She started her career marketing calculators, a role she accepted on a lark. Nearly 20 years later, she’s at the top of her game as VP of the organization responsible for the biggest chunk of HP®’s sales.
During her 19-year tenure at HP®, Americas Channel Chief Stephanie Dismore has held a variety of leadership roles, but her first one at the company was a trial by fire. She interviewed for and later accepted a job she’d never thought she was qualified for, as the marketing communications manager for HP®’s calculator team
In the early aughts, calculators were hardly considered the cutting edge of tech, though they had a loyal fan base and were deeply entrenched with customers. She was excited by the challenge. “I got really jazzed up about the opportunity because they were trying to make calculators cool again,” Dismore says. "I am not a scientist and I am not an engineer, but I had to learn how to market to them."
She took those hard-won learnings and has since risen through the ranks and today, she heads both the commercial and consumer channel organization for the Americas, part of a global sales collective that makes up nearly 90 percent of HP®’s yearly revenue.
If there’s one little known fact about HP®, it’s that most of its business flows through the channel, a diverse group of companies who sell, install and service HP products (think: retailers, big box stores, office supply stores, e-tailers, distributors and local players called “VARs,” or value-added resellers).
Dismore is a champion of HP®’s “channel first” strategy and spends nearly every week on the road meeting with partners - racking up some 250,000 airmiles last year and getting way too familiar with the best airport lounges.
It goes without saying that managing such a critical organization takes tenacity, grit and strong leadership skills - it also requires the ability to truly connect with channel partners to understand their needs and help them grow their bottom line.
Dismore, a self-proclaimed “beach girl” and a mother to a blended family of six, spoke with the Garage from her home base in Austin, Texas.
How did you end up at HP®?
I came from consumer brand, cable TV, sports marketing background. Before HP®, I worked for a cable TV network, but then Fox bought us out. It later became part of ABC Family. My sister-in-law worked for HP® in Vancouver and told me about an opportunity. My first thought was, “HP?” I couldn't see myself at a tech company.
How would you encourage a colleague or employee who finds herself as the only woman on her team?
I’m sometimes the only woman in the room. A lot of times we second guess ourselves, despite all of the experience you have acquired over the years. I try to adopt an attitude of, “I have nothing to prove, but I have a lot to offer.”
I don’t have to be a man or pretend to be like one. What I’ve realized in working with mostly men, is that they respect your authentic nature. Be who you are, and know that you are good.
What’s on your desk right now?
I’m a “facing-out” kind of person! I have my laptop facing out toward the door, and a cup of coffee, my journal, and nothing else. I like it nice and clean so I can focus. On the bookshelf behind me, I have a ton of family pictures and a lot of books.
What book have you read lately that really moved you?
One recent one that has been very interesting is Steve Jobs’ biography
. I love that book because you realize this one man did what he loved and lived his passion. He actually did change the world with his intense focus on bringing new technologies to life. But, you also realize after reading the book, he was not a perfect man. Sometimes, as women, we are so hard on ourselves, and we focus on our weaknesses instead of strengths.
Do you collect anything?
I tend to throw everything away. I am a minimalist, I don’t collect anything!
Tell us about someone you admire?
[Fashion designer and entrepreneur] Tory Burch
. I respect her and look up to her. She built an empire, in really what was then a man’s world. And she has a focus on giving back to other women and has a substantial philanthropic organization
. She helps other women thrive and it’s inspiring.
What other qualities do you look to emulate in your leadership style?
[HP Chief Executive Officer] Dion [Weisler] is an awesome leader. Over the last two years, he has ended every one of his presentations with a reminder to continue to be humble. I have not heard other leaders talk about humility when you are winning in the marketplace.
What’s your best advice for a recent college grad?
Here’s me getting up on my soapbox. When young people talk to me about career advice, first and foremost, the most important thing we can do to grow and climb and succeed in a career is start with understanding your strengths and weaknesses. And stay within your strengths. You will end up naturally operating within your skillset so you have a passion, excitement and energy in your work.