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 Salesforce.com—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 Salesforce.com. 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 Salesforce.com's success."