< PrevNext > Yukari Tortorich Discovery Communications VP of global travel services Share When she was turned down for a college internship with a travel agency that specialized in travel to Japan, Yukari Tortorich refused to go home to her parents with the bad news. Instead, she scoured the building directory for another agency and presented her skills, and they hired her. "I learned so much there," said Tortorich, who began by delivering paper airline tickets and filing brochures. She now manages travel in 22 countries for Discovery Communications and spoke with BTN editor-in-chief Elizabeth West.BTN: You've been with Discovery Communications for more than 18 years. Is it hard to bring something fresh to the table?Actually, no. Discovery encourages people to be innovative. Because of that, in my annual goals, I'm always thinking about what innovative things I can bring to the table that year. This is one of the reasons I go out to conferences and feel it's important to stay connected through events. If I wasn't out there, I wouldn't learn about all these innovative things and how they could benefit Discovery.BTN: Do you have any mentors or particular people you have looked up to during the course of your career?I can't name just one person. I've done a lot of observing over the years. It doesn't matter who they are or what they are doing or what business they are in; when you observe people—the good and the bad—you see how they are behaving and reacting to things and you learn from that. That's basically what I've done and what I still do. I learn from my team every day.BTN: You've been doing some interesting things with your travel program. Tell me about what Discovery has been doing with Conferma and Citi.We are implementing our virtual card authorization solution through Citi and Conferma, and we are going to be ready to test by the end of May. It's been a long wait to get to where we are today in the implementation. I'm very excited about it because the opportunities, once we get it rolled out, will be endless. Our initial goal is to automate the [hotel] direct billing process and, on the back end, automate the reconciliation process. That will take a lot of manual labor out of the process.BTN: What changes in the industry are motivating you to advance Discovery's travel program?I'm very excited about [International Air Transport Association's] New Distribution Capability and what it can do to give more options and opportunities to our travelers, although there is a lot of work that needs to be done and a lot of airlines and technology vendors yet to be certified on NDC. I'm always thinking about what innovative things I can bring to the table that year. This is one of the reasons I go out to conferences and feel it's important to stay connected." BTN: You mentioned conferences as one way you stay on top of emerging technology. What happens when you see something you like but it's untested?It's always interesting to learn about all these new technology and service entrants in the industry. But just because I hear about something doesn't mean I understand it. I pick up the phone and make a call and find someone I can speak to about that new product or service and ask them a lot of questions to see if it will fit in the Discovery world. I don't wait. I engage with them and make a decision on whether or not we should move forward. It does take time to weigh the cost and return on investment, but once we make that decision, we are full speed ahead.BTN: When you explore working with new technology entrants, do you find they can incorporate product customizations that will earn your business?Freebird is an example. I was so excited and went to my manager and said, "We're doing this." I immediately asked Freebird for another demo. I then made a couple of recommendations, and then they were like, "Oh yeah, that's an easy fix." They were really willing. I get really excited about new technology. I think Discovery has taught me to be this way.