That's been the case with every step from Ms. Holbrooke's early job as a magazine art director to the post she took last July, president of Ziff-Davis' ZD Brand & Market Services.
"It's easier to do a job that's never been done," says the 41-year-old executive. "You've convinced somebody that there's a need, so there's a sense of purpose and no existing baggage. You aren't measured by someone else's performance or someone else's set of rules."
Ms. Holbrooke, with an art history degree from the University of Utah, put in eight years developing marketing and communications at Novell Corp. during its rise, but bailed out two years ago after the software company stumbled off course.
She jumped in 1996 to a post running tech conferences for Softbank Corp. and soon joined Softbank's Ziff-Davis to develop corporate marketing. In her current post, she oversees marketing, key accounts sales and research businesses for the computer media powerhouse. She's at the center of Ziff-Davis' strategy to sell an integrated package of print, Web, TV, trade show and research programs.
Ms. Holbrooke credits her growth to two "visionary" mentors-Ray Noorda, Novell's former chairman, and Eric Hippeau, Ziff-Davis chairman-CEO.
Thriving on the market's intense pace, Ms. Holbrooke and her omnipresent ThinkPad frequently zip from offices in New York to San Francisco to e-mail points in between. She is just as disciplined about her private life, making it a high priority to get home to Salt Lake City by the weekend to be with her high schooler daughter.
"My life is not an off-the-shelf idea," she says. But Ms. Holbrooke definitely has got a life.