Shantanu Narayen: 'I Look for Passion'
Smith, Richard M., Newsweek
Byline: Richard M. Smith
The CEO of Adobe talks hiring, e-mail--and Apple.
Software maker Adobe Systems Inc. is responsible for many of the big-name products in Web publishing, including Flash, Photoshop, and Acrobat. Under CEO Shantanu Narayen, the company in 2009 acquired Web-metrics firm Omniture, advancing Adobe's goal of changing the way Web users engage with digital information. As part of our partnership with Kaplan University, NEWSWEEK chairman Richard M. Smith spoke with Narayen. Excerpts:
What was your first management job?
It was at a small startup after I came to this country [from India]. Pretty soon I realized that I liked the aspect of bringing things together, and about nine months after I had joined that company I was promoted to be a project manager.
Did you have mentors along the way?
[When I worked] at Apple I had an absolutely great mentor. He kept challenging me, and at times it was a little stressful because nothing I did was good enough. But he really taught me that when you challenge people, people step up.
You don't respond to an e-mail unless you're the only person in the address line. Talk about managing your information flow.
As you grow in your career, constantly thinking about what pieces of information are really relevant to your job is important. I try not to read an e-mail twice, so you'll get a response from me really quickly or you'll never get one. I delete it as soon as I've read it because if it's important enough, it'll come back. And my belief is that unless I'm the only person on the "to" line and people are actually asking me for a decision, somebody else will step in.
What do you look for when you're hiring people?
I look for passion before experience, because I think people can be taught the specifics of what they need to do, but I want to see that spark in the eye.
How do you navigate a world with Microsoft, Google, and Apple?
When you think about the impact of Adobe, [we] actually distribute more software than probably any other company because with Reader and the Flash Player, we have two of the most ubiquitous pieces of software in the world. …