Trust is the foundation of building incredible companies, and Zack Storer strives to live the word everywhere he leads. It is essential for modern boards to incorporate trusted technology innovators to help them navigate the ever-changing landscape of opportunities and there is no trait more important in an executive leader as they guide and build the future of a company. Having transformed digital cultures at iconic and trusted brands including The Kroger Co. (NYSE: KR), News Corp (NYSE: NWSA), Bowery Farming, and Grainger (NYSE: GWW), it’s no surprise that innovation and great digital cultures thrive wherever Mr Storer is advising or leading.
Zack has always been a curious lover of engineering and technology. He grew up outside Detroit, Michigan, where his great-grandfather owned a scrapyard with hundreds of vintage cars being parted out for repairs. As a child, he spent countless hours learning how electronics worked by dismantling toys so he could automate or build something new with the parts. This curiosity became both the foundation of a lifetime of learning and a key component of trust building. Still today, he regularly seeks to understand ‘the why’ first and dig deeper before judging things at face value.
Helping people in their lives and long-term careers has fueled this investor, board member, and technology leader from a very young age. In 2021, Zack joined the fast-growing Cincinnati- based startup Health Carousel, where he now leads both technology and product to help millions of Americans live better lives through the company’s healthcare workforce enablement. One of the reasons Zack who has led at some of the most impressive companies and diverse industries across the globe accepted the position was because there was an opportunity to make a difference in the lives of the healthcare workers, who live in service of helping others.
“The pandemic has taken an incredible toll on our country’s healthcare professionals, and I am personally grateful for the caregivers who have helped me and my family over the
years,” said Zack when asked about why he is personally investing in the space. Given that healthcare needs in the US are set to grow under increasingly high demand over the next two decades, it is no surprise that he decided to branch out and learn a new industry.
Although new to healthcare, Zack has been leading technology innovation and digital strategy for over 25 years. Throughout his career, there has been one singular constant: he has worked tirelessly to scale valuable solutions that transform industries by growing and supporting incredible teammates. We heard this from not only Zack himself but the many leaders he has worked alongside or had a hand in developing over decades. It is for this reason why Zack was selected as the Most Trusted CTO in America.
“When motivating change across the organization, Zack focuses on people first. We were so lucky to have his guidance at an inflection point riddled with complexity (pandemic, rapid growth, attrition). Zack’s tenure as CTO of Bowery cultivated a welcoming, honest culture necessary for innovation,” said Noah Shpak, a machine learning engineer now at Twitter.
This relentless learning machine helped grow careers and fostered a legacy of former associates now thriving at some of the most innovative organizations in the world. “As a visionary leader, he transformed Kroger Technology to a superhub where creative minds meet and inspire each other to make something that truly matters to the customers. It was a great privilege to work for him,” said Huiting (Isabel) Milewski, a senior software engineer at Microsoft.
Summarizing Zack’s belief in collective mindpower, a headline quote of his reads “Empowering great talent to scale and operate at a speed of trust creates the ecosystem required for game changing innovation” (RelentlessCuriosity.com). Placing trust at the center with innovative strategy is how Zack was able to unlock billions of dollars in growth while leading digital technology at The Kroger Co. (NYSE: KR), and it has also been the fuel behind the successes he has seen in advising and leading completely diverse sectors within companies at every single stage.
Zack is both a seasoned P&L business leader and a bleeding-edge technologist, which enables him to build bridges across organizations, boards, and frontline associates. These unique traits have inspired thousands of individuals to unleash growth and technology led scale. Before joining the corporate world, he owned and managed a tech business full-time while simultaneously paying his way through school in the evenings at the University of Cincinnati. Once he landed his first professional job at International Paper (NYSE: IP), he was determined to soak up as much as he could. That included everything from managing servers, mainframes, and advanced networking to reverse engineering and hacking custom code that could visually monitor backup systems, which helped eliminate half of the workload from his dreaded third shifts.
“Anything I had to do more than twice, I would try to figure out a way to automate so I could focus on more interesting work,” Zack quipped when talking about his belief that working yourself out of a job is one of the best ways to grow.
He wasn’t always set on leading in the corporate world and planned to use the time working during those late shifts to complete his degree and dive deeper into as much new technology learning as he could. For Zack, technology had a way of leveling the playing field. He saw it as mechanism to unlock value in the real world. Eventually, he discovered that he received the most enjoyment by helping others succeed. This led him to consciously take on more leadership responsibilities.
Fast forward several years, and Mr. Storer was leading at all levels and making measurable impacts across enterprises and industries. He later founded Angel Equity and Sigma 7 Labs to invest in high-growth companies and also started advising juggernaut enterprises in search of lasting material transformation. When asked why Zack is a trusted advisor to startups, Kenny Olsen, CEO of Dart Displays, said, “Zack has been a key investor in Dart, and I have always been able to trust his strategic advice. In particular, he has helped us with key contract negotiations and with determining how best to sync up with strategic partners.”
Gary Howard, president and co-founder of Callibrity, added, “Zack is one of the most driven and knowledgeable senior executives you’ll ever meet. We trusted Zack to become our first independent board director at Callibrity because his breadth of cross-industry knowledge and technology is unparalleled in driving growth. He genuinely cares for and makes an impact across all aspects of the companies he serves.”
It is not often you find someone so approachable who equally loves to lead and dive deep into the fundamentals of an industry to make technology a strategic weapon for growth. For Zack, this proved to be a useful foundation when he led in New York. While living in Manhattan, he was inspired by the energy of the city and found a creative home for his passion for diversity and learning. He joined a division of News Corp (NYSE: NWSA), parent company to the Wall Street Journal and Dow Jones, as chief growth officer where he helped prime the CO51 & NAM media business units for a strategic sale while leading P&Ls, technology, and product.
Following learning and success in media, Zack moved on to help Grainger (NYSE: GWW) with their technology strategy, which expanded into a full-blown digital platform transformation. “Zack’s skill in modern engineering practices, strong leadership capabilities, and relatable, easy-going style made him a welcome and effective technology leader,” said Brian Walker, CPO of Grainger. Another former Grainger colleague, Sean McCormick, now CIO of EQT, noted, “He cares deeply for the people he works with, treats them with dignity, and is able to inject positivity into any situation.”
Beyond his time in Chicago with Grainger, he became a trusted partner and contract CTO of Bowery Farming, the nation’s largest indoor vertical agriculture innovator primed to later land a staggering $300m Series C investment. Again, on the surface, one might wonder why someone who has led in manufacturing, retail, media, and digital solutions would be so energized by agriculture. For Zack, however, it took mere seconds to get excited about the amount of opportunity that IoT, ML/AI, and autonomous robotics can play to sustainably help millions of people across the planet gain access to fresh produce.
Now focused on health care, he is driving innovation into a new sector. “Zack is bringing pivotal digital technology strategy to the core of our company that positions us for incredible long-term growth,” said John Sebastian, CEO of Health Carousel.
This theme of constant learning extends beyond business sectors and includes an undergraduate degree from the University of Cincinnati in information engineering technology and coursework in electrical and mechanical engineering. Zack has also completed Stanford’s Design Thinking & Product Innovation program, Cornell’s Executive Leadership program, and programs at MIT in product strategy, enterprise strategy, and neuroscience.
When asked what he is focused on for the future, Zack commented: “I am just grateful for every day I am alive and able to grow. I want to support and make the most positive impact I can, while I can, in the lives of my children, wife, family, friends, teammates, and those who count on me to be there for them.”