Shelby County native and Mud Island resident Susie Bjorklund works as a compliance attorney at Bluff City’s own AutoZone. Her work allows her to problem solve, drive operational success and help AutoZone maintain an ethical and compliant workplace and business. An avid history and genealogy buff, Susie traces her ancestors back to Memphis in the 19th century. Her spare time is spent with the Junior League of Memphis, where she works to improve the city with her volunteer efforts. She also enjoys spending time with her husband (she’s a newlywed) and dog, and exploring Memphis’ historical sites. We are so pleased to introduce you to Susie, today’s FACE of Memphis.
Tell us about your work at AutoZone.
I am a compliance attorney for AutoZone and proud of it! I work on process improvement, prepare compliance training and communications, and help our teams understand how complex rules and regulations apply to what we do. No two days are alike. I consistently feel like I’m helping people and I consider AutoZone truly a great place to work.
Describe your early career. Where did you work and what were your jobs?
I’ve had career success by being in the right place at the right time and being mindful of my network. I graduated right when the economy was not ideal for lawyers, but I had a series of exciting contract attorney positions, including work for Walter Bailey Jr., AutoZone and even some criminal court appointments. Each assignment taught me to be resourceful, to appreciate work that comes your way and to be flexible with what you think your path in life should be. Immediately prior to AutoZone, I worked at a boutique labor and employment and benefits law firm. That work helped develop my writing, taught me to understand a customer’s needs and continue to learn about new areas of law. When I made the jump to AutoZone, I was ready to flex my muscles and try a new area: policy. It was a move that paid off and has offered me a lot of rewarding experiences.
What are your hobbies, and how do you unwind?
I enjoy walks with Epi (her Jack Russell terrier), running and wine. I also love exploring family histories, and when I retire, I hope to be able to research genealogy as a full-time hobby. Family history isn’t just knowing facts, dates and lineage; it’s understanding how the time in which an ancestor lived critically shaped the way they saw the world, experienced events and how they found satisfaction in life. I became immensely interested in Memphis history when I discovered that I have several branches of family members who made Memphis a part of their immigrant experience. One branch made the journey from Italy to the U.S. and, ultimately, to Memphis in the 1870s. This large family, the Piaggios, settled in Memphis and within several years were operating businesses on Beale and on Main. I can still walk past the spots where these businesses stood and feel a connection to my family and to a piece of Memphis history.
As a history buff, what are your favorite books on local and Southern history?
I would refer anyone looking for a great read on Memphis history to G. Wayne Dowdy’s titles, Hidden History of Memphis and A Brief History of Memphis. As the archivist with the Memphis Public Library, his work is accurate and entertaining! For New Orleans history, I like (Ned Sublette’s) The World that Made New Orleans: From Spanish Silver to Congo Square.
What’s the first place you take an out-of-towner when they visit you in Memphis?
Before taking in a large plate of BBQ at Central BBQ or The Germantown Commissary, I try to make a trip to Elmwood Cemetery. The guided tours give visitors a snapshot of Memphis history and introduces them to centuries of famous citizens and citizens whose lives have been all but forgotten. It’s a great way to get to know the history of the city — through the Yellow Fever epidemic and the Civil War to early politics in the 20th Century. Plus, on a pretty spring day, you can snap some great photos! And, if you feel like cruising in your car, the Elmwood shop will lend you a CD for an audio tour.
What’s your favorite Memphis attraction and why?
It’s probably a tie between The Brooks Museum and Elmwood. So, I guess the second place I’d bring that out-of-towner would be The Brooks. It’s a recognized museum with a fantastic collection and exhibits that highlight the Southern experience. I can’t resist getting a mimosa and a bread basket while at the Brushmark Restaurant, and I have been known to leave the gift shop with a new piece of jewelry when guests come to visit.
You live on Mud Island. What do you like best about the neighborhood?
I love that the neighborhood is close to work, close to the Downtown core, and it looks like no other community in Memphis. With walking paths and a safe place to run, it’s the best of both city and suburban life. And of course, there is the Nail Bar!
What inspires you?
I am inspired by hard work. Too many people are comfortable “just showing up.” Seeing others achieving inspires me to contribute the fullest to whatever is at hand.
You’ve been involved with the Junior League of Memphis for quite some time. What is the most memorable thing you’ve done as a Junior Leaguer?
Joining the Junior League of Memphis was one of the best decisions I’ve made as a young professional. Through the years of service, I’ve met many wonderful women I consider part of my “tribe” and who support me. My favorite memory, a funny one, was as a volunteer for the Red Cross Safety House. I was teaching basic safety to children like how to “stop, drop and roll” and dial 9-1-1. The children were getting ready to go out the window of the house, practicing using a fire ladder. One of the children was scared and wanted me to do it first. Well, I did and ended up stuck in the window while spectators looked on because my shirt was stuck around my chin…
Finish this sentence: If I had a superpower, it would be …
To turn back time. I’d want to go back in time and visit, but not change, parts of history.
What one word describes you?
What is your best piece of advice for others?
If you don’t know, say you don’t know. And, if you don’t know, find out. I’ve found that it’s common for people at all levels of leadership and in a variety of areas of life to be afraid of admitting what they don’t know. No one can be an expert in all things. It’s important to surround yourself with people who recognize this and are willing to research the answer.
What are three lighthearted things you can’t live without, excluding faith, family and friends?
Dry shampoo for those times I try to fake “having it all” with my work-life balance. Fresh Sugar lip gloss, for those times where lipstick feels too complicated. My Pitbull playlist on Spotify for when I need to feel fierce.