About 2000, when I was one of the few female PMs at MSN Ops, I was told that I should meet a woman who had joined the MSN Networking team from MSIT. Susan’s arrival on the MSN Networking team was a great lift because Susan brought to any team she joined a willingness to: listen, understand and resolve. In addition, Susan used the highest degree of integrity in all of her interactions with others – no matter what their status in the company.
I remember walking up the corridors of RedWest E, from East to West to collect Susan from her office and continue in a bee-line to the café to discuss, understand and resolve network and hosting issues.
That was the start of our friendship.
It was early days that Susan told me of her pending adoption of a Korean baby girl. When I heard that she was not collecting the child herself from Seoul, I was very concerned. Susan quickly reassured me that Victoria was being accompanied by a member of the U.S. Military and was completely safe. The next Christmas I get to meet Victoria in person when I was invited to share Christmas dinner.
Susan was refreshingly transparent about herself, her family and her work. This was a huge gift for me as an immigrant with no family or friends from the old country to answer life’s burning questions. Over our 21 year friendship, we discussed everything from network hosting, professional development, health and longevity, investment and savings, account management, real estate, and survival. We debated politics, medical issues, elder care, and quilting machines. As one of my closest friends, she supported me through several challenging work and family issues – Susan always there to listen.
When I was no longer working at Microsoft, we would walk weekly either together or separately and chat via phone. Even when I was in Ireland for 3 years, I would still walk every Sunday with Susan. Other times we talked daily as sounding blocks for our different work and family plans.
I have special memories of sharing Thanksgivings, Christmases, meeting members of the Trans community, Seattle Pacific Museum, going to films and Downton Abbey-esque afternoon teas.
It was my great honour and pleasure to have been invited to the wedding in Iceland where I got to organize the flowers, hair and Bride’s breakfast. Also, Susan’s great love of Disney and all the Disney holidays that she took with Ian and Victoria. I remember a dramatic moment when Susan said that Disney was the source of happiness for her, being American she was raised on Disney from her earliest youth – that was a very passionate laugh. Then at Christmas, getting the latest annual letter. Susan and I spent long hours discussing sewing machines, going to quilting shops and discussing the fiber arts.
Susan’s enthusiasm was infectious, and, she was not afraid of queues. I have a store of memories with Susan off to get in line for the Apple Phone for Ian, Tory and Sam when every new version was released. Then there was Disney, buying the latest Harry Potter, getting the latest Laptop, Tablet, Phone, headset, and anything that was her family member’s heart’s desire – Susan was always there putting Family First.
Professionally, Susan was a ground-breaker and mentor for women in IT. She was a founder member of the Mentor-Ring at Microsoft which focused on helping women at Microsoft build their careers. Susan took on professional development with a passion. When it was suggested that she needed to understand the product and application space as well as network engineering, she joined the Microsoft AX Dynamics team, learning the application space, bringing all the skills and experience from network engineering with her, which benefitted that product’s success enormously.
When Susan’s family decided that Boston would be a good place to live – Susan packed her career with the household and crossed the States to start a new life in Boston. The fact that she had no prior experience of living and working on the East coast, and, that it was never in her career plans to do so was not a concern for her because she believed that family came first. Though she was a passionate strategist, a completely dedicated team member who regularly went far above and beyond, working far into the night to support team members no matter how humble the task: family always came first.
The move to Boston was the wind that lifted Susan’s career. It seemed that Susan was now getting the recognition as a expert that was long over due. The opportunity to be a network evangelist for Hurricane was an achievement that she was proud of. It is no surprise that Susan was a success because it tapped into her super-power.
So what was this super-power? a genuine interest in helping others combined with technical knowledge and extensive hands-on experience of network engineers, and great writing skill.
When Susan was elected to the board of NANOG, she was proud of being selected and to be recognized. Based on our conversations, she underplayed it – as usual: humble to a fault.
It was a great honour to be invited to Iceland to celebrate the marriage of Fearghas and Susan. I asked Susan what she needed and she said that she had done nothing about hair and that became my task. We had a great morning before the wedding running around the Reykjavik suburbs, in the rain and sleet, delivering Susan to the hair dresser, and, getting completely lost trying to get from the Hairdresser to the Flower lady. When we reached the Flower Lady we discovered that she had created the most beautiful traditional Icelandic Wedding head-band with miniature roses – all out of season, a bouquet and corsages all put together in a way that would survive anything the Icelandic weather could throw at us …. And it did – through the icy rain and sleet, Susan bounded from hairdresser to home and back to the registry office laughing all the way to meet Fearghas and family all in kilts. It was a wonderful wedding that was a view into the life that Susan and Fearghas would have together with opening up a life of travel and great cuisine. Susan was for ever telling me about Fearghas’s culinary skills and the travel adventures.
Another special memory is that of my brother being invited to share Thanksgiving with Susan and extended family. They shared the same birthday. Andrew sends his deepest condolences – he was shocked and saddened by Susan’s passing – as she had made a great impression on him.
My last meeting with Susan was last July, when she came over to be with Sam for her knee replacement surgery. Susan extended an invite to stay with her in Boston… and I mourn not being able to fulfill the fun of seeing her life in Boston.
I offer deepest condolences to the Fourney, McKay, Taylor families, as well as Susan’s friends on the West and East Coasts. Susan will always be with me, as she was closer than my own sister. I can see my future with lots of “What would Susan do” moments because Susan always took the noble path, seeking to do the right thing: Susan always followed her Best Angels.