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Surf's Up

Posted by: Steve Hamm on November 9, 2005

Pat Sueltz has made a study of the tech industry—from the inside. First she spent 20 years at IBM, where she guided CEO Louis Gerstner to the Internet and then headed up the company’s Java push. Then she did more Java at Sun Microsystems. Then she lived several years in one as a co-president at—during its crazy IPO year. Now she has finally reached the goal she has long aimed for: being a CEO. She’s heading up SurfControl, a Web security software outfit with a newly established headquarters in Scotts Valley, Calif., near Santa Cruz, the real Surf City. The company was started in the UK in 1997, so you could say it took 8 years to find the beach.

Hopefully, it won't take anywhere near that long for Sueltz to get SurfControl on a winning track. Its technology has a good reputation, but the company has barely been growing for the last couple of years. Sueltz is revamping management, retooling marketing and sales, and expanding the company's vision. "We need to create a virtualized security perimeter. Wherever you go, you're connected--via your laptop, your phone, your PDA, or logging in from an open PC. So, wherever you are, that perimeter has to expand to cover you." In August, she launched the company's corporate security products in a suite, including Web filtering, e-mail filtering, and anti-spyware packages.

Sueltz has been understudy to a varied bunch of leaders: Gerstner, Scott McNealy and Ed Zander at Sun, and the off-beat Marc Benioff at She says she has learned valuable lessons from each of them.

Gerstner: "I learned you have to be relentlessly focused on the customer. IBM had been so insular before. I also learned that when you're making a transformation you need to make swift changes at the beginning, or you'll be part of the problem. We took out 200,000 positions."

Zander: "I learned the art of being insightful, but also being instinctive. Sometimes you have to let your gut be your guide."

McNealy: "Don't just be intellectually capable, but also have fun."

Benioff: "His monomaniacal focus on customer success and marketing to it has a lot to do with's success."

Reader Comments

Alberto Cuneo

November 15, 2005 3:21 AM

SURFCONTROL: Another poor choice in leadership with Pat Sueltz

What kind of person brags about eliminating 200,000 positions? No that UK has been displaced and sales are still in a slump, will she eliminate more workers and take SurfControl to India? The sales for Q1 were down from Q1 2005. Couple that with increased sales goals...wouldn't that put Ms Sueltz way behind the 8 ball? If this woman was one of the top 50 women in business, how did she end up with a company that is not even stagnet but falling behind?
Her other mentor influenced her with "His monomaniacal focus on customer success and marketing to it has a lot to do with's success." She should have researched SurfControl's LACK of customer success and the poor marketing strategy. A LACK of customer service would explain overcharging schools with a policy of "if the customer doesn't ask then don't tell them about the educatitional pricing". A LACK of customer focus would explain a company that competes with its own resellers. Ms Sueltz can talk the talk but thus far there have been no notable changes under her leadership other than more costly upper management which will reflect in the increased prices of this companies vaporware.

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Bloomberg Businessweek writers Peter Burrows, Cliff Edwards, Olga Kharif, Aaron Ricadela, and Douglas MacMillan, dig behind the headlines to analyze what’s really happening throughout the world of technology. Tech Beat covers everything from tech bellwethers like Apple, Google, and Intel and emerging new leaders such as Facebook to new technologies, trends, and controversies.



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