Our Lead(H)er series features impressive women leaders in the tech industry. In this Q&A, we are featuring Elizabeth Storti, Chief People Officer at PathAI.
Where did you grow up and how would you describe yourself as a child?
I was born and raised in Reading, Massachusetts, surrounded by an almost endless family unit. I have three sisters, including a twin sister. We lost my father when I was young and were raised by my mother, an experience that shaped me as an adult. I was always very social, and I loved to learn. I remember an essential creative outlet was recreating sophisticated Spice Girls music videos.
What did you study in college and what was your first job out of school?
I studied accounting in college, which always felt like a natural place for me. Accounting was a nice intersection of my love of numbers and business. I also was a cheerleader, which kept it fun! Right out of school, I worked in public accounting focusing on corporate tax.
Can you share the details on your career path and what were the critical moments that got you to where you are today?
My career path is paved with hard work, amazing mentors, and a lot of luck. As Chief People Officer of PathAI, many would be surprised to hear that my entire career was in finance!
I started my career in a place I thought I would end up, public accounting. I got my CPA almost immediately after graduating, assuming I would jump into public accounting and never look back. A few years into my time in public, though, I had the opportunity to join Bain Capital which I took. It was my first “risky” move with almost no finance background, and it ended up being one of the roles that shaped me the most technically. I went in with no experience and an extremely steep learning curve where expectations were held high. However, in this role, I learned the FP&A skills that later shaped me as a finance leader.
After my time at Bain, I joined an old mentor, Tiffany Freitas, in my first step into tech, at a mid-staged fintech company Vestmark. At Vestmark, I had the opportunity to build a finance function with exposure to all parts of the company. My role there was unique because I worked so closely with Tiffany every day. I learned how to become a woman in tech from her during that time. Tiffany taught me everything from writing board materials to negotiating large capital raises and everything in between. After years at Vestmark, I left to join PathAI and the Co-founders Andy Beck and Aditya Khosla, which without a doubt, was the riskiest, most exciting, and most rewarding career decision I have made.
When I started at PathAI there were only 15 of us, and my role was to oversee finance, accounting, and operations, which I did for about four years. We had the opportunity to design and build a finance function to raise capital, complete a large acquisition, and help build a team of over 700 employees. Most recently, my role shifted from finance to Chief People Officer. At PathAI, we leverage artificial intelligence to improve patient outcomes with AI-powered pathology. I could probably talk about PathAI for days; our mission and world-class team drive me every day.
With each jump, I gained experience and confidence, which impacted me positively. I call it taking measured risk. Honestly, though, I can only accept some of the credit for where I am today. My mentors, especially Tiffany, allowed me to take those jumps with a little less “measured risk” (and sometimes even a big push).
What is your current role and responsibilities?
I am Chief People Officer at PathAI. As CPO, my responsibilities include overseeing our best-in-class talent- finding, developing and retaining them which can mean so many things on any given day. Most recently my focus is on how we can be more effective at work (and reduce meeting fatigue) along with better metrics and understanding around diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging.
Looking back, is this where you thought you’d be professionally? Was it always your goal to be in this position?
No way! I always intended to land in a leadership position but I assumed my first step into it would be in finance. Now that I am here at CPO, I have never felt more at home.
For people who are looking to be in a similar position, what advice would you give to others in terms of helping them achieve their career goals?
Take measured risks and get the “must haves” done early. Do you want a CPA? Get it right away. Do you think an MBA will move the needle? Get in the best school you can as early as possible. Life happens fast and often we can’t control when the next opportunity comes. One of the best things I have done was to get my CPA early as it paved the way for some of the best roles I had. If I had waited, I likely wouldn’t have earned those roles.
What are the most important skills that you need to do your job well?
- Positive Energy- You do not need high energy, but I do think a positive approach is imperative in this role. Often People teams are faced with difficult situations and I am a big believer in starting solutions with a positive attitude.
- Business Context- To be the most strategic and impactful people leader, you need to deeply understand the business you are supporting.
What do you find most interesting/rewarding about your work? What’s the most challenging?
I have the same answer for both- people! Unlike my time in accounting where I could reference standards for guidance, there are no people standards to follow which can make our job hard but at the same time rewarding and without a doubt, ALWAYS interesting!
What is your proudest professional accomplishment?
In June of 2021 PathAI acquired Poplar Healthcare which allows us to make significant progress in our mission to transform pathology. The acquisition opened the ability for us to offer end-to-end precision pathology services that support the development and delivery of new and distinctive AI-driven products for drug development and for patient care. Adding this capability truly accelerated our company’s growth trajectory- an exciting time for all!
Are you involved with any professional organizations outside of the company? Volunteer work?
As a working mom with three young kids, I wish I could do more! Outside of the company, I informally mentor other women in tech.
What do you enjoy doing in your free time?
Renovating and spending time with my family! My husband and I love renovating our home. If you ever need me on the weekend, likely I am either at a hockey rink watching the kids or building a new basement.
How do you manage stress?
How many cups of coffee do you have in a day?
None- No coffee for me! I have enough energy as it is.
Any book or podcast recommendations?
My favorite recent books include:
- Amp it up- Frank Slootman
- Anything Colleen Hoover
What advice do you have for recent college graduates?
Take chances and be curious! Focus on expanding your scope and impact while doing work that fuels you.