Leadership

Meet the CEO: Shama Hyder

The founder of the Marketing Zen Group on her self-taught success.

Shama Hyder, the 29-year-old founder and ceo  of Zen Media, wrote the book on social media marketing—literally. The Zen of Social Media Marketing, now in its fourth edition, is used as a textbook to teach new generations of digital marketers. Hyder’s job didn’t exist when she first got out of school, so she created it herself. Her company, which she founded in 2009 after earning her masters in organizational communication and technology at the University of Texas at Austin, has averaged 400 percent annual growth. Hyder now travels internationally, visiting global clients and giving speeches—a perfect fit for a woman who, a step ahead of the rest, wrote her graduate thesis about Twitter’s value to businesses. 

first job:

Teaching students with learning disabilities. (I was still in school at the time.) 

careers considered:

I thought I’d be a history professor.

management style:

I’m very trusting of the team. I’m very value-based, value-driven. I joke that I’m the chief value officer of my company. 

company culture:

We’re totally virtual. We don’t have a headquarters. We’ve got a team of more than 20 now. We’re growing, we’re constantly hiring, and it’s a very upbeat, busy culture. We work with clients all over the world, and the team is also really flat in the sense that we don’t have a lot of traditional hierarchy. We really are very merit-based. 

strengths:

One is having an innate ability to see what’s around the bend, being a futurist in some ways. Another is to have that instinct of knowing what’s going to be the next big thing in technology and marketing. A good entrepreneur—a good leader—is all about getting better, learning, and being able to pivot and change.

weakness:

Chocolate! (Does that count?) Really, it’s wanting to get results yesterday.

strategies:

Knowing what’s going to take off, what’s going to be the next thing, and capitalizing on it. Some of it is innate, and some of it is to constantly be putting yourself in environments where you can look to see what’s next.

lessons learned:

To always put people first—whether it’s your clients or your employees. I’m very much a believer in that life is short; be a nice person. 

what’s new:

We’re growing our Dallas footprint. The funny thing is, we’re so well known internationally in our field, but we’ve never really done much in Dallas.

biggest challenge:

Keeping my time zones straight! Our clients are in places like China and the Netherlands. 

personality traits:

A never-ending curiosity and being autodidactic.

reading:

I have a few books going. One is Accelerate. I’m also reading Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less. I love historical fiction, too.    

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