Ep 48: Dusty Welch: Connecting for a Cause

Diva Tech Talk was inspired by Dusty Welsh, co-founder of Cause Activators (http://causeactivators.com), a Web-based company that connects corporations/businesses with tangible nonprofit opportunities, making it easier for those organizations to support their local communities, and empower their team members to do good.  “For nonprofits, the value is clear,” she said. “You post your opportunities online, to be in touch with donors. For donors, the value is enormous savings of time and having a platform to cut through all opportunities, to clearly identify those that align with your business.”

Dusty is highly family-oriented.  As a girl, she was stimulated by her grandparents who were very active in key nonprofits like Meals on Wheels (https://seniormealsonwheels.com)  and their local community center. In college, Dusty began working with many large nonprofits like Leader Dogs for the Blind (http://www.leaderdog.org), and found her passion in life.  She moved to Colorado (“where I had the adventure of a lifetime”) and spent time there “doing a lot of nonprofit work.”  One of those nonprofits was a national wildlife center, where Dusty worked on community programs for children and conservation education, while she also sat on the Board of Directors.  “There I learned about politics; it was eye-opening for me,” she said. Subsequently, she returned to Michigan, (where she “saw a need to support Detroit in its resurgence”). Staying continuously close to her family, Dusty co-founded Cause Activators with her stepmother, human resources expert Dr. Mary Welsh. “I really just wanted to make the world a better place.  Before starting Cause Activators, I coached and worked with over 125 nonprofits, helping them operate almost like a business.”  

Originally, Dusty never intended to be a technology leader.   “Technology really became part of my focus when I realized that nonprofit organizations and business donors were coming together in a very antiquated way.”  She observed “nonprofits chasing businesses who were not aligned with them; businesses putting up firewalls to keep nonprofits at bay. I realized it was a very time-consuming process on both sides of the equation, and that technology could really bridge the gap and bring this process into the 21st century. Similar to what Amazon has done for shopping, Cause Activators has brought nonprofits and businesses, together.”

Prior to the company’s inception, Dusty acknowledged that there was existing task-oriented software, but stated that “there were not a lot of tools available, in the way of local community engagement, enabling a company to see all the opportunities out there.”  Sitting on the Board of Specs Howard School of Media Arts (http://www.specshoward.edu/), Dusty had expert resources and skills, at her fingertips, for Website development, as well as direct personal experience with crowd-sourcing fundraising since 2008.  “I took those and married them with the skills of my stepmother and we created the Cause Activators technology platform.”  

Launched in October 2016, that platform is based on “the same algorithms as a dating website, but we match companies and donors instead of guys and gals! It’s high level ‘matchmaking.’  We ensure that recipients and donors are matched on over 25 points of interest, hitting the goals of both recipients and donors.”  She designs and manages the front-end user interface of the Cause Activators system and additionally supervises the back-end development team for the platform.  She also is the company’s primary community engagement professional, working to capture as many requirements as possible to continually refine the system to address all the needs of this market.  Dusty is also “the face” of Cause Activators at conferences, events, prospect visits, customer sites and media interactions, where she articulates “a keen understanding of the challenges faced by businesses looking to get engaged” and deep understanding of the needs of nonprofits, themselves.

Dusty’s personal strengths include “a gift of gab;” having the ability to “motivate people;” and a strong skill in “connecting and uniting people around a common goal.”  With her heightened sensitivity to the needs of underserved populations, Dusty acknowledges that “it can be a heavy weight on your shoulders” when you examine social ills.   “Many nonprofit leaders face these as well.  But all we can do is offer our very best.”

As a female entrepreneur, Dusty said the #1 challenge she faced, like other women founders, is funding. Because Cause Activators is a true social impact enterprise, the difficulty is compounded. The company is less attractive to most traditional funders like venture capitalists, bankers or many “angels.”  To overcome this, she looked for non-traditional funding sources.   Cause Activators won a Michigan Woman’s Foundation Entrepreneur New Business Plan and Pitch competition in 2015, and received a technology grant.  The company has also gotten over $100,000 in pro bono tech support from various companies, and a $150,000 technology subsidy through the Microsoft BizSpark program. 

