Yael Zheng: 2015 Marketing Hall of Femme Honoree

In making the case for Yael Zheng’s induction into the Marketing Hall of Femme, let’s do it Football Hall of Fame style and lay out the stats. When she joined VMware as VP of support services in 2004 the company’s annual revenue was about $200 million; when she left as VP worldwide marketing in 2009 it was $1.9 billion. Since joining Tintri last spring, sales continued growing at triple-digit rates, the company made its debut in the Gartner Magic Quadrant, its NPS hit 94, and Tintri was recognized as a 2015 Technology of the Year at InfoWorld. In Canton, that’s the stuff of first-ballot elections.

Zheng is also what would be called in the sports world a “multi-tool player.” With a B.S. in materials science engineering from MIT and an MBA from UC Berkeley, she’s the prototype of the marketing engineer that nearly every company longs for these days.

“Having that engineering background is very helpful to me,” says Zheng, a former violinist in the MIT Symphony Orchestra. “I welcome the fact that marketing is becoming more measurable. It makes me feel much more comfortable doing what I’m doing. It’s combining the Greek part with the Roman part.”

Marketing strategy: Tech companies can learn a thing or two from B2C companies that don’t practice “ility” marketing—agility, availability, flexilibity—or cliché marketing: “revolutionary,” “disruptive,” “ transformative.” Marketers should find ways to tell their story without boring people to death or sounding like everybody else. 

Winning ways: Tintri was recently recognized as an InfoWorld 2015 Technology of the Year. This puts us on a list that includes Apple’s iPhone, HTML 5, and Docker.

Defining moment: At VMware I created a document I thought was well-written and showed it to the CEO. She grimaced and said she didn’t like it. “It’s too corporate-sounding and perfect,” she said. The writing felt manufactured and contained too many hackneyed tech buzzwords. It took me a few months to grasp the significance. What came out didn’t sound authentic or original. I then started speaking in a new language. 

Trend watching: Predictive profiling for lead generation.

Words to live by: No mediocrity! 

Good read: I’m currently reading The Prize: The Epic Quest for Oil, Money & Power by Daniel Yergin. It’s a history of the 20th century viewed from the perspective of how oil played a role in nearly every major conflict.  

Good advice: Know your products and customers. One won’t get very far with superficial understanding of how products solve customer problems. 

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