Remembering Yang

1980 - 2020

17 Apr 2021

Yang Zheng, who in his short time on this planet, showed the world how curious empathy, an open embrace of technological advances and unwavering loyalty to humanity can simultaneously improve all lives and create wealth.

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Yang Zheng, Principal Consultant at Microsoft and Co-founder, VP and Head of Consulting, Caravel Labs, Inc., passed away unexpectedly on December 10, 2020 at his home in Sammamish, WA at the age of 40.

Yang is survived by his father, Kaifa, mother, Ning, loving wife, Yvonne, three sons, Isaac, Ivan, and Gordon, sister, Alice, two nephews, several aunts and uncles, and many cousins.

Yang was born on November 7, 1980 in Guangzhou, China to Kaifa and Ning. He and his sister Alice were raised in Guangzhou, before immigrating to New York City in 1992. Yang attended Midwood High School, studied at Kansai Gaidai University, Japan, and received his Bachelor’s degree from Syracuse University.

Yang’s career as a software developer brought him from New York to Maryland, where he met his wife, Yvonne Truong. They married in 2006 and welcomed three sons soon thereafter; Isaac, Ivan, and Gordon. In 2016, after nine years of working at Microsoft, Yang relocated to Sammamish, WA to be closer to work, as well as the mountains of the Pacific Northwest.

Yang loved to travel, taste, and experience all the world had to offer. He could often be found exploring or trekking some new city or trail with his boys and Yvonne in tow. He was committed to expanding his understanding of places and people, and hoped to foster the same sense of curiosity and perspective in his sons.

His love of exploration was paired with a commitment to maintaining meaningful bonds with his immediate and extended families. Yang was a devoted husband, father, son, and brother. He maintained relationships with and a genuine interest in the lives of his nephews, aunts, uncles, and cousins. He was a presence at every family gathering, and his easy-going demeanor and smile will be sorely missed. Yang was a man with many interests and talent. He developed the love for music at a very young age. He practiced the violin for 5 years during his middle and high school years. Knowing the many benefits to having a love for music, he started his boys early. Isaac is learning guitar, Ivan and Gordon are taking piano lessons. He had a huge collection of music, from classical to contemporary, Japanese to American. For the four years in WA, Yang spent countless weekends making furniture. From the dish rack in the kitchen to the complete dining set, from the shoe bench at the door to the TV console, from the many book shelfs to the desks to all the beds, he poured so much love to the house and to the family.

Professionally, Yang was an accomplished and esteemed colleague and mentor. He worked at Microsoft for 13 years, to the day, and was one of the most respected members of the worldwide Microsoft Consulting Services Group. He was passionate about solving complex problems with tremendous human impact using technology. His accomplishments and contributions include, but are not limited to:

Yang was recognized for his outstanding performance in Microsoft and became one of the youngest principals in the company.

Yang’s passion for solving complex problems with tremendous human impact using technology transcended his Microsoft career. He was one of the first among many of his team members to realize that the true potential for human impact using technology was better achieved in a startup than within the confines of a traditional services organization within a large corporate entity. He was instrumental in rallying four of his closest friends from the team to setup Caravel Labs - a venture technology company for sustainable development that he saw as a way to revolutionize the IT consulting industry itself. Many of his other close friends came out in support of this startup as investors and patrons in the company’s seed investment round. One of the investors specifically mentioned that they were investing in the people (indicating Yang) and not in a business plan. Another investor, who had met Yang only a couple of times, said that they were investing after seeing the “professional kindness” of Yang, and how completely different it was from the industry norm. Following the closing of the investment round, two of the co-founders left Microsoft and went full-time, and Yang himself was planning to go full-time in just a few weeks. He was very enthusiastic about the brand and participated with great enthusiasm in the development of the branding, including the logo as well as the first company swags - a T-shirt and a mask with the company logo. The T-shirt and the mask was delivered to one of the co-founders in Seattle early last week and Yang said he was looking forward to picking them up over the weekend. The plan was for all the co-founders to wear the T-shirt for their weekly call the following Tuesday, a plan that did not survive its crash with the tragic reality on the morning of December 10, 2020.

Yang always had an affectionate smile and personality that drew people close to him. That's also one of the reasons why he was always surrounded with loving families and friends. All his close friends are like families to him. His loss is profound to his families, colleagues, and society. His legacy and his accomplishments will be remembered and treasured. He will stay in our hearts forever.

Friends Remember Yang

Thank you for sharing your thoughts and remembrances.