In addition to being resourceful, one key lesson that Dusty has learned along the way is “I always ask anyone and everyone for help.”  Additionally, her major leadership tips include:

●      Maximize your strengths.

●      “Surround yourself with key leaders who elevate your leadership abilities” and complement your team with strengths you don’t have.

●      “Learn to become a better listener.”   Step back and reflect what someone has said to you.   Take notes.

●      “It’s so important to be positive and encouraging….” to keep team members motivated.

●      Don’t be afraid of failing. “Each time, I’ve been knocked down, I gain more courage.” 

For entrepreneurs, Dusty’s strongest piece of advice is “I cannot stress enough the importance of doing the research to make sure you are developing something that the marketplace will want to buy.”

Dusty is passionate about the strong future potential of Cause Activators. “Helping one nonprofit at a time, we can only do so much.   But the Website can make impactful matches 24 hours a day, with 1000’s of matches a week, across the country.”  With ambitious plans to go nationwide, soon, Cause Activators offers current internships for university/college students. Please feel free to contact Dusty at her email address dusty@causeactivators.com or via Twitter @causeactivators 

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Ep 47: Jenny Coupe: Adaptability Personified

Diva Tech Talk was happy to interview Jenny Coupe, Senior Director, Americas Marketing at Akamai Technologies (www.akamai.com).  Jenny began life as an “Army brat” which meant that she moved 22 times in 18 years, forcing her to quickly adapt to new people, new circumstances and new venues. Constantly “exposed to different cultures, where gender was not a big deal,” Jenny’s father, an Army judge, encouraged her to “be who I wanted to be, irrespective of gender.”  In 5th grade, as an example, after Jenny had qualified to be part of her school’s baseball team, but denied team membership because she was female, her father said “Well, that’s not acceptable!” He intervened to ensure that Jenny joyfully played on that team as the singular girl ---- which made Jenny the first girl in the state of Virginia to play on a grade school baseball team.  To Jenny, “this sort of shaped me, in terms of how I approached the rest of my life.”

Jenny moved to Silicon Valley where she had family, and graduated from The University of the Pacific with a major in Political Science and Philosophy, but “was not really sure what I wanted to do.” She began with an entry-level position at tech industry giant, Silicon Graphics Inc. (www.silicongraphics.com), which she characterizes as having a “gender-blind culture.”  Jenny loved the Silicon Valley culture, “everything from casual dress to ‘gender-blind’ career opportunities to everyone having a ‘seat at the table’ and everyone’s opinion valued.”  She credits her “fantastic boss” during her first 6 years at SGI as instrumental in the development of her career, and skillset. At SGI, she moved into marketing, with the encouragement of her boss, who she then followed to healthcare technology pioneer WebMD (www.webmd.com), where she was employee #10.  There she mightily contributed as Director, Worldwide Corporate Marketing, as part of the team that took WebMD to IPO status. 

From WebMD, Jenny’s career grew exponentially. That early experience and her childhood of swift adaptation has afforded Jenny the opportunities to be Senior Manager, Worldwide Marketing at Peakstone Corporation; Senior Manager, Worldwide Marketing at IBM Corporation (www.ibm.com); Senior Manager, Worldwide Marketing at AirMagnet Inc., acquired by Fluke Networks (www.fluke.com); Senior Director, Worldwide Marketing at AirTight Networks Inc. (www.mojonetworks.com); Director, Worldwide Marketing at Nimsoft, acquired by CA Technologies (www.ca.com); Director, Worldwide Marketing at LogicLogic, acquired by TIBCO (www.tibco.com); Senior Director, Worldwide Marketing and Demand Generation at Nexenta (www.nexenta.com); and Senior Director, Worldwide Demand Generation and Marketing Operations at Tegile Corporation (www.tegile.com).  After Tegile, she migrated to becoming Vice President of Customer Acquisition at Soasta, Inc. now acquired by Akamai.

