Women to Watch 2010

Women to Watch: Deborah Conrad

VP-Chief Marketing Officer, Intel

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- "Don't be encumbered by past history -- go off and do something wonderful."

It's a quote from Intel's co-founder, and the man behind the microchip, Robert Noyce, and it's also something that Deborah Conrad, 48, has taken to heart in her role as as the tech giant's VP-chief marketing officer.

Ms. Conrad is a case study in working up through the ranks -- she joined Intel in 1986 working on press relations and never left. She moved on to oversee marketing for Intel's Asia-Pacific region, returned to the U.S. to help build alliances with top chief technology officers and telco providers, and in 2005 led the formation of "Team Apple" to support a sales-and-revenue partnership between Intel and Apple. Intel promoted her to oversee its corporate marketing initiatives, and she's responsible for product positioning, launches and advertising targeting consumer as well as business segments worldwide.

When she was named to her CMO post in 2008, rather than feeling encumbered by the decisions of her predecessors, Ms. Conrad embarked on a massive undertaking to dismantle a longstanding global relationship with Interpublic Group of Cos.' McCann Erickson and work with the agencies she thought were best suited for the business, such as San Francisco-based indie Venables Bell & Partners. And it wasn't change for change's sake.

"Some of the stuff we were doing was mediocre or just bad," Ms. Conrad said. "It was very liberating for everybody ... we all wanted the same thing."

Among the fruits of Ms. Conrad's labor? A lighthearted branding campaign that's boosting awareness by celebrating the geekiness of Intel's employees, and a partnership with media company Vice to launch a multiyear venture called "The Creators Project" that helps artists around the world promote their work.

While most people have one or two prominent mentors in their careers, Ms. Conrad said she has many. "I find a lot of motivation and inspiration from people that I work with and who work for me -- it's not just senior leaders that I look up to. The next generation that's coming up is more fearless than I was, and more in tune with their own career aspirations and the kind of company they want to work for."

"All great clients are smart, intuitive and courageous, and Deborah Conrad is all of the above," said Paul Venables, partner at Venables Bell. "But what makes her the kind of client the agency bleeds for is how she is as a person."

Those who know her attest that as serious as she is about her work, she doesn't take herself too seriously. "If I'm not laughing a lot during the day, something is wrong," Ms. Conrad said.

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