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Always Choosing the Less-Traveled Road

Entrepreneur Sarah Gates does business on the frontiers of IT

Sarah Gates
Founder & CEO, Wisegate

Vanderbilt MBA 1996

What may be risky business for some is simply how Sara Gates defines her world.

“My career has always been in emerging markets—out there on the edge—doing the newest thing,” she says. “I’m very comfortable assuming risk and taking on the challenge of seeing through what I’ve not done before.”

After graduating from Vanderbilt, Sara moved to the Northeast and worked for a few years in mergers and acquisitions for Deloitte Consulting. Recruited by Microsoft, she then moved to Seattle to be director of business development and product strategy in the company’s emerging markets division. But in 2000, when she had the opportunity to join a team starting a software security company, Sara chose “the road less traveled.”

That path brought her full circle, back to her fourth-generation Austin, Texas, roots. And though she’s happy to be home, she realizes that, “In each instance, the comfortable, safe decision would have been to stay right where I was because things were going to well. But, whether I mean to or not, I bring change, and I drive that change in organizations and companies.”

In 2004, Sara became vice president of software for Sun Microsystems, which bought the small start-up in 2003. The firm’s security software aids large companies in preventing identity theft and complying with such regulations as the Sarbanes-Oxley Act.

Ever forward-moving, Sara helps set Sun Microsystems’ direction and communicates that message internally to company leaders, and externally to analysts, customers and the press. Sara brought that same momentum to her past position as president of the Owen Alumni Board.

“As a board, we needed a fresh approach to some of the old ways of doing things, and to get more alums involved, so we could adapt to the latest economy and to what the school needed from us,” she says.

“Grateful for her Vanderbilt education, Sara credits Owen with bringing a “business-based discernment, judgment and decision-making foundation” to her natural inclination for risk-taking and change.

True to form, she took another risk in 2012, launching her own company—Wisegate—a path-breaking personal advisory service firm for IT professionals. “IT professionals are the most powerful and untapped resource in IT,” she says. “I am on a personal mission to bring transparency to the IT industry.”

“I’m very comfortable assuming risk and taking on the challenge of seeing through what I’ve not done before.”