Susan Sheridan-Austin, who began her distinguished career as one of the first 25 employees of Microsoft, and who later rose to the role of general manager at Sage Accpac, passed away in February after a two-and-a-half-year battle with brain cancer.She was 51.
A pioneer in technology, she was one of Microsoft's first 25 employees, leaving to form a marketing and public relations firm in Atlanta, Sheridan/Schmeisser, which she and partner Ian Schmeisser sold in 1988. Sheridan then marketed her way through a nine-year stint at computer-assisted design software developer Autodesk in Sausalito, Calif.
Quick-witted and affable, Sheridan-Austin, who first entered accounting software in 1996 as vice president of marketing at SBT Accounting Systems, in Marin County, Calif., joked that she was a housewife by trade but "was unable to find a job in her chosen profession."
She spent five years building a strong reputation with the SBT value-added reseller channel, and was invited to continue that role when Accpac (then a division of Computer Associates) acquired SBT in 2000.
Sheridan employed a strong focus on brand-building, saying that the underlying key to success in marketing was taking a scientific approach that could be taught to virtually anyone. Following Accpac's acquisition of SBT, she took a brief hiatus to visit Antarctica and climb Africa's Mount Kilimanjaro.
Sheridan was also innovative - persuading Accpac to forego the usual multimedia openings for its last reseller conference in Quebec City. Instead, each day of the meeting began with a string quartet playing music that ranged from Queen's Bohemian Rhapsody in a classical style, to folk songs.
The reselling community held her in high esteem.
"She was admired, respected and genuinely liked by her channel and the competitors," said Peyton Burch, vice president of marketing and public relations for the Enterprise Resource Group, a Dallas-based Sage Software reseller. "I never heard anyone say anything negative about Susan. Ever. I cannot think of anyone else in a similar role that I could make the same statement about."
She motivated channel partners during much-anticipated public speaking at events such as Accpac Partnership, and then, following Accpac's purchase by Sage Software in 2003, at Sage's Insights conference.
Sheridan shared stages with presenters such as Zig Ziglar and Brian Tracy, and post-conference surveys rated Susan's marketing sessions as among the most popular. Those partners were always able to easily pick her trademark bright purple, orange and lime-green ensembles out of crowds of hundreds, and sometimes thousands, at the annual confabs.
Sheridan considered her highest career achievement to be her collaboration with former Accpac chief executive and industry luminary David Hood in bringing Hood's vision of "end-to-end business applications" to market.
Even during her illness, she reached out to others, taking pets to visit nursing home residents, and she spent time adding Swedish to the array of languages that she spoke.
She is survived by her three sons, as well as by her husband and long-time companion, Brian Austin.
In lieu of flowers, the family has requested that contributions be made to Hospice by the Bay (www.hospicebythebay.org/foundation/contribute_form.html, or by mail at: Hospice by the Bay Foundation, 17 East Sir Francis Drake Blvd., Suite 100, Larkspur, Calif. 94939).
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