Lead(H)er Profile - Suzanne Glick Gilfix, General Counsel & VP at Applause banner image

Lead(H)er Profile - Suzanne Glick Gilfix, General Counsel & VP at Applause

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Our Lead(H)er series features impressive women leaders in the tech industry. In this Q&A, we are featuring Suzanne Glick Gilfix, General Counsel & VP at Applause.


Suzanne Glick Gilfix ApplauseWhere did you grow up and how would you describe yourself as a child?

I grew up in Central Massachusetts to a family of 3 generations on my street. I was high energy, climbing trees, doing gymnastics and keeping up with my older brothers.

What did you study in college and what was your first job out of school?

I studied government (political science) in college. I had some good summer jobs, first in high school at the local car dealership where I learned the value of customer service and in later years at the Attorney General’s office, and in DC for a lobbying group, both of which helped direct my law school career. My first job after law school was at a large law firm in Boston. 

Can you share the details on your career path and what were the critical moments that got you to where you are today?

After two years at the firm, I sought more direct experience in court and with my clients. I also cared deeply about the public interest given extensive volunteer work I was engaged in during the mid-90s around civil rights in Boston. Becoming Assistant Attorney General, Civil Rights Division (Massachusetts AG’s office) was a defining moment in my career trajectory. There (among outstanding colleagues), I helped to enforce the state’s civil rights laws and the fair housing and employment laws. Representing the public interest was meaningful and rewarding and led to my becoming a diversity consultant and launching an anti-bullying training effort in area schools in the early 2000s. I remain grateful to the AG’s office for being a flexible employer enabling me to work part-time while I had my 3 children. Being able to grow my family and career at the same time stands out as a critical time in my life. I am fortunate to have a true partner in my husband who has supported these aspirations and career shifts.

I then joined my first in-house counsel role for a sports franchise start-up and realized I enjoyed the diverse work in-house work brought me: employee issues, contracts, compliance. I didn’t purposefully choose tech, but it chose me at EMC (now Dell) where the legal department hired me to fill in for a team member’s maternity leave. The rest was history as it was a natural fit. With my energy and enthusiasm for learning, I asked for various projects and grew my in-house tech career. One opportunity led to another and when EMC launched a new company, Pivotal Software, and I was fortunate to take on a global management position which really accelerated my career and my passion for managing a team. All of these diverse roles best prepared me for my current executive role.

Suzanne Glick Gilfix Applause

What is your current role and responsibilities?

I am General Counsel & Vice President at Applause, the worldwide leader in enabling digital quality. As part of our executive team (where I get to partner with so many innovative and strong leaders), I manage the company’s worldwide legal process, including ensuring compliance with laws, creating and enforcing policies for all employees and personnel, protecting our IP and handling risk mitigation alongside general corporate matters throughout our global offices. My role also includes cross-functional initiatives to improve ESG (environment, sustainability and governance). I enjoy how varied and challenging each day is and the opportunity to tackle important strategic business initiatives along in addition to legal compliance. 

Looking back, is this where you thought you’d be professionally?  Was it always your goal to be in this position?

I can’t say that it was always my goal to be a General Counsel. But as the years progressed, following my entry into tech, I realized it was an aspiration to aim for. I had been a leader when I was younger (whether on sports teams or in the community organizations in which I was involved), so it was certainly something I sought to attain.

I had great influences early on in my life that helped to establish and nurture my interests in the fields of law and business. My grandfather was an attorney and my dad ran a car dealership, so I was able to see how both could make an impact in people’s lives. From them, I learned the values of fairness and equity, and the importance of customer retention and employee loyalty. These early influences helped to shape my interests and goals of becoming a tech lawyer.

For people who are looking to be in a similar position, what advice would you give to others in terms of helping them achieve their career goals?

Tactically, I think the sooner you can join an in-house team of lawyers, the better. Some say that law firm is necessary to advance your career in-house, but I don’t think it’s necessarily linear nor mandated. Find a way, even if it’s project-based or summer work, to spend some time in a law firm to learn the discipline, rigor, and training it provides. Then, find mentors in-house or through network associations where you can gain a perspective of what a company does and how it operates. Then go for it.

Once you land an in-house role, get to know the product or service the company sells inside out and meet key stakeholders and leaders. Surround yourself with people who share your values. 

Match your actions and your words to your intentions and be prepared. There’s a sports adage – success is 9/10ths preparation. If you put in the hard work and focus on the details your career can build on small initial successes and continue to accelerate. I devote ample time to study up and get ready for big presentations or negotiations or court appearances. Some say I made it look easy but that’s because they didn’t see all the hard work I put into my preparation. 

