Susan moved to Durham 12 years ago from Connecticut. She and her husband, Ben (a Durham native), live north of the Eno River in Durham. Susan has three grown sons: Alex, Philip and Ted Russo.
Susan grew up on a farm in southern Illinois, where success was something she could hold and taste after each season of hard work. But she wanted to prove that she could succeed in the most trying of circumstances. “I’ve always been very achievement oriented,” Susan says. “That was the appeal of New York.” To her, when Frank Sinatra crooned, “If I can make it there, I’ll make it anywhere,” it sounded like a personal challenge. After graduating from Southern Illinois University and a stint pursing a Ph.D. in communications research at University of Michigan, she moved to NYC.
Susan wasted no time aiming for the top. The market research position she landed at The New York Times launched her into a 16-year career at the paper, where she held a total of 13 roles including one as the Times’ first female director of marketing.
Leaders at the Times valued her skills and intellect. But the company did not seem to appreciate her expressive enthusiasm. They encouraged her to stop speaking out so often in meetings and disrupting the traditional way of doing things. That was a problem. “I want my passion to be valued because it’s a fundamental part of who I am,” she says. While her friends all told her she was throwing her career away, Susan moved on to jobs at a series of smaller and more entrepreneurial companies until she moved to Durham and, in 2006, joined Bronto Software to head up marketing.
Susan is fueled by her team’s positive energy and Bronto’s cultural emphasis on transparency, approachability and passion for marketing. Her success in the role is the fruit of her uncompromising work ethic and drive to achieve, but also a testament to her love for what she’s doing. “I’m motivated by it being more than a job,” Susan says. “It feels like home. This is a place where I can be me every moment of the day.”