Marketing Legend

Carol Carpenter, CMO of VMware, on Leading with Humanity

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Carol Carpenter
Carol Carpenter

CMO of VMware

The best marketers are those with a deep grasp of how the business functions. Carol Carpenter, CMO of VMware, is one of the best. Her prior roles in product strategy, as general manager, and even in the CEO seat provide her a unique understanding of what it takes to lead a business to great heights. It’s a vision she has executed upon repeatedly, at respected brands including Apple, Trend Micro, CenturyLink, Google, and now, VMware.Carol made a pivotal decision early on in life that reflects both her drive and her vision. Rather than coasting through West Virginia University (WVU) on a full ride, she attended Stanford, holding down a job throughout college to make ends meet.Growing up in one of only two Asian families in West Virginia influenced how Carol navigates the corporate world. When ignorant people spouted off, her father took the high road and introduced himself. “My father set an example. He believed that words and education could change our socioeconomic status and the fact that he was an outsider. At the same time, I know the feeling of being on the outside looking in.”

My lifelong mission is to show the world that B2B marketing is not B2B;it’s human to human.

Feeling like an outsider made Carol a staunch advocate for Diversity and Inclusion programs, such as VMware’s. “I’m really proud of the way that VMware focuses on D&I. Other companies might have aspirational goals around it, but there’s teeth behind it here.”Perhaps this experience also shaped Carol’s approach to marketing. “My lifelong mission is to show the world that B2B marketing is not B2B; it’s human to human.”Carol doesn’t rest on her laurels being a Stanford graduate and having held top roles at numerous blue-chip companies. “I talk to my team about whether they are good jockeys or on a good horse. You need to hold yourself accountable for your impact.”Some of Carol’s other keys to success:

  • Understanding people buy for three reasons: Functional, economic and emotional. Carol is committed to B2B marketing that speaks to all three in the name of capturing hearts and minds.
  • Starting with ‘no.’ As Carol says, when you try to make everybody happy, you make no one happy and don’t achieve an outsized impact.
  • Focusing on great people and processes. Carol surrounds herself with talented, hard-working people supported by a strong decision-making process.

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