We’re happy to introduce John Murphy as Corporate Controller and Chief Accounting Officer (CAO) of Adobe. John is responsible for leading Adobe’s global accounting and controllership team, directing all accounting practices and related accounting activities. He reports directly to our CFO, Mark Garrett.
John brings more than 25 years of experience in financial strategy, subscription-based accounting and digital marketing to Adobe. He was most recently CAO and Global Controller at Qualcomm, where he managed a global team leading core financial functions for the company. He is a University of Southern California (USC) alum and began his career as an auditor at PwC and later went on to hold positions at DIRECTV and Experian.
We recently sat down with John to get to know him better and pick his brain on how accounting has changed over the span of his career. Read what we talked about:
What attracted you to Adobe?
It is exciting to work for a company whose products or services successfully engage its customers, and Adobe has delighted customers for a very long time. I use many Adobe products and have friends and colleagues who use and rave about them too. That connection coupled with an amazingly successful transformation to cloud-enabled subscription services model, told me that something is very special about Adobe – its leadership, its innovation and its vision.
What appeals to you about accounting that has kept you in that field most of your career?
Accounting is a universal business language and it is industry-agnostic. I have had the opportunity to work in many different functions within the Finance discipline as a leader in Financial Planning, Accounting, Audit, as a Business Unit CFO, and, for the last several years, as Chief Accounting Officer. And my career journey has spanned several different industries – technology, communications, manufacturing and entertainment. I’m excited to bring these skills and experiences to Adobe.
How has the role of the Chief Accounting Officer (CAO) changed in the last 3 years? What areas and skills are CAOs and their organizations focusing on to prepare for the next 5 years?
The CAO role is very exciting right now. There are many technical accounting rule changes that can have significant impact on business models and require a deep understanding of the business. My teams and I need to become stronger business partners to our stakeholders and develop an understanding of the business direction to get ahead of issues and strategically advise those stakeholders.
Also, as the CFO role has evolved to being more of a strategic advisor to the CEO, you’ll likely see more CAOs driving productivity initiatives to help scale businesses while delivering more focused insights from analytical activities. Communications and influencing skills, change management capabilities, leadership/coaching and deeper business understanding are becoming increasingly important for CAOs and their organizations to master.
What’s the best career advice you’ve ever received?
Have or develop the humility to surround yourself with people that will challenge you. It’s like playing tennis. You can play with the same partner every week and you will have an enjoyable experience but you may not be challenged to improve. Play with people you know are better tennis players and you will up your game.
It is the same in business. Don’t ever stop learning and challenging yourself. Don’t be threatened by colleagues who may be more knowledgeable in a certain area. In fact, engage with them to improve your knowledge and skills. Life-long learning is critical to ongoing satisfaction and success in your career.
How have your life experiences made an impact on your leadership style?
I have learned throughout my career that the best bosses are transparent and genuine, and they inspire teams to deliver excellent results. I am energized when my teams are successfully serving our internal or external customers. You can be a great boss and hold your organization accountable to its results without suffocating the creativity and innovation. It’s all in the “how.”
Also, putting myself though college and grad school, and working at the same time, forced me to learn quickly how to prioritize. I emphasize with my teams the need to focus on the most important things each day, which helps us scale as the company grows.
What do you like doing in your free time?
I enjoy interacting with people (a trait of Geminis). I enjoy cooking and having friends and family over for great food, wine and conversation. When I’m not cooking, I’m outside hiking or biking, or exploring new countries as I love to travel.
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