Meet Marjorie Zingle: At 88, She Defies Age and Gender Norms in Tech with Her Thriving Data Centre Business
By Hailey Eisen
In the dynamic realm of technology, Marjorie Zingle stands out not just for her achievements, but also for her remarkable journey. At 88-years-old, she helms a flourishing data centre in Calgary, a testament to her enduring spirit and acumen in an industry often associated with the young.
“I came into this business at 69, around the time I was thinking of retiring,” she says. “And, I have not since been able to find another woman in the world who owns a data centre.” There are certainly challenges associated with being a woman in the tech industry, not to mention being a senior – but challenges have only ever inspired Marjorie.
“I grew up during the Great Depression and left home at 16,” she recalls. “But I was born with an entrepreneurial spark, and that spark was lit when I was five-year- old and had my first lemonade stand.” Though she left home before finishing school, Marjorie says she has been learning ever since. “When I was quite young, I was told I would never get anywhere in life, and sadly that’s what was told to a lot of young ladies at the time,” she recalls.
If anything, this was just the push Marjorie needed to work harder and prove them all wrong.
She’s full of energy and not considering slowing down. A few years ago, she received one of the inaugural Top 7 Over 70 awards in Calgary. She has plans in the works to expand her company, DataHive, into the cybersecurity space. And, she has a wealth of advice and wisdom that she’s more than willing to share with mentees, university students, and anyone who takes the time to listen. She’s always working to break down stereotypes around sexism and ageism, and it seems she’s doing a very good job of it.
In her early career, Marjorie lived in Montréal and spent a decade working in sales for the pulp and paper industry. “As you might imagine, I dealt only with men for years, and many happened to be extremely chauvinistic. I learned how to survive while building that company dramatically.”
She then moved west with her husband, who was an accountant, and landed in Calgary. “I couldn’t find a job that I was interested in, so my husband suggested I try selling real estate,” she recalls. A year into that career, she was second on the list of most successful realtors in Calgary. When a job came up in the travel industry, she decided to try her hat at something new. As the Executive Director of the Travel Industry Association of Alberta, Marjorie spent eight years travelling the province and meeting with all levels of government.
Being an entrepreneur and always dreaming up new ideas, Marjorie says the wheels started spinning again, and she began to think about association management. “I realized that many associations don’t have management expertise, and I decided to create something to solve that problem.” She quit her job and set out with a small office space and no clients to her name. It didn’t take long before her business began to thrive. “I ended up buying the building we worked out of and provided services to 17 different associations.” From there, she launched a second company that focused on conferences and meeting planning.
After selling both of these companies, Marjorie began to think about retirement. She was in her 60s and had, for all intents and purposes, a very successful career. But, some people just don’t like to slow down. “It’s in my personality and my psyche,” Marjorie says. “I’m a builder. I’m always dreaming up ideas for new business.”
So, when she discovered that the centre where she had one data server was being poorly run and not looked after properly, she became curious. It was primarily a web hosting business at the time, being run by the son of Iraq’s leader of the opposition. “He wasn’t taking care of it and when I approached them to learn more, the company wasn’t productive, the space was filthy, and the electricity was in the process of being cut off.”
And that is how Marjorie found herself launching a career in the tech space rather than embarking on retirement. “I contacted the owner, purchased what was left of the data centre, and started from scratch.”
Today, DataHive is a leader in creating innovative approaches to secure data storage and network and endpoint security technologies. It has attracted some of the world’s highest rated Internet companies as service providers and has many Fortune 500 companies as clients.
Though she didn’t have technology expertise or knowledge when she started out, Marjorie says she did know how to enlist the help of the right people. “A good entrepreneur must pick her advisors wisely. She must know how to identify really good people who can do what you can’t.”
She credits her small but mighty team with DataHive’s success. “Today I have nine people who work for me and the place runs like a charm.” To her, success is not being really good at everything, but being really good at asking for help.
Her relationship with TD Bank, one of her greatest champions, goes back to 1971 when she arrived in Calgary. “I’ve been a TD client ever since, and all of my companies have been successful with the support of the bank,” she says. “That being said, I have never gone into debt. Being a child of the Depression, you’re taught not to do that, and it’s influenced my professional career.” She believes this philosophy has prevented her from ever having to declare bankruptcy. She’s been committed to never spending more than she has. “I always know I can call up my TD advisor for advice, and currently I’m looking at expanding DataHive and considering a line of credit, so I don’t have to shuffle my accounts too much,” Marjorie says. “I still go into the bank to make deposits; they know me by name.”
While she’s been working her whole life, Marjorie says she didn’t really have much interest in money for most of her career. Because her husband was an accountant, and her accountant, she left the finances up to him. “When he developed Alzheimer’s and passed away … I had a lot to learn. It was hard. I had to learn how to consolidate my accounts and, to be honest, at times I felt like an idiot. I had always been looked after, but now I had to do that for myself.” She says it took some time to find the right accountant to take over for her husband, but now she meets with them every second week to ensure she’s on top of things.
“As an entrepreneur, the learning never stops and the only way to be successful is to really believe in yourself,” she says. “You certainly don’t have to be male to deal with male egos. There are ways to be successful and maintain your integrity. As I always say, I have no competitors, I’m not competitive. We provide an amazing service, and we’ve grown by word of mouth. We provide wonderful service and so our clients stay with us forever.”