Jenny’s robust marketing career has also earned her many awards including the distinction of being named by Engagio to the list of the TOP 50 WOMEN IN REVENUE YOU SHOULD KNOW. And knowing Jenny is a revelation.  “The number one value I bring to the table is hustle,” she said. “I hustle 24 x 7. I think because I’ve done so many different types of roles, it has exposed me to a lot of different types of businesses. I come to the table with ‘been there, done that.’  I can come in, assimilate quickly, assess the situation, figure out what to do and what not to do. “

One of Jenny’s favorite quotes is from Sir Richard Branson: “If you get offered a job, but you’re not really sure how you are going to do it, just take it.  Figure out what you need to do, later.”  Jenny also values long personal career relationships highly. “The trust factor has allowed me to take risks that I might not normally take.”  Jenny concedes that she “tends to be attracted to ‘high risk/high reward’ situations. I think you should trust your gut. It all boils back down to personal relationships, and the trust factor that is going to make or break your job.”

As a technology marketing expert, Jenny says that the world of tech marketing has “certainly changed a lot” from the beginning of her career until now.  She sees the role of marketing in technology organizations as evolved from being a “soft skill” (“providing air cover, brand marketing” but nothing measurable) to one that has a “science behind everything that you are doing. You can now tie everything back to the business.”  She characterizes marketers as now being data scientists, which requires “marketing to be much more disciplined, more data-driven.”  Jenny is ecstatic about this since “it has allowed marketing to have a much more important ‘seat at the table,’ and much more input on the sales and marketing strategy.”  She is also an advocate for very closely aligning sales and marketing at every turn.  She discussed CRM tools, paid search tools, digital advertising, and the convergence of the “tech stack” as part and parcel of the marketer’s toolkit.

Seasoned leader Jenny is a big believer in diverse teams.  “I really encourage folks to build teams that are different ages, different genders, different cultures,” she said.  Jenny is highly enthused that Akamai Technologies “has a strong philosophy of just listening. I think leaders have to be open to new ideas, and have to be willing to change if that is what’s best for the business.”  One of Jenny’s favorite quotes comes from Silicon Valley veteran, Jim Clark: “Religion is death in a startup.”  In other words, “if you are wedded to one idea, and one way of doing things, you are not going to grow ---- as a business, or as an individual.”

Jenny recommends THE NEW MARKETING ALIGNMENT as a book that would be one of the ”important reads for anyone in sales or marketing,” and is also an inveterate reader of FAST COMPANY and INC. magazines.   “Everyone is learning lessons, regardless of who they are, what they are, and what they are doing.”  Jenny’s other great lesson is “Don’t forget to have fun.  Don’t be afraid to try it.  Try to minimize your regrets!”

Please feel free to contact at jennycoupe@me.com and on Twitter at @jennycoupe.  

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Ep 46: Rebecca Bray: Learning Every Day

Diva Tech Talk was excited to interview Rebecca Bray, Chief Sales Officer for nationwide technology and engineering recruiting/staffing company: Epitec (www.epitec.com). Like a few of the other “Divas” that we have interviewed, Rebecca did not start out intending to pursue a tech mission. “I just fell into it,” she said.

Rebecca graduated Central Michigan University with a marketing degree, and a concentration in logistics management, but it was a college internship at Epitec that inspired her 19-year current career.  During that internship, “where I was put in a closet, converted into workspace,” Rebecca scanned resumes into the company’s computer system.  Nevertheless, after graduating, “I decided to interview, back with Epitec. I figured it would be a good way to figure out what I wanted to do when I grew up,” she said.  She has remained with the company, ever since, because “I love what I do. The opportunities that have been afforded to me have always kept me engaged, challenged and learning every day.”   In addition to her university degree, during her time at Epitec, Rebecca also obtained her ITIL certification (this is mastery of the set of detailed practices for information technology service management (ITSM) concentrated on aligning IT services with the needs of business).

Rebecca began supporting Epitec’s recruiting team, but the company gave her a plethora of chances to expand her professional repertoire.  “I have had various roles from recruiting to employee care to working on our IT teams to sales/new business development and account management. I’ve also had the wonderful opportunity, working with some of our customers, managing project work in both application development and in the infrastructure space.”  Looking for greater meaning in her work, Rebecca cited a project with Detroit Public Schools, establishing a helpdesk for families aimed at increasing student enrollment, as being one of her most rewarding accomplishments. 

