February 6, 2018 Meet Our Members

Athena Member Feature: Helen Yu

Interview By The Athena Alliance

We're very excited for the upcoming growth in 2018 and looking forward to featuring our incredible Athena members, like Helen Yu. Helen Yu is an accomplished Athena Pioneer with wonderful insight and experience to offer around board service. Athena members, please reach out if you would like to work with Helen Yu. If you're not an Athena woman yet - let's make that happen!

What does your career journey look like?

I am an experienced leader with a track record of transforming organizations, whether it’s accomplishing a turnaround within a Fortune 1000 organization or coaching a startup to profitability. Known for my passion and sharp strategic thinking, I am able to operationalize my vision and oversee successful end to end execution, from building brand awareness to landing significant customer deals. By improving and scaling business models, I have delivered millions in incremental revenue growth and profitability in sales, consulting and education businesses.

In general manager roles with $250+ million P&L responsibility, I have built high performing global organizations through innovative strategy, collaboration, motivated teams and vigorous execution. Over the last decade, I have achieved multiple turnarounds in both traditional and SaaS based businesses, for sustainable top and bottom line growth. I am a collaborative and inspirational team leader committed to the growth of the people who work with me. Many of my team members have followed me from company to company.

As the Chief Growth Officer at Clinc Inc., a Conversational AI company, I am responsible for their Global Field Operation team consisting of Sales, Marketing and Customer Success. I am CEO and Founder of TIGON Advisory Inc., a company that provides consultancy that advises CXO or/and founders in the development of their vision, operation strategy, organization alignment and cross functional performance metrics pre and post IPO, GTM strategy to drive sustainable growth and team accountability. I was Group Vice President at Marketo for 3 years, a Regional Director at Adobe and before then at Oracle and Hyperion.

Can you highlight ways in which being female particularly shaped that journey?
Are there female or male mentors who supported you as you developed?

Having grown up with 10 cousins, being the only girl and youngest, it prepared me well to learn how to get a seat at the dinner table at young age. It also makes me feel extremely comfortable working in a male dominated environment. I have had amazing female and male mentors who supported me along the journey. Phil Fernandez, who was the founder and CEO of Marketo, and Jason Holmes, who is President and COO at Showpad, former CCO at Marketo, are both instrumental to my journey to the C-Suite. Kris Bennett, who was my second manager at Hyperion, taught me what difference a great manager can make.

When did you decide board service was the next step for you?

I have been ready after serving on the Advisory Board at a couple of companies since last year. I started my own company last year to focus on advising CEO/Founders on their vision, operation strategy, organization alignment and cross functional performance metrics pre and post IPO, GTM strategy to drive sustainable growth and team accountability.

How did you hear about Athena?

Athena’s mission is very aligned with my passion. I heard about Coco through a couple of people in my network, and she reached out to me after I filled out the online board assessment form. We met when she visited Chicago last November.

What are you hoping to achieve through your membership with the Athena Alliance?

I hope to get on 2-3 board seats, help Coco jump start Midwest operations and assist with fundraising for Athena in the Midwest. Most importantly, I’d like to help create more opportunities for other women.

What is your proudest moment in your career so far?

My proudest moment in my career so far is that I have mentored and coached so many team members, and each of them have grown significantly. The multiplier effect to be a hero maker makes me proud. As a servant leader, I take pride in team growth and success.

Will you share a time in your business career when you felt being a woman was used against you?

I joined a company where I was the only female executive. They were not able to embrace different perspectives and never really treated me fairly. I left the company knowing that I made the right decision.

I have learned lessons from being mistreated. I decided to take part in making the work place much more appealing to up-and-coming female leaders. I have devoted energy to mentor and coach many of them in the past decades. Having more talented women believe in themselves and help each other is a step forward. The biggest mistake women can make is not to support each other. I have worked with so many inspiring male and female leaders who sponsored me throughout my career.  I am always looking for opportunities to give it back to others who are in need.

What would you say to women who are just beginning their careers and hope to make a difference as you have?

Be very good at what you do to get a seat at the table. It doesn’t matter what you know. It matters who knows what you know.

My success formula is:

  • Only do things you are passionate about.  
  • Curious about everything and learn as much as you can.
  • Be gritty.  Never settle for less.

Thanks so much to Helen Yu for sharing her journey and insights with us. Stay tuned for more Athena member features, and if you haven’t completed the Board Ready Assessment to become a member alongside Helen Yu, get started here.