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In Her Words: Growing up in Silicon Valley framed Susan Jeffers’ future

2 min read

Retail was under siege during the pandemic, but Susan Jeffers always believed it would bounce back. Using her tech background and countless interviews with those on the sales floor, she created a seamless shopping experience.

“I was born in India and grew up lower middle class in the suburbs of Bombay. My dad made around $10 a month. I didn’t have my own bedroom, so I used to sleep on the living room couch. Things were meager, but my parents always wanted me to be my own person. Coming from that background, I always wanted to explore, to do better for myself and my family.

So, when I was 16, I moved to the U.S. by myself and went to school in Silicon Valley. Since very early on, I’ve been fascinated with technology and what its applications can bring to the world. I’m a curious person. I can’t just sit in one place and say “this is beautiful” — I need to know what’s going on behind the scenes. This disposition jibed with the ethos of Silicon Valley, but when I first moved there, times were hard. Throughout the time I was studying, I worked two jobs: babysitting and at a laundromat. Just name it — I’ve worked in all kinds of places. I wasn’t a citizen, and I was living in the most expensive place in the world. But I never saw this as a period of weakness. I just kept thinking about my strengths, giving back through activities like teaching women English, and investing in the long term.

When I was ready to leave school, it was one of the worst times to graduate: the economic downturn. So, I stayed a bit longer and kept building my network in the Valley. Silicon Valley was an intellectual paradise then: people just talking ideas, people who wanted to change the world. I got my first job at a technology incubator. This was a big turning point in my life. I got to meet 50 or 60 founders and learned so much from them. They gave me the desire to do something on my own, to put my destiny in my own hands and not in somebody else’s control.