Marty was born at Ladd AFB in Fairbanks, Alaska on July 28th, 1950. A couple of years after her birth, her family packed the car and headed down the Alcan highway to Nevada (Reno, then Las Vegas) where Marty spent her formative years. By the mid-1960’s, the family had made their way to Scottsdale, Arizona, the place she would call home for the next 50 years.
It was during her years at Saguaro High School where she began her writing career. Although the topics of student parking and pep rallies were vastly different than what she would write about as a professional, her bold, no-nonsense style was already evident.
During her senior year, the burgeoning writer reluctantly went on a blind date as a favor to a friend. That evening she met the man who would be her husband for the next 46 years. Deborah “Marty” Martin and Carl Gruhn married in the summer of 1969 and welcomed a daughter, Kenna, a year later.
While Carl studied for his engineering degree at Arizona State University, Marty worked as a law secretary “serving coffee to overpriced lawyers”. Needless to say, it wasn’t long after Carl began his career as a telecommunications engineer that she made moves to do something more challenging.
“The guys at Digital are the original white soxers with the slide rules hanging off their belts.” – The Chicago Tribune 1986
Marty’s long, often trail-blazing, career in the high tech industry began by selling Vydec word processors. During this time, she became an active player in the birth of the PC age. After witnessing the beginning of personal computer and software startups, such as Apple and Microsoft, she decided to turn in her hat as computer salesperson for one as a technology analyst.
In 1980, Marty Co-founded The Sierra Group, an IT market research and consulting firm. The company initially rose to fame with its annual Cost of Ownership study that compared the costs of owning vendors’ systems in enterprise environments. However, that success was soon eclipsed by her reputation as a respected consultant and Wall Street technology analyst. Her no-holds-barred style made her one of the most quoted – and quotable – analysts in IT and Wall Street publications, including the Wall Street Journal, the Boston Globe, ComputerWorld, PC Week, Communications Week, and InfoWorld. Her notoriety even led to a television appearance on PBS’s Wall Street Week.
As the company’s popularity grew, so did her accomplishments outside the U.S. market in Europe and Asia. Her crowning achievement, however, was her presentation to Brother Industries at its headquarters in Japan that earned her the title of the first woman ever to speak before board members of a Japanese IT company.
In 1990, Marty became the Co-founder of Alliance Development and managed the company’s acquisition of her former company The Sierra Group. During Marty’s tenure Alliance Development interviewed over 100,000 IT buyers to convert the results into qualified sales leads and real-time market requirements for Fortune 500 computer companies and Wall Street investment firms. As much as Marty enjoyed sales-based market research, it wasn’t long until the Internet loomed large in her sights.
By the end of the century, Marty had jumped into the Information Age with both feet. She left Alliance Development to partner with Summit Strategies as the Vice President and Practice Director of E-Business Strategies and Best Practices, which took her back to her roots — pure market research. Along with the job came a busy presentation schedule and a renewed round of press coverage — only this time with a new slate of publications, such as Internet Week, Interactive Age, MSNBC, and CFO Magazine.
While Marty reported on Internet best practices and strategies with Summit Strategies, she also was the Co-Founder and CEO of Strategem, a startup firm focusing on Website best practices and strategies. Strategem, which eventually was renamed siteIQ, ran Fortune 500 IT Websites through a proprietary benchmark to report on Website competitive requirements, strategies, and emerging trends.
At the time of Marty’s passing, siteIQ had celebrated its 20th anniversary and performed over 4,000 evaluations on more than 75 Fortune 500 IT Websites. Its past and current clients include (but aren’t limited to) IBM, Dell, HP, Intel, SAP, CA, Oracle, Symantec, Adobe, BMC, Cisco, Palo Alto Networks, Juniper Networks, and EMC.
“Let’s rock and roll” – Marty’s phrase whenever she launched off on a new adventure
Marty’s most loved hobby was her work. However, she took the occasional time off from the computer as well.
Her favorite spot away from home – and the computer — was at Aspen House, her cabin nestled in a rare aspen grove in Flagstaff, Arizona. There she spent time with family and friends ripping down ski runs, shooting skeet and trap, and enjoying four full seasons – a luxury compared to the temperate Phoenix weather.
While down in the valley, she loved horseback riding with her horse Shadow and attempting to break the sound barrier in high-performance cars. However, there were a few calmer pursuits. She was an accomplished cook, enthusiastic gardener, passionate collector of Asian art and antiques, and professional shopper (just ask her husband).
After over a decade of traveling for business, traveling for pleasure was largely limited to home base. However, she made exceptions for yacht sailing in San Diego. Her love of sailing inspired her to purchase her final home in the Phoenix area on a lake where she could enjoy her small sailboat and paddle boat.
“That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.” – Marty’s last phrase of every siteIQ presentation
Marty is survived by her husband Carl Gruhn, her daughter Kenna Dian Gruhn, and her mother Mercedes Martin.
Marty’s company, siteIQ, is survived by Co-Founders Kenna Dian (Gruhn), Carl Gruhn, and Nicole Wallens. The company will continue in Marty’s vision by the siteIQ team delivering competitive benchmarking and usability evaluations. Kenna Dian says, “As long as Website teams need to know what it takes to make their sites more usable and competitive, and they want to know the trends coming around the bend, we’ll be here.”
Finally, Marty is survived by an incalculable number of companies, colleagues, and friends that have benefited from her unique, sometimes controversial, but always educational, take on what is coming over the horizon.
- The place she was born no longer exists (Ladd AFB, Fairbanks, Alaska).
- Was the only person in her neighborhood (if not town) to have a word processor in her home in 1977.
- Wrote her first book – a series of text books actually – at the age of 27.
- She is listed in Who’s Who in Information Technology, Who’s Who in the Computer Industry, and Who’s Who in American Business.
- The first woman ever to speak before members of the board of a Japanese IT company.
- Met with many high-profile CEO’s including Dr. Wang of Wang Laboratories, Larry Ellison of Oracle, and Carly Fiorina of HP.
- Was an expert witness in multiple trials involving technology issues.
- Knew Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Larry Ellison, and George Colony (Forrester Research) from the Pirates of Silicon Valley days.
- Found out about 9/11 while at the top of the William Wallace monument in Scotland during a Citrix conference. She and her husband subsequently spent the next 10 days around Scotland due to flight restrictions into the United States.
- Beat her initial cancer diagnosis by almost 10 years. She was initially given 6 months to live in 2005.
- Marty is widely known for her witticisms, including her email slug, “In God we trust. All others bring data” In fact, a white board at IBM was dedicated to her witty phrases that she would say in meetings.
To learn more about Marty’s background and a compilation of Website references, visit her profiles on:
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the siteIQ team would love to hear your memories of Marty in the comments below.