LeadershipCategory3 min read

Carol Carpenter: Hustle and Humor

April 22, 2021

Title: Chief Marketing Officer, VMware

Base of operations: Palo Alto, Calif.

Time at VMware: 9 months

What would you describe as your mission in life?

My parents were immigrants from China, and they came to the U.S. for education. After my father got his Ph.D, there were very few teaching jobs available. So, we moved to a small town in West Virginia. We were one of only two Asian families in this town, so I grew up feeling like a bit of an outsider. And that stayed with me. That lesson shaped who I am and how I think about equity, inclusion and finding one’s voice.

Today, I’m committed to seeing women and underrepresented groups excel in their paths. I’ve spent time mentoring women who want a career in tech. I’m excited about making my mark through influence and building people up to have a greater impact in their careers.

VMware CMO Carol Carpenter (second from the right) with her father, mother and two older brothers. Growing up in a small town in West Virginia, she fondly recalls fighting “to have a seat at the (dinner) table with my two older brothers.”

Is there a quality or trait that’s become a habit in how you approach work, opportunities and challenges?

My previous chief of staff described me as “hustle and humor.” And I think of it as grit! Growing up with two older brothers with voracious appetites, I literally had to fight to have a seat at the table. My dad used to say that I have to work twice as hard to get the same recognition as the majority group. And I’ve demonstrated grit throughout my life.

As a working mother (with the support of an amazing husband), especially when our children were younger, I realized I couldn’t do it all. So, my path to success was in hiring smart people and focusing on building processes. I knew if I could put those two things together, I didn’t have to work through midnight and don’t have to be involved in everything to get to the outcomes I set out to achieve.

Carol Carpenter (second from right) with her husband and two children.

What is the best career advice you’ve ever received?

I’ve received a lot of guidance and career advice throughout the years. Very early on, I think my kids were 5 and 3 years old at the time, I was fortunate to understand the concept of work-life integration. This was a time when work-life balance was a relatively new term. People were working on a few emails from home, but smart devices weren’t as ubiquitous as today.

My mentor told me, “You’re juggling a lot of balls, and some of those balls are glass. Your family is a glass ball. You can’t drop it.” I still remember being on conference calls with my team in Japan while I was in the kitchen cooking meals for my family. And one of my kids would say, “Mom, I think they said your name!”

How does VMware align with your values?

I came to VMware for a few reasons. First and foremost, for the people and our culture. I love the fact that our EPIC2 values are demonstrated every single day. I’m blown away by the sense of community and leadership evident across our entire organization, from our Power of Difference communities to our individual contributors. I am grateful to be part of a company that values its people and tries really hard to walk the talk on tough issues. It’s such a huge part of how I grew up and the values that were instilled in me.

My vision for our team is that we are a more agile, strategic partner to our stakeholders, that we are data-driven and continue to embody the EPIC2 values of our company. I’m so excited to be working with the team here at VMware. I know we can and will elevate and set the bar for what world-class (business-to-business) B2B marketing can be.

You often say, “Customer first.” How is VMware uniquely aligned to support today’s businesses and leaders?

I believe in the strategic and unique position that VMware has in the tech industry and what is undeniably a multi-cloud world. Eighty percent of companies have multi-cloud approach already.* And it’s going to continue to get more complicated.

VMware has the experience and offerings to transform customers’ traditional infrastructure with modern cloud and application capabilities with an operating model to run any app anywhere. Key to this is providing companies with an unconditional path to the future. And what I mean by unconditional is that our customers can chart their own course on any cloud with more secure and resilient infrastructure and operations thanks to the experience and offerings VMware brings to the table.

*VMware FY22 H1 Benchmark, Cloud and Applications. March 2021: https://www.vmware.com/content/dam/digitalmarketing/vmware/en/pdf/cloud-solutions/vmw-driving-digital-business-with-app-cloud-transformation-vmware-market-insights-report.pdf.