Therese Tucker is the CEO and founder of BlackLine Systems, an account reconciliation and financial close software provider. Prior to that she served as CTO at SunGard Treasury Systems. Therese was comfortably retired from SunGard – and had two school-age children at home – when she decided to merge her two talents, technology and finance, into a successful business endeavor of her own in 2001. With just sixty employees BlackLine boasts a client roster that includes AT&T, Boeing, Costco, eBay, Northrop Grumman, and United Airlines.
SM: Therese, let’s start at the beginning of your story. What is your background?
TT: I grew up on a farm in Illinois. I am the youngest of four girls. My parents did not have much money. My father was a factory worker and farmer. It seems today that everyone who is bright goes to college. Back then there were some very smart people who make their careers as farmers and blue-collar workers. College is a lot more accessible today.
I once asked my dad why he never went to college, and he told me it was about money. He was born in 1920, which is the year the farm depression hit. In 1929 the Great Depression hit. There were no such things as school loans back then. I learned from a very early age how to work exceptionally hard. I was herding cows and raising pigs. I had responsibilities from the time I could walk.
My oldest sister did what my parents thought she should do, which was to get a secretarial job and marry a factory worker. Ultimately she got divorced and became an attorney. My second sister passed away seventeen years ago from breast cancer. My third sister also did something that was deemed OK by my parents when she went off to become a nurse. Subsequently she went back to school and became a nurse practitioner. She was unhappy with the typical woman career I was the first in my family who decided to go to a four year college.
SM: Why did you make that decision?
TT: Most of the people I knew in that very small town were getting engagement rings for their graduation presents followed by jobs in local department stores. I thought I would die if that is all I did with my life. College seemed like a step in the right direction. I still had no idea what I was doing when I went to college. I majored in business and French at Illinois Wesleyan.
Business and French was boring. I then thought about becoming an art major because I really enjoyed painting, but I figured that I was not good enough and I would starve to death. I then took one of the very first Apple programming classes. I fell in love with the ability to give a machine instructions and have it respond to me.