For many people, watching a TV news report, or reading a Web article about an “international trade mission” likely conjures an image of politicians and corporate bigwigs jetting to interesting or exotic destinations for a semi-vacation on someone else’s dime. In short, a junket.
When I accepted an invitation to represent Black Duck on Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker’s week-long trade mission to Israel this month, I didn’t really know what to expect. I was certainly looking forward to my first visit to an ancient land with a rich, complex and turbulent history. And because Israel is a relentless cybersecurity innovator, I was eager to learn things that could help Black Duck improve the way we develop and deliver open source security and management products.
I was not disappointed. Visiting Israel— the magical city of Jerusalem in particular — was even more moving than I expected. And Israel’s ferocious determination to attain the highest cybersecurity standards was impressive and motivating, providing plenty of ideas for ways Black Duck can step up its game.
But I came away from the trip with much more.
In fact, the constantly on-the-go-week I spent in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem with 50 or so cybersecurity and health care executives, university leaders, and government officials proved to be one of the most purposeful, interesting and valuable experiences I’ve had in some time— both personally and professionally. I’m positive that the investment Black Duck made to help sponsor Governor Baker’s trade mission as well as the close personal and business relationships that I developed during the trip will pay many long-run dividends.
So no, definitely not a junket. There are many things about this trip that will stick with me.
Learning and Gaining Perspective
Because our group spent so much time together from the outset – eating together, traveling together to visit companies, and listening together to talks by Israeli business and government leaders, we got to know each other quite well very quickly. This enabled us to learn a great deal from one another.
Will, Determination, Innovation and Entrepreneurship
Geographically, Israel is a very small country (about 80% the size of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts with a population of just 8 million people) and it’s hardly news that its neighbors in the region represent a constant threat to its existence. Despite his Israel is a business powerhouse. I mentioned in an earlier blog — but deserves repeating— there are 200 Israeli companies based in the Commonwealth and Israel produces more tech startups, receives more venture capital per capita than any nation in the world and has more companies listed on the NASDAQ than Europe, Japan, Korea, India and China combined.
Government Leadership Matters
This was my first opportunity to observe Gov. Baker up close and I came away extremely impressed. Charlie Baker understands business and understands people. He also understands that government can be a business catalyst in cooperation with our great universities and spoke of the great work that Massachusetts' schools are doing, including MIT and Harvard as well as WPI, Brandeis, UMass and Wentworth, whose presidents were in the delegation.
During the trip he gave a number of very thoughtful speeches and in them he drew a parallel between Massachusetts earliest days — pilgrims fleeing religious persecution — and the formation of the Israeli state— a homeland for Jews fleeing the horror of the holocaust and religious persecution. Gov. Bakers’ formal speeches were excellent, but his informal remarks and interactions throughout the week showcased a confident able leader.
We encountered many memorable individuals during the week, but for me one encounter stood out. At an event we heard from a Muslim woman who started a charter high school in Israel, in a town where there had never been a high school. She said that her father had always told her ‘education can solve any problem,’ so she went to Hebrew University, graduated with honors and started a school that markedly improved lives and acted as an antidote to violence. Her story was incredibly uplifting. She is overcoming great odds and making a real difference in the lives of many young Israeli Muslims.
If you get an opportunity to travel to Israel, I highly encourage you to take it. I am already planning a family trip for 2018.