Professional Development

A former opera singer hits new career notes at Pinnacle 21

This software engineering manager says the Blue Bell-based SaaS company is seeking dedicated folks, even if their resume includes different career tracks.

Sue Gerace.

(Courtesy photo)

Sue Gerace was anxious to welcome a Pinnacle 21 hire during the first remote onboarding process she managed. But she relied on her guiding principle: Get to know them on a personal level, and the rest will come.

What happened next? She found a connection. He’s a former cellist, and she was a professional opera singer — two musicians now employed by Pinnacle 21, which supplies its SaaS platform to the FDA, Japan’s PMDA, and pharmaceutical and biotech firms to assist them with clinical trial data.

“I understood exactly where he was as someone coming from the performing world transitioning into this industry, and it gave us a lot to talk about,” said Gerace, a software engineering manager at the Blue Bell, PA-based Pinnacle 21. “Programming talk came easily after that.”

Gerace ended her tenure as a full-time opera singer in 2013 and has worked in the tech industry since. This professional decision wasn’t made blindly; Gerace’s father taught her how to code when she was a kid.

“He had a game that was mostly coded but had bugs in it. So basically we’d play it, and he’d be like ‘Oh, wait, this is broken. Let’s go fix this,’” she said. “That’s how I learned basic coding.”

Gerace revisited a formal coding education in 2011 when she started taking classes at a community college and later switched to Temple University. She also interned at JPMorgan, where she was eventually hired for her first tech role.

Gerace is now set to receive her master’s in computer science from Drexel University this June. She joined Pinnacle 21 in March 2021 for the first managerial role of her career after first learning about the company by reading a Technical.ly article highlighting her new colleague, Bob Ganski.

“I’ve always loved technology, but I really wanted to become a manager,” Gerace said. “What I’ve found here is a place where I can ask questions constantly to learn how to be the best manager possible for my team.”

Read more to learn how Gerace is settling into the role and what drew her to coding.

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Since this is your first managerial role, how have you developed your managing style?

There’s always my past experience that I can draw from. I’ve had good managers I want to replicate and bad managers that taught me what I don’t want to do.

At Pinnacle 21, even though this is my first managerial role, I feel so welcome and it allows me to have an open dialogue with my peers about what works for them and how I can grow.

You’ve mentioned the collaborative environment at Pinnacle 21 so it makes sense that you’d draw from your network.

Yeah, and it goes further than asking my mentors. I also ask the people who report to me, “What do you want in a manager?”

I asked everybody on the team what their ideal manager looks like, because my goal is to make sure that they have everything they need to do their job. It’s an ongoing process. I’m never going to be done developing my management skills because the people I work with are always growing and changing, too.

Going back to your hiring process, do you think your nontraditional route to coding helped you?

My interview at Pinnacle 21 was actually the first time my background in vocal performance didn’t come up. In past conversations, it almost seemed like a hindrance. I was looking for an organization that wasn’t going to use my career change against me, and that’s what I found here.

Making a career switch is always a big and important decision, though. What drew you to coding?

No matter the language you use, it’s the process of identifying existing patterns and exploring all of the options you have with a codebase that keeps me engaged.

For other people interested in applying, what will help a candidate stand out during Pinnacle 21’s interview process?

They should definitely highlight what they’re interested in, and how much they love coding. If this is a new career choice for them, what drew you to it? What drives you? We want people that have a lot of energy and can bring that to the team. Curiosity is super important as well, since technology is always changing. You think you know everything about it, and then a new framework comes down the pipeline.

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