Women in SaaS March Feature: Suzie Clark
Welcome to our very first “Women in SaaS” feature, showcasing Bolste’s very own Suzie Clark!
Suzie Clark is responsible for Bolste’s Fortune 1000 customers and partners. Prior, as VP of Business Development/Partner at Frost Data Capital, Suzie worked closely with CEOs and strategic partnerships across a portfolio of software startups to help build and scale their businesses. She has also held sales and alliance leadership roles with Informatica. An award-winning sales executive, Suzie has 20+ years’ enterprise experience and serves on several high-tech and non-profit advisory boards, including chicktech.org.
Bolste: So, how did you get started in tech?
SC: “I decided that I wanted to go into high-tech because I was surrounded by people who inspired me to follow my dreams. My family immigrated from the UK and my father was an engineering manager and executive in the computer disk drive industry from the late 60s through the 90s. By watching my father in high-tech and receiving his guidance that the “future is in software,” it helped me as a young person to aspire for a high-tech sales career. I grew up in Sunnyvale, the heart of Silicon Valley, so I found my first opportunity in a startup going through the classifieds. I found an inside sales position and got the job on the spot. Within 6 months I was selling in the field. I’m having my 20-year anniversary this summer.”
Bolste: Have there been any obstacles that you’ve faced that were specifically because you were a woman?
SC: “For me, I think I was very fortunate. I had great leaders and great mentors who were both men and women, and I felt like there were no limits or obstacles presented that I couldn’t overcome.
Part of it was being in the Bay Area. Even back then, I think that companies were progressive, and many of them were startups or mid-sized companies that were giving the opportunity to the best candidate, not necessarily for gender.
I do think that I’ve seen some gender bias in other areas. I’ve witnessed it. And I think I’ve personally taken a great interest in mentoring and helping women in the software field. I’ve always felt that it’s important to help each other grow and find opportunities.”
Bolste: Do you feel like you’ve personally had to work twice as hard?
SC: “It is true I am in a very male dominated industry and I did not have a technical background that others had. In the early days, I did have to work harder to get ahead, there was so much to learn and things were changing very quickly. That was okay because I’m very competitive. I was a middle child and played team sports growing up, so it came naturally! But really I think it was my communication skills that helped me. The ability to listen and get people to talk. This helped me build successful and lasting relationships with my customers and partners, and go further in my field. Did I miss out on opportunities? I don’t think so.”
Bolste: Throughout your tech career, have you seen a discrepancy in the opportunities given to women vs. their male counterparts?
SC: “Yes. Especially as I have gone further in my career and risen, I have seen that women don’t have the same opportunities— for example, to become board members or take on senior leadership roles in companies. People might say there aren’t as many women interested, or not as many applicants. But the truth is, they’re out there. It’s a matter of taking the right actions to find them and being inclusive in terms of hiring and interviewing. We’ve come a long way, but we still have a long way to go.”
Bolste: Do women add anything different to the workforce?
SC: “Yes, in multiple ways. Women are compassionate and problem solvers. They’re nurturers in terms of relationships, helping it to be more of a win-win as opposed to one-sided or a single agenda.”
Bolste: There’s a whole women in tech movement that you’re a part of. Why did you get involved?
SC: “Based on my personality and my background, I’m a natural mentor. I really take an interest in helping women and people to do better and to pursue their ambitions— to help open doors, provide guidance and support. For me, it felt natural to be an advisor for the board of a non-profit (ChickTech.org) that was focused on helping women and girls pursue STEM oriented careers. I’ve grown so much with the help of mentors and leaders, so I want to give back.”
Bolste: What has been your favorite part about working in tech and startups?
SC: “I have been able to meet really talented and accomplished people throughout the entire world. I have been able to travel to some of the most amazing cities and countries— places like Boston, New York, Portugal, Indonesia and France. It’s the travel, the quality of people I have met and the different cultures I’ve been able to experience that I will always be grateful for.”
Bolste: What would be the biggest piece of advice you’d give to someone who wanted to get into tech or a STEM career?
SC: “I would say not to let others’ opinion of you impact your decision. Stay focused on your dreams. There are a lot of resources and people available to help you. Don’t hesitate to seek mentors you can learn from and who can help open doors so you can work hard and prove yourself. The possibilities are endless.
For women, recognize that there are organizations that are specifically focused on helping women and girls, and that there are mentors and programs that are really tailored to enrich your experience. They can help you achieve the career you desire, along with the education, guidance and resources to get there. Don’t discount your potential because you haven’t found a way to accomplish it yet.”
Bolste: Where would you like to see women making a bigger impact in tech?
SC: “I would like to see more women founders and CEOs of companies. I’m getting exposed to a lot of talented, successful women who are pursuing those avenues, and I really encourage people to pursue their dreams. That doesn’t just mean SaaS, but it does mean something that they’re passionate about. There are avenues to getting funding for women who are founding their own companies. They don’t have to do it themselves and traditional funding is not the only way. There is capital out there for women who want to start their own businesses.”
Stay tuned for our next featured Woman in SaaS, coming next week. We can’t wait to share her insight, experiences and words of wisdom. See you then!