During what seemed like a very short time knowing and working with Yang, he presented as an extremely intelligent, kind and thoughtful person. It was very apparent that he was loved and respected by his colleagues and we also, in a very short time, grew a lot of respect for his dedication and commitment to make a difference in the world. We will remain incredibly inspired by the noble effort that Yang and his team have started through Caravel Labs.

Grace N.

Yang more than a colleague and a friend. He was a big brother, a mentor, and the one person I looked to when I needed a straight answer. He always pushed me to be better, want better, and was a spark that led me on my path that I'm on today. I'll never forget our life-talks we had during lunch breaks to the Reston Town Center. Yang led by example, not words and elevated each of us with him. Whether he knew it or not he impacted and improved every life he came into contact for the better. Love you brother.

Tamer S.

I am so sad to hear about Yang. He was a fantastic coworker at Microsoft during my time there. I learned a lot from him; about technology, teamwork, and more. I was happy to see him and his family at the Shedd Aquarium as they moved across country. Sending love and thoughts to his family and friends.

Hannah K.

Yang is one of those people that upon meeting him, you realize that he represents the best of us. I knew Yang through our work together at Microsoft, but our relationship was so much fuller than that of happenstance colleagues. He sought me out to join a project with him supporting a non-profit customer he had maintained a relationship with for several years. Yang believed in the customer and their mission and supported them often in addition to a full load of work. The customer in turn, like so many others, adored him for the love and care that he wove into every one of his actions. He inspired such confidence in everyone he interacted with and not only made you believe that things were going to work out, but he believed in you in a way that you couldn’t help but believe in yourself. Yang did not just lead, but he encouraged and invested in everyone on our team to help us on the journey to become the people that he somehow knew we were all along. I consider Yang an admirable role model and was always clamoring to have our paths cross. His talent, conviviality, kindness, and drive were truly exemplary. Yang, thank you so much for being a friend and for the wisdom and happiness you imparted along the way. I wish we had more time. You will be deeply missed and always remembered.

Michael O.

I got to know you through our kids swim team. Before I realize we were great friends with your whole family. You are such an intelligent person and a great role model for your kids to teach them how to stand on their own feet. I wish this COVID was not around and we had spent more time together. I still can't believe you had to go like this all of a sudden. I remember last time we shared a chat was near Snoqualmie Ridge Swimming pool. You were expressing your plan to start up a new company. Oh I miss you so much. Though we saw each other few more times after that, we hardly talked because we were in our respective cars. (social distancing :( )and kept waving at each other. I wish I had one more chance to talk to you again. Your memory is etched in my mind for ever. I hope you find peace where ever you go.

Skamy S.

Yang was an amazing coworker and an even more amazing friend. His absence will be felt far and wide and for years to come. Yang was the catalyst for so very many connections, and the force that caused so very many dominoes to fall in just the right way. Many of us who are now fast friends would never have met without Yang. So many people and organizations would not have been helped without Yang. I wouldn't be where I am now in my career or my life had Yang never given me his friendship and had his laid-back, pragmatic influence on me. Yang was a great guy who caused many ripples in the world pond. I am better for having known him, and I will miss him.

Matt B.

So many lives were touched by Yang. I count myself as truly fortunate to have known him and to have worked alongside him. Yang was brilliant, a master of his trade, yet he never led from an ivory tower. He served others and would often selflessly and intentionally do the very thing others most disliked to do, yet needed to be done. He also helped to bring understanding and learning and positivity to the entire team. Yang's impact is incalculable. If we tried to measure all of the work projects, transformations, and solutions that he had a direct influence on, I'm sure the numbers would be staggering, but layer on top of that all of the conversations and attention to various initiatives, along with mentoring and coaching…his indirect influence has a breadth that could likely be found at the heart of most any project in MCS and beyond. I wish I would have had more opportunities to share life with Yang. I do know that we shared a love for family and for the outdoors. Yang turned me towards a spam musubi recipe that became our family's instant favorite for food on the trail. I'll always treasure these memories. Yang, I miss you my friend. So many do.

Ben D.

I’m writing this remembrance in the hopes that Yang’s kids find it many years from now, when they are older and curious about their Dad. Guys: We’ve never met. But I give you my word that your Dad was the BEST of us, and you should be incomparably proud of the life he lived, his love for you, and the blood you share. I worked on a few Defense-related projects with your dad. Important missions. Challenging customers. Stressful. Yang was as technically sharp as anyone I’ve had the pleasure of working with in 22 years at Microsoft. But more than that he brought a gentle kindness, an ever-present respect of colleagues and customer teammates, and a wisdom that was immediately obvious. Always. He made teams into families. He could refocus chaos into something constructive that we could all be proud of. He leaned forward and lived life in a way that I admired. He’d encourage the team to use rare “down-time” during work projects away from home to explore the world with him. I miss him. I’m honored to have worked with him. I want you to know that your dad was loved and admired FAR MORE for the man that he was than the awesome work that he did. And I know that his love lives in you. May you live life knowing that you were loved by a great and deeply, deeply admired person.