Rebecca discussed milestones in her personal growth throughout her tenure at Epitec.  “There are a lot of things that you cannot predict,” she said in discussing projects. “It is how you respond. It’s how about looking at what you can do with what’s in your control.”  She also prides herself on having learned “how to identify obstacles, and how to remove obstacles.”  In her current role, with responsibility for a team of 50, she is thrilled to concentrate on challenging, inspiring and “growing our team.”  Focused on daily staff enrichment, Epitec celebrates each staff member’s personal, as well as career, accomplishments every year.  “Training and developing people takes a lot of understanding,” Rebecca said. “What is very hard for new managers is letting people try their own way.”  Giving people the leeway to fail, she believes, is “very important to let people develop and grow. We call it ‘recovery-oriented’. “

Key personal characteristics contributing to Rebecca’s success include patience and tenacity. “When I started, I looked very young.  Having credibility was a problem for me.”  To overcome this, Rebecca stressed that learning “who my audience was, and what their needs were,” was key. “The best thing I did was to be as prepared as possible.”

Additionally, “I don’t give up on things,” she said.  “I would say that I genuinely like people, and I’m interested in learning about people.”  Among the teams reporting to her is Epitec’s training and development group, which has created and manages a three-week onboarding program for Epitec staff.  One of Rebecca’s many challenges has been to address internal staff retention and motivation.  She constantly ponders “What’s going to motivate our staff, typically not the generation I come from or with whom I have worked.  It’s a new generation. So, overcoming challenges around different work expectations, different types of goal-setting, different types of reward and recognition programs,” are issues for her.

As an Epitec executive, Rebecca is also concerned with the looming large potential gap between the growing number of technology jobs, and skilled candidates to fill them.  To address it, she said “We are partnering with organizations like the Michigan Council of Women in Technology to drive more exposure to young girls and people about technology. We are also working with colleges around some internship programs, and have a robust internal Epitec internship program.” 

Rebecca shared some very pragmatic tips for other budding leaders:

1.     “Write down your goals.  I’m a big believer in writing them down, and looking at them, and reviewing them. It’s important to have them, reflect on them, and measure against them. And put a plan, together, on how you are going to achieve them.”

2.     “Be ‘recovery-oriented’ and move forward.  If you look in the rearview mirror too long, you’re going to hit the car in front of you.”

3.     “Invest in yourself. If you want to develop a solid career, it’s really up to you. You need to work at it.” 

Rebecca lamented that sometimes people don’t practice their skills.   She noted that, in sports, practice is key to success; and strongly advocates that this also applies to professional lives, too.

Realistically, to achieve balance, Rebecca noted that “being in the present” is important. “When I am with my family, then I’m engaged with my family. One of the rules that we have is not to be on our electronic devices when we are at the dinner table, whether at home or out!”  Conversely, “when on the flipside --- when I am at work --- I’m focused at work,” she said.  In her philanthropic life, Rebecca is very involved in a volunteer role with Vista Maria (www.vistamaria.org), a Michigan-based nonprofit which offers community-based programs including education, general and treatment foster care, youth assistance programs, independent living, transition services and after school programs for “at risk” girls.

Please feel free to contact Rebecca Bray at her email address: rjbray@epitec.com 

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Ep 45: Amy O'Connor and Danielle Dean: Inadvertently Marching in Her Mother’s Footsteps

Diva Tech Talk interviewed the data-driven duo of Amy O’Connor, Big Data Evangelist at Cloudera (www.cloudera.com), and Danielle Dean, Data Scientist Lead at Microsoft (www.microsoft.com) --- a dynamic mother/daughter team, embracing technology, organically. Amy hails from the era where punch cards reigned supreme. The younger Danielle experienced the dichotomy of both more complex and paradoxically easier data, in some ways, to explore.  Both share a common fascination with how data helps humans make better decisions, in business and beyond

“When I first entered technology, I was much more focused on writing software that was used to run mainframe computers. Since then, my career has taken many, many different turns,” Amy explained. When she started, it was well before computers became ubiquitous. “In my high school, there was one computer --- in the janitorial closet,” and Amy thought: “I might as well just go in that direction. It’s something that’s new.” She went on to obtain dual undergraduate degrees in computer science and electrical engineering, and returned to graduate school, later, to get her MBA, “so that I could really figure out how to apply technology to business opportunities.” Amy characterizes her career as “a twisty path” migrating from software development to IT program management to engineering leadership to business strategy roles and marketing. She finally “landed” in the field of big data. “I fell in love with it, when I saw the types of opportunities that people had.”  In her current daily work, at Cloudera, Amy works with customers all over the world, in diverse industries, advising them on big data strategies to achieve successful goals. “I spend the majority of my time directly with customers, discussing how they change their people, processes and mindset to do things in a different way.”

