Off-road racing has always been more than a hobby for Docutech’s Emily Shapiro
Leave the driving to Emily Shapiro, both in the office at Docutech and off-road where she’s a champion racer.
The top dog at Docutech, Shapiro’s a champion as a woman in financial technology and in her second career as an off-road racer, but she never intended to dramatically change her life from being on the sidelines to being in the spotlight.
Shapiro is 23 years deep into off-road racing cars and trucks, which she says was a conscious transition from her origins of bike racing. “My father and I got into an accident 21 years ago when we were riding our bikes together, so I opted to move to something safer,” she explained. Today, Shapiro’s graduated to what the racing community calls “trophy trucks” and one or two-person 1600 racing, meaning single or double-seat smaller cars with 1600 horsepower.
Shapiro grew up with a need for speed. Shapiro’s parents, Will and Jackie – who have been together since they were 12 years old – off-road raced in the mid-60s and ‘70s and introduced the sport to their children. “My dad came from a family of four boys and one daughter, and he and his brothers raced in Baja on motorcycles in the late ‘60s,” Shapiro said. “I’m one of three sisters, and I was the one who became daddy’s girl and he got me my own dirt bike at four years old.”
Dovetailing almost perfectly with her racing career, Shapiro’s professional career is also family-influenced. Shapiro describes her older sister, Amy Brandt, as her best friend and “partner in crime” in all aspects of her life. She’s even been able to drag her non-racing sister out on the track to race alongside her.
“Whether I’m Emily the racecar driver or Emily the president, I have to constantly be out of my comfort zone.”
> Emily Shapiro, CEO, Docutech
“She needed someone that she knew she could trust implicitly and rely on, and I was looking for an opportunity, too, so it naturally fell together,” Shapiro said. “We’ve always been stuck together after that.” Brandt asked her sister to work with her because she knew that Shapiro would pick things up quickly. “I thought to myself, if I can do this then Emily can do it better,” Brandt said.
Today, Shapiro is top dog at Docutech, a position formerly held by Brandt. Shapiro says that this point in her professional career is the first time she’s worked separately from her sister. In fact, Shapiro initially struggled with confidence while taking on her big sister’s former role.
“Any time you move into a role that was vacated by someone who was really strong in your role, I would be foolish to say that there wasn’t an identity crisis,” she said. “I had to balance and adopt the things that she did well with making the role authentically me.”
Both sisters say working apart from each other has been a culture shock, with Brandt deciding to leave Docutech and take on other endeavors at companies like Serent Capital and IT services company, Quisitive. “It’s bittersweet because she deserves the role and frankly should have gotten it a while ago, but at the same time I miss working with her,” Brandt said. “Emily is super conscientious about knowing the business. She knows every employee and takes time to make people feel known and included, and she cares, which is something that you just can’t teach.”
Shapiro undoubtedly cares about her job, but her authentic self comes out most when she shifts to talking about her racing career. Her eyes light up as she goes into depth about the maintenance and hard work that goes into her vehicles, as well as the several accolades she’s received in racing, including being the first woman to be named by her peers as driver of the year back in 2015. Shapiro jokes that she feels like she lives a double life at times; work Emily is more reserved and analytical while racing Emily gets to be boisterous and scrappy. Her coworkers who have seen her race have picked up on Shapiro’s “alter ego” behind the wheel. But despite the fast nature of the sport and the excitement of racing, Shapiro says it’s a calming experience. “I find myself very busy-minded, I have a loud internal monologue which can be taxing on me. But racing for me helps me narrow down my world. It allows me to have one singular focus.
Best of Both Worlds
As a woman in tech, Shapiro is faced daily with concerns about how to keep companies integrating tech into their businesses. She’s been president for about 15 months, taking the position in March 2022 right before the market soured.
“My boss [would] even say to me ‘Do you need to go racing?’ as if he can tell when work is making me spun out … ”
> Emily Shapiro
Shapiro’s naturally competitive, though, which she says applies both at Docutech and in her racing. “During my first year, it was tough for me to navigate what being president of this tech company meant,” she explained. “Having to move from an operating role – from being the former chief operating officer – with regards to being more strategic in this new role, all the while in the gnarliest market we’ve seen. Like, my first budget cycle as president was having to create a budget in a significantly diminished market.”
But Shapiro manages to bridge the gap between her two worlds in subtle ways, which helps her navigate her professional life. For example, her desk chair in her office resembles a race car seat and has the logo of her sponsor, Impact Race Products, on the chair’s back.
“I work to afford my racing habit,” she jokes. “My boss will even say to me ‘Do you need to go racing?’ as if he can tell when work is making me spun out. Racing’s not just a huge part of my personal life, it’s even a big part of my professional life and what gives me sanity.”
Shapiro also says the lessons she’s learned from racing apply to her role at Docutech – and vice versa. “Racing has taught me to act on fear and be brave, and to be afraid and do something anyways. To be a successful leader in business, you have to do exactly that,” she said. “Whether I’m Emily the racecar driver or Emily the president, I have to constantly be out of my comfort zone.”
Of course, she’s certainly faced sexism in both worlds. “Racing was at one time a very male-dominated sport,” Shapiro says. “Although now it doesn’t matter whether you’re a woman or not, I’ve had my fair share of experiences where men have said to me that it hurts more when they lose to a woman.”
Shapiro says that even in the 21st century, misogyny still exists. “Would you ask a man whether he’s faced sexism in his sport or the workplace? Probably not,” she says. “But the fact is that we know that we still have to be asked [as women] because it’s still happening.”
In the business world, Shapiro’s seen how the boy’s club impacts her work even as a higher-up in the industry. “I’ve seen it in the conversations that are had about you, around you, or that change when you’re included, and it becomes clear that it’s because you’re a woman,” she said. “But I just power through and deal with it anyway. I operate how I feel is right regardless.”
Even though Shapiro considers her persona to be more reserved in the workplace, her colleagues say that her empowering and brave nature shines through. Cathy Turner, Docutech’s chief operations officer, has worked by Shapiro’s side for six years. “Emily is inclusive, empowering, and supportive, and it’s evident that she cares deeply about her employees from my first-hand experience,” Turner said. “We work on projects together and she has a leadership style of letting me and her other employees have the freedom of doing what we see fit for a project.”
Turner added that Shapiro makes it a point to engage with every team member, not just her C-Suite. “Emily does individual meetings with everyone and makes it her priority to really focus on feedback, client success, and everyone’s happiness,” she said. “We even have monthly ‘Coffee with Emily’ meetings where employees can submit questions about anything, whether they have questions about her racing or how the company is performing. She makes her employees feel important, but also her clients. She’s a huge advocate for being a client’s partner over just a vendor.”
This article was originally published in the Mortgage Women Magazine July 2023 issue.