Brad W.

Not a day has gone by when my thoughts haven’t drifted to think of Yang. Random projects, our shared first day at Microsoft, being roommates for an 18 day stretch of orientation in Redmond, and a host of other memories that I will think of forever. Yang was thoughtful and polite, driven and skilled, and one of the most genuine people I’ve ever had the privilege of knowing. You will be missed my friend.

Tim D.

When I heard the news I couldn't believe the sad news. I am interning with Caravel Labs since August and from the first day, we started working with Yang. He was a very talented person, especially with the backend. In this span of time, I learned a lot from him. I don't know what to say but yes we lost a very good person a mentor and an extremely talented person. I pray wherever you are, you are happy. We will always remember you.

Subham K.

Yang’s passing still seems impossible to process because he touched so many lives in so many positive ways. He was enormously talented, but also incredibly generous with his many gifts. I remember him as being committed to the pursuit of excellence and to making a real difference in the lives of others. And in those pursuits, Yang’s greatness and commitment made everyone around him better. He would not only set the bar but carry the rest of us over it. The world will certainly miss Yang deeply, but we are all better for him having been in it.

Mike T.

I'm grateful to have known Yang during our time in DC. We took on some challenging projects together but he never failed to find lightness and make it fun. I'll always remember having shisha in Cairo after a long day, sniggering as Ashu was falling asleep in his chair. Checking out Rijksmuseum and getting amazing Italian food after, at a place he said was his and his wife's favorite. Commiserating on a crowded train in the morning, on the way to a difficult customer. Yang had an infectious smile and was always willing to try new things. His family is in my thoughts and I will miss him very much.

Esther K.

I was in shock, when I came to know that he left us. Though I know him professionally, it feels like a personal loss. He was one of the best mentors I have ever met. It feels like I found a diamond and lost the gem. It was the month of February, when all of us decided to join hands for a greater cause of serving the underserved, under the banner of Caravel Labs. That was the time, I had initial interaction with Yang. And over the time, I learnt a lot from him. He showed how we shall navigate in the unknown waters. He used to say to stick to basics and add new skills on the top of them. He taught to accept it if one does not know about something, asking for some time and coming out with the most suitable solution. The solution is not something which is the best in the market or is having some very good reviews, but the right solution is something which serves the purpose with maximum ease to the person whom we are trying to help. He was never afraid of challenges. I wish I could work with him more and I will try to implement what all I've learnt from him. I pray that wherever he goes, he is happy, healthy and loved.

Arunita B.

Dear Yang, it has been a few days since your passing, but it has not gotten any easier. It's incredibly difficult to believe this has become reality. You were the most active out of all of us and I always looked up to you for how well traveled and cultured you were. There were still so many great things waiting for you to accomplish, so many memories to create with your coworkers and family. My mom often compliments how you established a family at such a young age and everyone in the family thought you were an outstanding and sharp individual. You were one of the most selfless people I've known, and until your last breath, you were still trying to make the world a better place and not concerned with your own health. The world needs more people like you to guide it, and the world suffered a great loss. It was way too early for you to go, and we miss you very very much. I am extremely glad I got the chance to travel with you last year and thank you for organizing the trip. I had a lot of fun and it was nice to have a less touristy experience for my first time in Japan and have you be a guide. I hope the company you created will thrive and flourish and your kids will make you proud. Yvonne and the kids are in good hands. Be proud of what you have achieved. You have lived a great life and have made a significant impact on many people. We will forever miss you and keep you near and dear in our hearts.

Aaron L.

It's unfortunate we lose Yang just as he was to embark on a new, meaningful chapter in life. I'll remember Yang for his pragmatism and unwavering candor. I'll also remember that I had just graduated from college, moved across the country alone, and that, after everyone else had long gone home for the night, Yang would join me to shoot hoops after work. I was a stranger and he gave me community. I'm grateful for his kindness.

Glenn M.

We met Yang through our engagement with PSSC to work on an AoP project with our Singapore customers. Yang was the quiet steady consultant in the group who would share his approach and explain to our team. We cherished the friendship we built over the years. Yang made a difference in many ways to us. Words cannot express our sadness. In our silence, we remember Yang more clearly in his absence that which we love in him.

Stephanie H.

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Last updated April 13, 2021 at 9:00AM PDT