Lead(H)er: Susanne Gurman, Vice President of Revenue Marketing at SecurityScorecard
The show Mr. Robot may depict a more realistic future than many of us realize. In the series, data breaches and government-sponsored hackers lead to a dystopian version of New York City, and a small band of cybersecurity pros lead the charge against the corruption. Susanne Gurman, Vice President of Revenue Marketing at SecurityScorecard, knows that we’d all be fighting to trade cryptocurrency for food like the characters if not for the real-life heroes that prevent such a world from actually happening.
“Security folks have this unsung hero persona about them,” Gurman said. “What they do has a major impact on how society maintains itself, and they do it silently.”
Gurman eventually fell in love with the security industry thanks to customers like these, who care more about the data and knowledge a company can provide them than anything else.
Her career didn’t begin in security, though. Gurman entered live event planning for Thomson Financial. The experience helped her gain a strong appreciation for technology and the storytelling required to show customers how a product could help solve a problem.
She then spent four years at OpenPages, planning hundreds of events for the company before it was purchased by IBM.
“I knew that I didn’t want to be this tiny person in this really big organization,” Gurman said. “I liked being at a smaller company and knowing that what I did had more meaningful impact to the bottom line.”
So Gurman left OpenPages and became the Senior Marketing Programs manager at Digital Guardian, a small company that got even smaller—her team became just her and her boss—when the recession hit. If Gurman wanted to make an impact, this was the perfect challenge. She became a jack of all trades and took on everything from public relations to marketing automation to demand generation. By the time 10 years had gone by, Gurman had helped rebuild the company, and things were going so smoothly that she had outgrown her final role of Vice President of Field and Channel Marketing.
Gurman took her toolbox of marketing skills to SecurityScorecard, a startup that monitors systems for vulnerabilities. There, she oversees marketing efforts from the moment the company begins to engage a potential customer to the moment they sign a contract and beyond.
“When I joined, it was a new startup that was at the beginning of an emerging market and had the opportunity to really accelerate,” Gurman said. “I love aggressive goals, and I’m surrounded by people who are so intelligent.”
She’s also surrounded by incredible diversity in her coworkers, which Gurman said has made such a huge difference in productivity and innovation in the workplace that it’s even more of a top priority for her in future career moves.
Though Gurman has been at SecurityScorecard for just under a year, she already has aggressive goals of her own. Chief among them is to accelerate SecurityScorecard’s growth by as much as 100% year over year and to continue bringing solutions to people who may not even know that they need them.
“People didn’t realize the possibility of an alternative to the marginal taxi cab services until Uber was available, and all of the sudden taxis were being put to the test because there had been no competition to elevate the industry,” Gurman said. “I want to challenge today’s way of thinking by bringing to market new solutions to problems that folks may not have necessarily realized existed.”
Quick Q(uestions) and A(dvice)
What do you enjoy doing in your free time?
I’m a travel junkie. One of the great things about SecurityScorecard is that almost 50% of our organization is remote, so with the use of technology I am able to essentially work from anywhere because I can be present thanks to technologies like Zoom. So I work from anywhere and travel as much as I possibly can, because it’s a great big world and I’ve only seen just a sliver of it.
What are your strategies for managing stress?
Putting things into context. I think everybody has an industry that is suited to them, and I can tell you that I would never be able to be a surgeon or do something where lives were at stake. That puts things in perspective—I’m not curing cancer or saving lives, so most of the time if I give myself time to process and think things through, in hindsight they’re not as severe as I might have thought. Other than that, I try to keep a solid network of mentors and leaders that help me through my challenges. I was afraid to ask for help for a while, but then I learned that it’s the best thing you can do. People appreciate it. I’m also a certified Zumba instructor, so I definitely try to get out there and let it go. I really love the values of the Zumba community and what it stands for, which is to dance like no one’s watching because you’re in a no-judgement zone!
How many cups of coffee do you have in a day?
That one is hard to admit! I started my day this morning with a 5 a.m. call with the Czech Republic, so my first cup of coffee was at 4:30 and I’m up to my third now. We’ll see how long the day is—I could have another one or two before I call it quits.
What’s one of your favorite places in the New York area?
Can I just say Manhattan? I love New York. I love everything about it, and there’s so much more that I need to explore.
What’s one of your proudest accomplishments?
I like mentoring, and I do that professionally and personally. I’m an official mentor to three women in the security industry and an unofficial mentor to others. I also got into the world of fostering teenage girls 14 and above. The system is so crowded as it is, and by the time they’re kind of self-sustainable at that age, they get overlooked in comparison to the kids that need a little more attention. I like having them at that age and knowing they have a safe harbor. It’s been a few years since I’ve done it because of my work schedule, but if I ever win the lottery, I’m taking in as many foster teens as possible.
How does where you are now compare to where you saw yourself 10 years ago?
Ten years ago, I was a senior marketing manager realizing that I had a lot to learn and just wanted to do my very best to contribute. I didn’t have a set goal. I had such a rigid foundation for what I wanted when I was in college—I had a 10-year plan, a five-year plan, an 18-month plan, and it all worked to my advantage. By the time I hit 25, I was setting goals for the sake of setting goals. Then I let it all go so that I could learn on the fly and see what I gravitated towards. The baseline of knowing that I’m contributing to something bigger than myself ended up being enough. So I’m thankful that my goals helped get me to where I am, but this is where I sort of organically ended up, and I’m happy with it.
What’s your advice for recent college graduates?
Millennials are super bright. They know technology like the back of their hand, and they’re more apt to find an automated solution. My advice to them is regardless of how bright you are, you will have to put in your time. Do it willingly and find a manager that will help you along the way, and choose your jobs based on the manager, not the role. If you have a manager that you don’t feel supports you, you’re not going to be happy. Also, don’t be afraid to ask for help. For a long time, I was afraid to ask for help because I felt like it was a sign of weakness. It’s actually the exact opposite—asking for help shows that you need development and are smart enough to ask the right questions. Leadership will appreciate that, because they can’t help you if they don’t know where you stand. There’s a lot to learn, a lot to be said for experience. I highly recommend volunteering in a professional organization, especially for people starting out in their career. It helped me understand the unknown unknowns that I wasn’t getting in my day job.