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Retail Tech’s Most Inspiring Women

1/4/2017

By Tim Denman

Inspiration can come from a wide variety of sources — a friend, teacher, family member,
heck, even a good book can spark something inside and lead us down the path to success. For
this month’s cover story on the Top Women in Retail Tech I had the honor of interviewing some
of the industry’s leading innovators and I made it a point to ask each one to name an individual
who had the greatest impact on them, helping propel them to where they are today.
 
It was no surprise that two of the women credited their strong mothers for helping instill a
powerful work ethic and can-do attitude from an early age:
 
“My mom worked for an upholsterer when I was growing up,” said Julie Averill, CIO, REI.
“It was hard, manual work. One day she decided she would start her own business, which she
then built and ran successfully until she retired a few years ago. She taught me three important
lessons. First, hard work is the foundation of everything you do. Second, you need to take
calculated risks. Finally, how you treat people on your journey is just as important as anything
else you do.”
 
“I wouldn’t be where I am today without my mother,” said Angela Chan, SVP & chief sourcing
officer, DXL Group. “After escaping the cultural revolution in China, she came to Boston
with no education or training, taught herself English and worked in a semi-conductor factory
as a sample maker. She modeled a strong work ethic, authentic values and showed me how to
take challenges and risks, head on.”
 
While Karen Etzkorn, CIO, HSNi also pointed to a parent, her dad, as a key influencer in
her life she also reminisced fondly about Vivian Stephenson the former CIO of Target. The two
worked together at Williams-Sonoma where Stephenson was COO and Etzkorn was VP of IT.
Stephenson asked Etzkorn to run infrastructure for the retailer, an assignment she felt she was
not prepared for. “Having a leader that had a tremendous amount of confidence in my capabilities
and was willing to take a risk with me had a great impact on me,” Etzkorn said. “It set me
up quite a bit for my first CIO role. I credit her as the best mentor I have ever had in my career.”
 
Nadia Shouraboura is the founder and CEO of Hointer, but in a previous life she was a key
member of Amazon’s tech team and part of CEO’s Jeff Bezos’ inner circle. “Jeff had a big
impact on the way I think about things,” she said. “I never told him that. He helped me connect
business and science and also taught me to be persistent.”
 
The women in this month’s cover story were propelled to great success thanks to the inspiring
actions and words of those closest to them. And now they themselves have become inspirational
figures in the industry, helping shape the next generation of retail leaders.

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