Contributed by Martha Nino, Senior Marketing Manager at Adobe
IMAGINE – being true to yourself inside and outside of work.
IMAGINE – not being scared to be vulnerable.
IMAGINE – that vulnerability becomes a new superpower.
IMAGINE – that you hug at work simply because you are a human.
This is real and it is happening to me.
A lot is happening actually and I’ve been experiencing a lot of “firsts” these past few weeks. My first onstage talk, my first time being 100% happy with myself, my first time openly sharing the message of love in a work setting, and now my first blog post.
This is all very surreal, and I am still on cloud 9. I have been at Adobe close to 14 years and I love seeing how this company continues to reinvent itself and add real human feelings, emotions and yes—love in the workplace. It’s common to spend more time at work than at home, so why can’t we feel like our full selves? This is the story of how I opened up.
How do I tell my Story?
Leading up to the Adobe For All Summit, Adobe’s convention focused on Diversity & Inclusion, there was a call for employee stories to be presented onstage. I remember getting the e-mail in my inbox and feeling excited but also scared. The call for stories was about how diversity and inclusion made you who you are today, and I thought to myself, “If only they knew!”
I knew I had a story but I did not know if mine belonged in the workplace. I left it alone for a few days but something kept bothering me…Do I share my story? Do I leave it alone? But finally, I decided to take a chance. My first few versions were very “corporatey” and I didn’t feel like I was being genuine. So I rewrote and rewrote it time and time again–finally I decided I would see what my submission would look like if I just said it like it was. I used words like “smuggled” and “coyotes” in my story submission–after all, it was all true. I was smuggled into this country when I was a baby and the people who do it are called coyotes. My submission called out the fact that I was kicked out of high school and considered a bad influence, a secret I have been hiding from the workplace my entire life, but that was the REAL story. I had always seen myself as not being as good as the people around me, not having what a lot my counterparts had growing up, not being good enough.
Although I have been in this amazing career for 20+ years, managing multi-million dollar budgets, growing partner relationships, working at some of the most amazing companies, I wasn’t giving myself enough credit. After I felt comfortable with my story submission, I thought about what advice would I give my children and that was it, at that moment I thought about my two daughters and without hesitation I hit ENTER to my submission. I didn’t hear back for about month but then I found out the program manager wanted to hear more about my submission. Immediately the conversation was positive, there I was on the other side of the phone with someone who wanted to know more about my story. I cried during that first conversation and that was the beginning of many more teary conversations throughout this process. Once I received the official email that I was selected to speak onstage at the Adobe For All Summit, things became real. I thought to myself “what have I done??” – everyone was going to know everything about me, yikes! The official story writing process was exhausting and exhilarating at the same time. What stays? What goes? During my first, of what seem like a few hundred versions of the story, I cried every time, reliving my past. I spoke about my childhood, the struggles I faced as a kid, the death of my father–it was painful. But I knew I had to tell my story.
The Big Day
By this time I had been working on this project for 3 months along with my day job. Luckily, the Adobe team had supplied me and all other employees with speaking support. I had met so many new people and now new friends as a result of this process. In particular, Jason Levine, Principal Creative Cloud Evangelist and Adobe Super Star, helped me prepare for my presentation and he played a big part in making me feel ready and comfortable. I knew this was one of those BIG moments but I didn’t realize how big yet. When the day had come and I took the stage, I remembered when Jason told me “YOU ARE READY.” I felt as I was talking and walking back and forth on the stage, the shame I had felt about my past, the insecurities I had felt about myself, fell onto the stage one word at a time. When I was done, I felt better as a human than I have ever felt.
I feel proud to be an Adobe employee and that they give me, and others, the opportunity to tell my story onstage. I feel my story might have helped bring light to a subject people don’t really talk about or might not know much of, that maybe my story might have made it okay to talk about the hard stuff. Thank you to those that have been sharing their stories with me since then. This process started with me, but the beautiful thing is that it ended up being about everyone else–what a gift.
My hope with all of this is that we are just a little kinder, can help a little more, give positive words of encouragement and praise as often as possible and be more open to each other at home or in the workplace, irrelevant of where we come from, what we look like or what our interests are. We are human and that’s all that should matter.
Read more about our employee stories in our top takeaways from the Adobe For All Summit.