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Posted: December 01, 2009

Executive Edge: Laura Buckley

STORserver president says Colorado Springs IT company is bucking the recession

Lynn Bronikowski

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Mention the word "recession" to Laura Buckley, and the Colorado Springs information technology veteran dauntlessly says, "We're just not going to participate in a recession, thank you. This year we are confident we'll maintain our growth despite the economic downturn."

Such an attitude is not surprising coming from the president and chief operating officer of STORServer Inc., which she helped found out of her family's garage in 1995, and today employs 40, has 700 customers and has seen 10 percent growth annually.

"You can't just hover and maintain; you have to do something," said Buckley, 48, who grew up in Colorado Springs and graduated from Regis University. "So at a time when a lot of people are cutting back, we have gone into a plan to grow our business. It's exciting to bring new products to the market, and in the next five years we expect to see our growth accelerate to as much as 40 percent."

STORServer provides data backup solutions to a myriad of mid-size companies, government agencies and educational institutions. The employee-owned company designs and builds devices that back up critical data.

"We tend to do best in the mid-market where they are strapped for resources," said Buckley, who previously was in IT management with Ford Aerospace and Digital Equipment Corp. It was at Digital Equipment where STORServer's founders were working at the onset of the dot.com bust that led to the company ultimately pulling up stakes on its Colorado Springs manufacturing operation.

"When we started this company, we likened it to jumping off a cliff holding hands," Buckley recalls. "We were five families and six people sharing the salary that one might have made before. We had a couple of years of starvation, but we were frugal, did a lot of consulting to earn money and used our savings."

They never turned to venture capitalists or other investors, steadily building equipment as the orders came in.

"We literally operated out of our garage," Buckley said, noting that today the company has an office in the Netherlands that handles its European sales.

Buckley came into the IT industry through a combination of luck and advice from a teacher at Mitchell High School, from which she graduated in 1979.

"As a girl, I was encouraged to take typing," Buckley said. "I wanted to be a journalist and got a job at the Gazette-Telegraph, and when they found out I had typing skills, they put me on the agate page. I loved getting into the computer - and that was in 1978-79 - when computers were just emerging. I realized I had an aptitude for computers so I came upon my skills by luck, found computers interesting, understood them, and it was easy for me."

But Buckley admits IT careers don't always come easy for girls, and few women head companies in her industry.

"It's the whole math and science thing - young girls and young women aren't encouraged to learn math and the sciences," she said. "So there has to be early education, and then it's a matter of making sure they get that level of experience they need. And once they get into the industry, it's important that we help mentor them. We have quite a number of women working for us, and I'm proud of that."

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Lynn Bronikowski is a freelance writer in Denver.

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