At Adobe, one of the people leading the customer care organization provides support to a lot more than just customers. Her inspiring attitude is helping employees grow and learn to see their role in an entirely new light.
When Rani M. was born in New Jersey with cerebral palsy, her parents turned to Western medicine to help their daughter overcome her condition. But they also wanted her to be exposed to yoga and Ayurvedic massage. So when she was 3 months old, she went to India to live with her grandmother.
“I have very magical childhood memories,” Rani says. “Yes, I’ve had 18 surgeries and lots of deep tissue treatments that were quite painful. But those thoughts are completely masked by all the fun, beauty and magic of growing up with lots of loving people around me.”
Rani returned to the States when she was 5 but continued annual trips to India for massage treatments. And while her parents worked to get her the best care available, they had a strict rule against one thing: She would never be allowed to use her condition as an excuse. “I was taught to push through anything, and that was a mandate,” Rani says. “I could never whine—that wasn’t even in the realm of possibility.”
At the age of 19, Rani embarked on a journey that would change her life forever. She decided to volunteer in India and just happened to find herself working for one of the most famous humanitarians of all time: Mother Teresa.
“Talk about defining moments in your life,” Rani says. “I can still see her face and hear my heart pounding in my chest.” She arrived, uncertain of what she would be doing. She had signed up for a role in marketing, PR, and fundraising—areas in which she felt competent enough to make a difference. She was in for a shock.
“After the orientation that day, they just handed me a rag and said, ‘See that line of people? Go help them die with dignity.’ I was 19.”
For a year, Rani worked to help the sick and elderly die peaceful, dignified deaths. She listened to their stories. She held their hands. The experience made such a mark on her that she decided her calling was to become a nun and continue this work.
But the response she received from Mother Teresa might surprise many. “She looked at me with disdain and said, ‘You need to go and make money, because that’s how you’re going to help the cause. Be successful and still preserve your heart, and the money will facilitate your desire into action,’” Rani remembers. “She said that’s where she went wrong. She chose not to do it that way.”
After a lot of tears and second-guessing, Rani headed back to the States and enrolled in an MBA program. And gradually, she came to the realization that her experience in India and her experience in the business world didn’t need to be mutually exclusive. She could use her experiences to become a facilitator—a connector of people, a translator of their needs and frustrations, and a solver of their problems.
“Growing up, I was constantly reminded that there was nothing I couldn’t do,” Rani says. “That built me up, and after my time volunteering, it was so clear that my real calling was to draw out the best in other people.”
Today, Rani is the director of customer care quality assurance at Adobe, setting the tone for the way customers will perceive the company when they call for support. From her remarkable life experiences, she says she has learned the value of storytelling, and she now uses that skill to advocate on behalf of customers. She has changed the view of support as just a phone number that people call when something breaks into a customer-retention engine for the company.
She also works, as a manager, to help her employees grow on the job and in all areas of their lives.
“People need to get stuff out, but they sometimes can’t unleash feelings in a way that doesn’t overwhelm them or the people around them. One of the best things I can bring to the table is to help facilitate that,” Rani says. “The best compliment is for somebody to say, ‘From our interactions, I know more about what I want to do or how I can bring more change in the world.’”
And the most amazing thing, she says, is that Adobe responds nimbly and empowers her to do the right thing in her organization. “It doesn’t seem like anything is impossible here at Adobe,” Rani says. “I love that because that’s the basic tenet of how I grew up.”