Karen Steele on being named enterprise sales manager of the year

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By Adobe Life Team

Posted on: 08-12-2020

Every year at Adobe’s Worldwide Sales Conference, select employees are honored to highlight their outstanding performance and demonstration of Adobe’s core values. And this year Karen Steele was named Enterprise Sales Manager of the Year.

With Adobe for the last 25 years, Karen has been able to grow her career in a variety of ways. Read on to learn how Karen has become a trusted partner to her team and customers, and the answer to why she says, “I’ve been here 25 years and I’m here for a reason.”

What is your recipe for success?

First, I’d like to acknowledge that we have an amazing executive leadership team at Adobe that inspires our sales direction and sets the path out of the gate each year for what we are aiming to achieve. My personal style is coaching to win and driving my team to high performance. I have spent my life playing and following sports, and I was raised in a house with a very active father and two older brothers and we were a competitive bunch! We all pushed each other constantly, but also celebrated one another’s successes often and loudly. I feel I have that same dynamic on my team – hard work, competitive spirit, supporting one another for individual and team successes. I prefer to coach to win, and I am an active member of my ‘team.’ And what helps tremendously is that I genuinely LOVE what I do. I love the markets I’ve managed in my career, which are Education and State and Local Government. I really feel blessed to maintain and drive to success not just for Adobe, but for my customers. I feel incredibly invested and connected to the success of my team and my customers every single day.

How do you approach driving customer success/value realization with our customers?

It goes back to understanding what drives our customers and why they took a call with Adobe. We have the advantage of being a recognized company and highly respected brand all over the world. It’s not about getting the meeting, it’s about showing we understand their business issues and can map to what they need.

In education, I feel we have one of the most compelling value propositions at Adobe. We are working with institutions on digital transformation every day and exposing students to the importance of CREATIVITY as a marketable and essential skill in today’s economy. We also come to the table as thought leaders in education. These institutions look to us for guidance in understanding that digital is no longer optional – the world is digital, and it’s fueled by creativity. We are building lifelong customers as students and it’s fun and exciting to see the journey of the student from recruitment to graduation to a creative contributor to the world!

How do you deal with setbacks or failure in customer engagements? Especially during COVID?

Setbacks happen every day in sales. These COVID times are testing the strength and resilience of every member of my team as our education customers have had a significant impact to their business these last months. The entire experience of both K12 and post-secondary education has been transformed in the last four months as schools, colleges and universities have moved to online at home experiences. I am proud to work for a company that has placed Education in a priority focus, offering assistance and software support to schools to provide at home access to students who no longer could come to their campus lab or classroom to use Adobe tools to complete their spring and summer term classes. Beyond the philanthropy, my team knows the value of our solutions to our customers even in these trying times is still strong, and we are staying highly engaged with our customers to continue driving successes with our customers in this time of massive digital transformation.

What makes a good leader?

I feel good leaders follow good leadership. It’s hard to express fully my journey here at Adobe these last 25 years. I was hired by someone who took a risk on me. I had no experience in tech, I was just a couple years out of college, and someone saw something in me that did not fit all the requirements they were looking for on paper. But that awesome manager hired me into an entry level sales position with an amazingly talented, adventurous and fantastically fun group of people that changed my life forever.

I have been given opportunities to push and prove myself over my years at Adobe and I jumped at the chance to lead a team when first given to me in 2007. I found my style of leadership took shape by reflecting on leaders I admired and respected, and even fine tuning my style based on leadership styles I did not wish to follow or emulate. I feel I have taken the good and the not so good examples of leadership to create my best personal brand, I’ve tested the waters with my team, and tried my best to solicit open and honest feedback about how I can do better for my company and the people who work with me and for me. It’s been an honor to work for great leadership at Adobe.

What advice would you give new people at Adobe?

I would tell them this is going to be the best job they’ve ever had. I’ve been here 25 years and I’m here for a reason. Adobe is a company you can grow with and it grows with you. I would recommend that they open themselves up to every opportunity and try not to stay in one lane. There are so many choices along the career path and they may find that their interests change over time. Most of my career has been in education sales at Adobe, but even though it’s the same lane, the scenery has changed. Adobe provides me with that change in the form of acquisitions, new product developments, and an ever-evolving focus and mission. You can even stay in the same lane and the journey is different. I would recommend they be open to anything and everything and take every opportunity Adobe has to connect with people, mentor and be mentored, get involved with community service, and have fun. We work hard, we play hard and we share our life’s journeys, and that is what keeps us connected to our professional experience.

Topics: Career Advice, Employee Impact, Adobe Culture, Adobe Life,