Margaret Heffernan Margaret Heffernan
Vice President, Information Services and CIO
Quantum Corporation

As president and COO, Margaret Heffernan oversees iCAST's production, programming and business development operations. Her career in multi-media includes film, television, radio, multi-media software and the Internet. Heffernan conceived of and produced CMGI's first multi-media Internet site, ZineZone, where she served as its president and CEO.

Heffernan began her career in Britain, where she worked with its leading writers and performers to produce films, documentaries and comedy programs for the BBC. Her most notorious program was a two man epic history of the French Revolution for the bicentennial. She then ran the Independent Program Producers Association and was a consultant to the independent film and TV production communities, including Bob Geldof's Planet 24 Production Company. In search of greater opportunity, Heffernan moved to the United States in the early '90s and began consulting for multi-media software companies.

She was a new product advisor to (among others) Twelve Tone Systems and Pilgrim New Media. She also served as vice president of acquisitions for Vertigo Development Group, where she spearheaded multi-media product partnerships with companies like Intuit, The Learning Company and Standard & Poor's.

Convinced the Web would evolve quickly from a print format into an entertainment medium, Heffernan decided she would use her production expertise to create an interactive, multi-media rich Web site. She joined forces with CMGI and soon delivered ZineZone, its first multi-media site. As president and CEO, Margaret grew a loyal audience with daily updated, customized content, state-of-the-art multi-media, self-publishing areas, live email chats and more. After a year of mastering the nuances of mult-media production on the Internet, ZineZone has been integrated into iCAST and now serves as the heart of its multi-media production operations.

Heffernan received a B.A. and an M.A. from Cambridge University, England. She is married with two children.

1. What was your first job in technology?
My first job was consulting for software companies that wanted to become multimedia companies. I spent the bulk of my efforts trying to get the media folks to understand the software folks and vice versa. It was my conclusion, at the time, that software companies could not become media companies -- so I rendered myself unemployable!

2. Who has been your most significant mentor? Why?
In the technology space, my greatest mentor has been David Wetherell, the CEO of CMGi from whom I have learned a lot and who has had a great deal of faith in me. I had a number of (male) mentors in radio and TV who did likewise.

3. What has been your greatest challenge and what strategies did you use to overcome obstacles?
I was hired by CMGi in 1996 to build a company around a piece of technology it had acquired. The understanding at that time was that the software was just about ready to ship, the salesforce was poised to close deals with 5 major customers. It turned out that the software, far from being ready to ship, just did not work -- so the salesforce and the customers went away. I was left with the challenge of re-engineering a tremendously complex piece of software. All I brought to the challenge was ruthless determination.

How did I overcome obstacles? I worked closely and passionately with some truly gifted, world-class engineers. I drove them and myself. I loudly rewarded success. I set the pace by working most of the hours of the day and night.

4. Who has been the most influential person in your life? Why?
Impossible to answer. My mother, who was an energetic entrepreneur; my dad who is a fearless negotiator. My philosophy professor at Cambridge taught me scepticism. My first boss at the BBC - Piers Plowright - always took risks. My first husband who was never afraid. My friends who have kept me going. David Wetherell who learns faster than anyone on the planet. My first CTO who taught me everything I know about technology. My family who are forgiving but don't accept excuses. W.H.Auden and his fascination for how things work. Dickens and his insight into how things don't work. Beethoven and I.M. Pei who both understood that simple is the hardest thing to do.

5. What lessons have you learned that would be valuable to women beginning their careers in technology?

  1. It isn't about what's right and wrong in technology - it is about what works.
  2. There will always be trade offs - mostly between perfection and timeliness. Get used to it.
  3. Users can't see the technology.
  4. The PC doesn't know you're a woman.
  5. Women have incredible endurance and technology doesn't happen without it.
  6. You can do it.

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?
All great things have a down side. The printing press permits pornography and hate propaganda. The radio makes dumb talk and bad music ubiquitous. Cars have wrecked our environment. Planes destroy community. It happens. There is no such thing as the unambivalently good technology. I don't think it's a fruitful way of looking at the remorseless development of ideas.

On a lighter note:

1. If you could have dinner with any 2 people (living or not), who would they be?

Oliver Cromwell and Issey Miyake - but not together!

2. What was the last book you read? What books do you love to recommend?
I think the last book I read was the World War I trilogy by Pat Barker ("Regeneration," "The Eye in the Door" and "The Ghost Road").

The book I most often recommend, and that I read about once every 5 years, is "War and Peace."

3. If you were to choose a different profession, what would it be?
Even though I've no talent, I've always wanted to be an architect.

Realistically, if I have a next career, I think it could be back in the theater since I believe that the growth of digital entertainment - which will be huge - will put a premium on, and increase demand for, live entertainment.

4. What is your definition of success?
In your work, you are successful if you are in a position to have ideas and execute them with a gifted team of trusted collaborators. In your life, you are successful if you are surrounded by people you trust and who enjoy your company, warts and all.

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