buddy Walk. This year the company, through the iCare program, upped the ante and became a corporate sponsor of the event at the $1,000 silver-sponsor level.

In the advertisement for the Oct. 9 Buddy Walk, DSAA Executive Director Cynthia Jones wrote:

Dan Pitre and son, Jacob

Dan Pitre and son, Jacob

“Corporate sponsors make this event possible. We have the opportunity to let the entire community know of your support of families and individuals with Down syndrome. With your help, the projects of DSAA can continue to grow and raise awareness while educating the Atlanta community to the importance of individuals with Down syndrome to the community as a whole.”

The “Buddy Walk” was developed by the National Down Syndrome Society in 1995 to promote awareness and inclusion for people with Down syndrome and to raise money for research and education programs. The program has expanded from 17 walks the first year to more than 300 expected in 2011. Last year over $11.2 million was raised nationwide for the Down syndrome community.

Down Syndrome is a genetic condition caused by the presence of an extra 21st chromosome (Trisomy 21).  It takes its name from the English doctor John Langdon Down, who first described the syndrome in 1886. The poem entitled “Welcome to Holland,” written by Emily Perl Kingsley, speaks to the experience of raising a child with a disability.

What Everyone Can Learn from Sales

In this top-10 list (well, okay, top-13), Harvey Mackay explains how to adopt a sales mindset. As research has shown, success in selling is not related to personal style or charm. My favorites in Mackay’s list are stay hungry, never compromise your integrity, be authoritative (know your products backwards and forwards) and become a customer service fanatic. I attribute much of our growth and accomplishments to our many employees who have these qualities.


Road Trip

Who are these people and what are they talking about?

Looks like another run-of-the-mill meeting, but it’s not. They are discussing a recent road trip to Angola prison in Louisiana.

The U.S. is the only country in the world that sentences children to life in prison without parole.* The people in this picture work at Equal Justice Initiative and have made it their career to strive for balance and fairness in our judicial system. Imagine you are 14 years old. Your mother’s boyfriend regularly attacks her. The police do nothing to stop or punish him. One day he beats her so badly that you can not revive her and think she is dead. The only thing you can think of is to take the boyfriend’s gun and shoot him. The state decides to try you as an adult and aggressively prosecute you. The people at EJI think that you deserve representation. So do I.

EJI is in Montgomery, Alabama. The drive from Montgomery to Angola takes over seven hours each way. EJI staff make that drive regularly because of their passion for fair and equal justice, and because so many of the children sentenced to life in prison without parole are at Angola. I think that with an understanding of what actually happens, most would agree there is too much injustice in our judicial system. I am glad that the people who work at EJI have it as their mission to represent people who suffer from it.


*Thanks to EJI, the Supreme Court last year declared life sentences without parole unconstitutional for children convicted of most crimes. Getting state courts to acknowledge that decision, however, is another story. Much work remains.

Boston Globe Article on Top Places to Work

Here is the article from yesterday’s Sunday Boston Globe that lists all of the winners in their Top Places to Work 2011 awards. Click on the ‘Top small employers’ tab to see Ipswitch at #5!


Boston Globe Top Places to Work!

Last night Al from our IT/Operations department attended the annual Boston Globe Top Places to Work in Massachusetts awards, with this report.


Last evening I had the honor to represent Ipswitch at an awards reception held by The Boston Globe to recognize the 2011 Top Places to Work in Massachusetts.

I am proud to announce that Ipswitch placed 5th (of 40 finalists) in the small business category!   We were the highest ranked software firm in that category, and one of only four software firms recognized in all categories. The award and a copy of the magazine are on display in the kitchen in Lexington. The results will be published In Sunday’s Globe, but they were announced yesterday. A preview article was posted by the Globe earlier today.

“The Globe’s Top Places to Work survey honors employers who care for their most valuable resource: the people who work for them. Those people – nearly 75,000 employees of the organizations ranked here – told us that their employers pay well, offer progressive benefits and creative perks, allow the flexibility needed to have good lives both at work and at home, embrace the diverse backgrounds of their employees, and offer a promising future to all of their workers.”   Click here for more details describing how the selections were made.

Congratulations everyone!


An Office Surprise


When she returned from her vacation adventure far, far away, Kaitlyn had some unwrapping to do.

More On Bill Gates 2.0

As I reflected on what I wrote yesterday, it occurred to me that other than the obvious differences in the magnitude of our resources, I would like to organize my life differently than Bill Gates has. Rather than follow his model of switching from a focus on business success to one on social well-being, I would like to help demonstrate that building stronger societies enhances business success. I believe they are integral to each other. A business offers a laboratory in which to experiment to see what community programs work, and a more prominent place from which to promote them. I think that on-going business success offers a better platform for influencing social well-being. Once you leave the business world, I think in most cases your influence starts to wane. I consider Bill Gates an exception because of his extraordinary accomplishments.

Bill Gates 2.0

I used to consider Bill Gates a visionary and brilliant businessman but think little of him as a person. He seemed Machiavellian and underhanded in the way he managed business relationships. I thought he was singularly and disturbingly focused on crushing the competition. These were indirect impressions, though. I had not met him, nor have I since.

Since Gates started his foundation, I have come to think differently. He is spending his fortune and time to trying to improve the lives of millions of people. This says to me that his ambition remains strong. It seems to me that he is applying his talents with the same level of energy that he did when building Microsoft. That impresses me. In this article, I read this that he wrote to the Harvard University community:

I hope you will reflect on what you’ve done with your talent and energy. I hope you will judge yourselves not on your professional accomplishments alone, but also on how well you work to address the world’s deepest inequities, on how well you treat people a world away who have nothing in common with you but their humanity.

 I admire that sentiment and am glad to have Bill Gates 2.0 as a role model.