While inspired by her mother, as she warmly notes later in this podcast, Danielle did not initially envision emulating Amy, at all. “I didn’t purposely follow in my mother’s footsteps,” she said. “I was super interested in psychology and human behavior: how people think and learn. And I really loved math, and statistics, so I studied both psychology and math and figured out how you could discern patterns.” That drew Danielle to data science, “the next big thing as I was finishing my undergraduate career. Which is kind of funny!”  Danielle had the opportunity to create her own major field of study, while getting her degree at the University of Massachusetts. “I began to think how you can use data to understand individual behavior on a larger scale, which is exactly the kind of work used by data scientists,” she said. “That led me to pursue a PhD at the University of North Carolina in quantitative psychology where I really learned how to apply data models; how to use survival analyses to understand how social event processes unfold; looking at social networks to determine how people forge relationships.  I looked at how all these things can be combined.”  

Danielle began her tech mission with an internship at Nokia (www.nokia.com) where her mother was also working at the time (after Amy having spent years at pioneer tech company, Sun Microsystems, acquired by Oracle – www.oracle.com - in 2008).  “I was a data scientist at Nokia, for a few years, and then moved over to Microsoft,” Danielle explained, “where I am now looking at different industries and applying data science in lots of different ways. I work with Microsoft customers using analytics products, building real things to solve real problems --- from things like predictive maintenance models to models in healthcare, and finance, to term prediction, to recommendation systems, and lots of other different use cases.” Danielle and her team operate directly inside Microsoft’s product development teams to provide customer feedback, and improve the company’s offerings. “We can leverage so much data that was collected from the past to improve the future,” she exclaimed, describing multiple projects that positively benefit people. Both women, in their respective companies, are working on projects that predict best processes in the future for everything from diagnosing the maintenance cycle of automobiles to better navigating maps to assisting financiers to better predict lucrative investments to helping physicians more accurately predict the cycle of optimal healthcare.

Mother and daughter discussed exciting future tech developments, including the democratization of data. “We’re moving into a world where most data is going to be created by sensors and machines,” Amy explained. “That will enable all of us to interface with the physical world, around us, in a much safer, healthier and more convenient way. We’re going to see the emergence of ‘smart cities’ and people able to go down healthier lifestyle paths, because they’re going to have the types of information they need to have at their fingertips to make the right choices.” Danielle is particularly mesmerized, currently, by developments in “deep learning”, a subcategory machine learning technology, based on algorithms inspired by the structure and function of the brain, called artificial neural networks.  She explained how much easier it is now going to be to “get started, and do really cool things with artificial intelligence.”  Amy also highlighted the predilection of “people from all walks of life to create data, capture data, analyze data, and use that data to automate decisions and create better products and services, that impact all aspects of our lives.” She pointed out that a much greater multitude of people will be able to use data “for much more productive, positive outcomes.”

Amy and Danielle shared career development and leadership lessons for our audience. “Don’t get stagnant or complacent in any role,” Amy advised. “It’s important to do something, every single day, that is new. These don’t have to be big things, but it’s really important to keep your mind growing, to keep on top of what’s happening in the world.”  She also mentioned that sometimes you must take a risk and move on, when your role or project feels stagnant. Danielle exhorted professionals to “keep the end goal of the project in mind,” ensuring that the impact of your work meets its objectives, by fully understanding those goals at the onset. Danielle also discussed the importance of technical leaders “being able to simplify very complex topics,” for teams, constituencies and audiences, and “really looking at the big picture to make sure you are making transformational progress, rather than really getting stuck on little details.”  Amy is grateful that “leadership, these days, is much less about hierarchy and much more about influence.”  As a result, she noted that “communication skills are essential -- the first skill being able to listen to people, and the second being the ability to consistently communicate even when it’s a tough message for people to hear.” Amy also noted how important it is to have very good collegial relationships.

