Ann Minooka, Chief Marketing Officer, Synopsys

Ann Minooka serves as the Chief Marketing Officer at Synopsys, overseeing corporate branding, communications, and digital marketing. With a wealth of experience in the semiconductor industry, Ann has consistently delivered outstanding results in enhancing corporate brand strength, revolutionizing digital marketing through data-driven insights, and cultivating effective collaborations that drive positive business results. 

Prior to her role at Synopsys, Ann held the position of CMO at Ampere Computing, where she played a pivotal role in crafting and promoting a differentiated corporate narrative, spearheading digital marketing strategies, and orchestrating highly effective demand generation campaigns. Prior to her tenure at Ampere, as CMO of Xilinx (acquired by AMD), Ann successfully repositioned the company as the leader in adaptive computing, established a robust demand generation infrastructure, and transformed the marketing organization from a cost center into a revenue-generating engine. Her extensive career journey also includes leadership roles at Cypress Semiconductors (acquired by Infineon), Synaptics, and LSI Logic (acquired by Avago).

Recently, in an exclusive interview with Digital First Magazine, Ann shared her journey into marketing, her approach to navigating the dynamic landscape of digital marketing, current roles and responsibilities as CMO at Synopsys Inc, insights on the present status quo of women in tech, future plans, pearls of wisdom, and much more. The following excerpts are taken from the interview.

Ann, what inspired you to pursue a career in marketing? How did you get your start in this industry?

My journey into marketing was a deliberate pivot from my initial career as a software engineer.  While I excelled as a software engineer, I discovered that I didn’t enjoy working in isolation and I missed the interaction with people. The dynamic realm of marketing – a field that offered the perfect blend of creativity, problem-solving, and human interaction, seemed attractive.

The realization that I thrived when engaging with people and crafting compelling narratives prompted me to pursue an MBA.  This academic pursuit not only broadened my understanding of business strategy but also provided the foundation for my transition into marketing.

My first job in marketing, after my MBA education, was to lead a branding campaign, like “Intel Inside”, for C-Cube Microsystems in China.  It was wildly successful to the point where we saw knockoff logos in the market.  This success fueled my passion for marketing. Marketing for me is more than just a profession; it’s a constant journey of creative problem-solving. I found my perfect niche in marketing within the technology industry. The alignment of my technical background with my passion for marketing allowed me to bring a unique perspective to the intersection of innovation and communication.

How do you approach the ever-changing landscape of digital marketing and emerging technologies such as AI?

Navigating the dynamic landscape of digital marketing, especially in the era of rapid technological evolution, is both thrilling and challenging. I approach this with a proactive mindset that revolves around two key principles: staying current and adaptable.

First, staying current with industry and technology trends and embracing change is not a choice but a necessity.  Maybe it’s due to my technical background, I’ve always had a deep love for technology. Staying informed of the ever-evolving landscape of digital marketing and emerging technologies has been a strong interest for me, one that extends beyond the confines of my workplace.

My routine involves devouring technology-related articles from reputable sources like the Wall Street Journal, ensuring that I’m well-versed not only in the latest marketing trends but also in the broader technology topics. Podcasts have become a staple in my daily learning journey.  I religiously tune in to shows like Hard Fork and Tech News Briefing. I also regularly participate in industry conferences, webinars, and staying connected with fellow CMOs and thought leaders. The insights gained inspires creative thinking on how to integrate these advancements into our marketing strategies.

Second, adaptability is at the core of my strategy and my success in marketing. Emerging technologies, particularly AI, present exciting opportunities to enhance customer experiences, optimize marketing strategies, and increase our team’s productivity.  AI is transforming digital marketing, from content creation, personalized content recommendations to predictive analytics.  Integrating these advancements into marketing campaigns is key to staying ahead.  At Synopsys, we are already deploying GenAI to support our marketing strategies.

What metrics do you measure to gauge the effectiveness of your marketing investments?

I believe in measuring marketing ROI with quantifiable results that align with overarching business objectives.  Two key pillars guide my metric evaluation: brand enhancement and contribution to business growth.

When it comes to brand impact, I focus on metrics that go beyond the vanity measures, such as impressions and website traffic.  Metrics like brand sentiment, customer engagement, and brand recall rates are important to understanding how our marketing initiatives resonate with our target audience.  This not only helps in safeguarding and enhancing the company’s brand but also provides valuable insights for refining future campaigns. I recognize that none of the metrics I mentioned are easy to measure.  We strive to continue to refine how we measure these metrics.

In contributing to business growth, I focus on metrics such as attribution to the sales pipeline and the number of sales-qualified leads generated. These metrics are tangible indicators of marketing’s role as a strategic partner in driving revenue and supporting the growth trajectory of the company. The ultimate metric is impact on the company’s revenue, although this is hard to attribute back to specific marketing programs.

