Susan Yee successfully transitioned from the CEO of a cable company to the CEO of a web technology company.
But as one of few women at the top in both fields, success was no guarantee for this Lehigh Valley native.
As a result of her experience, Yee, CEO of Active Data Inc., has become a strong advocate for women in the corporate world.
“You have to keep fighting the good fight,” Yee said.
Growing up in a male-focused Asian-American family, Yee said she also had the privilege of growing up in the family business – Twin County Cable Television in the Lehigh Valley.
After graduating from Lehigh University, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in finance and marketing, with a minor in international relations, Yee worked as a marketing manager at Twin County, her parents’ company. Her parents later sold the company to RCN, and Yee eventually was promoted to CEO of Twin County.
She left to start her first company, the former Regional Network Communications Inc., when RCN sold Twin County.
Through it all, Yee has been a role model for other women and kept learning.
“I think as soon as you say, ‘I know,” you stop learning,” she said. “What good will you be for other women if you do not have good ideas and follow through with those ideas?”
Yee founded Active Data in 1999. Under her leadership, Active Data launched WhenNow.com, a low-cost ticketing service, in 2016. Some of its clients include the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority and the Pennsylvania Convention Center.
In March, the company sold “a good portion of its assets,” specifically a calendaring software, to Dude Solutions Inc., based in North Carolina, she said.
Yee said it is best to sell a business and its products while they still generate revenue.
With the sale to Dude Solutions, Active Solutions will focus on building WhenNow’s business and on custom application and program services, Yee said.
The ticketing service is “an easy way for an organization to make money on public events,” Yee said, adding that WhenNow’s goal is to offer event tickets at a lower cost than its competitors.
An activist for women in business, Yee has done speaking engagements and participated in her share of woman-focused conferences.
She chairs several professional committees throughout the Lehigh Valley and has been on the board of directors for numerous nonprofit organizations over the years.
Yee said that one of her greatest passions is her involvement with the Lehigh Valley Health Network’s board of trustees.
She said that she sees her work in the community as an essential part of her life and values her role as chair of the network’s Community Affairs Committee.
Dr. Brian Nester, president and CEO of LVHN, has known Yee for 20 years.
“She is a marvelously talented and generous member of our community who cares deeply about health care and the Lehigh Valley,” Nester said. “She is a tireless advocate for patients.”
Kassie Hilgert, president and CEO of ArtsQuest, has worked with Yee closely over the years. She said she views Yee as “fearlessly creative” and capable of launching a business and effectively moving on to the next venture without trepidation.
“So often women get interference when it comes to decision-making. They ask themselves, ‘Will I be liked? Will I hurt someone’s feelings?’
“Susan has a way of resolving situations and forgetting that interference,” Hilgert said. “She approaches situations with the knowledge of what can be accomplished.”
Yee remains active in discussions that involve a wide range of timely topics such as public health, domestic violence and the opioid epidemic.
She said some of her own personal struggles and tragedies – she lost her husband when his vehicle was hit by a drunk driver – have helped her recognize what is important in her life.
For example, raising two daughters as a single mom has made work and home a balancing act, but one that is worth it.
To run a successful business, Yee said, one must understand the target market, establish the right pricing and products and find and hire a talented labor force.
“You have to assume that people have some obstacles or challenges. Leadership is key,” she said. As a businessperson, “you are either extremely demanding or nurturing, and you have to add value and authenticity.”
She uses herself as a prime example, citing her position as a woman business owner in technology. It is a career that not many women entrepreneurs venture into, Yee said.
“Just don’t be a jerk,” she said. “… But that doesn’t mean you cannot raise the bar.”