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Grace W. Ueng ’87

Marketing exec rebounds after near-fatal crash

When Grace W. Ueng was named one of Glamour magazine’s top 10 college women in 1987, an MIT winner was a rarity. Much has changed. “I was touched to see that two of 2007’s top 10 winners were from MIT,” says Ueng, the founder and CEO of Savvy Marketing Group, a North Carolina-based company that specializes in strategic management consulting and marketing advice.

“Being around the best and brightest technical minds early on has certainly helped me,” says Ueng, who was a management science major with a concentration in marketing but also took the requisite engineering courses. The combination has served her well.

Ueng founded Savvy, headquartered in Research Triangle Park, NC, five years ago after serving in executive roles at a number of startup companies. She headed business development at Interactive Magic, a publisher of strategy and simulation games, and she led product-line management for the Minnesota Educational Computing Corporation’s consumer channel.

Although her later studies took her to Harvard Business School for an MBA, Ueng credits MIT with providing many of the critical-thinking and problem-solving skills she uses at Savvy to help companies devise marketing approaches, craft corporate strategy, and develop business plans.

Fulfilling speaking engagements and teaching entrepreneurial marketing, another passion, tend to keep Ueng operating at full speed. However, thanks in part to a life-changing event, she always finds time to swim, practice yoga, and spend time with her 11-year-old son. A near-fatal bicycle accident in California three years ago ultimately taught her more about life than any other experience, she says.

“I am still as focused on the success of the clients that we serve, but I think I have a broader and healthier perspective having experienced a ‘cliff event’–what my neurology team calls the environment in which one almost dies but is able to come back to life,” says Ueng. After her accident, which left her with a fractured neck as well as brain and back injuries, she saw the recovery time as a unique opportunity to reassess her own priorities.

“I always wanted to have a plan,” says Ueng. “But I have learned that life takes some surprising twists and turns–something that I started to learn back at MIT.”

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