Zianibeth Shattuck-Owen has speed in her DNA. So you might say her love for things fast (eg. running so fast she qualified and ran the Boston Marathon, and her time spent as a world-class luge athlete) is a nature-nurture issue. Her grandfather raced motorcycles and her dad cars. Even her nickname sounds like greased lightening, as friends and work colleagues opt for shortening her name to “Z.” From her Personal Record 3:34 marathon time “I have a Kenyan coach,” she tells me, to her years on the US National Team ’86-’94 including three World Championship teams in (’90, ’91, and,93) Zianibeth is all about F-A-S-T.
I caught up with Z earlier this week, just before she headed off to Sochi for the Olympics. As an Olympic team alternate in ’92 and ’94, Z has had a long history with the Games. At Sochi, she’ll be one of the three members of the Luge Jury. A role she also had at Vancouver. “We watch everything,” she says. “The jury is the highest authority on the hill.” This elite group of three is who the athletes submit protest to if they feel disadvantaged in any way. The jury decides if a rerun is granted for the racers or not. It’s a prestigious role, and one that she’s worked many years to achieve.
“It’s like any business,” Z explains. “You work your way up the chain.” That’s what she’s done; and her story of involvement is also the story of how Mountain West Small Business Finance got involved in the 2002 games . It’s also how Mountain West landed Z as an employee (she currently the company’s Director of Administration).
Before the 2002 Winter Games, Z was serving as the Executive Director of ARC of Salt Lake (a non-profit for the handi-capable in Salt Lake), and the organization was leasing space from the Mountain West building on 33rd South in Millcreek. Zianibeth had been recruited by the Salt Lake Olympic Organizing Committee to serve as the Luge Manager for the Salt Lake games, and knew that among other roles to be filled, she’d need a certain type of individual to take care of her VIPs. Steve Suite, Mountain West’s Chief Administrative Officer had plenty of experience in this arena (prior to his work at Mountain West SBF, Suite was the Vice President of Human Resources for Skagg’s Apha-Beta, a Fortune 50 company), and agreed to the postion.
What Z didn’t realize at the time was that Suite was not exactly “outdoorsy” and his relationship with the snow, ice and the cold was mostly limited to snowblowing his driveway. Zianibeth laughs when she reflects on his ‘training’ of sorts: “I had to take him to REI to show him what kind of boots to buy!” Most of his real Luge education came at St. Moritz, walking up and down the track and learning about the sport from top to bottom. Suite proved a good choice, because it paved the way for the Company’s President Scott Davis and a host of MWSBF employees to be volunteers for the games.
As Davis mentioned: “Never in the history of the State of Utah nor the history of the 503/504 Program was there a more significant Economic Development event. It made all the sense in the world for Mountain West to support and encourage its employees to volunteer and to get involved.”
Both sides benefited as Z says she “got a host of qualified volunteers” and team members to make the Luge a success, and Mountain West had a once in a lifetime experience…and ended up gaining Zianibeth as an employee.
After the games, she was looking for a new direction career-wise and had asked Suite to check out her resume. “It turned out their Office Manager was going part-time” and so the timing worked perfectly. As she recruited Suite to help her on the track, he in turn recruited her to full-time employment at Mountain West, and of course the rest (as they say) is history.
Steve said: “She’s an asset to any team, including our team at Mountain West. When we saw what what she was capable of — not just in the Olympics, but even before that at the ARC — we knew she was the type of person we wanted in our company.”
And the relationship just continues to prove fruitful. Zianibeth says the company has been so supportive in her “second life of Luge.” She praises the flexibility and support of the company saying it’s been key to make her way ‘up the track’ and to the role she’s currently serving in as a jury member.
Suite says it’s part of the company’s value system: “Mountain West not just encourages it’s salaried personnel to be involved with community and economic development partners, we expect it. Being supportive of Z as an international luge official goes hand in hand with our company philosophy.”
The entire Mountain West team wishes Zianibeth good luck and safe travels to Sochi!
THE SAME FIVE QUESTIONS
1. One thing you cannot live without is… chocolate.
2. A new restaurant getting rave reviews just opened up down the street from your house. What would be your favorite three-course meal they serve?
Main entree would be lamb, dessert would have to be chocolate and a pear and gorganzola salad to start.
3. Time and space are not obstacles: who’s on the guest list at your ultimate dinner party?
It’s such a cliche but Amelia Earhart, Mother Teresa and John Stewart, because someone’s got to make you laugh.
4. Your dream vacation would be to: someplace warm, I spend too
much time in the cold! Maybe New Zealand, Austrailia or Fiji…
5. One thing your boss would never guess about you.
Deep inside I’m really a sweet and cuddly person.