When Simon Tate joined Adobe three months ago, like many he didn’t expect to not meet anyone face-to-face. But as Adobe’s new APAC President, Simon’s been making the most of the situation and leading with confidence, all while being anchored by his values and impressive experience. We spoke with Simon to learn what drew him to Adobe and get to know him a little better.
Can you tell me about your career journey up until joining Adobe?
I have spent most of my career in technology, specifically software and was at three big companies prior to joining Adobe. I spent the last 6 years at Salesforce where I had three main roles—running the commercial business out of Singapore, running the MarTech business as a product portfolio and my last role was COO for the Greater China business, concentrated on the Alibaba relationship. Before Salesforce I was at SAP where I started in Australia and moved with them to Singapore. I was responsible for running their specialist and cloud business for the three years I was there. Prior to that I was at EMC and ran their software business.
What drew you to Adobe initially and what are your observations through your first 3 months, especially given the circumstances?
To be successful in APAC, the business needs strong advocacy and empathy for APAC at H.Q. APAC is different, it’s not a ‘small version of EMEA’ or ‘like EMEA was 5 years ago!’ I knew in joining Adobe, we had a strong International leader in Paul Robson (SVP, International), who has deep experience in APAC. Having Shantanu (Chairman, President CEO) and Anil (CTO and EVP, Cloud Technology) as supportive of our ambitions in APAC, especially super charging our India business, was also a major drawcard. Having the right people in our corner and the right level of investment appetite is a pre-requisite for any leader in APAC and I felt good about the people that I had around me and the appetite to invest in our future growth.
Then there are a whole lot of other things which I think most people inside of Adobe know—great culture, great products, we’re the second most valuable enterprise software company on the planet. So, it’s not a difficult advertisement to draw people to Adobe. The way we turn up, the way we act, the way we support our employees and the community says a lot about the kind of company that we are. Adobe is a great company and I feel very lucky to be here.
It isn’t easy to run a business virtually. I was offered the role pre-lockdown, moved back from Singapore and I haven’t met a single person from Adobe-face-to-face in the first 3 months since I joined! That has been really difficult, but it’s not just me. With everything going on, Adobe has been doing a great job—for their employees and customers. People have rallied together, which is really great to see.
What are your most important values?
My most important values are the three F’s—usually when I say that, people get scared of the pending qualification; but it stands for Fun, Family and Freedom.
My view is that if what we do at work isn’t fun, there is no point in doing it, so I always like to try and have some fun along the way. Having fun, keeping it real and keeping it personal is really important.
Family is an obvious one for most of us, not just in a home sense, but the work family with whom we spend more time than our actual families at home (well at least pre C19!). So, there has got to be a sense of purpose for each other. Building a culture of inclusiveness and family is something I enjoy.
And lastly, we need the freedom to run our businesses, to exercise creative genius, to come up with new ideas, to innovate rather than operating in stovepipes and within prescriptive bounds of legacy behaviors. We need to have the freedom to challenge the status quo and to do things differently.
I’ll always try to anchor back to one, some, or all of those values in whatever I do in a work sense, and no surprise, that completely aligns with Adobe’s values.
How important is diversity to you, and what value does it bring?
Very! Diversity is personal for me. From a gender perspective, I struggle to think that my daughter would have less opportunity in life than my son and yet I know this is the case in so many parts of the world. I work hard on gender diversity with that backdrop in mind, but it’s bigger than that. I think we all suffer from a lack of cultural and religious diversity as well. So, it’s priority number one for me and my leadership team knows that as well. I expect that we have at least one diverse candidate at the final interview / pre-offer stage for every single role and if we don’t, we aren’t trying hard enough.
Does it make a difference? Absolutely. You can look at any analyst commentary on the productivity impact of having a more diverse organisation and see that it does. It isn’t a hypothesis anymore; it is a fact. Any CEO that I talk to in our customer base would say that as well. We need diversity or the company will stagnate pretty quickly. And again, it’s not just gender diversity, it’s diversity full stop. A more diverse workplace means a more diverse set of ideas and is much more representative of the community that we live in. We are working hard to make a difference, as are most leaders and businesses, but we still have a long way to go.
A few quick-fire questions:
Favorite sport and team?
I love rugby! I’ve been a passionate follower for a long time. I didn’t really have a choice, since I grew up in South Africa, at school I was told; it’s rugby, rugby or rugby and I absolutely fell in love with the game. I still play, coach and follow it religiously. While I grew up in South Africa I was born in Australia, so I feel like a sense of duty that I have to support the Wallabies…Unless they play the Springboks, then my loyalties are tested.
I am a passionate motorsport enthusiast. I’ve been racing cars since my early twenties, so if I’m not watching the kids play sport on the weekend, chances are, I’ll be driving. Competing at Bathurst in November is my favorite event of the year. I’m always open to a conversation with like-minded enthusiasts.
Who would play you in a movie about your life?
Well this is hot off the press; I featured in a 5-minute video address as part of our EMEA team’s All Hands’ call last week and noticed someone on the chat window asking if I was Brad Cooper. It must have been very early for them or the screen was fuzzy but I’m banking that!