Both women have learned fundamental lessons from each other.  For Danielle, her mother has taught her the importance of collaborating with “people from different backgrounds, and different roles. Being able to listen to people, to understand their perspective, work in a cross-disciplinary manner, is super-important.”  For Amy, Danielle is her role model for organization, and the resultant calmness and peace that this creates. “I admire her ability to prioritize and find balance,” Amy exclaimed.

Some very practical tips Amy and Danielle shared for other women striving in the tech field include:

  1. Lean on other people for assistance (“it’s ok to say ‘yes’ when other people offer help “)
  2. Simplify your wardrobe (“it’s really helpful when you travel for work”)
  3. Have set routines for the everyday challenges (like finding your keys, as an example or having a separate set of chargers for work and home)
  4. Read obscure information, take advantage of all tech information that comes your way

For younger women creating newer career paths, Danielle exhorted them to “always continue learning, really broadening yourself, looking across disciplines,” and “take opportunities that will purposely force you to grow”, potentially those that seem “just out of reach.”  Both agree that taking risks and “keeping your eyes open” for other opportunities, and new approaches are paramount to success.

Both Amy and Danielle are very active in community organizations.  Amy suggests that any professional be methodical and serious about creating a robust professional network.  Danielle mentors girls through the nationwide Girls Who Code organization. “I am always amazed by what these students are doing.  They are really an inspiration.”  They also recommend several external resources and two books:

  • www.deeplearning.com
  • The Economist (www.economist.com)
  • Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert Cialdini
  • Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience and Finding Joy by Sheryl Sandberg

Amy has truly inspired Danielle to achieve, and Amy said that “I am lucky to have Danielle in my life, every day.”  Please feel free to connect with either at their respective Twitter handles: @ImAmyO, and @danielleodean.

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Ep 44: Susan Emerick: All You Need is Within You

Diva Tech Talk was pleased to interview Susan Emerick, Global Marketing Executive at IBM (www.ibm.com), educator and published author.  Susan’s multifaceted career and expertise highlights how far the technology industry has come in empowering clients to transform their businesses and develop competitive advantage using advanced analytics, machine learning, deep learning, artificial intelligence and cognitive computing.  She co-authored a book:  THE MOST POWERFUL BRAND ON EARTH, (published in 2014 and available at www.amazon.com). It gives guidance to other marketing professionals, navigating digital and social media, to enable them to “embrace the change, advanced technologies, and apply it to what they’re doing.”  Susan’s inspiring and personal story offers a glimpse of what it takes to be a versatile woman in a complex and emerging field.

Susan credits her bucolic Midwestern upbringing, as one of five children, in a “country” environment (replete with trees, fields and “playing in the dirt”) for starting her interest in how things work and tech. “Technology has really been a critical part of my career, all the way along.  Science was actually something that always fascinated and inspired me, concepts of nature, patterns and how to apply those patterns to life.”

Susan’s first technology immersion was during two Michigan State University internships at General Motors (www.gm.com), in Flint, Michigan.  “I was asked to work on a program for indexing and cataloguing parts.   I realized that I really need to know this ‘technology thing.’ I remember my Dad saying that it’s really important to learn computers,” she said.  After graduation, with a marketing/advertising degree, she migrated to Syracuse, New York and was part of a small marketing agency, Eric Mower & Associates (www.mower.com) where she worked on large brands including megabrand Snapple (www.snapple.com).  She then moved back to Campbell-Ewald (www.c-e.com), a well-known Michigan-based advertising agency, where she worked for several years in their diversified accounts team, on direct response projects, developing customized consumer applications, for Planters Peanuts (www.planters.com), Johnson and Johnson (www.jnj.com), and GMAC (now Ally Financial: www.ally.com).  In all these experiences, “there was a thread of technology through how you are reaching customers directly, in personalized ways.”

