It's been said one of Suzan Zimmerman's many charms, and keys to success, is her plain talk. Spend a few minutes with Zimmerman, senior vice president of corporate development for QinetiQ North America, and you'll see for yourself: She gets right to the point. Zimmerman's knack for candor is matched by her long-abiding belief to treat everyone, from EAs to CEOs, as equals. That ability to build camaraderie up and down the ladder has translated into solid defense sales since Zimmerman joined the company in the Fall of 2006.
Zimmerman’s Top Tips:
- Know how to work up and down the ladder. “You need to respect everybody, whether it's the guy opening the door or your CEO,“ says Zimmerman. “I don't believe that anybody works for me,“ she adds, “I tell my EAs, “˜You're not working for me, you're working with me, because I can't do my job without you.'“
- Stand your ground. “When you really believe what you're doing is right, you need to stand your ground,“ says Zimmerman. “You don't want to be offensive, just state your point “¦ maybe it's a personality issue, I'm from New Jersey so that's not a problem for me.“
- Know your customer. “You have to know your customer. You learn more by listening to your customers than you do from talking about your company,“ says Zimmerman.
What Zimmerman is saying:
BEST CAREER ADVICE: “My grandfather taught me one very critical lesson on how to be successful: People buy from people they like. If you're talking to somebody and you can relate to them and they, in turn, understand that you're genuine, that you really did your homework, you can't help but be successful.“
ON BUILDING CUSTOMER RELATIONSHIPS: “I was recruited by IBM. During the interviewin the marketing manager's office, and I was looking around to see what magazines he read. I saw that he was reading Popular Mechanics. He had to take a phone call, so I left the room for about 10 or 15 minutes, and I took one of the magazines with me. I started reading what he was interested in because you have to know your customer.“
CAREER-DEFINING MOMENT: “Years ago, when SAIC hired me, I was, at 34, their youngest vice president [of their marketing division] ever. The president, CEO, and founder of the company told me I was “˜an experiment.' He had never hired a real marketing person before. He had always had technical people going out and talking to customers. He said, because I was coming out of IBM, “˜You're the first real marketing person, you're an experiment “¦ I'm going to see how well you do.' At SAIC, there were 7,000 people, and I was the only woman at the time on the marketing side. I worked with mostly prior military at SAIC, and guys, would say, “˜You don't know what you're talking about, you've never worn a uniform.' I would tell them, “˜Look, I'm sorry I've never worn a uniform but I happen to know exactly what I'm talking about.'“
WORK-LIFE BALANCE: “Intense marketing requires intense travel. To be successful, you cannot sit behind a desk. This belief brought me the challenge of how to raise a family while remaining true to my marketing strategy. My solution was to include my two sons in all the business-related activities I could. Jake escorted me to many black tie AFCEA functions and Max traveled with me to many technical expos, including STRATCOM. These experiences benefited all of us. Jake Won the World Championships & Gold Medal for the United States in Marketing and Max won 1st place in Biology while attending Cooper Jr High. As for me, I had the best of both worlds!”
WHAT’S AHEAD: “I'm very excited about participating in the growth of QinetiQ North America. Duane Andrews, my CEO, has given all of us a phenomenal opportunity to be part of an organizations focused on saving the life of a warfighter. In my view, life doesn't get better than that.”