I spend quite a bit of time working with college students, from our summer interns to participants in IBM’s Master the Mainframe contest. It’s a good feeling because I remember all of the experienced programmers and engineers that shared their expertise with me when I was just starting out. Now it’s my time to help the next generation of thinkers and leaders in the technology field.
Last week I was honored to join the Department of Computer Science at Tufts University (which also happens to be my wife’s alma mater) to share my thoughts about software and entrepreneurship with faculty and students.
Everyone wants to found the next billion-dollar unicorn…or a company that will get acquired by one. The biggest lesson I shared with the Tufts students was that they should focus on building great businesses, not just ones they can create and sell. I know that many of these students are going to create startups before their graduation caps hit the auditorium floor. But those that go that route need to understand that any successful business has to be built on a solid foundation of core values, authenticity, and putting customers first. Successful technology companies rely on good engineering and treating people – employees, customers, partners, community – well. My message to the Tufts students? If you do that, you just might find yourself running a company you actually want to hold on to for many years.
It’s been 27 years for me. At Rocket Software we strive to be about more than just building great products. It has always been about more than the zeroes and ones. Young people looking to get into technology should find – and create – companies that treat their employees and their customers with humanity. It’s the businesses built on values that really have a chance of making a lasting difference in our competitive world.