Beth VanStory joined iMotors from Office Depot, where she was vice president in charge of
OfficeDepot.com, which she launched and led to an award-winning successful
e-commerce site. Before Office Depot, VanStory led Weather.com for The Weather
Channel, where she was vice president and general manager of New Media. Before
the Internet blossomed, she was working in the early (too early!) interactive television
industry at Bell Atlantic's Tele-TV venture, and was also at MCI Communications. VanStory
received a masters of management degree from Northwestern University, and holds a
B.S. in commerce from the University of Virginia.
1. What was your first job in technology?
I was an MIS major in college, but my first job in technology was at MCI. As a product manager I was responsible for technical product development, coordinating with the IS teams. I enjoyed being able to combine my interest in marketing with my academic technical knowledge in a fast-paced environment.
2. Who has been your most significant mentor? Why?
I've actually had a couple people who've given me incredible nuggets of wisdom. One individual who comes to mind is a gentleman I worked for at Bell Atlantic. He taught me to network and develop relationships even if the benefit was not at first obvious. Many of the relationships I've developed before and since that time have been important to me throughout my career and at various companies.
3. What has been your greatest challenge and what strategies did you use to overcome obstacles?
One of my greatest work challenges has been in coming in to established companies and pioneering new business units. In one case, I encountered significant resistance due to fear of cannibalizing the current business. The way I overcame this challenge was to educate other departments on the opportunity that the new channel offered to the company and how their department could contribute. I also involved them in the development of the plans for the line of business and clearly communicated goals and results.
4. Who has been the most influential person in your life? Why?
Probably my mom who always told me I could do anything that I set mind to. Also, she was a big proponent of education, having completed both her undergraduate and graduate degrees while working and raising kids.
5. What lessons have you learned that would be valuable to women beginning their careers in technology?
First, don't be intimidated. Much of technology is not that hard to comprehend if you find the right person to explain it. Second, be willing to experiment and be passionate about learning.
6. What new technology do you believe will have the most positive impact on the world in the next 20 years? The most negative impact?
I think that genetic engineering will have the greatest impact. To be able to prevent and cure horrific diseases exceeds any benefit I see from things like more bandwidth and wireless, etc. Ironically, genetic engineering, if wrongly used, could have significant negative effects.
On a lighter note:
1. If you could have dinner with any 2 people (living or not), who would they be?
Bette Midler - she's funny, talented and seems to like herself.
Jack Welch - how could I not want to meet who many consider the CEO of the century?
2. What was the last book you read? What books do you love to recommend?
The last book I read was "God of Small Things," from my bookclub - fiction. I'd recommend Mary Modahl's "Now or Never" as a good primer on consumers and the Internet. Being from the south, I like Pat Conroy and also enjoyed "The Divine Secrets of the Ya Ya Sisterhood."
3. If you couldn't do what you are doing now, what profession would you choose?
I think it would be fun to be an entertainer or a chef, something highly creative. My other choice would be a professor. I've always enjoyed teaching and training.
4. What is your definition of success?
From a career standpoint, I enjoy building businesses. To me this means, discovering a better way to distribute products or information, developing new products, building a high performance team, and leading that team to growth and profitability.