Next Generation Storytelling: A conversation with the CEO of Adobe

Next Generation Storytelling: A conversation with the CEO of Adobe

For many technologists, Adobe is an example of innovation, collaboration, and impact. I still remember visiting the Adobe office in San Jose, as part of the tech trek last year, and was in awe with the tailored “customer experience” created by Adobe employees. As visitors, we were taken care of every step of the way, just as actual Adobe customers are when they interact with Adobe’s products. I always wondered, how did Adobe’s leadership excel at staying ahead of the enterprise marketing industry while creating great employee culture? The answer, in part, lies with its CEO, Shantanu Narayan.

Thanks to the Kilts Center for Marketing, Boothies were invited to participate in a talk with Shantanu moderated by Professor Sanjog Misra. Shantanu started by explaining his own journey—an immigrant who came to the US in pursuit of knowledge, later began his career in startups, and eventually took Adobe to a new direction.

Shantanu also shared his interpretation of the next generation of marketing: storytelling with data. While Adobe Analytics provides companies with the most advanced tools to generate insights and predict future trends, marketers need to leverage those insights to tell great stories. For Shantanu, the future of marketing might have too much data, so the ability to decipher data is what sets a successful marketer apart.

Of course, Shantanu was not afraid to let his personality shine in front of nearly 200 students. He spoke from his heart and with humor. When asked what kept him up at night, Shantanu joked that he sleeps like a baby and instead he wonders how to “keep my staff up at night.” I have to admit, there is some truth to that statement. He did mention that big companies run the risk of getting complacent, so he and his team strive to challenge the status quo to best serve their customers.

What I appreciated the most was how authentic and down to earth Shantanu was. Despite the large audience, it felt as if we were having a one-on-one conversation. I sensed that he is humble, someone who gives credit to his team and employees. At the same time, he is proud, working with his team to continue to push the boundaries by expanding the creative suite to the experience suite, and completely moving their services to the Cloud.

Shantanu also stressed corporate responsibility. For example, tech companies should provide features to enterprise customers that configure the settings to respect consumers by providing transparency of user data collection and utilization.   What Shantanu shared strongly resonated with me. An immigrant, a technologist, a person who is always trying to do better by doing good. He has inspired me, and other Boothies, to face any obstacles that prevent us from pursuing our dreams. If Shantanu embodies a respectful CEO, then three words summarize the top qualities of a successful leader: vision, authenticity, and responsibility.

To learn more about future events from the Kilts Center and to engage with the Chicago Booth marketing community, connect with the Kilts Center on LinkedIn.