Wanting to get experience on the brand side as a client, Susan then moved to Comerica Bank for two years in the direct marketing department, where she and her team were responsible for the merger of the brands of Comerica and Manufacturers Bank.  “I learned the ability to look at a large dataset, to combine and process all these customer accounts and welcome them into a newly-merged bank, and then complete the ‘re-branding’ of the new bank.”  After Comerica, Susan moved to Gale Research, (www.gale.com) the largest publisher for school and university libraries.  “It was a whole different data management process.  When you think about it, when you are managing writing, and publishing assets, you are dealing with how are we going to change our business strategy and our distribution strategy,” since Gale was moving textbooks to CD-ROM.  From there Susan jumped to being the Brand Manager for Thomas, The Tank Engine and Friends () for Handleman Company.   “That allowed me to learn retail, and brand management of a licensed brand --- working through how a brand manifests itself into all different entities; how do you contain and really represent the brand as you distribute into many different outlets.”

Susan was then recruited by IBM when they were looking for individuals who could apply direct response expertise and data management practices to build their integrated marketing communications practice. “At that time, within 18 months, they said ‘would you apply your skills to the Internet --- it’s going to be a really big thing.’  So I was afforded the opportunity to build IBM.com and launch many of the e-commerce capabilities to purchase something from the Web! I like to think of myself as a digital native, being involved in building a web presence for the world’s largest tech company.”   At IBM, Susan loved “the ability to always experiment and evolve with emerging technology,” that the company gave her.   “There were things that I trialed all the way from emerging technologies to today’s advanced applications that use machine learning.”  One of her favorite projects was building IBM’s global Web presence, “and seeing how to take that global Web presence and localize it across the globe, localizing into different languages, to be able to connect with customers and really help them to understand very complex technologies and break it down into meaningful experiences.”   Another key project that Susan worked on was building IBM’s social media listening practice and influencer marketing practice: “architecting how social listening and deep analytics could be applied to social media, and how to engage effectively to reach your customer, influence your customer, and build your own brand to be influential.”

Throughout her robust career, Susan relied on many of her personal strengths:
·      Strong curiosity
·      Embracing and not being afraid of change
·      Open-mindedness
·      The ability to collaborate, well, with multi-disciplinary and diverse teams

“Women are always in a position of having to prove their strengths, and pushing boundaries. I tried hard to mentor upcoming professionals, and always really felt it was important to be the one who was truly setting the example. Modeling the way with professionalism, with poise and gratitude, always helps you get that step ahead,” she said.  Susan acknowledges that leading change and “always be in that pioneering spirit” is challenging.  But she has enjoyed the satisfaction that “when people are really getting it, that’s the fuel that keeps you going.”

As a self-described technology pioneer, Susan believes in The Rule of The Internet: “One – Nine – Ninety.” The rule states that one percent of people will be true innovative leaders spearheading engagement, nine percent are following those leaders, and 90% are slow adopters and skeptical.   “I will always either be in the 1%, as I experiment, or in the 9%, emulating leaders I respect,” Susan said. 

Her top three leadership lessons for women and girls, including her two daughters – one at college and one in high school -  includes:

1.     No one knows your passion better than you.  “Don’t let anybody talk you out of what you want to go for. They don’t know who you are or what you have in you.”

2.     Lead by example and model the way.

3.     Leadership is not a title; it is earned through trust, respect and inspiring a team.

“You can be a leader in any position,” Susan simply said. “Don’t get discouraged by corporate cultures, or hierarchy.  We are flattening organizations. We are inspiring collaboration among teams.  That is an incredible opportunity for anyone seeking to be a professional.”

Balancing her career, her extended family, and her professional development, Susan feels blessed by her husband, Mark (“a true partner”).  Principles of always aligning her professional passions and her ethics have helped her achieve balance, supplemented by a very strong work ethic.  “I always tried to make it a point that when I was present with my daughters, they knew that I was always there for them.”

Talking about her next mission(s), “giving back in some way” is part of Susan’s immediate future.

In addition to her IBM career, and her book, Susan is an adjunct professor at West Virginia University for the Reed School of Media, where she developed a graduate course in data-oriented social media optimization and is also a guest lecturer for the Carnegie Mellon University.  She also serves on boards for many professional marketing, social media and marketing measurement associations, “trying to give back through my professional expertise.”

Susan’s core belief, succinctly, is: “Everything you need is inside of you.  You have to tap into those strengths. Find your purpose; find your passion.   Let it lead you.”

Please feel free to contact Susan through her blog at http://susanemerick.com, or at her personal email address: emericksf@gmail.com.   Her Twitter handle is @sfemerick.

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