Position: Director of Marketing
Hometown: Chico, California
Education: San Jose State University
Marital Status: Engaged
Years in Silicon Valley: 14
Hours at Work Each Week: 50 to 70
Email Messages in Inbox: 2,000
Unread Email Messages in Inbox: 300
Lunches Eaten Out Each Week : 0
Dinners Cooked at Home Each Week: 1 to 2
Hours of Sleep a Night: 6 to 8
Monthly Rent: $3,200 (for a three-bedroom apartment in San Francisco’s North Beach)
Monthly Cell Phone Bill: $300
A 14-year veteran of Silicon Valley, Susanne Estrada has spent much of her professional life pitching and collapsing tents within technology powerhouses like Apple Computers, AOL, Netscape, and Palm Computing. As a marketing and communications consultant, the pleasant and poised soloist often worked from her home and seldom commuted farther than her neighborhood gym each morning. Despite her enviable freedom and powerful connections, Estrada decided last year to forsake free agency for Noosh, a B2B e-commerce service based in Palo Alto, California, that streamlines the process of buying, selling, and managing print.
“I had no intention of landing a real job,” Estrada says. “I intended to consult until the end of my days, but Noosh offered me an opportunity that I couldn’t refuse. I valued the opportunity to help build the company’s brand.”
Along with that opportunity came a two-hour daily commute, a staff of 12, an admitted work-life imbalance, and a remarkable sense of accomplishment and purpose that Estrada says she has learned to love. “If I really wanted to streamline my life, I would move to Palo Alto, but I’m just not willing to give up life in San Francisco,” says Estrada, who must leave her home before 7 a.m. in order to make the 40-mile commute in less than an hour. As the director of marketing and brand management for Noosh, Estrada spent much of April darting between user group conferences and focus groups on the West and East coasts — working grueling hours and sacrificing her weekends in order to hone the Noosh message and offerings. Until then, life will not likely slow for the to-be-bride as she juggles a hot startup endeavor, a dwindling personal life, and a fall wedding.
In the following Fast Company interview, Estrada pauses long enough to contribute her take on life in Silicon Valley circa 2000:
Do you consider yourself a risk taker?
Definitely. I wouldn’t be in this Valley if I wasn’t a risk-taker. But do I risk failure? I don’t know. I can’t define failure in this day and age. I think every experience — financially successful or not — is a valuable learning process. I can’t imagine classifying any project completed by my staff as a “failure.”
What do you enjoy most about working in Silicon Valley today? And least?
I absolutely love San Francisco. It is close to the ocean and to the mountains, and it’s such a culturally and socially diverse city. It’s also terribly exciting to be part of the Internet movement — a moment in time that I believe will go down in history. Living here only makes me more anxious to see what life will be like five or 10 years down the road. The possibilities are endless.
One thing I could do without is the traffic. Also, I wouldn’t mind bringing down the pace of life one notch. It seems as if people suffer from a warped sense of priorities here – everything is all-important at all times. Everything needs to be done NOW!
Do you think the speed of life and industry in Silicon Valley is sustainable?
I’ve lived in the Valley for a long time. Though it’s always been fast, this region has exploded in the last five years. And I think it will continue to grow at its present rate for many years to come. Though we’ve seen the market falter a bit lately, I think high-tech companies are a solid foundation for the region’s economy. We are only beginning to explore how the Internet can touch people’s lives. Exploration will accelerate over the next decade and Silicon Valley will grow as the center of the technology industry.
Are your work and personal lives balanced?
This Valley runs at a maniacal pace. But I choose to live at that pace, too. My biggest personal challenge is to strike some balance in my life because I love what I do, but I love my friends and family as well. Right now I don’t have that balance. For example, I used to exercise five times a week. Now I find it impossible to visit the gym more than two times a week and it’s difficult — physically and mentally — to lose that stress release when you need it most.
Regardless of how crazy life gets, though, my fiancée and I make an effort to spend quality time together. We designate a one-evening-a-week “date night” for each other. The past week, however, has been tough. On Monday he was in New York. On Tuesday I left for Boston. I return home Saturday night, and Monday morning he leaves for Paris. I keep saying we’ll catch up when life quiets down, but I don’t think it’s going to get any quieter.
How do you find time to plan a wedding in amid this mayhem?
I don’t have the luxury of being a typical bride. My fiancée and I were engaged on December 25 last year. Five days later, we had hired a wedding consultant, selected a location, chosen a florist, and picked out a caterer. Living and working in Silicon Valley, you learn to make decisions very quickly. In many ways, I’m treating my wedding like just another marketing project with a deadline — September 16.
Will you take a honeymoon?
One thing I’m unwilling to compromise is my time off. We are both taking personal time before and after the wedding, and I’m escaping for a mental health vacation in May. The Noosh management team is very liberal and encouraging when it comes to vacation time. It’s important that we complete our work, but it’s equally important that we maintain a happy existence. People leave at 3 p.m. to pick up their kids and then return to the office. People go to the gym in the middle of the day. Schedules remain flexible because Silicon Valley definitely doesn’t operate according to a normal nine-to-five mentality, and I doubt it ever will.
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