Get to Know Adobe’s CFO, John Murphy

It’s been a few months since John Murphy was appointed Adobe’s new Chief Financial Officer (CFO) and he’s been busy meeting with investors and internal teams, working on the recently announced Magento acquisition, and building strategies to fuel Adobe’s momentum.

John is an accomplished leader with more than 25 years experience leading financial functions for large, global enterprises including Qualcomm, DIRECTV, Nestlé, and Experian. He joined Adobe as Chief Accounting Officer (CAO) and Corporate Controller in 2017 and quickly built a reputation as a champion for growth and innovation.

We talked with John to get the inside scoop on his journey to CFO and what excites him about the opportunities ahead.

You are relatively new to Adobe having joined as CAO & Controller in 2017, what made you decide to join the company?

It is exciting to work for a company whose products or services delight its customers, and Adobe has been doing that for 35 years. I use many Adobe products and have friends 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.

On top of all that, Adobe is an incredibly fun place to work. It’s fast-paced, creative, competitive, and inclusive. We always keep our values front and center in everything we do and that gives Adobe a unique culture. It feels like a family … and that came through in the interview process and it’s true to my experience today.

How do you feel about taking on the CFO position? What do you hope to bring to the role?

I am excited to have taken on the CFO role from an incredible CFO, Mark Garrett. While we only worked together for about a year, I’m grateful for his mentorship.

The CFO role has really evolved substantially throughout my career. Always the steward and protector of financial integrity, the role has taken on increasing breadth in driving operational performance and efficiency, and actively engaging in internal and external strategy — it’s exciting! Coming from much larger companies, I bring my experience across several industries in scaling the business operations to create effective and impactful organizations. Adobe has such an incredibly bright future, and my job is to help us realize the potential ahead.

What do you see as Adobe’s next challenge to tackle?

Growth. Technology advancements, both in our own capabilities, and on the mediums where our products and services are deployed, provides a unique opportunity for us. Our challenge is one many companies hope to have, that is, managing through an incredible growth cycle and scaling our organization to meet that opportunity head on. And, after a year with Adobe, I know we are all up to the challenge.

Can you give us an example of one way you are driving scale in your organization?

You could say I’m a “finance geek.” Not just because I’m a numbers guy, I also like to tinker with things to make them work better and I’m passionate about applying the latest technologies to the Finance organization to help us become more efficient.

Mature companies often grow with manual, people-driven process because most investments are made to develop new products or engage with customers. However, those manual processes can hinder the company in the long term — they simply don’t scale. With advancements in artificial intelligence and robotic process automation, we need to step back and rearchitect our processes around software tools.

We are deploying BOTS within Finance that are freeing our employees from tasks that are time consuming and, frankly, a waste of their talents. Imagine being able to deploy a BOT to hunt down invoices for you instead of manually spending time pulling them from a system. Or, use a BOT to processes standard customer renewals on its own. Some companies use tech to drive down costs, in our case we do it to create capacity — we’re doing it to enable our people to do more value-added work without the constraints of manual processes. We’re still in the early days of applying these technologies to our organization, but our teams are already seeing the benefits.

How have your experiences shaped 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.”

Adobe can’t continue to thrive without the dedicated team members we have. I’m personally committed to create growth opportunities for the people on my team. People who challenge themselves, focus on their contribution to the greater organization and thrive in a creative, fast-paced environment push me to work harder to help them fulfill their career goals.

Share five fun facts about yourself.
  1. I originally wanted to be an architect, until I realized how long it would take to become qualified and earn a living. Given I was paying for college, that wasn’t going to work!
  2. Yes, I’m a finance geek, but I’m also artistic. I channel my creative side into home renovations and I also draw, paint and write.
  3. I’m a fan of all things sci-fi — TV shows, films and books. Star Trek is my favorite.
  4. I love to travel, cook and entertain. I also like tennis and cycling — when I can find the time.
  5. I had two part-time jobs while I was going to school. Yes, they paid the bills, but they also taught me some important lessons. I was a teaching assistant for autistic teenagers, and through that experience I learned to never let obstacles deter me from my goals. My second job was delivering food — chicken wings and ice cream — to the dorms and the sorority and fraternity houses on campus. One thing that surprised me is that the kids from modest backgrounds seemed to have empathy for me and gave the biggest tips. I carried that with me through my career — there’s no room for entitled attitudes in the workplace.