Along your career path, find mentors and ask them questions; be curious and chart your own path. I strongly believe that direct sponsorship and mentorship is the best way to advance the professional development for women in tech and business. But don’t be surprised if your path is not linear. Mine wasn’t a straight line and where I wavered, I grew. Volunteer in organizations or companies where you think you may want to work. I have always been engaged in the community and there are so many benefits by being active. When you reach a place where you can help others, become a mentor to inspire others.

Are you involved with any professional organizations outside of the company? Volunteer work?

On the professional side, I’ve been involved in the New England Corporate Counsel Association and look forward to serving on their board.

Because I have had some influential mentors who shaped my professional development earlier on in my career I’ve become involved in the Global Good Fund, where I’ve been able to pay it forward and mentor younger attorneys and professionals. 

I’ve also been involved in several non-profit organizations (mostly related to civil rights work) over the last 25 years. One of the most impactful is co-founding and leading a non-profit called the Tyler Foundation, where we partner with Children’s Hospital of Boston to provide financial assistance to families (who have non-covered costs) impacted by neurological disorders such as severe epilepsy. 

What are the most important skills that you need to do your job well?

In law school, you’re taught to question everything in order to understand the facts and apply the law consistently and fairly when analyzing a situation. Being inquisitive is key to this role, but it’s important to inquire with thoughtful attention to elicit the facts and not dissuade people from surfacing issues. In that regard, it’s necessary to be a trusted advisor, and an excellent verbal and written communicator, to understand the core business of your clients, and build trust and empathy with key stakeholders in all parts of the business to ensure that people will be held accountable on general compliance and doing the right thing. I think building those relationships internally has helped me succeed over the years and land at a company like Applause that places such a high premium on doing the right thing and ensuring our executive team leads by example. Finally, I’d say a love of learning is a necessary ingredient as the law and technology continue to evolve and it’s important to stay curious and dig in to do the research to ensure the company is complying with applicable law. 

What do you find most interesting/rewarding about your work?  What’s the most challenging?

I love how broad my role is: from IP protection and enforcement to complex commercial negotiations, to HR issues to data privacy, no two days are alike. The most challenging aspect is knowing I’m valued as a generalist but that I wish I were an expert at all. I also love tackling large global initiatives to streamline efficiencies in our offerings and make our processes more efficient. Getting into the weeds on the business side and bringing value to our customers is also very rewarding as is seeing our growth and positive feedback from our customers.

What is your proudest professional accomplishment?

Other than landing this awesome opportunity at Applause, I was very proud to be on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange in April of 2019 as part of a small team that helped take Pivotal Software public. It was very exciting to be part of the launch of a new company in 2013, and then play an important role in our growth, IPO, and ultimate acquisition, especially alongside dear friends and colleagues.


Q&A

What do you enjoy doing in your free time?

I enjoy yoga, meditation, reading good books, hiking, tennis, pickleball, spending time with family and friends in the mountains or the beach, or a live music event, and as time permits, engaging in community work.

How do you manage stress?

Yoga and meditation.

How many cups of coffee do you have in a day?

1-2 cups of Decaf. I am pretty high energy so Decaf works for me.

What's one of your favorite places in the Boston area?

I love any view of the Lenny Zakim Bridge in Boston. I collaborated with the great civil rights leader for whom the bridge is named (in his memory) and it brings me back to what really matters – building bridges of understanding among diverse communities. I also love Fenway Park and the North End, for their respective storied histories.

Any book or podcast recommendations?  

Recent books I’ve enjoyed include: All the Light We Cannot See, Untamed, Becoming, American Dirt, The Mandible, Rules of Civility, Mountains Beyond Mountains.

What advice do you have for recent college graduates?

Appreciate that your first job is likely not your dream job, but figure out if it helps you shape what you like and don’t like about the role, company, or field of interest. How can it help develop skills that will best direct you to where you do want to go next? What do you care about? Take those passions and combine them with your career path – then you’ll ensure you’re not “working”!

Don’t worry if you haven’t figured it out as of yet. Find good people to learn from either in your job or outside of it and ask lots of questions of how people got to where they are. As noted above, find mentors that do what you think you strive to achieve and then figure out how they got there. 

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The crowdtesting, usability and research company. Helping brands deliver great digital experiences to their customers – from web & mobile to IoT & beyond.

 

 

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