How Adobe For All changed my life

Employee storytelling at Adobe is a powerful way to build empathy and inclusion. When employees share their life experiences in an honest and vulnerable way, other employees gain a greater appreciation and empathy for people different from them. This year, we will again showcase compelling and fascinating stories from our diverse employees at our annual Adobe For All internal event in September. In the lead-up, we are highlighting last year’s storytellers who inspired many across the company.

One opportunity can change a life. Don’t believe me? Some people want to run marathons, be racecar drivers, but not me. I always wanted to speak. That was my dream. For years I watched amazing people bring their magic to life on stage, such as musician Gloria Estefan, Adobe Principal Creative Cloud Evangelist Jason Levine, or Industry Leaders like Guy Kawasaki, an original Apple pioneer. People like these were my idols. They rocked stages and mesmerized me with every word they spoke. I wondered…Could I do the same? Would I? Am I even good enough? Immediately following those thoughts, I would shut myself off…No way, you are not good enough. Dreams like this aren’t for people like you.

Well, one year ago a message came to my work inbox that would change everything for me. It was a call for stories and if selected you might get a chance to tell your personal story on stage at the Adobe For All Summit, an internal conference all about embracing diversity and inclusion. I wondered if my story even deserved to be told on stage and in a work setting—how as a toddler I came to the United States of America undocumented, how I grew up in poverty, how I struggled in school, how I persevered my whole life. After days of wondering if I should submit my story, I thought about my two daughters and the advice I’d give them if they had the opportunity to live their dreams, and in that second I pressed enter to my submission.

The day my life changed forever

Soon after, I found out I was selected to tell my story on stage at the Adobe For All Summit, and on September 12, 2019 my life changed forever. When I took the stage in front of over one thousand Adobe employees, I spoke about the story of a baby girl whose parents had a dream of giving her a better life.

As I told my story, I knew that many knew nothing of stories like mine. How could they? There are not many of us in the technology field. But I proudly told me story of struggle in front of our CEO, Shantanu Narayen, and my husband, our daughters and my mother—a humble janitor and my biggest supporter. I remember seeing my mother in tears—proud but afraid of the backlash I’d get if I kept talking. I didn’t blame her, as she had been hiding our real story her whole life, and she wanted me to do the same. Silence was a multi-generation survival mechanism. People with stories like ours hide. We have silence engrained from the moment we get to this amazing country. We don’t ruffle feathers because we’re happy doing a job. A job that is much better than in the country we are from. We do not want anyone taking away our dream. But as I let the words leave my heart, I knew no one in the room was judging me and that my dream was coming true. This was not a sad story, it was not a story we had to hide–this was a happy story of my parents’ success. My mother didn’t have to be embarrassed of where we came from anymore or how we came—she did what she had to do for a dream and dreams are always worth risking everything for. Although she didn’t realize it, she had taught me that first hand.

I remember right after I finished, my idol Gloria Estefan, who was up next to speak on stage as Adobe’s special guest, stopped and hugged me and told me to come find her after. It was non-stop momentum from there on out. From that day forward, door after door kept opening for me and I was no longer afraid to go through them. And an amazing thing started happening, people started telling me their stories, too.

I did not have to wonder anymore if I could speak on stage, and since then I have been doing it all year long. I have been speaking and writing from the heart in my real voice everywhere. I would have never thought this would go beyond the Adobe For All Summit, but it did. Since then, I’ve made over 2,000 new connections in my network, more than two dozen colleagues within and outside of Adobe have asked me to be their mentor, and I’ve spoken on stage and virtually to over 3,000 industry professionals and students. Guy Kawasaki even asked me to be on his podcast, Remarkable People, which attracted close to 12,000 listeners. I also began my own podcast “Moments with Martha,” and I started posting more from-the-heart short stories and reflections on my very own website. On LinkedIn alone, my posts and articles have garnered over 350,00 views. Did Adobe For All change my life? Yes, yes it did. How could it not?

I hope with my story others believe they can do hard things too. That with the help of amazing people and an opportunity we can break generations of silence. That we will be heard if we speak. That we will be seen if we do not hide. That our own personal stories matter. Thank you to Adobe for giving me an opportunity to make my dream of speaking come true. Because of Adobe For All, I now have a voice.

Learn more about Adobe For All on our Diversity site.