Often times when companies hire new executives, there can be ambiguity into who they are. But when the news comes out, it’s an exciting moment to learn more about these leaders and understand what drew them to pursue this new opportunity in the first place.
Today, we’re featuring Suzanne Steele, Adobe’s Managing Director for Australia and New Zealand, who’s based in our Sydney, Australia office. Suzanne, who’s been with Adobe since December 2017, brings with her 25+ years of experience in leading and motivating management teams across data, software and analytics businesses. She’s worked abroad in North America, the UK and Singapore, including senior roles at Visa Europe, CACI London and Morgan Stanley.
So, I set out to speak with Suzanne to learn about her best leadership advice, how she’s going to contribute to the success of her colleagues and customers, and learn a few other tidbits along the way—can you believe she could have been part of the police force in another life?
Hi Suzanne, thanks for taking the time to interview with me today. To start off, what initially drew you to Adobe?
Originally, when I was at Experian, I wasn’t looking to switch roles. But what really drew me to Adobe was when I started to better understand the transformation the company under the leadership of the CEO, Shantanu Narayen. The possibility of being part of the next phase of Adobe’s story really drew me in and got me very excited about being part of the team.
And once you joined Adobe and walked through these halls, what were you most surprised to learn about?
The culture. As a technology company, Adobe has quite a different and unique culture. And it stems from Adobe’s creative background and legacy. It’s a genuine and authentic place to work, and compared to our competitors, we’re very humble about our tremendous success.
Would you say there’s a difference in the company culture in Sydney, Australia and our San Jose, California headquarters?
Actually, I wouldn’t say there’s a difference. The experience I’ve had in Sydney compared to what I’ve experienced in the California headquarters has been the same. I love the fact that at Adobe, we absolutely live and die by our values and culture.
So, what does your current role entail?
There’s a combination of many things in my role. Everything from leadership meetings, spending lots of time with people on ground and meeting with customers. I’ve spent a lot of time getting to know the business and the team. Building relationships is the best part of my job.
What are your long term goals at Adobe?
I want to get the business in great shape and capitalize on opportunity. When you’re brought into a role like this, you weren’t brought in to run things as they were. So I hope to improve upon processes, drive high performance in the business and deliver great customer experiences. I want my legacy to be that the team here, under my leadership, had a blast, were tremendously successful and developed even stronger customer and partner relationships.
In your career, what was your most memorable business leadership lesson?
I have had one in particular for my entire career! I had a mentor who originally gave me an opportunity when I was young and inexperienced. He saw something in me that I didn’t see in myself, and I work to instill this today. Most people have untapped potential, and our jobs as leaders, or people managers, or friends, is to help others unlock that potential. We should be asking ourselves, “how can we help people be the best person they can be?”
What’s one piece of advice that you wish you could’ve told your younger self? Would it be the same thing your mentor taught you?
I would actually say, “have more confidence in your intuition.” This held me back slightly when I was younger. Very often our muscle memory means we have good intuition. Follow that and be bold, even if you don’t have all the data to back it up yet. Take some risks! The fear of failure is what stops people from making bold moves, but failure is just one more step to success.
What are you currently reading?
Grit, by Angela Duckworth. I’ve read it before but have recently picked it back up. It’s a wonderful book about having grit and resilience. In the book, Angela talks about real drivers of success and how to pick yourself up when times are hard.
What’s one thing people would be surprised to learn about you?
Not a lot of people know this, but I used to be a court magistrate in the UK. I did it for about five years part-time. When I was younger I was interested in criminal justice, so I applied and was accepted into the UK police force. But I didn’t pursue it. There were no female chief inspectors in the UK at that time, so I had a feeling that I’d be held back if I joined. But being part of the court system later in life fulfilled my curiosity with criminology.
For more perspectives from our newest executive team members, read our interview with: