Meet Susan Cook: the CEO tackling enterprise DataOps problems head-on
“Necessity is the mother of invention”, which rings especially true in enterprise technology. Many of the solutions we use today are the product of an innovative business's ambition to help enterprises overcome challenges that are holding them back. As a result, organisations have numerous tools at their disposal to remedy challenges in, say, productivity, costs, customer engagement, and many more.
Of course, there are still some challenges to go, and many tech companies today are working hard to help businesses overcome them. One such example is Zaloni, which provides end-to-end DataOps that lowers data costs, accelerates analytics, and safeguards data pipelines. The company is spearheaded by its CEO, Susan Cook, who has seen enterprises struggle with decentralised multi-cloud data and analytics challenges first-hand. In her role at Zaloni, she's tackling the problem head-on.
Not only that, but Susan has profound executive experience in enterprise software sales and consulting with large, global customers. With so much industry insight (plus, we also just love to see female CEOs in tech!), we spoke with Susan to find out more about her career, as well as her advice for aspiring female tech leaders.
Thanks so much for joining us, Susan! To begin with, could you tell us a little bit about your education and career history?
I'm a Midwesterner. I grew up in Missouri and went to DePaul University in Chicago, graduating with a degree in Finance; I thought I would become an investment banker. As I looked around after graduation, the opportunities that excited me were with technology businesses. I learned to code and took on data and analytics roles for companies like Electronic Data Systems (now part of HP) and Hyperion Solutions (now part of Oracle). As my career developed, I focused on sales leadership roles, building teams to help enterprises solve big data challenges, at companies such as IBM, Microstrategy, and now as the CEO for Zaloni.
As mentioned in the introduction, Zaloni is helping businesses tackle data and analytics challenges, which you have seen firsthand. What kind of challenges are they, and how does Zaloni tackle them?
We work with mostly regulated enterprises that see the promise of a high-functioning, multi-cloud data ecosystem, but given today's data complexity and explosive growth, are challenged in securing data, accelerating analytics, and controlling data costs. With data responsibilities existing across multiple departments, the companies we work with have often created, over time, a decentralized hodgepodge of vendors to ingest, store, compute, catalog, secure, prepare, classify, and analyze data, which results in an uncoordinated data sprawl. This fragmentation impedes their ability to collaborate, control, and consume data quickly and efficiently.
Zaloni solves these challenges with our end-to-end DataOps platform, Arena, which connects the data solutions, applying transparent data governance, augmented data management, and a self-service data marketplace to every step of the data supply chain. Our customers get data collaboration for high-value analytics, reduced time to insights value, and lower data costs across multiple lines of business.
You came into the role at Zaloni in November 2019, which means that much of your time at the company will have been during the pandemic. How has settling into a CEO role been during such challenging times?
Well, I won't say it has been an easy ride! Between the early days of COVID-related financing and PPP loans, logistics for remote work across multiple continents, and trying to get to know customers as they are scrambling to deal with their own reality of the Pandemic, it was not an optimal onboarding. Fortunately, I'm humbled to report we have seen our revenue growth over the last six months. I believe we have achieved this success, myself supported by a strong leadership team, by relentlessly focusing on our goals: delighting customers, product innovation, and growing revenue - all while providing the best employee environment possible. By not letting the ever-changing news of the day sway our key priorities, we have remained productive and aligned with the long-term challenges facing our customers.
Do you have any advice for women who aspire to reach leadership positions in tech?
I was deeply saddened by the passing of Ruth Bader Ginsburg. She was a hero of mine and an equality pioneer for so many working women. She left us many memorable quotes, but one that resonates with me for aspiring tech women leaders is, "Fight for the things that you care about, but do it in a way that will lead others to join you." I believe passionately that approaching people with authenticity and transparency builds the trust needed for them to listen to your voice and stick with you through the journey.
Finally, how do you like to spend your time outside of work?
With my husband, two daughters, and beloved dogs, life is rarely quiet at the Cook household. We are surrounded by the beautiful mountains of North Carolina and love to spend time taking walks, having dinner with friends, and supporting charitable causes in our area.
Lately, I've been inspired to broaden my interests through the varied talents of our Zaloni team as we have been working from home. We've started a company-wide weekly call named, “FUCOVID Talks,” where one or two team members present a topic of interest - any interest. From medieval art to rocket science to the psychology of trust, I've been overwhelmed and encouraged by the breadth and talents of our people.