In recognition of Women’s History Month, EDGE360 is highlighting female leaders in the channel that are championing inclusivity, equity, and excellence in the industry. As part of this series, our team recently caught up with Sue Kozak, CEO and Co-Founder of MNJ Technologies, a SYNNEX Comstor partner. Kozak never anticipated her longstanding career in technology, much less co-founding a technology company with a staff of 120+ people.
With a master’s degree in administration and teaching, Kozak planned on pursuing a career in education. However, after working in technology sales with a friend to help pay the bills while waiting for a full-time teaching opportunity to open up, Kozak found she had a knack for the job. This friend later started a distribution company and wanted to bring Kozak on full-time for their sales team. She would continue that job for 10 years. As she described it, she “took a leap of faith” when she became that distributor’s first employee, and to this day, MNJ Technologies has a strong relationship with that distributor.
While moving up the ranks at that company, Kozak brought two children into the world with her husband Paul, and as a result, decided to step away from the workplace to focus on raising her growing family. After a 10-year hiatus, she found herself back in the saddle starting MNJ Technologies with Paul, naming the company after their three sons: Max, Nick, and Jake.
Reflecting on the challenges she’s faced, Kozak admitted that starting a business from the ground up was no easy feat. “The hardest thing is starting from scratch, from establishing credit, to finding a workspace, to getting your systems in place. But we always managed to make it through with the approach that we just need to tackle the biggest task of the day, and just hope that the next day had fewer problems and more orders,” she said laughing. “It sounds so simple, but it really was that simple for us.”
Through the lens of her teaching and administration training, Kozak brings a unique approach to the technology world, undoubtedly a contributing factor to her success in the field. “Both my teaching degree and raising my kids taught me patience,” she explained. Kozak also prides herself on being personable and the effort she puts forth in really getting to know her team. It’s critical to the family-oriented culture that MNJ Technologies champions. “At the end of the day, we’re a sales organization, and so we make a point to focus on giving our sales team what they need to be successful,” she stated. That approach rang true this year, with 2020 being MNJ Technologies’ biggest revenue year, despite the unique hurdles that came with COVID-19.
Kozak has also made it a point to ensure that women are seen at various levels across the organization, including in management and executive positions, acknowledging that there is still much to be desired with regards to diversity at that level in the technology world. She said, “I am really proud of our diversity that we’ve been able to create in our company.”
The team at MNJ Technologies works diligently to cultivate an environment that engages with the female employees through initiatives like their bi-annual Women in IT event or even something as simple as specialized Workplace groups. By creating a space for female team members to feel connected to their colleagues, especially in a time when making connections is so difficult to come by and yet, so crucial, Kozak paves the way for female empowerment among her team.
For the next generation of leaders who may or may not have considered a tech-related career, Kozak emphasized the appeal of the technology industry. “There’s constant innovation and it offers stimulating challenges for any type of career,” she noted. “But you can’t be afraid of change. What’s right yesterday may not be right today. And what’s right today may not be right tomorrow. Ultimately, you need to be ready to adapt.”