Understand that marketing is a blend of art and science.  But my goal has already been transforming the marketing organization from a cost center to a revenue-generating engine.

We’d love to learn a bit about Synopsys Inc. What is the pain point that your company is helping to address?

Synopsys is a pioneer in systems and silicon design solutions with a rich legacy spanning 37 years, serving customers ranging from semiconductor manufacturers, semiconductor design companies, to hyperscalers and system companies. Our mission is to empower innovators everywhere, and our technology plays an essential role in achieving this.  We take pride in being a trusted partner to those who aspire to push the boundaries of technology innovation.  Our commitment is reflected in our best-in-class and the industry’s most comprehensive portfolio of solutions designed to accelerate innovation.

Our unique position in the industry is not just a testament to our past but a promise for the future. We have been an integral part of every technological revolution – from semiconductors to personal computers, mobile devices to the cloud – and now, AI.

Synopsys is not just addressing industry pain points, which are many, we are actively contributing to broad technology advancement.

Tell us about your roles and responsibilities as CMO at Synopsys Inc.

In the broader context, my responsibilities include overseeing brand and communications strategy, promoting our technology and solutions leadership tied to business results, and leading cross-functional initiatives. As I’m relatively new to my role, I’m now focused on developing our corporate narrative to position Synopsys as the leader of systems and silicon design solutions, building out the digital marketing capabilities, including leveraging GanAI to increase our productivity, as well as establishing quantifiable, key performance indicators to measure marketing ROI.  Of course, collaborating with cross-functional teams is integral to my success and my team’s success. It’s an exciting time at Synopsys today.

What, in your view, should CMOs in B2B be doing more to drive core business value through marketing efforts?

In my perspective, B2B CMOs, me included, can derive insights by embracing and learning from the approach of B2C.  The reality is, whether it’s B2B or B2C, the audience’s decision journeys share striking similarities.

B2C marketing excels in understanding and engaging with individuals on a personal level.  B2B CMOs should harness this approach and recognize that even in a deep tech world, decisions are made by people with distinct preferences and care-abouts.

By embracing the best practices of B2C marketing – personalization, omnichannel strategies, and a keen understanding of customer buying behavior- B2B CMOs can create impactful campaigns that engage and drive business results.

Lastly, leveraging marketing technology, adopting data-driven insights, and measuring marketing effectiveness with qualifiable metrics tied to business growth are critical for success.

Are you currently satisfied with the status quo regarding women in tech? What specific changes do you think are needed to change the status quo?

While progress has been made to increase female representation in the tech industry, there is still much more to be done. It’s not only about increasing the number of women entering the tech workforce but also ensuring their sustained growth and leadership within the industry.  This means providing mentorship programs and championing workplace polices that support work-life balance.  To bring about lasting change, tech leaders need to amplify their commitment to diversity as a fundamental value and assess improvements with ongoing and transparent diversity metrics.

In your opinion, what are the biggest challenges faced by women in tech that aren’t typically faced by their male counterparts? What would you suggest to address this?

One notable challenge for women in tech, as well as non-tech, is gender bias, particularly in the perception of behavior. When women exhibit assertiveness – a trait often praised in their male counterparts – it can be viewed negatively. Creating an open dialogue that values diverse communication styles would be super helpful.

Another challenge I see is the lack of females in top leadership roles. Pairing women with mentors who have navigated similar challenges can provide guidance on developing effective communication strategies and encouragement.

Is there a particular person you are grateful for who helped get you to where you are?

Yes. I was very fortunate to have a strong advocate and mentor, Bill Cranston, who happened to be my manager early in my career. He believed in me and provided constant encouragement, even during times when I doubted myself. His trust and the opportunities he gave me to expand my roles were instrumental in shaping my career. I’m truly grateful for his guidance and support.

Where do you see yourself in the next five years?

Having recently joined Synopsys, I’m tremendously excited about the opportunities to make a significant impact in the coming years. I love the innovative spirit, visionary leadership team, and the vibrant culture of Synopsys. In the next 5 years, I envision contributing meaningfully to the growth and success of Synopsys as well continuing to find inspiration and fulfillment in the work we do.  My hope is that Synopsys will be my long-term home, and I anticipate that the excitement and enthusiasm I feel today will only deepen as I continue to contribute to the company’s success.

What advice would you give to somebody who is considering entering the field of marketing or has just entered the field and maybe, one day, they would like to become a CMO?

I have often been asked this question by early career professionals. I would offer a few key pieces of advice: 1. Embrace continuous learning – be curious. 2. Diversify your skill set – develop a broad skill set beyond your core expertise because marketing is multifaceted. 3. Seek mentorship – find mentors who can guide you in your journey, and 4. Develop leadership skills – this can be anything from managing projects to inspiring and guiding teams.

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