In 1989, Tech Data wanted to cross its border northward, so it acquired the Canadian operation of ParityPlus for just over $1 million. Renamed Tech Data Canada, all it needed was a strong leader. Julia Conn Watt, of Sherman, Texas, was chosen and by the end of 1989 it had 10 distribution centres, a work force of 430 and sales of $247 million.
Rick Reid, Tech Data’s current president, says Conn Watt, who died of cancer in 2003 after a lengthy battle, was regarded by the employees as a brilliant strategist; “a true builder,” with a superior work ethic. “She was securing vendors and vendor lines in Canada in advance of the same vendors giving authorization to Tech Data in the U.S., which, 15 years ago, was unheard of,” says Reid.
Conn Watt was forced to end her tenure as president in 1994 but, as she had always done in her job, she drew upon her indomitable work ethic to scour the Internet and make trips to numerous North American hospitals seeking new forms of treatment.
Still, she knew the fight was not
just her own. She was on the Sunnybrook Cancer Foundation and made numerous donations.
“She was tireless in her efforts to not only help herself but help others in their pursuit of a cure for cancer,” says Reid. “The treatments that she went through and the humiliation that she said she felt often … it was so important to her to make that experience for others better.”