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At Adobe, leaders are nurtured at every level of the organization.
Adobe invests in its employees through the Leading@Adobe program, which offers a wealth of online and in-person development courses and opportunities. It also ensures that managers are messengers of this philosophy so that everyone in the organization takes advantage of the one-of-a-kind resources available to them.
We spoke with three managers whose leadership styles have evolved since they joined Adobe—and who try to pay their learnings forward to their teams.
Chris H., San Francisco
VP for Customer Success, Digital Media
When Chris H. heard about a job opportunity at Adobe, she was excited. She knew all about Adobe’s major transformation from boxed software to software-as-a-service—and the company’s move into digital marketing—and she thought that change presented an opportunity.
“In times of change, I think there are many opportunities where you can apply yourself to be part of the transformation,” Chris says. “Turning the entire business inside out is a big challenge, too, and I was drawn to that.”
Chris says she was impressed with the people she met and with the company’s approach to leadership, which seemed to be fundamentally different than at many other companies.
“I was really impressed with the way leaders behave here,” Chris says. “They were willing to get in and do the work. Even at the individual contributor level, all of the organizational barriers were broken down so that everyone who could contribute was able to do so. I saw a collaborative spirit, and it was unusual.”
Today, Chris helps Adobe’s digital media customers to be even more successful with Adobe solutions. She also manages teams all over the globe and works hard to make them feel interconnected to each other—and highly connected to her.
“I try to give people the opportunity, no matter where they sit, to drive different initiatives to meet our goals,” Chris says. “I sometimes make sure that I hold back from attending certain meetings so our newer leaders can show the rest of our group and the leadership why we brought them in and what they bring to the table.”
Adobe prides itself on a culture of openness, and Chris says that she and other people managers always encourage individual contributors to see their role within the bigger picture. That, she says, can help them see where they can successfully take initiative.
“I tell people not to be shy about sharing their ideas but to make sure they’re more than just thoughts or opinions,” Chris says. “Identify a problem, frame a path forward, and get people bought in. If you can do those things, you can lead from anywhere inside the company.”
The other secret to leadership success: the vast learning resources—live or on-demand, in person or online—available to everyone in the organization.
“I’ve never been in a company where there’s such an investment in employee enrichment,” she says. “I’ve never seen a company that is this dedicated. You’ll hear companies say ‘we believe,’ but the actions aren’t there. At Adobe, it’s there.”
Anurag G., Noida
Head of Strategy and Value Consulting, Japan and Asia Pacific
When Anurag G. came to Adobe, he had experience managing people on a project basis. But at Adobe, he found himself managing a team of eight. He had learned some basic leadership concepts, such as the importance of internal introspection, but participation in the Leading@Adobe program is what cemented his learning and made him ready to be a people manager.
“The best part of the program was the focus on paying it forward,” Anurag says. “It raised the questions of how you take the learnings to other teams. It was a very different ask than I’d experienced before.”
Anurag thought hard about that idea and decided that he would, quite literally, take the learning back to his team. He organized a workshop for a larger group—more than just his immediate team—and shared all of the concepts in a half-day session.
“It was the first event of its kind,” Anurag says. “We talked about going beyond the task that was assigned, contributing to a larger goal, and showing accountability. The objective was to make people realize that they’re part of something bigger.”
Taking accountability for his team’s learning is exactly in line with what the Leading@Adobe program advocates. So is charting your own career, which is something Anurag’s own manager—whom he calls a pillar of his success—advised him to do on his first day.
“There’s no defined plan that you’re given for the year; it’s up to individual team members to define their goals, and we managers try to ensure that everything they do is tied back to those goals,” Anurag says. “I’ve been in the industry almost 10 years, and Adobe is the only organization that has such a strong focus on personal career development.”
Mwangala L., Maidenhead
Consulting Manager for Northern Europe
A few years ago, Mwangala L., or “Mo,” was starting to hear interesting things about Adobe, the creative and marketing solutions company that was making big waves in digital marketing. Around that time, something else happened.
“I used to see an Adobe employee at a digital marketing forum for agencies and clients,” Mo says, “I had been approached about an opportunity at Adobe and she suggested that I give it a go. I had been in management roles in digital marketing for several years, and I wanted a different challenge.”
She interviewed and got the job of overseeing a major project for one of the largest accounts in EMEA and working with sales to shape deals. In this role and subsequent roles, she noticed the entrepreneurial spirit at Adobe.
“Adobe is big but it’s still quite agile,” she says. “It’s a big company but has a small-company mentality. It’s not what I expected, and it felt very young and fresh. You can get to know people in the real sense of the word.”
She came into the company having managed people but found that Adobe’s approach to leadership provided her with new challenges.
“Since I came here, I have learned a lot more about my own leadership style,” Mwangala says. “Leadership is a constantly evolving process, and Adobe gives you the option to stretch. That’s why I like being here: It’s constant learning and you’re pushed to grow.”
She participated in the Leadership Academy program, an in-depth leadership course designed for employees within the Adobe Global Services organization, with Adobe colleagues. After six months of classes, assignments, and presentations, she came out having evolved her style a little more.
“It sounds like a small thing, but I now have much more regular meetings with my immediate reports, and that has a big impact,” Mwangala says. “Instead of talking about the day-to-day, we come up with stretch goals for everybody to start helping them contribute and move the business as a whole.”
She also puts the Adobe philosophy into practice when it comes to encouraging individual contributors to lead from wherever they sit.
“Adobe is a company that encourages you to run with things, and if you have good ideas, you’re given the trust to go ahead and do them,” Mwangala says. “It doesn’t matter what level you’re at—we encourage people to lead.”
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